Developers’ power politics

first_imgDIAMOND BAR – This affluent residential community of 60,000 has suddenly become prime political real estate, with development companies chipping in more than $70,000 to last November’s City Council race, newly released campaign finance documents show. Those familiar with city politics say high land values and the fact that Industry owns most of the property surrounding Diamond Bar have stirred outside interest. That helped add about $390,000 to the coffers of council candidates and Political Action Committees. Incumbents Bob Zirbes and Wen Chang and challenger Steve Tye won three open seats. Incumbent Debby O’Connor and challenger Osman Wei lost. O’Connor, who took money from developers doing business in the city, said it’s unfortunate how much money flows into the city during elections. “I did it, everybody does it,” she said. She said she doubts most residents realize how expensive a campaign is, or how much council members accepted from people asking for city approval on contracts and projects. “I guess that’s the saddest part,” said O’Connor, who attributed her ouster to personal conflicts with other area politicians. “That a person who really felt strongly about the issues might not be able to run a successful campaign, because you’ve really got to be connected to this network of people who can help you get money.” In the campaign, about $6,000 in funds came from PACs funded in part by companies co-owned by Industry Mayor Dave Perez. Industry’s largest land owner, Majestic Realty Co., gave $8,000. Another $15,000 in donations came from a companies associated with Lewis Operating Co., which had partnered with Rep. Gary Miller, R-Brea, for a proposed development at a site in Diamond Bar at Brea Canyon Road and Diamond Bar Boulevard. At least $33,000 more came from other developers, according to campaign-finance forms. Industry owns about 6,000acres surrounding Diamond Bar, which means Industry officials try to stay in the good graces of the Diamond Bar City Council, according to Claire Schlotterbeck. “I think everyone knows that you generally don’t contribute to a campaign unless you think it’s going to pay off,” said Schlotterbeck, director of the open-space preservation group “Hills For Everyone,” who opposed several purchases of open space by Industry. Dave Perez’s family owns Valley Vista Disposal, which has waste disposal contracts in several area cities, including Diamond Bar. He said his nephew, David M. Perez, handles politics for the family’s companies, and added that companies in the disposal business cannot avoid getting involved in elections. “Everybody in this business is, I guess, trying to gain access,” he said. “If we’re not in there donating money, someone else is. Sometimes you back the winner, sometimes the loser. For us, it’s kind of the way life is.” Companies in which Perez owns a share contributed $48,000 to the California Leadership Alliance Committee, which in turn donated $2,500each to Steve Tye and Bob Zirbes, according to campaign-finance documents. Tye got $5,000 from Kent Valley of Majestic Realty, Majestic donated $3,000 to Zirbes. Home builders also contributed a large chunk of political donations. Although a complete set of campaign finance reports for the campaign was not immediately available, it appears from finance reports stretching from July to November that home developers donated about $48,000 to the campaign. “I think developers are all hoping for the chance at some of the last land here that’s available for development,” said Mayor Carol Herrera, who was not up for re-election in November. The two parcels that seemed to stir most attention are commonly called Site D and South Point, two properties owned by the Walnut Valley Unified School District that could be sold to developers. A group comprised of Lewis Operating Co. and Rep. Gary Miller hoped to build homes at Brea Canyon Road and Diamond Bar Boulevard, according to statements from city officials. Negotiations seem to have stalled after the city insisted at least half of the development be commercial, according to statements from Miller and city officials. Lewis Operating Co. and member companies donated $15,000 to the campaign. Another company, Young Homes, donated about $18,500 to candidates and committees, according to finance reports. JCC Homes of Torrance has submitted plans for a residential development at the South Point property, according to Nancy Fong, the city’s community development director. The company also donated to several candidates. Diamond Bar Residents Against Government Abuse spent $10,434 to print fliers opposing O’Connor and Chang. The committee spent $5,103 for fliers supporting Wei, Zirbes and Tye. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2703 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more