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California

Equinox developer targeted by anti-Trump protesters is big player in downtown L.A.

The Grand vision | Architect Frank Gehry unveils designs for his project facing Disney Hall
Real estate developer Related Cos. is building the Grand, which will bring a 20-story Equinox Hotel to downtown L.A. Protesters have called for a boycott of companies tied to Related chairman Stephen M. Ross, who hosted a fundraiser last week for President Trump.
(Gehry Partners / Related Cos.)

The billionaire real estate developer whose support for President Trump sparked calls for a consumer boycott is also behind one of the flashiest redevelopment projects coming to downtown Los Angeles.

Protesters in West Hollywood and elsewhere called last week for customers to cancel their memberships with luxury gym Equinox and SoulCycle studios after learning that Stephen M. Ross, chairman and founder of the Related Cos., was planning a Trump fundraiser at his home. Ross has a minority stake in Equinox and SoulCycle, said Related spokesman Glenn Gritzner.

In L.A., Related has a major project under construction called the Grand, which is expected to house a 20-story Equinox Hotel. That development, which will also include a 39-story residential tower, is slated to receive more than $198 million in financial help from the city, according to a report issued last year.

The Grand won’t be completed until 2021, when either Trump will start his second term or the country will have a new president. But one longtime L.A. politician said he is already “deeply conflicted” about whether to attend the project’s opening.

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Former state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, who is running for a City Council seat in a district that includes downtown, said he likes the fact that the Equinox Hotel will provide good union housekeeping jobs, many of which will likely be filled by Latino immigrants. But he argued that Ross is “dancing with the devil” by helping Trump.

“Raising money on both sides of the aisle is par for the course among the wealthy,” he said. “But raising money for a billionaire president who embraces bigotry and white nationalism is beyond the pale -- especially for the city with the largest Latino population in the nation.”

Ross and his wife hosted Trump and various donors at their home on Friday, with tickets costing up to $250,000. The event took place less than a week after a gunman killed 22 people in El Paso, nearly all Mexican Americans or Mexican nationals.

The gunman issued a manifesto before the massacre railing against a Latino “invasion” of Texas and confessed to police that he had targeted Mexicans, according to an arrest affidavit. Residents in El Paso and elsewhere have drawn a link between that message and Trump’s frequent references to an immigrant “invasion,” as well as other derogatory statements about Mexican immigrants.

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In recent days, Trump has criticized some Democrats for calling him a white supremacist and argued that mental illness was the cause of the El Paso shooting. Ross, for his part, issued his own statement saying he disagrees with Trump on many issues and engages in politics out of a concern for jobs and the economy.

“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges,” he said.

Previously, L.A.'s politicians have spoken enthusiastically about the Grand, which Related is developing in partnership with CORE USA. When Related held a groundbreaking in February, Councilman Jose Huizar said the development would cement Grand Avenue’s reputation as the city’s “preeminent mecca for arts and culture.”

County Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley, called the project “a testament to the county’s innovative approach to economic development.”

Representatives of Solis and Huizar did not respond to inquiries. A spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti had nothing to say on the topic when contacted by The Times.

Last week, Equinox and SoulCycle issued statements saying they had nothing to do with the Trump fundraiser and did not support it.

Gritzner, the Related spokesman, described Ross is a “minority investor” in the two fitness companies and said he is not involved in the day-to-day operations of either venture.


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