One of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's picks to serve on an influential Westside planning commission has quietly dropped her bid for the post after an outcry from neighborhood activists.
Jaime Lee, chief executive of Los Angeles-based Jamison Realty, had been selected to serve on the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission, a five-member panel that reviews small- and mid-sized development projects in Westwood, Venice and other nearby communities. But she soon became a target for community groups who said her company had a history of challenging or ignoring the city's billboard laws.
Lee withdrew from consideration Thursday and has not responded to repeated requests for comment. Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, said he and dozens of others had urged Councilmen Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz, both of whom represent the Westside, to reject Lee's appointment.
"This is absolutely a case where community pressure killed this nomination," he said.
Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb would not say why Lee withdrew her name from consideration — or whether this is the first appointment to be scuttled because of public opposition. "Ms. Lee is a talented Angeleno and we appreciate her willingness to serve," Robb said in a statement.
Lee was a major supporter of Garcetti, contributing $2,600 to his mayoral bid. Other Jamison employees contributed nearly $14,000 to the campaign, Ethics Commission records show.
Jamison, which owns and manages dozens of office buildings in Los Angeles, tried unsuccessfully to strike down the city's ban on supergraphics, multi-story images that are stretched across the sides of buildings, waging a legal battle between 2008 and 2010. Los Angeles filed its own lawsuit in 2011, saying Jamison and several other landlords had put supergraphics on 17 buildings without the proper permits.
That case was settled this year, with Jamison and others admitting no wrongdoing. Skytag, the company that had installed the supergraphics, agreed to pay $1.2 million as part of the settlement, city officials say.
Since he took office July 1, Garcetti has received push-back on other political appointments. Council members criticized the public statements made by Kevin James, a former conservative radio host put on the Board of Public Works. In recent weeks, labor leaders said Garcetti had excluded them in the process for selecting a new appointee to the city's Employee Relations Board.
Those controversies were muted compared with the reaction that greeted Lee. On the Westside, where anger over digital billboards and unpermitted supergraphics boiled over in recent years, residents worried about how Lee would handle cases that dealt with outdoor advertising or violations of the city's rules, said Barbara Broide, president of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Assn.
The appointment "raises questions as to how deep the vetting process is" for Garcetti commissioners, Broide said.
The council's Dec. 18 vote on Lee was delayed after Bonin, a major Garcetti ally, raised "serious concerns" about her nomination. Bonin spokesman David Graham-Caso would not say what those concerns were, noting that Lee dropped out a day later.
"Since Jaime Lee withdrew her name from consideration, and the item is effectively no longer before council, Mike doesn't have anything more to say on the record about this," Graham-Caso said in an email.