Friday, June 03, 2016

How Green Was My Valley... Trouble In Southern California



-by Dorothy Reik

California’s Senate District 27 comprises some of the most beautiful and valuable real estate in the country. From the beaches of Malibu to the Santa Monica Mountains to the flat lands of the San Fernando Valley and beyond into Ventura County, it is treasured by environmentalists and coveted by their mortal enemies-- the developers. The district's registration is 43% Democratic, 27% Republican and 24% decline-to-state. In 2012, the now-termed out Fran Pavley (D) beat Republican Todd Zink 53.6% to 46.4%. There are 5 Democrats and a Republican in the June 7 jungle primary to succeed Pavley: Henry Stern, David Pollock, George Thomas, Shawn Bayliss, Janice Kamenir-Reznik and Steve Fazio (the Republican). The most controversial of the candidates in this environmentally progressive district is developer Janice Resznik, an agent of greed-driven destruction.

Now, back to the predatory developer world. In order to build in what is called SD-27, California's 27th Senate district, you need to be “entitled”-- you need to have the right. Those rights are called “entitlements” and the lawyers with the right connections, the ones who can get you those entitlements, are considered royalty. When one of them decides to run for office the gloves come off.

Ben and Janice Reznik are the king and queen of entitlements. They have gotten entitlements for billions of dollars worth of real estate deals, so when Janice abruptly decided she was entitled to the state Senate seat vacated by Fran Pavley she just took for granted that the other candidates would politely get out of her way. After all, Reznik & Reznik specialized in entitlements.

They had gotten Porter Ranch developer Shappell Industries, the developers of Porter Ranch, all their entitlements to build right there by that already existing Aliso Canyon underground gas storage yard. But now all those homeowners are entitled to is righteous anger and maybe reimbursement for the cost of moving out until the leak was capped and maybe for the cleanup of the oil slime that coats their homes.

But let’s start at the beginning. As hubby Ben points out "there were no land use lawyers back then" in 1979, when Shappell approached Reznik & Reznik for help with some land use issues... so Ben and his partner Janice created a whole new specialty-- land use litigation-- and we all know the rest.

Janice blames lack of oversight for Porter Ranch, noting on her website that "the debacle in Porter Ranch, which is part of the 27th District, revealed that the legislature was asleep at the switch."

And indeed they were! When the facts are revealed, it seems that the developers of Porter Ranch were not into disclosure. When Porter Ranch was permitted, the environmental report didn’t mention that oil field just down the road, as the Daily News reports.

Ben and Janice were there "in the trenches" as Ben revealed to the LABJ back in 2011, making sure those switches stayed turned off! During the 1980s the Rezniks represented virtually all the biggest developers according the L.A. Times. If you live in the Valley just look out your window or maybe just inhale and you can experience the results of their labors, or as Janice calls them, "accomplishments."

Expanding their reach soon after Porter Ranch was built, the Rezniks went after the oil companies themselves-- not as adversaries but as clients, hiring a former SoCalGas company regulatory attorney to head up their brand new Energy and Utility Division! So as methane wafted over SD-27, where Janice plans to reign, we know whom to thank-- the Rezniks. And don't be fooled-- the firm name is Reznik & Reznik-- the first is Ben and second is Janice-- or is it the other way around?

But the Rezniks weren’t through with the Valley... there was still Ventura Boulevard-- the charming, historical low rise walkable Main Street of the San Fernando Valley. Remember when the afternoon sun hit the Encino backyards north of Ventura. Well thanks to the Rezniks the sun shines there no more. Finally the City Council stepped in and created a plan to limit the height of buildings along the Boulevard-- but not before Reznik extracted an exemption for his client’s 172 unit apartment building in Encino. The L.A. Times reported on the negotiations. And on the Encino project in particular.

When homeowners objected to the scale of the project "Ben went nuclear," according to the L.A.Times, cynically threatening to add subsidized (read Section 8) housing to the plan, exactly the kinds of ugly tactics the Trump family was so famous for for so many decades. The Resniks got 150 units and they and their developer client headed right to the bank.

In 1997 facing cash flow problems, the Rezniks headed to the West Side, leaving behind a complaint about violations of their profit-sharing plan and their office building which was put up for sale-- but not their home. Too bad the Rezniks' division which represented management against labor wasn't there to defend them.

Reznik even went so far as to use labor negotiations to try to weaken CEQA-- a long range goal: “That’s part of where the reform needs to take place so you can avoid a situation where the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is used as a leverage tool for someone to gain other advantages that have nothing to do with the environmental welfare of the community at large,” Reznik said,” according to DTLA News. In 2015 Reznik predicted CEQA reform. Sorry, Ben. Even Jerry Brown can’t help you with this one.

But even at Jeffer Mangels, where he oversaw over $20 billion in real estate deals, nothing was too petty for the Rezniks. When their client, Norman Bench Advertising lost its exclusive contract to manage the bus benches, Patt Morrison reports that Norman started removing all the benches leaving mothers, children, the old and infirm to stand for as long as it took to for the bus to come. Nice work. L.A. scrambled to get another firm to rebuild them.

 But let’s be fair-- the Rezniks represented homeowners too-- like this sheik who wanted to build an 85,000 square foot mega mansion in Brentwood. The sheik filled the profile of the Rezniks' typical client-- he had "big problems and deep pockets!" Vanity Fair called their article on the project There Goes the Neighborhood!

Ben and Janice, like Bill and Hillary, are a team. They raise money together-- whether from developers or big oil (Chevron) aka the California Dental Association whom you can thank for all those mailers! The Rezniks use their connections well and if they get control of the gold mine that is SD-27 you can kiss CEQA good bye along with much of what is left of our open space. And if the developers want CEQA "reform" what will Chevron demand?

If you want to trust the U.S. to Team Clinton you know how to vote and if you want to trust SD-27 to Team Reznik then you also know how to vote. Maybe we would be better off with Bonnie and Clyde!

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At 7:03 PM, Anonymous Ellen Lubic said...

Excellent information...wish it was printed in the LA Times for even wider distribution.

At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Ted Vaill said...

We cannot let Janice take this seat with her money and influence. It belongs to Henry Stern as Fran Pavley's rightful successor. Janice will work to destroy Malibu as we know it and make PCH into another Ventura Boulevard.


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