Activist Nonprofit Wants to Stop LA Developments Tied to Indicted Councilmen

Lawsuit seeks to rescind approvals made while embroiled lawmakers led the city’s powerful planning committee

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AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles to stop real estate projects tied to the ongoing federal corruption investigation involving an alleged pay-to-play scheme for developers.

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AHF, a healthcare service nonprofit that doubles as one of the most active critics of major development in L.A., wants the court to force the city to rescind approvals and permits for projects related to the alleged corruption involving City Council members Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander. Both were members of the council’s influential Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) for years, including a three-year span where they made up two-thirds of the committee.

AHF’s lawsuit was filed against the city, the L.A. City Council, and Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as developers tied to the alleged crimes, putting into question the legitimacy of approvals by officials accused of using their role to run a criminal enterprise. Huizar is currently facing 34 felony charges — including bribery, racketeering, money laundering, and extortion — related to his alleged involvement  in approving such developments. He pleaded not guilty on Monday. Englander pleaded guilty on June 7 to one felony corruption charge, and is awaiting sentencing after he tried to cover up cash payments, a female escort, and other bribes, including trips to Las Vegas, from a developer.

In its lawsuit, AHF is asking the court to rescind any “… building permits granted by the City of L.A. during the time(s) Councilmember Huizar and/or Englander sat on the PLUM Committee,” arguing that continuing the projects would involve use and expenditure of taxpayer funds. AHF specifically called for projects that are involved in the alleged corruption to stop, including a 20-story tower at Hill Street and Olympic Boulevard; a 35-story tower planned in the downtown Arts District; and the Luxe City Center Hotel project located at 1020 Figueroa Street.

In addition to his role as chairman of the PLUM Committee, Huizar represents Council District 14, which has experienced a commercial real estate boom in recent years. AHF argues that it’s “highly likely that the approvals of other real estate projects could be similarly tainted,” and would not have been approved in their current form without “the misconduct of Councilmembers Huizar and Englander.”

AHF has unsuccessfully sued the city at least a handful of other times to stop other developments. The foundation was behind the failed Measure S in 2017, which would have widely restricted development throughout L.A., as well as the failed statewide rent control measure, Proposition 10, two years ago. This year, AHF is working on a new ballot measure that would give municipalities the authority to expand on existing statewide rent control.