Firms with ties to city back extending terms
A Santa Ana ballot measure that would increase by four years the terms City Council members can serve is being heavily funded by companies having business with the city.
The largest contributions have been from a developer who has proposed a 27-story high-rise downtown and his associates. Money from developer Robert Bisno comes despite Measure D supporters’ argument in the voter pamphlet that the item’s passage would “reduce the power and influence of City Hall bureaucrats and developers.”
Bisno and his associates have given $40,000 to Yes on Measure D. The committee has received a total of $82,000. Bisno, who is based in Century City, did not return phone calls.
Measure D would increase the years that council members can serve from eight to 12.
On Tuesday, the committee received $20,000 from companies owned by Ware Disposal, the city’s garbage hauler; and $5,000 from Caribou Industries, run by developer Mike Harrah, who owns much of downtown. It also received $4,000 from the Santa Ana Police Officers Assn.
Critics of Measure D say Bisno’s contributions demonstrate how elected officials are being influenced by those with projects before the city.
Measure D supporters “say they want to disassociate themselves from developers, but they are again blatantly telling the residents that they are fools and we are going to put another one over you,” said Art Lomeli, a Santa Ana dentist who is heading the effort against the measure.
On Thursday, $20,000 from what is listed on campaign documents as “Robert Bisno including aggregated contributions” came in. Four days later, Main Street Concourse LLC, a Bisno partnership, donated another $20,000.
Bisno built a multimillion-dollar Santa Ana development known as City Place, which was a coup in a city that several years ago had trouble attracting Starbucks. City Place includes lofts for work and residence, as well as a McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Cafe and Corner Bakery. The natural foods store Mother’s Market is under construction.
The developer has proposed building a 27-story high-rise with 353 condos across the street. The project is expected to go before the Planning Commission within 90 days.
The home of Councilwoman Claudia Alvarez, the only council member who will be termed out in November if Measure D fails, is listed on the campaign contribution statement as the address of the Yes on Measure D committee.
Bisno, his partners and employees donated $33,000 to Alvarez in her failed 2006 campaign for an Assembly seat, records show.
Alvarez did not return phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.
Bisno Development Co. and related businesses have worked on 80 properties in 45 communities, including Santa Monica, Santa Ana, San Pedro and Dallas, according to the website of Baldwin Park, where the company is heading efforts to redevelop 125 acres in the city center. Similar plans have been made for downtown Santa Ana.
The No on Measure D committee has collected $2,975, with the biggest donations $1,500 from a committee affiliated with Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and a $1,000 loan from Councilwoman Michele Martinez.
Max Madrid, a city parks and recreation commissioner and treasurer for the Yes on Measure D campaign, said Tuesday that he didn’t know how the money would be spent. He said he was unaware of fliers or advertising in support of the measure.
Madrid, who has been out of town because of an emergency, said, “When I get back, the first thing I’m going to do is find out about this, because my name is on it.”