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Rival Factions Bankrolled by Developers

By Jorge Casuso

October 8 -- In a City Council race that has focused on development, it's becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between Santa Monica's two rival political factions by simply following the money, according to The Lookout's analysis of campaign finance disclosure statements filed by the candidates this week.

Major developers, as well as their architects and representatives, are helping to bankroll not only the campaign of Mayor Herb Katz, an architect who has the staunch backing of the business community, but those of Council incumbents Ken Genser and Richard Bloom, members of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR).

The three incumbents are vocal opponents of Prop T, also known as the Residents' Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) , a measure on the November ballot that would cap most commercial development at 75,000 square feet a year for 15 years. The opposition to Prop T, which includes nearly every major local civic group, is largely bankrolled by developers.

Contributors to Katz, Genser and Bloom include several developers with major projects in the planning pipeline, such as Colorado Creative Studios, which owns the property where Lionsgate plans to build an approximately 150,000-square-foot entertainment and post-production facility in the city's industrial lands. (“Lionsgate Has Paws on New Entertainment Studio,” December 18, 2007)

Also contributing to all three campaigns were Marc L. Luzzatto (or members of his family), who hopes to replace one of Santa Monica's two remaining trailer parks with a more than 350-unit complex, as well as officials of Trammell Crow, a real estate giant that plans to tear down a rent control building and replace it with 25 luxury oceanfront condos. (“Part I: Relocation Offer Raises Fears Among Trailer Park Tenants,” May 29, 2008 and "Tenants Hope Late Mayor Can Save Building," August 25, 2008)

Although Council member Bobby Shriver reported the largest amount raised to date -- $126,025 thanks to a $108,000 loan -- Mayor Herb Katz raked in the largest number of contributions, according to the campaign finance disclosure statements.

During the latest filing period, from July 1 through September 30, Katz raised $56,864 in contributions from nearly 250 supporters. He has spent a total of $7,024 and has $55,098 in cash on hand, some of it to cover accrued expenses.

Katz's contributors included 18 builders, developers and fellow architects, as well nine construction and engineering firms that gave his campaign a total of $6,450

Contributors included officials at Colorado Creative Studios, Trammell Crow and Luzzatto, all of whom gave the maximum of $250. Also contributing to Katz's campaign was Dan Emmett, a principal of Douglas Emmett, one of the city's largest landlords, as well as Chris Harding, a prominent land use attorney whose family contributed a total of $750.

While Katz is usually at or near the top of the candidate list when it comes to fundraising, thanks in part to the backing of developers and the city's business community, Genser usually raises little money, relying on SMRR's political machine.

Not so this year. Genser, who at this time four years ago had only raised $1,425, had 172 contributors who helped him raise $40,097, many of them developers who would normally back his opponents. Genser spent $4,983 and reported $35,317 of cash on hand.

Contributors included more than two dozen developers, architects and their representatives, as well as attorneys, artists, writers, professors and a food cart vendor.

Genser -- who has long been considered a foe of developers -- received $250 donations from officials at Colorado Creative Studios, Trammell Crow and Douglas Emmett, as well as Luzzatto. Genser also received $1,875 in total contributions from officials of Hines, which owns Lantana, a major entertainment complex in the city's industrial corridor. (“Lantana Expansion Approved, Residents Divided,” September 16, 2004)

Harding, who has often clashed with Genser over development issues during the council member's two decades on the dais and has backed his opponents, gave the SMRR incumbent's campaign $250, as did his brother and a partner in his law firm.

Former Architectural Review Board Chair Howard Laks contributed $125 to Genser's campaign, while Wade Killefer of Killifer Flammang Architects, which has been designing numerous projects around the city, contributed $250.

Bloom -- who had only raised $1,099 at this time four years ago -- has raised $23,952 to date, $20,952 during the latest filing period. He has spent $8,674 to date and has $17,124 cash on hand.

Of Bloom's nearly 100 contributors, 14 are developers, architects and their representatives who gave his campaign a total of $2,750.

In addition to Colorado Creative Studios ($250), contributors included two officials with Trammel Crow ($500) and a Luzzatto family member ($250).

Also contributing to Bloom's campaign were Planning Commissioner Gwynne Pugh ($250), an architect whose firm designed the Civic Center Village slated to go up across the street from City Hall; ARB Chair Michael Folonis ($250), a local architect, and former ARB Chair Laks ($100), as well as Killifer.

Laurel Rosen, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, donated $100, while Tom Larmore, the chamber's top political strategist and a law partner of Harding's, contributed $250. Chamber leaders traditionally have opposed SMRR candidates.

Bloom also received contributions from 13 fellow attorneys, homemakers, retirees and a rancher from Nevada.

Both Bloom and Genser can count of SMRR's warchest and army of campaign volunteers, who for the first time in the tenant group's 30-year history fielded only two candidates in a race for four open council seats.

Shriver, who at this time four years ago had raised more than $100,000 thanks to nearly 350 contributions -- some from major celebrities and power brokers, including Clint Eastwood, Michael Ovitz and David Geffen -- has only raised $18,025 in individual contributions.

Shriver remains the only incumbent who has not taken a position on Prop T, saying that he is still weighing the pros and cons of the measure to curb commercial development.

Among Shriver's 72 donors this year are his uncle Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); cousin Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.; sister Maria Shriver, who is California's First Lady, and prominent author David Mamet.

Ted Winterer, an independent who is an author of Prop T, raised $12,600 during the latest filing period. Winterer, who sits on the City's Recreation and Parks Commission, spent $9,141 and has $4,106 on hand.

In addition to fellow writers, some actors and a large number of retirees, Winterer's 64 contributors include Council member Kevin McKeown, the only member of the council who supports Prop T, and the leader of the ballot initiative's campaign, Diana Gordon.

Gordon also contributed $250 to the campaign of Susan Hartley, helping the Airport Commissioner bring her total to $5,224. A staunch supporter of Prop T, Hartley spent $947 and has $4,277 on hand.

Linda Piera-Avila, a Green Party member, raised $1,935, spent $126 and has $1,809 on hand.

None of the other council candidates -- Linda Armstrong, Jerry Rubin, Jon Louis Mann, Herbert Silverstein, John Blakely or Michael Kovac -- reported having received any contributions.

Ted Winterer for Santa Monica City Council

Dr. Margaret


Vote # 158


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