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Los Angeles City Hall Pay-to-Play Unveiled in the Crossroads Skyscraper Development

In City Council, Corruption, Eric Garcetti, Gentrification, Hollywood, News by Jill Stewart

The Los Angeles City Council “PLUM” Committee on Jan. 15 approved the hotly disputed triple-skyscraper, Crossroads, which will generate 142,300 vehicle miles per day and raze a vibrant historic Latino community in Hollywood, replacing it with 35-story towers, rooftop pools, massive super-graphics and 22 liquor licenses. Sparking criticisms of pay-to-play, Crossroads developers Harridge and Mort La Kretz held at least five secret backroom meetings with City Council member Mitch O’Farrell or his staff, even as O’Farrell took campaign donations from them.

Coalition to Preserve LA first unveiled the secret meetings months ago, and is republishing the timeline below in light of the FBI corruption probe sweeping through Los Angeles City Hall.

O’Farrell insists the greenhouse-gas spewing Crossroads mega-project is a great idea and even “sustainable.” It’s also a favorite of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been showered with campaign donations from Crossroads developers Harridge and La Kretz.

In late 2018, the project sailed through Garcetti’s political appointees on the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, two of whom, in racially tinged comments, dismissed the tight-knit renter community that will be destroyed by the skyscrapers as “not worth preserving” and “dormant, and it doesn’t need to be.”

Then last week, the City Council’s PLUM Committee approved the three skyscrapers with minimal environmental review. PLUM refused to hear testimony from 50 to 60 people signed up to speak, and Los Angeles City Council member Gil Cedillo taunted the few members of the public who had been allowed to speak against Crossroads.

This, in the same week that national headlines broke regarding the widening FBI corruption probe into Huizar, revealing that it also includes Los Angeles City Council member Curren Price, Garcetti’s former deputy mayor Ray Chan, a top Garcetti public works board appointee who resigned Friday, and City Council President Herb Wesson’s top aide. These revelations were unveiled by George Washington University national security expert Seamus Hughes on Twitter.

The FBI probe is widely believed to be focused on possible land-use corruption and pay-to-play among City Councilmembers and aides, and Garcetti aides and appointees.

Below is a pay-to-play timeline from 2013 through 2016, created by Coalition to Preserve LA during a four-month investigation into the secret, non-transparent, backroom meetings between City Council member Mitch O’Farrell, his aides, and Crossroads developers Harridge and La Kretz, during the same period that Harridge and La Kretz were showering Mitch O’Farrell, Mayor Garcetti, and several other City Council members with campaign donations.

Crossroads of the World, TIMELINE:
March 21, 2013 Morton La Kretz, founder of Crossroads Management, donates $1,300 to Eric Garcetti’s campaign for mayor.
April 1, 2013 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $1,300 to Eric Garcetti’s campaign for mayor.
April 5, 2013 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Mitch O’Farrell’s campaign for City Council.
April 8, 2013 Morton La Kretz, founder of Crossroads Management, donates $700 to Mitch O’Farrell’s campaign for City Council.
April 25, 2013 Bradley Woomer, the CFO at Harridge Development Group, LLC, donates $250 to Mitch O’Farrell’s campaign for City Council.
September 20, 2013 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Mitch O’Farrell’s campaign for City Council.
November 18, 2013 FIRST BACKROOM MEETING between Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, Morton La Kretz, and Linda Duttenhaver of Crossroads Management.
November 22, 2013 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $250 to Mitch O’Farrell’s Officeholder Account.
November 22, 2013 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $500 to Mitch O’Farrell’s Officeholder Account.
September 30, 2014 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Marqueece Harris-Dawson’s campaign for City Council.
January 6, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Gloria Molina’s campaign for City Council.
January 27, 2015 Marc Annotti of Harridge Development Group donates $700 to Mitch Englander’s campaign for City Council.
February 12, 2015 Marc Annotti of Harridge Development Group donates $700 to Nury Martinez’s campaign for City Council.
March 26, 2015 Yuri Gurevich, a consultant at Harridge Development Group, donates $250 to Carolyn Ramsay’s campaign for City Council.
March 26, 2015 James D. Hearn, an attorney at Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Carolyn Ramsay’s campaign for City Council.
March 26, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Carolyn Ramsay’s campaign for City Council.
March 26, 2015 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $700 to Carolyn Ramsay’s campaign for City Council.
April 20, 2015 SECOND BACKROOM MEETING with Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, O’Farrell deputy Christine Peters, O’Farrell deputy Gary Benjamin and Crossroads attorney Jerry Neuman and Crossroads executive Linda Duttenhaver.
May 20, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $500 to Gil Cedillo’s campaign for City Council.
May 29, 2015, more than two years AFTER cash donations began flowing from Harridge and La Kretz to O’Farrell and others, THE MEDIA FINALLY LEARNS that a triple skyscraper is being proposed by Harridge Development Group and Mort La Kretz. Curbed LA breaks the “news” of this secret project that has been sailing along for two years in BACKROOM MEETINGS with City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell:
Curbed LA: “As these preliminary renderings show, the Crossroads complex—which is both a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and on the National Register of Historic Places—will be completely “restored to its glory,” says Glenn Gritzner, a rep for developer Harridge Development Group. (Crossroads owner Mort La Kretz will continue to control the land the project sits on.) …
“In addition to the reintroduction of retail at the Crossroads, the project will create eight new mixed-use buildings rising on parts of the two blocks between the complex and Highland Avenue to the west, and the block immediately to the north of the complex on Selma: a 308-room, 31-story hotel, a 32-story apartment tower, and a 30-story condo tower with 950 units total (including 70 units of designated affordable housing), 95,000 square feet of office space, and a total of 185,000 square feet of retail/commercial uses (including the 60,000 square feet at Crossroads). The shorter buildings range from two to six stories tall. (Curbed Los Angeles, May 29, 2015)
The money flowing from developers Harridge and La Kretz to City Hall elected leaders, and the BACKROOM MEETINGS with Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, ratchet up.
June 30, 2015: Marc Annotti of Harridge Development Group donates $700 to Jose Huizar’s Officeholder Account.
October 2015: Initial Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is released.
BACKROOM MEETING, November 2, 2015: Private meeting with O’Farrell Staff Christine Peters, O’Farrell deputy Chris Robertson, O’Farrell deputy Dan Halden with attorney Jerry Neuman.
BACKROOM MEETING November 10, 2015: Private meeting with O’Farrell Staff Chris Robertson, O’Farrell deputy Christine Peters, O’Farrell deputy Dan Halden with attorney Jerry Neuman.
November 12, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Bob Blumenfield’s campaign for City Council.
November 14, 2015 Public scoping meeting held, finally ALLOWING THE PUBLIC to see the skyscraper multi-tower plan.
December 23, 2015 James Hearn, an attorney at Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Mike Bonin’s campaign for City Council.
December 23, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Mike Bonin’s campaign for City Council.
December 30, 2015 James Hearn, an attorney at Harridge Development Group, donates $250 to Herb Wesson’s Officeholder Account.
December 30, 2015 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $700 to Curren Price’s campaign for City Council.
December 30, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Curren Price’s campaign for City Council.
December 31, 2015 James D. Hearn, general counsel at Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Gil Cedillo’s campaign for City Council.
December 31, 2015 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $700 to Gil Cedillo’s campaign for City Council.
December 31, 2015 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Gil Cedillo’s campaign for City Council.
August 5, 2016 James Hearn, an attorney at Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Mike Bonin’s campaign for City Council.
August 5, 2016 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Herb Wesson’s campaign for City Council.
August 5, 2016 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $250 to Herb Wesson’s campaign for City Council.
August 16, 2016 Harridge applies for “CEQA streamlining” to avoid complying with California Environmental Quality Act. Harridge also seeks Zone Change and Height District Change exemptions from the City Council to override the Community Plan and zoning in Hollywood.
August 26, 2016 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Joe Buscaino’s campaign for City Council.
August 26, 2016 Bradley Woomer of Harridge Development Groups donates $500 to Joe Buscaino’s campaign for City Council.
BACKROOM MEETING September 26, 2016 between Councilmember O’Farrell, O’Farrell’s deputy Amy Ablakat, O’Farrell’s deputy Christine Peters, O’Farrell’s deputy Dan Halden with Friends of Hollywood Central Park president Laurie Goldman, Harridge executive David Schwartzman, developer lobbyist Kyndra Casper
September 28, 2016 Marc Annotti of Harridge Development Group donates $100 to Karo Torossian’s campaign for City Council.
December 1, 2016 David Schwartzman, CEO of Harridge Development Group, donates $700 to Gil Cedillo’s campaign for City Council.
December 31, 2016 Gil Cedillo’s campaign returns $700 donation to David Schwartzman.

What Did the Crossroads Developers Get?
UPDATED, JAN. 2019: Harridge requested, and L.A. elected and appointed officials agreed, that the project should be rewarded a fast-track waiver around California’s CEQA environmental standards by calling this heavily polluting, environmentally unsustainable project, an “Environmental Development Leadership Project.”