Two big donors back L.A. sales tax measure
The developer of a proposed downtown Los Angeles football stadium and the company behind two planned apartment towers in Koreatown have provided about two-thirds of the funds for the group backing a half-cent sales tax increase in the city, according to the first report released in the campaign.
The committee for Proposition A on the March 5 ballot reported that it had raised $185,000 by Jan. 19, with $100,000 coming from stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group. The City Council, which is seeking the tax increase to address a $220-million budget shortfall, approved AEG’s proposed stadium last year, which involves the demolition and reconstruction of part of the city’s Convention Center.
An additional $25,000 came from 3150 Wilshire, a company created by real estate developer J.H. Snyder Co., which received $17.5 million in financial assistance to build two residential towers in Council President Herb Wesson’s district.
Wesson, who launched the sales tax campaign last fall, has been raising money for the measure. Kacy Keys, senior vice president of J.H. Snyder, said Wesson is “a great leader” who has been pivotal in getting her company’s Koreatown project off the ground.
“I know this [ballot measure] is Herb’s effort, and we wish Herb well,” she said.
The city provided a $12.5-million loan for J.H. Snyder’s Koreatown development that can be repaid, in part, from property taxes generated by the project, Keys said. A $5-million redevelopment loan does not need to be repaid until the developer sells or refinances the building, she said.
Wesson said he hopes to raise $2 million for the sales tax campaign and secure endorsements from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and others. “I think this is a very good start.”
Neighborhood activist Jack Humphreville, who signed the ballot argument against the sales tax increase, said Proposition A backers are getting big donations from companies that had received “special treatment” from the City Council. The campaign contributions are “a cheap price for these special interests to pay.”
AEG President and Chief Executive Tim Leiweke said Police Chief Charlie Beck asked him to help with the campaign but did not specify a dollar amount. Leiweke said he contributed out of a fear that the Los Angeles Police Department force would have to be reduced if Proposition A fails.
“I think, quite frankly, that it’s difficult to keep on taxing businesses and individuals in the state of California. And if we’re not careful, eventually we’re going to make it difficult to do business in California and in the city of L.A.,” Leiweke said. “That said, I don’t see another path.”
The Proposition A campaign also received $25,000 from Excel Paving, a company that has received city contracts in recent years, and $25,000 from Crew Knitwear, a Los Angeles-based apparel company.
A $10,000 donation came from a political action committee representing the California Assn. of Realtors. Real estate groups lobbied successfully last fall to stop Wesson and his colleagues from pursuing a ballot measure that would increase the tax on property sales.
Wesson and his colleagues went with the proposed tax increase instead.