Coalition to Preserve LA lobbyists

Special Report: Pay-to-Play at Los Angeles City Hall

In Investigations by Preserve LA

In a special report, Coalition to Preserve L.A. reveals Los Angeles City Hall’s non-transparent, pay-to-play culture, which benefits developers, not residents. The investigation shows a troubling pattern of backroom governing and undue developer influence upon L.A. politicians, who have received at least $6 million in campaign contributions from developers and their associates since 2000.

Released in March 2017, the pay-to-play report includes a timeline of backroom meetings between city officials and developers and their lobbyists; campaign donations to city politicians; and City Council “spot zoning” approvals for controversial projects.

Coalition to Preserve L.A. obtained its information from the city Ethics Commission and official documents released by City Council members as required by the California Public Records Act.

Read the full report: “Pay-to-Play in the City of Los Angeles.”

Summary: This special report reveals how L.A. City Hall officials work behind closed doors, on behalf of developers and usually without the knowledge of the public, to get around an area’s zoning rules. Most developers contribute political money to elected leaders throughout this backroom process.

“Pay-to-Play in the City of Los Angeles” contains a comprehensive timeline of private meetings and dinners involving billionaire developers and elected city leaders and their staffs. It shows that private meetings are rarely granted by elected leaders to L.A. residents who question the developments.

The timeline, entirely made up of official city documents released under the California Public Records Act, or official city campaign finance and lobbyist data published by the city Ethics Commission, includes:

– Dates and people present at private backroom meetings between developers and City Council officials and city employees;

– Donations received by elected officials from these developers during the process;

– City Council approval of projects achieved by badly bending L.A. zoning rules, often after private meetings and/or donations from the developer.

Nine City Council members were asked by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. to divulge this public information. All nine failed to release the subject of these backroom meetings with developers. They divulged only the fact that the meetings happened, in response to California Public Records Act requests by the Coalition.

The nine City Council members, of 15 on the City Council, were asked for their official appointment calendars regarding these large-scale developments, because their Council Districts contain a significant number of projects that have been allowed, by vote of the City Council, to ignore city zoning rules.

Some of the nine City Council members responded long after the 10-day deadline under the California Public Records Act.

Council member and Planning and Land Use Management Committee chairman Jose Huizar failed for several months to provide his meeting calendar. Council member Huizar complied with California state law only after attorneys for the Coalition demanded that he divulge this public information.

The official city data provides a direct look at campaign and lobbying cash spent to influence City Hall leaders as they decide, in a non-transparent and money-influenced system, how and where L.A. and its neighborhoods should absorb large-scale developments.

The official city campaign and lobbying data, and the official calendars released by City Council members, show that collusion between mega-developers and elected officials is endemic. Zoning is for sale at City Hall.

Read the full report: “Pay-to-Play in The City of Los Angeles.”

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