FPPC complaint targets H.B. councilman

A Huntington Beach resident has filed a conflict of interest complaint with the state against Councilman Keith Bohr for allegedly voting on a project of which Bohr’s company authored the building plans.

Resident Jeff Smith, who opposed the Pierside Pavilion project expansion on Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, said he filed the complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission on Friday.

The City Council, with Bohr’s motion, voted Sept. 17 to approve expanding Pierside by almost 30,000 square feet, adding more retail space on the first floor, a restaurant on the second floor that will accompany a patio on the rooftop and office space to the third and fourth floors.

Smith and other Pier Colony residents opposed the expansions, saying they will drive their property value down, minimize their beach view and hover over their private space.

The project was denied by the Planning Commission but appealed to the council by Councilman Joe Carchio.

During the meeting, Pierside owner Joe Daichendt presented the council with modified building plans that had not been seen by the public at that point.

Bohr moved to approve the expansion with the new building plans.

Smith said he noticed that the modified building plans were different from the original ones and noticed that their author was not listed.

After inquiring about the architect with the city, Smith said in the complaint that he found out they were done by Huntington Beach-based TEAM, a real estate development and construction company, of which Bohr is listed as the principle.

An email thread between Smith and Huntington Beach Associate Planner Ethan Edwards confirms that TEAM and Jeff Bergsma developed the modified Pierside expansion building plans. Bergsma is listed on TEAM’s website as its second principle.

However, Bohr said Bergsma oversees Team Design and Construction, which is the company that modified the building plans for Pierside and is a different entity from TEAM.

“We have some different entities that we market together,” Bohr said. “There’s no financial interest or conflict on my part.”

Bohr’s Team Companies, Inc., which he said is a separate entity, filed bankruptcy in May 2010 after plans for 26 condominiums and six commercial units at the historic La Salle Hotel in San Pedro tanked.

Bohr and Bergsma were subsequently sued by Los Angeles-based Cathay Bank for more than $6 million, but that lawsuit was settled confidentially out of court.

An email from City Clerk Joan Flynn to Bohr and City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the FPPC advised Smith to file a copy of his complaint with the city. Smith has also asked the city to investigate Bohr’s vote.

McGrath said her office does not investigate individual council members and will not be looking into this complaint.

Bohr has in the past been investigated by the Fair Political Practices Commission after a resident filed a similar conflict of interest complaint, but was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“It seems to me that when folks want to find any reason possible to stop an action or an approval or whatever they’re not happy with that council does, they try everything,” Bohr said.

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