Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ponte Vista Vote Questioned

The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council passed a motion supporting elements of the Ponte Vista housing proposal amidst questions over conflicts of interest.

Heading into Tuesday’s meeting, the council was set to vote on a motion to endorse the 1,950-unit complex as proposed.

Before the vote was taken, questions were raised as to whether some councilmembers had conflicts of interest that might disqualify them from voting on the issue.

During the public comment period, Doug Epperhart, a boardmember of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council and Ponte Vista opponent, presented a letter alleging conflicts of interest on the part of councilmembers Joe Gatlin, Mayra Perez, Pam Foster-Newsom, Joe Donato and Larry Henderson.

The City of Los Angeles ethics ordinance, which applies to neighborhood councils, says it is not in the public interest for individuals to act on a matter if they do not believe they could act impartially or if the public might reasonably reach that conclusion.

The letter states that four councilmembers have conflicts because they are employees or officers of entities that have received donations or contracts from Ponte Vista. Another councilmember serves on Ponte Vista’s own community advisory committee, a group organized by the developer and considered an advocacy body.

Councilmember Kara McLeod moved to postpone the Ponte Vista motion for a month so that the board could get an opinion from the city attorney about the alleged conflicts of interest.

McLeod’s motion was defeated 7-5 and the board went forward with a vote on the Ponte Vista resolution.

Councilmember Andrew Silber voluntarily recused himself because he is a board member of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce. The business group has received significant monetary support from Ponte Vista and favors the project.

Councilmember Sue Castillo proposed an amendment to change the motion to endorse the general concepts of traffic mitigation, union jobs, housing for senior citizens and other such facets without affirming total support for the developer’s proposal.

Boardmembers voted to approve Castillo’s amendment. They then passed the Ponte Vista motion as amended on a vote of seven ayes, two noes and two abstentions.

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