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.

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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?

  4. 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 and succefilly interfaced l with the press on multiple levels. Many residents made multiple appearances before Plum and LA City Council through the final disposition

    Just to be clear, it seems perplexing that there might be two people taking credit for most of the same responsibilities and achievements you just mentioned?

  5. 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 as per an independent traffic study and a list of other fire marshal and police experts as per the first responders and public safety issues being jeopardized. (This was before West Hollywood made a deal and settlement).

    4. I contacted repeatedly the media, ABC news, CBS news, NBC news, Fox news, the LA Independent, LA Weekly, Beverly Press, Wehoville, news blobs and websites, magazines and newspapers and several LA Times reporters and the editor of the LA Times.

    5. Worked with updating residents who lived in the Granville condos and other LA and West Hollywood residents who were renters and property owners.

    6. Contacted repeatedly the merchants and business owners in that area.

    7. Contacted local radio stations.

    8. Contacted LA city council member besides phone calls and email I also contacted them through their Facebook pages.

    9. Continued my involvement over at 8 month period leading up the the final approval meetings.

    10. Got well known historic preservation expert to email and also he appeared and spoke at the PLUM meetings.

    11. Recommended that a local resident submit an Op-Ed piece to Wehoville and they did and it was published.

    So then, “Development Woes” please let us all know what you did about your interest and concerns on this project and why hide behind the “Development Woes” name and not use your real name to see who you really are?

  6. @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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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’ in their midst. BTW, I am one of those people who lives on disability income – went to Yale, and am considered an expert in A.I, – not to mention that I hold a degree in Architecture from a damn good school to boot. Yes, I am a bum – I know – as are all of the other people in my building yet, the only problem we have is from homeless folks that live in the alley behind our building breaking in to our subterranean garage and stealing stuff. Of course, as reams of evidence shows, most of those people don’t resort to desperate measures when they are housed. Ahem Ahem – and wouldn’t ya know – that’s one of the things that 8150 seeks to do its share about. If you doubt the veracity of that assertion, I suggest you visit ‘www.nationalaidshousing.org’ and look at the research on how housing changes lives. You might also look at the county’s own ‘Housing and Health’ initiative – which has so far housed 2000 of the largest users of e.r. and psyche ward dollars when living on the streets, and how their lives have turned around since they were housed.

    What I really don’t understand, nimby and the over-entitled aside is that the opponents have won concessions on size and height, and nothing seems to be enough. I suggest that if you want to live in an area where no change is bound to happen ever or at least any time soon, buy a house in Watts or way south LA, build a wall around it and just ferment. Or – buy a farm or sharecrop on someone else’s so that you can have that ‘sameness’ that you so crave. It’s sad that changes are slow to come to our most needy communities to the south, but chances are they will come long after either you or I around to see them.

    I am not super excited by some of the nonsensical building going on here – the ‘Canyonization’ of Sunset happening where hotels are being built like a solid wall of building a bit to the West of 8150 seems excessive to me – but 8150 is an example of how massing can properly address that walling in of Sunset. If you drive down Jefferson into Playa del Ray, a similar type of building is happening, only Jefferson is twice as wide and can accommodate the increase in traffic.

    These assertions of things like Trump involvement, etc. from that guy that looks like the guy from Breitbart mentioned at the beginning of the article are last ditch efforts to follow the campaign strategies of the likes of Kellyanne Conway, etc. and by insisting that a lie is the truth, people will believe it. Aren’t we smarter than that?

    Gehry doesn’t need the work, you know – and his obvious love and respect for Los Angeles would not allow him to take part in something that would truly damage our city. I’ve seen the guy in a class setting in school, he is reasonable and shock of shock – he even has a conscience.

    I’m done.

  10. Townscape is a bad enough actor on its own – with or without help from 45 or his scion proxies, Uday and Qusay. You’d also have to buy into the unproven assertion that 45 has sufficient capital to invest rather than just sign debt instruments or licensing agreements. And even after unpacking a a maze of domestic, foreign and off-shore LLC investors, it was discovered that somewhere in that pile, a TO-related entity was an investor, it’s unlikely that there would be any significant ownership interest that would affect operational control of a project like 8150.

    Townscape also took on the heavy burden of Frank Gehry’s ego in order to get fast track approval from the LA City Council. That weight alone could sink the current project. Whatever the case, the 8150 Sunset project can live or die on its own merits.

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