mega-project in Boyle Heights

City Hall For Sale: Fifteen Group of Wyvernwood Mega-Project Spent $2 Million to Woo Los Angeles Politicians

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Over the past 12 years, Miami-based Fifteen Group, developer of the massive Wyvernwood project in Boyle Heights, has shelled out an eye-popping $2,053,394 in an attempt to get favors from L.A. politicians, according to city Ethics Commission records.

Fifteen Group wants to be a major player in Los Angeles’ real estate world, where big riches are there for the taking. To do that, the company’s executives understood the time-tested method to win project approvals in L.A. and, therefore, huge profits — spread around the cash at City Hall. 

Since 2004, Fifteen Group representatives, including brothers and co-founders Mark and Ian Sanders, contributed $30,350 to the campaign war chests of Los Angeles politicians. Also, since 2004, the development firm spent a whopping $2,023,044 on high-priced, politically connected City Hall lobbyists, who then seek favors from City Council members, the mayor and city bureaucrats.

Much of that lobbying money has been spent on the controversial redevelopment of Wyvernwood Garden Apartments in Boyle Heights, which houses more than 6,000 working-class Angelenos. Fifteen Group wanted to turn the property into a condo-and-rental residential complex with retail and commercial space — the project’s estimated cost would be $2 billion.

The mega-project, however, would inevitably displace thousands of longtime residents — and Boyle Heights community leaders opposed Fifteen Group’s plans. Eventually, in a rare victory for neighborhood activists, City Council member Jose Huizar, who represents Boyle Heights, came out against the project.

Wyvernwood mega-project would dramatically change Boyle Heights -- image from Fifteen Group's EIR

Wyvernwood mega-project would dramatically change Boyle Heights — image from Fifteen Group’s EIR

But Fifteen Group has spent an incredible amount of money to redevelop Wyvernwood and win approvals for the mega-project, which needs the City Council to approve a zone change and General Plan amendment. While the project appears to be on hold for now, there’s a good chance that won’t last forever — $2 million in campaign contributions and lobbyist fees has a way of making the seemingly impossible become highly probable at City Hall.

Which is why, since 2000, the real estate industry has contributed at least $6 million to the campaign war chests of L.A. politicians.

Enough is enough. We need to reform L.A.’s broken planning and land-use system, which is what the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will do.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. City Council, Mayor Eric Garcetti and numerous neighborhood groups all agree that reform is desperately needed.

Join our citywide, grassroots movement by clicking here right now to donate any amount you wish, and follow and cheer our efforts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected] for more information.

Developers and their politician pals will do anything to defeat our reform movement and continue their wrong-headed policies. But together, we, the citizens, can create the change that L.A. needs!