Transparency Project calls out Fourth and Arizona developer for “closed-to-the-public” free dinner event
Frank Stephan (email@example.com)
Senior Managing Director
Clarett West Development, LLC
1901 Avenue of the stars, Suite 1465
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Dear Mr. Stephan and Clarett West,
The Transparency Project is writing to express our concern with the invitation-only, closed-to-the-public event called “The Plaza @ Santa Monica” to be held Thursday evening, February 27th at Tiato Restaurant in Santa Monica. Your public relations firm is paying for dinner and valet parking for “a small group of community members” during which they will hear a PR presentation for the proposed highly controversial 4th and Arizona mega-project in the heart of our Downtown on publicly owned land.
The invitation, a copy of which The Transparency Project has obtained, twice boasts that it is being built in partnership with the City of Santa Monica. You cannot both propose or do a project in partnership with the City on public land and not be open and transparent.
Therefore, if you choose to go forward with this invitation only dinner, we request that you promptly provide us with the list of invitees as well as those who actually attend as well as the per person and total costs, including valet and other restaurant charges. We strongly disagree as to whether this is an appropriate way to inform people about your project in partnership with the City on public land. But at the very least, you should make these disclosures as residents have a right to this information.
Certainly, the City would be obligated to disclose attendees at any event it held about this project. And there are strict disclosure rules that would apply to any of its employees if they attended this event as to the value of the “gifts” received— free dinner and valet parking are certainly gifts.
The 4th and Arizona project hopes to center an ultra-luxurious hotel and office space on the last large remaining parcel of public land in the very center of our Downtown. It will generate an estimated 5,000 new car trips daily into a highly congested area. Residents, therefore, have an overwhelming stake in it.
It is one thing to offer coffee and donuts as part of a public presentation, but quite another to do invites only to a select group of people, giving them a free dinner (as you praise those people as community leaders) in an apparent attempt to buy some favor or good will. Pharmaceutical companies do this—very controversially — when they court doctors at private dinners in an attempt to have them dispense their products. The developers of a project in partnership with our City should do better.
We look forward to receiving the information we requested about this PR dinner.
Chair, Transparency Project
The Transparency Project is an all-volunteer group of Santa Monica residents concerned about openness and accountability in our City government and politics. We have been active since 2008. www.santamonicatransparency.org
Here is the link to the exclusive invite:
Cc: Diana Bianchi, DiModa Public Relations
Rick Cole, City Manager
Lane Dilg, City Attorney
David Martin, Planning Director