Politics

Developers, billboard companies on record lobbying pace in LA

Businesses paid lobbying firms $13.5 million during the first three months of this year to meet with elected and appointed LA city officials to push their causes, according to a new report from the city Ethics Commission.
Businesses paid lobbying firms $13.5 million during the first three months of this year to meet with elected and appointed LA city officials to push their causes, according to a new report from the city Ethics Commission.
Meghan McCarty/KPCC

Developers in the midst of a building boom put the city on pace for record spending on lobbyists to influence Los Angeles city council members, commissioners and city staffers.

In the first three months of this year, businesses of all kinds seeking support for their projects spent $13.5 million on lobbying, according to a new report from the city Ethics Commission. Nearly half the money was concentrated among ten lobbying firms.

The ethics commission analysis of the top-spending ten clients shows nine of them spent a collective $1.4 million on lobbyists to contact city officials about building projects. Clear Channel, a billboard company, spent $155,000 to round out the top ten.

The disclosures published on the commission's website do not list which council member, commissioner or staffer spoke with lobbyists.

The development projects are as diverse as the two-tower Palladium Residences in Hollywood approved by the city council in March to a new stadium for a Major League Soccer stadium at Exposition Park.

Though spending on lobbying was brisk in the first three months of the year, it wasn't a quarterly record. That was set in the last quarter of 2015, when businesses spent $14 million.  If spending comparable to the first quarter of 2016 continues, the annual total could top $54 million, a half-million dollars more than last year's total.

A company known as CRE-HAR Crossroads SPV LLC was the biggest spender in the first quarter of 2016, putting $220,660 into lobbying services in pursuit of approval of a hotel, shops, homes and offices surrounding the famous Crossroads of the World shops in Hollywood.

Billboards among top spenders

The billboard company Clear Channel Outdoor/ iHeartMedia inc. was fifth among the top ten spenders in the first quarter, putting nearly $155,000 into lobbying for digital signage and billboards.

A citywide sign ordinance has been working its way through the Los Angeles legislative process for years. The Citywide Planning Commission recommended a version last year that would limit most signs to special districts and would enforce city rules against hundreds of signs that have no city permits. The ordinance is pending before the city council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Recently, the state Supreme Court upheld the city's ban on new digital billboards, upping the pressure on sign advocates to get the city council to approve a new ordinance that permits them.

Billboard companies collectively spent about $279,000 on lobbying in the first quarter of 2016, however other businesses seeking to influence the direction and content of a citywide sign ordinance also hired lobbyists.

Overall spending on billboard-related lobbying ran to about $545,000, according to disclosures filed by the lobbyists. The actual amount spent on lobbying on the sign ordinance could be more because the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission rules permit fairly broad descriptions of the topics lobbyists raise with the city officials they meet.