L.A. Councilmen seek more oversight of land-use decisions at City Hall

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Councilman David Ryu asked his colleagues today to support a proposal to create an office that would investigate land-use and development decisions on projects that require City Council approval.

In May, Ryu introduced a motion to establish an Office of Anti-Corruption and Transparency, or LA ACT, which would have the power to investigate city officials — elected or not — and their land-use decisions.

The proposal will first be heard by the council’s Rules, Elections and Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Tuesday.

“Doing nothing is not an option. Doing nothing is ignoring the crisis before us, and doing nothing is costing us the trust of our city’s people,” Ryu said. “I cannot believe that City Hall can do the people’s business without restoring that trust.”

Ryu also recently introduced a motion to change the City Charter to remove the power that council members have to interfere in city Planning Commission decisions.

Former Councilman Mitch Englander agreed to plead guilty earlier this year to corruption charges for falsifying land-use documents, and current Councilman Jose Huizar was arrested a week ago on federal bribery and racketeering charges and was suspended from the City Council last Tuesday.

“This is why I have been putting forth legislation since 2015 to increase transparency and root out corruption and why we are here today, to make it absolutely clear that this is the first step in cleaning up City Hall and to meet this moment with action,” Ryu said. “Whether this lives in the Ethics Commission or Controller’s Office or on its own, the undeniable fact is we need more oversight, not less.”

Ryu also said the City Council should have at least 25 members, which would be proportionally similar to New York City, which has 51 Council members for its 8.4 million residents. He said expanding the City Council would give residents better and more diverse representation.

The Los Angeles City Council has had 15 members since 1925, when the city’s population was just about 1 million.

Ryu was joined at a Monday morning news conference by Councilman Paul Krekorian, who said he will introduce a motion Tuesday to enact a series of requirements for developers and City Council members.

Krekorian said his motion would not allow developers to profit off projects that have been found to be involved in fraudulent practices, and would direct city staff to report on whether the city can suspend certificates of occupancy on fraudulent projects, examine ways to hold developers accountable for their actions and seeks ways to punish developers who have engaged in fraud.

“I think we can enact all the restrictions on campaign contributions in the world, but when billions of dollars are at stake and corrupt individuals are involved, we need to take action,” Krekorian said. “Until we take that step, we won’t be able to deter this kind of conduct.”

The City Council voted in December to prevent developers who have project applications pending at City Hall from making campaign donations to elected officials or candidates for municipal office.

Ryu also said he will be working on further reforms that will be introduced at the end of summer, and he called for action on legislation to publicly finance elections in Los Angeles.

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