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California

D.A. to review apartment rental involving L.A. councilman’s son

Rosewood Avenue building
Herb Wesson III has lived for years at a 20-unit building on Rosewood Avenue. Former tenants said he told them that he received special treatment on rent.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said Monday that it would review questions surrounding an apartment rented by the son of City Councilman Herb Wesson at a building linked to a Koreatown real estate developer.

The Times reported last week that Wesson helped developer Michael Hakim win city approval for a planned 27-story residential tower while his son, Herb Wesson III, was living in an apartment building owned by a company where Hakim is listed as an executive.

Three people who lived in the building during the last decade told The Times they were aware that the younger Wesson was receiving a rent break — and that it was provided because his father is a councilman.

One former tenant at the building, located on Rosewood Avenue, said Wesson III explained during a private conversation that he had received a discount because of “business his father was doing with the owners of the building.”

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Wesson III went more than five years without receiving a rent increase in Apartment 4, according to an analysis of city rent records conducted by The Times. Several former tenants who were in the building during the same period said they routinely received rent hikes.

Wesson III moved last year into a different unit within the same building, according to city and county records.

Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, declined to provide any details of the review being conducted by her office. When asked if the office had received any complaints from the public in response to The Times’ article, Davila-Morales said it had not.

“Prosecutors, however, are aware and will review the matter,” she wrote in an email.

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Ed Johnson, a spokesman for the councilman, said the elder Wesson and staffers in his office welcome “any fair and unbiased review of the facts untainted by the council president’s political opponents.”

“This is a political hit piece made up of insinuations, and it won’t work,” he said in an email.

Wesson is running in the March election for a seat on the County Board of Supervisors.

Hakim won city approval for the Koreatown tower in 2015 over the objections of city staff and the Planning Commission. Neighborhood activists also raised concerns about the development, arguing that it was too big for the neighborhood and lacked affordable housing. A judge later struck down the council’s approval of the project.

Hakim said Monday that he had not been contacted by the district attorney’s office and had no comment about its decision to review the matter. He previously told The Times: “The first time I became aware of the tenant is when the L.A. Times inquired.”

Hakim has been serving as chief financial officer of Rosewood Corp., the company that owns the building where Wesson III has been living for nearly eight years, according to state business filings. He signed a declaration in 2017 identifying himself as the property’s owner, according to a permit application filed with the city.

Wesson III, who worked for six years as an aide to Councilman Curren Price, said in an email that he is currently paying roughly $1,500 per month for a studio apartment in the Rosewood building.

“There is nothing special or remarkable about this lease,” he wrote. “The only thing remarkable is how low my father’s political opponents will go.”

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Wesson III did not say what he was paying in his previous apartment, which is where he lived when the Koreatown project was being reviewed and approved.

Ethics experts said investigators should determine whether Wesson III should have publicly disclosed any rent discount as a gift while working for Price.

Experts also said enforcement agencies should examine whether the elder Wesson played any role. His spokesman previously told The Times that Wesson “does not arrange rental agreements for his adult children.”

The district attorney’s review comes as Lacey is in the middle of a campaign for a third four-year term and faces a challenge from George Gascon, the former district attorney for San Francisco.

Wesson, whose district stretches from Koreatown to the Crenshaw Corridor, has endorsed Lacey’s reelection bid and provided a testimonial on her campaign website, calling her a “compassionate, principled and transformational leader.”

Asked about Wesson’s support for Lacey’s campaign, Davila-Morales said the district attorney and her staff “approach every case based on its individual facts and the applicable law to fairly and ethically arrive at a just decision.”

Wesson III currently works as a government relations coordinator for 4thMVMT, a Los Angeles-based company that partners with cannabis entrepreneurs who qualify for programs benefiting those hit hardest by the war on drugs. A company spokeswoman said Wesson III focuses on government agencies other than Los Angeles.

The council voted last week to confirm Karim Webb, the chief executive of 4thMVMT, as a member of the city’s Board of Airport Commissioners. Wesson was absent from the council chamber when Webb’s appointment was approved.


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