If the Mall Makes Money, It Could Be Magic

Showtime redux: Last month, Earvin (Magic) Johnson agreed to a deal that would bring movies to the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Now he seems to be thinking of becoming the producer-director for the entire mall.

Officials at Alexander Haagen Co., the mall's developer, and spokesmen for Johnson confirm that the former Lakers star has broached the possibility of buying or otherwise taking over the shopping center.

"Some interest has been expressed but there's nothing definitive at this time," said Fred Bruning, chief of staff for Haagen. Added Johnson spokesman Lon Rosen: "It's something that he's discussed with Mr. Haagen but it hasn't progressed very far at this point."

Bruning said Johnson is proceeding cautiously, and it may be many months before he decides whether to go ahead. One reason for hesitation could be that the mall, according to Bruning, has lost "multiple millions of dollars" since it opened in 1989.

Might Johnson's presence help persuade the affluent residents of Baldwin Hills and Crenshaw to shop there? Critics have long said better merchandise and shops are needed for that to happen. Haagen officials hope the cineplex will be a big plus, drawing about 10,000 more shoppers per week to the mall.

Meanwhile, Bruning said, the cineplex lease with Johnson is being worked out, with some details already settled: In addition to the theaters, the 50,000-square-foot space will contain a restaurant and a Magic Johnson's clothing store.

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Is he a pal of Simon Garfunkel?Los Angeles Councilman Nate Holden, whose comments have been known to enliven the dullest of hearings, was the lone dissenter Tuesday when the council voted 10 to 1 to approve the first stage of the giant Playa Vista development.

But Holden emphasized that his opposition in no way diminished his esteem for developer Maguire Thomas Partners, which is headed by founders Robert F. Maguire and James A. Thomas.

"I don't have anything against Maguire Thomas," Holden said. "He's a friend of mine. I've known him for 20 years."

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One year and counting: The anniversary of Robert M. Myers' firing came and went a few weeks ago, and Santa Monica is still without a permanent city attorney.

There was some speculation that a decision might finally be made when the City Council returned recently from its one-month summer hiatus, but the fractious council has continued to balk at choosing between two finalists--Joseph Lawrence, the acting city attorney, and Matthew St. George, a Los Angeles prosecutor.

As best as can be pieced together from sources who seek anonymity (this is a hush-hush personnel matter), here's where things stand:

What didn't happen during the break was the emergence of a fifth vote for St. George. Previously, he was supported by Mayor Judy Abdo and Council members Paul Rosenstein, Asha Greenberg and Robert T. Holbrook.

Although four votes is enough to select someone, Abdo wanted a candidate who had a stronger mandate. She also was being pressured by leaders of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, the tenants organization that dominates city politics, to refrain from picking a candidate unless at least three of the five council members allied with SMRR were behind the winner.

But three of the SMRR council members--Tony Vazquez, Ken Genser and Kelly Olsen--have continued to stick with Lawrence.

The likely next step is that a few new candidates will be considered--and St. George and Lawrence will be kept dangling for a while.

One person watching the untidy hiring process with disdain is Myers. In an opinion piece in a local weekly paper, Myers skewered his former council bosses last week, saying the delay proved their "ineptness at managing our city."

Myers said the council was acting politically, rather than in the city's best interests. "The end result of this type of decision making is that we witness the council's bumbling efforts on a wide range of issues."

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Pizza update: Ron Taylor, the Santa Monica dumpster diver who has been feeding his fellow homeless souls by redeeming Domino's "Value Dots" for free pizza, has branched out to hamburgers.

His newest plan involves collecting yellow bottle caps from large bottles of Coca-Cola, which are redeemable for free burgers at Carl's Jr.

Taylor said he doesn't expect the new promotion to yield anything like the scores of pizzas he distributed during the summer by scrounging in the trash for discarded Domino's coupons. But the burgers will be a nice change of diet, he said.

Since Taylor's story of feeding the homeless with free pizza ran in The Times a week ago, he has been interviewed by Canadian radio and local television.

And the Santa Monica city attorney's office, which helped Taylor persuade Domino's not to cut off the promotion, received some "Value Dots" in the mail from some sympathetic folks who wanted Taylor to have them for his pizza feeding mission.

Yellow bottle caps, anyone?

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Down the Hatch: Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Woodland Hills) prides himself on being an independent-minded lawmaker in an often intensely partisan institution. Last week he found himself virtually a one-man caucus when he was the lone Democrat to oppose reforming the 1939 Hatch Act.

By a vote of 339 to 85, the House sent to President Clinton a bill that opens the door to political activities for most U.S. government employees. Clinton has vowed to sign the measure, which will apply to 3 million workers.

Under the bill, which had been sought by federal employee unions, federal workers will be able to participate in such previously banned activities as stuffing envelopes or organizing phone banks in political campaigns and holding party political posts.

But they must do it on their own time and not while wearing federal uniforms or in any building where official business is conducted.

Beilenson joined 84 Republicans in opposing the bill.

"I've been voting against it for years," Beilenson said. "The existing Hatch Act has worked quite well. We've had a nonpolitical Civil Service for many decades now. People have had confidence that federal employees are not political and can't be too deeply involved in partisan politics. At the same time, it protects federal civil servants from coercion.

"I wish more Democratic members saw the issue the way I did."

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Bias and booze: In 1988, freshman Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman pushed a measure through the Legislature to bar private clubs that employ discriminatory membership practices from obtaining state liquor licenses, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

Ever since then, Friedman, a Brentwood Democrat, has unsuccessfully sought to get the bill back to the governor's desk. According to Friedman, former Assemblyman Richard Floyd of Carson, the longtime chairman of the Assembly committee that reviews alcohol legislation, vowed to never let the proposal out of his panel.

But Floyd lost his reelection bid last year, and Friedman finally managed to push the proposal through the Legislature this month and to the desk of Gov. Pete Wilson. The bill spells out state authority to prohibit the issuance or renewal of liquor licenses to clubs that discriminate on the basis of color, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex or age.

In a letter to Wilson, Friedman maintained that California "still sanctions discrimination by issuing discount liquor licenses to private clubs which deny entry or membership or prevent full enjoyment of the club on illegal grounds." By doing so, he said, the state "is granting special privilege to practitioners of discrimination."

The California State Club Assn. opposes the bill, arguing that private clubs enjoy the protection of the guarantee of freedom of association found in the First and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

A spokeswoman for Wilson said the governor has not taken a position on the Friedman bill. He has until midnight on Oct. 10 to act.

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Contributing to this report were staff writers Scott Shibuya Brown and Ron Russell in Los Angeles, Nancy Hill-Holtzman in Santa Monica, Alan Miller in Washington and Mark Gladstone in Sacramento.

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