LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A real estate company seeking to raze a portion of the former Los Angeles Times headquarters and replace it with two high-rise towers gave $50,000 to a campaign committee with ties to Councilman Jose Huizar two months before a crucial vote on the property, according to recently filed contribution records, it was reported today.
Onni Contracting (California) Inc., part of the group of companies that bought the downtown property in 2016, made the donation to Families for a Better Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported. The committee held at least two fundraisers featuring Huizar last year.
State fundraising disclosures show the committee received the donation on Sept. 26, just as Onni was working to defeat a proposal to designate the 1973 office building, designed by renowned modernist architect William Pereira, as a historic landmark. Preservation of the Pereira building would have complicated Onni’s plan for building the two residential towers — one 37 stories, the other 53.
Huizar, who represents downtown, sided with Onni on the issue, sending an aide to testify against the monument designation for the Pereira portion of the complex on Nov. 27, when the council’s planning committee took up the proposal. The committee voted that day to oppose the monument application for the Pereira building, saying the city needs the housing the project would provide. The full council followed suit a week later.
The donation from Onni arrived weeks before Huizar’s home and offices were raided by FBI agents. Since those raids, The Times has reported that Families for a Better Los Angeles has come under scrutiny from the FBI in its corruption investigation into Huizar and other City Hall figures.
No one has been arrested in the probe. There is no indication that investigators are examining the vote on the former Times complex and no evidence that the vote was influenced by the donation.
Families for a Better Los Angeles was formed as a state political committee in December 2017 and has collected more than $290,000 so far — much of it from real estate interests in Huizar’s district, state records show, according to The Times. Although Huizar is not listed on Families’ paperwork, several contributors said he was involved in the effort to raise money for the committee.
Three donors told The Times they gave to the Families committee last year to support Richelle Huizar, who was planning a campaign to replace her husband on the council.