A committee of Los Angeles lawmakers bucked a city commission and its staff Monday, rejecting their recommendation to hand control of the Greek Theatre over to a new operator.
The parks commission recommended last year that Live Nation take over from longtime operator Nederlander, which had partnered with Staples Center developer AEG in a bid to keep running the Griffith Park venue. On Monday, a City Council committee voted 4 to 1 to reject that recommendation.
"Something about the Greek is magical, and the magic also is related to the Nederlander group," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes the theater.
The only lawmaker on the committee who dissented was Councilman Joe Buscaino, who said the process that picked Live Nation had been fair.
"If we're not going to respect the process, why not just flip a coin?" Buscaino asked.
The decision now heads to the entire council for a vote. Michael Shull, parks department general manager, said that if the council agrees to reject the recommendation to choose Live Nation, the parks commission would have several options. It could reconsider its recommendation, restart the selection process or simply reiterate its choice of Live Nation.
Though Nederlander-AEG said it would guarantee millions more in city revenue, Live Nation said it would devote much more money to renovating the theater over time, a staff analysis of their proposals found. An evaluation panel unanimously recommended Live Nation.
Nederlander-AEG argues that recommendation was based on flawed analysis that failed to fully account for how much it would spend on theater upgrades and community outreach. It emphasized that its higher guaranteed rent would provide needed money for parks and recreation programs throughout the city.
Nederlander-AEG also rallied a number of community groups to its side, including the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council. Neighbors have eyed the decision anxiously because the theater sits near the entrance to Griffith Park, past an affluent stretch of Los Feliz where homeowners worry about theater noise, traffic and other nuisances.
Live Nation is saying, " 'We're going to give the city less rent, and we're going to make a ton more profit.' … If the city selects Live Nation, we're saying we value private profits over public good," said Luke Klipp, treasurer of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council.
Live Nation, in turn, has emphasized its promise to spend more updating the Greek, arguing that Nederlander had let the theater fall into disrepair. For instance, the company says, the theater terrace stands need to be completely replaced because of earthquake risks.Live Nation also charged that the city risked politicizing the process — something it said had happened before.
The question of who should run the Greek has paralyzed decision makers in the past: More than a decade ago, after city staffers recommended handing over control of the theater to House of Blues instead of Nederlander, the parks commission ended up rejecting both bids after a protracted battle. Nederlander ultimately continued to operate the Greek after reaching a deal with House of Blues to team up on marketing.
Live Nation attorney Victor De la Cruz said that when Nederlander wasn't recommended, it "went on to wage a campaign of misinformation, turning it all into a political circus. Sound familiar? ... If politics trumps basic fairness and the integrity of the city's contracting process today, no company will ever bid on this contract again. Why bother?"
The Nederlander contract to run the Greek is up at the end of October. The new agreement to operate it will span at least a decade, with chances to twice extend the agreement for an additional five years each. Shull said the parks department had originally aimed to execute the new contract by the end of April, a goal that now looks unlikely.