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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Joel Jacinto of Public Works Resigns Amid FBI Probe

By Preserve LA

Joel Jacinto, a member of the powerful Los Angeles Board of Public Works which oversees major infrastructure and environmental decisions for Mayor Eric Garcetti, abruptly resigned Friday amidst a growing corruption probe by the FBI of possible bribery, kickbacks and extortion by City Council members and top aides to Garcetti involved in land development in Los Angeles.

“We have been urging Mayor Garcetti since 2016 to address what we believe is a tainted, pay-to-play culture within the City Council and among the mayor’s appointees,” said Coalition to Preserve LA Executive Director Jill Stewart. “We warned him that the vote-selling that scandalized Los Angeles City Hall in 1966 was going to raise its ugly head again.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Jacinto was in regular contact with former Deputy Mayor Ray Chan, another Garcetti appointee who attended closed-door meetings with real estate developers. The pugnacious Chan has publicly stated that in Los Angeles “the developer is our customer.”

Jacinto and his wife Ave Jacinto are among 13 city officials and mayoral appointees named in an FBI warrant that was revealed on Twitter last Saturday by Georgetown University researcher Seamus Hughes.

The corruption probe has left the City Council’s powerful land-use committee, known as “PLUM,” in disarray, with its chairman Jose Huizar stripped of his powers in November after an FBI raid on his home. Yet another seat was empty at the Tuesday Jan. 15 PLUM meeting when City Councilman Curren Price, also named in the FBI warrant, failed to appear.

At the Tuesday meeting, members of PLUM bristled at extensive criticism lobbed at them. City Councilmember Gil Cedillo accused community groups and non-profits of creating a “Day of the Locust” atmosphere of “hysteria” in reaction to the FBI probe.

PLUM approved the disputed three-tower skyscraper “Crossroads” that will generate 1423,00 vehicle miles per day and raze a vibrant historic Latino community in Hollywood, replacing it with rooftop pools, 35-story buildings, massive supergraphics and 22 liquor licenses. Hollywood City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who has taken money from developers, Harridge and Mort La Kretz, insists the mega-development is a great idea and even “sustainable.”

The project was first approved by Mayor Garcetti’s political appointees on the City Planning Commission, who in racially tinged comments dismissed the tight-knit community that will be destroyed by the skyscrapers as “not worth preserving” and even “dormant.”

Stewart added, “Garcetti needs to stop saying he has ‘no tolerance’ for corruption and crack down on the river of developer money and lobbying wining and dining flowing to City Hall figures who help developers break the rules — and perhaps break the law.”

City Councilman David Ryu vs. City Hall Corruption

By Preserve LA

Before the FBI’s widening corruption probe of L.A. leaders erupted, Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu tried two years ago to cripple the undue influence of  developers at City Hall — by banning campaign cash developers give to the City Council.

Reformer Ryu was stopped by powerful Council President Herb Wesson. Wesson later told the L.A. Times, “I don’t kill anything” and said he was too busy with higher priorities to hold hearings on Ryu’s reforms. The L.A. Ethics Commission also punted the issue.

Today, everything has changed:

Wesson’s chief of staff is a target of the FBI probe, as is Mayor Garcetti’s former deputy mayor and two City Councilmembers who sat on the powerful “PLUM” committee.

David Ryu is launching a new plan to fight pay-to-play and corruption, backed by five council members who aren’t named in the widening FBI probe: Budget expert Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, Nury Martinez, Mike Bonin and Joe Buscaino.

We expect a showdown between reformers and anti-reformers at City Hall.

Yesterday, Councilman Gil Cedillo attacked social justice and open-government advocates at a PLUM hearing who were urging PLUM to clean its house before approving luxury skyscrapers awash in exemptions from land-use rules. The controversy focused on “Crossroads,” three luxury skyscrapers seeking 22 liquor licenses that would raze a thriving historic Latino community, create 143,000 new vehicle miles daily — and yet got minimal environmental study from the Garcetti Administration.

Cedillo accused Coalition to Preserve LA, the L.A. Tenants Union and several other groups of creating “a specter! A hysteria exists! … It’s like the Day of Locusts at City Hall now!” Cedillo was met with guffaws as he accused the groups of “Trumpism!”

Jill Stewart, Coalition to Preserve LA executive director, said, “Three seats away from Gil Cedillo was the empty chair of Councilmember Curren Price, named in the FBI warrant. PLUM’s chairman Jose Huizar was removed in November. We’re seeking a Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury investigation of PLUM and City Hall.”

PLUM, with its long history of rubber-stamping, voted unanimously for Crossroads.

To understand the L.A. City Hall pay-to-play system, read our four-month investigation. It unearthed numerous closed-door, non-transparent meetings between Crossroads developers and Hollywood City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell and his staff. O’Farrell became an avid backer of Crossroads, and took their campaign donations.