Opinion: ‘Alternative Facts’ Surface in the Debate Over the 8150 Sunset Project

Is Donald Trump the investor behind the controversial project at 8150 Sunset Blvd.? Do “alternative facts” matter?

Some opponents of project have launched a vicious campaign against its developers, Townscape Partners, and three West Hollywood City Council members that they have labeled the “Townscape Three” and who they say are backing the 8150 Sunset project.

The assertion that Trump is backing the enormous multi-use project was raised again by a speaker during the public comment period at last week’s West Hollywood City Council meeting. The attacks on WeHo City Council members John Duran, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath — the so-called “Townscape Three” — have been made in a flurry of emails over the past few months from Michael Grace, a West Hollywood resident who is an entertainment writer and producer. .

Michael Grace

Grace’s emails often include a link to a website called Anti-Elite, which publishes stories about affluent people and businesses that it sees as corrupt. The stories generally include links to real news stories and along with false assertions added by the Anti-Elite writer. That writer is identified as JMitford, an allusion to Jessica Mitford, the English journalist and civil rights activist who died in 1996. The actual publisher of that website is not revealed.

Connecting the 8150 Sunset project to Trump is an apparent effort to raise alarm in West Hollywood, whose residents voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and most of whom are identified as Democrats and progressive. The “connection” is based on an allegation that Trump is an investor in Angelo Gordon (AG), which has invested in Townscape Partners.

A reader recently sent information to WEHOville that verifies that Trump’s companies actually have invested somewhere between $2 million and $10 million in AG’s funds. Still,  those making the allegation apparently don’t realize that an investor such as Trump  would be one of many and would have no influence on where AG puts its money. Thus the implication that Trump is calling the shots for Townscape is bogus.

Founded in 1988, AG describes itself as an “alternative investment” fund. According to The Street, a website focused on Wall Street, AG currently manages $26 billion of investor money. It’s also important to note that as a private firm, AG and its investment decisions are controlled by its partners and not those who invest their money with it. Those investors — who are limited partners in the various AG funds — have included the New Mexico State Investment Council, Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees’ Retirement, the Minnesota State Board of Investment and the Texas Permanent School Fund.

“The Townscape Three” (Anti-Elite.com)

Following the Trump investment rationale, investors in the 8150 Sunset project may include some of those fighting against it if their retirement funds have been invested in some manner in AG or other entities that invest in AG.

As to the involvement of the “Townscape Three,” the City of West Hollywood and the WeHo City Council have no real control over the 8150 Sunset project, given that it sits just outside West Hollywood’s northern board with the City of Los Angeles. The city did hire a lawyer to challenge the project because of its possible impact on traffic and other issues that might affect West Hollywood residents nearby.

It dropped its opposition after Mayor Lauren Meister and Stephanie DeWolfe, the city’s community development director, negotiated with Townscape to restrict the height of the project and require Townscape to pay the city to offset the project’s impact on traffic and the sewer system.   While that deal got the unanimous approval of the city council, Horvath, designated by the council to work with Meister on negotiating with Townscape, has noted publicly that Meister didn’t consult her in that deal.  Later the city council agreed to place a cul de sac on Havenhurst Drive to make it difficult for vehicles leaving the 8150 Sunset location to enter that WeHo residential street.

It is true that Townscape’s partners, Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, have been major donors to the election campaigns of Duran, Heilman and Horvath. And it is true that they supported another controversial Townscape project — granting an exception to the city’s zoning ordinance to permit a massive expansion of the building at 8899 Beverly Blvd. But that is another issue.

WEHOville encourages vigorous debates over issues that have an impact on West Hollywood. Thankfully, residents of our city have shown no reluctance to engage in such debates, which is the essence of democracy. But at a time when Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Donald Trump, defends lies by him and his associates as “alternative facts,” it’s important that we not damage the reputation of our progressive city by using such “facts” in our discussions of controversial issues. Facts matter. “Alternative facts” don’t.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  An earlier version of this story said that Mayor Lauren Meister and WeHo Community Development Director Stephanie DeWolfe negotiated with Townscape Partners for a cul de sac on Havenhurst. Meister and DeWolfe actually negotiated a reduction in the height of the project and a payment to WeHo for its impact on traffic and the sewer system.  This story has been updated to state that. The story also has been updated upon receipt of verifiable evidence from a reader that Trump’s businesses have invested in Angelo Gordon.


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J Simmons
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J Simmons

8150 Sunset is NOT in the City of WeHo, yet more attention has been brought and reported by wehoville (who said they only cover stories about issues in weho ONLY) more articles, opinions and negative propaganda than ALL the massive (similar in size to 8150 Sunset) that have already gone up to my own shock at the massive; overscale of projects in weho, and appropriate for council members to protest like the 8150 non weho development.

Jim C.
Guest
Jim C.

Amen to your comment!

Inquiring Minds
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Inquiring Minds

@ Jerome Cleary: Can you tell us who the well known historic preservation expert was that you recommended to speak at the PLUM meetings?

jerome cleary
Guest

Charlie Fisher, he’s a top notch historic preservation expert.

Development Woes
Guest
Development Woes

Additionally Jerome, this article was entitled ALT FACTS. Do you not think that accuracy, real facts and personal credibility are important in our city, anytime or any place on any subject?

Development Woes
Guest
Development Woes

Well Jerome, most of these tasks you attribute having accomplished as “an interested party doing one’s civic duty” in the communiity but in reality were you not you a periodic hired hand for a particular resident? The Crescent Heights Havenhurst Neighborhood Assiciation were well organized and knowledgeable from the get go that rolled through multiple levels submitting the requisite information regarding concerns critical of the project but also opportunities to improve the the anticipated project. I don’t recall your visibility at a single meeting. The folks advocating landmarking of Lytton Savings carried a lions share of the neighborhood contact duties… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Guest
Jerome Cleary

Dear “Development Woes” I am glad you asked that question as to my involvement as per the 8150 Sunset project. I had spent a considerable amount of time with my critical and constructive input. Some of the things I did were: 1. Work with neighbors in that area to get a better turnout of speakers at the Planning and PLUM meetings before it went before the LA City Council. 2. Contacted repeatedly the PLUM, Planning and LA City Council members and Mayor. 3. Contacted West Hollywood City hall and made a list of suggestions of our own city hiring experts… Read more »

Michael
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Michael

@Michael Cautillo: You strongly claim, “I am PROTECTING OUR URBAN VILLAGE.” This is definitively false to characterize West Hollywood as an “URBAN VILLAGE.”

West Hollywood was incorporated as a small city and today, still is a thriving, much improved small city.

This “URBAN VILLAGE” myth is fallacious and not based in reality.

Your belief that West Hollywood is an “URBAN VILLAGE,” is, in my opinion, a disqualifying statement for a candidate to city council. Simply false and erroneous.

Development Woes
Guest
Development Woes

Where were you Jerome when it came time to provide critical, constructive input? At arms length?

Jerome Cleary
Guest
Jerome Cleary

Jim C. you are not concerned at all for the public safety issues for first responders for any 911 calls for ambulances, paramedics, fire trucks and police cars to have the right access to rescue a visitor or resident? This is odd that you just assume that it’s all about what you think it’a about. The residents of Los Angeles and the residents of West Hollywood are very concerned about this project jeopardizing our safety and you never even mention or consider this to be an important issue!

Jim Nasium
Guest
Jim Nasium

I knew it! Those Pennsylvania public school employees are shady!

Development Woes
Guest
Development Woes

Thank you Wehoville for unmasking and hopefully defanging this hopeless purveyor of sludge for the public. He can’t seem to get his real facts straight even the name of a particular WH Councilmember. Wandering through his site makes me think I should disinfect my phone and witnessing his wormy ways in public just as awful. Evidently the venom he wades in is stowly consuming his brain. So be it.

Jim C.
Guest
Jim C.

I am so sick of this controversy, I could puke. I have never seen so much reprehensible childish inane behavior on the part of supposed ‘grown ups’ in my life – Kellyanne Conway excepted here. The 8150 project is a building – not an evil empire putting its foothold on the borders of our precious city. This issue is about some very mystifyingly entitled residents who want everything to be exactly as they want it to be forever. They don’t want their current views of whatever it is they look at changed, they don’t want any more of ‘those people’… Read more »

Michael Cautillo
Guest

West Hollywood should not be for sale. Fighting overdevelopment is one of the primary focuses of my campaign. This is why I am PROTECTING OUR URBAN VILLAGE. Vote against overdevelopment. Vote https://m.facebook.com/michaelcautilloforwesthollywood/

Thank you,
Michael