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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Donations from Greenland, Related, Skanska linked to embattled councilman face scrutiny: report

The money from the developers went to DTLA Councilman Jose Huizar's high school alma mater, while his wife fundraised there
November 30, 2018 01:00PM

Councilmember Jose Huizar in 2013 and the Hotel Indigo at Greenland USA’s Metropolis development in DTLA (Credit: iStock)

Greenland USA’s $25,000 check to City Councilman Jose Huizar’s high school alma mater — where his wife was a fundraiser — is among several similar donations by real estate firms now under scrutiny following recent allegations of Huizar’s potential ethics violations.

Greenland, which is developing the massive Metropolis mixed-use project Downtown, donated to Bishop Mora Salesian High School in 2015, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The donation came nine months after the Council’s influential Planning and Land Use Committee — which Huizar chaired — approved $18.7 million in municipal aid for Metropolis’ Indigo Hotel.

Greenland’s donation was among those made by real estate entities to the school while the councilman’s wife — Richelle Huizar — was a fundraiser there, the Times reported. While not explicitly illegal, experts said the timing of the donations raises questions. Representatives from Greenland USA could not be reached for comment.

Related Companies donated $10,000 to the school in 2015, when the developer sought city approval to build its $1 billion mixed-use tower on Grand Avenue in Downtown. Last month, the Council approved a $200 million bond measure to finance the multifamily component of the 39-story building that Frank Gehry is designing. Related Companies declined to comment on the donation.

In 2013, construction giant Skanska donated $2,000 to the school, nearly a year before winning a $250 million contract to replace the 6th Street Bridge in Huizar’s district. Skanska did not immediately return requests for comment.

Most recently, former aides to the councilman said he instructed staff to work on the high school’s annual fundraiser on city time. Two donors to the high school said Huizar’s staff had asked them to give money.

The revelations, including the donations, come three weeks after the FBI raided Huizar’s home and City Hall office, gathering documents including some related to fundraising. A pair of lawsuits by former aides first brought the information leading to the allegations of pay-to-play to light.

The Council has since stripped the DTLA councilman of his land use committee chairmanship and other appointments. Huizar’s wife has dropped her candidacy to succeed him in 2020 as councilman.

According to the Times report, Huizar emailed his staff in 2013, identifying lobbyists, city contractors and others who had business at City Hall — and who he had contacted — to make donations to the high school. [LAT]Dennis Lynch