City attorney proposes law to halt projects linked to corruption

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — City Attorney Mike Feuer has sent a proposed ordinance to the City Council that would give it the authority to revoke approvals and applications of development projects if they are found to be involved in corruption and fraud.

Adopting this ordinance and using it to tackle projects tainted by egregious misconduct would be important steps to help restore public confidence in the city’s land-use decision-making process,” Feuer said. “In addition to revoking approvals and permits, this proposal would enable the council to prohibit wrongdoers from participating in future developments requiring city action.”

According to Feuer’s proposed ordinance, the revocation process for approved development projects would have to come in the form of a City Council motion after council members are made aware of any corruption and fraud involved.

The ordinance would require a two-thirds vote from the council to revoke the project’s approval.

Feuer’s ordinance would first have to be approved by the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court Aug. 4 to stop the city from moving forward on development projects overseen by two city councilmen accused of corruption.

The foundation is asking the court to rescind or restrain building permits granted by the city of Los Angeles during the times that suspended City Councilman Jose Huizar and/or former Councilman Mitch Englander sat on the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

The weed of corruption must be pulled out by its roots or will grow back quickly,” foundation President Michael Weinstein said. “We have attempted now for years to get reform and to stop the corruption that we are seeing, and neither the mayor or … the council have acted in a significant way.”

The lawsuit names the city of Los Angeles, the City Attorney’s Office, Garcetti, the City Council and the property developers as defendants.

In June, Feuer said he “strongly urged” Director of Planning Vince Bertoni to start revocation proceedings of certain entitlements and approvals related to the replacement of the Luxe Hotel project downtown, and that revocation process has started.

The project was overseen by Huizar while he was on the PLUM Committee.

The city attorney said he then advised the Department of Building and Safety to place holds on issuing permits for projects connected to a federal corruption probe, which he said it has.

Huizar pleaded not guilty Aug. 3 to federal charges alleging he ran a $1.5 million pay-to-play scheme in which developers were shaken down for cash bribes and campaign donations in exchange for his help getting high-rise projects through the city’s approval process.

On July 7, former City Councilman Mitch Englander pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge for obstructing an investigation into whether he took cash, escort services and other gifts from a businessman involved in major development projects in the city.

Two projects named in the lawsuit that were overseen by at least one of the councilmen on the PLUM Committee are a residential complex that was approved to be constructed at 1020 Figueroa St. and a 35-story tower planned for the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

But the lawsuit seeks to halt any progress on any projects that the councilmen oversaw. Englander was on the PLUM Committee during the same years Huizar was the chair. Englander stepped down from his council position in 2018, while Huizar was stripped of his committee positions after FBI agents raided his home that same year.