AIDS Healthcare Foundation Dumps Another $300,000 Into That Terrible NIMBY Ballot Measure
It's become a tale of two cities. For developers, renters, and affordable housing advocates, Los Angeles is years deep into a housing crunch that is seeing rents skyrocket, vacancy rates bottom out, and the homeless population explode. For others, the city's development and public transportation booms are out of control, and threaten the very identity of Los Angeles.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been an unlikely leader of the latter group. The nonprofit campaigned strongly against last year's transportation-centric Measure M. And in the upcoming citywide election, AHF has written and proposed Measure S—which, among other things, would place a two-year moratorium on most major development in the city. Measure S was previously known as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.
AHF is also the major funder of Measure S. According to Curbed LA, campaign finance filings for January 1 through January 21 show that AHF has donated $300,000 of the $300,952 in monetary funds Measure S received for the period. Beyond that, for the first three weeks of January, Measure S also received nearly $195,898.53 in non-monetary contributions (which, Curbed posits, are presumably the Yes on S billboard ads blanketing the city).
According to the Coalition to Preserve LA, the official title of the group sponsoring Measure S, as of January, there were 120 billboards across the city urging voters to vote yes on S.
"With 120 billboards across Los Angeles, the Coalition to Preserve LA is getting the word out about Measure S and the need to reform City Hall's rigged and unfair development approval system," the group wrote on their Facebook page. "We need you to help us. Share this post and/or take pictures of our billboards when you see them and post on social media. Thank you!"
For the three months prior, AHF contributed $504,332 to the campaign. According to Curbed, AHF has contributed more than $2 million to Yes on S campaign since the start of 2016.
How is the No On S team doing? For the same January 1 through January 21 period, No On S raised $190,910 in monetary contributions, and an additional $114,712.11 in non-monetary contributions. Who is bankrolling the opposition? Downtown developers City Century and SunCal are major funders, as well as international architecture firm Gensler.
So why is AHF (specifically president and founder Michael Weinstein) so opposed to a more robust public transportation system in Los Angeles? Or continued development?
"People moved here for the L.A. lifestyle. And that's a lifestyle that I love. If I wanted to live in Manhattan, I would live there," Brooklyn-born Weinstein told LA Weekly in 2016.
The cynic in us all might even guess Weinstein's opposition has something to do with the twin towers proposed behind the Hollywood Palladium. The towers, proposed by Miami-based developers Crescent Heights (which donated over $1 million in 2016 to the No On S campaign) would presumably block Weinstein's 21st floor office's views.
Weinstein is "...like that ex-boyfriend where you think you’ve seen the worst of them, but then they just continue to surprise you with how low they can go,” Steven Afriat, a Burbank-based entitlements consultant representing Crescent Heights for the Palladium development, told The Real Deal.
"He's a very intense man, who takes action when he thinks he's justified, and he doesn't back off," Jackie Goldberg, who ran against Weinstein in a city council race, told LA Weekly. "That makes a lot of people angry, particularly elected officials. I remember some elected officials talked to me about him, saying, 'You always get burned by him.'"
According to AHF's website, the non-profit's express purpose is to "rid the world of AIDS through a network of pharmacies, thrift stores, healthcare contracts and other strategic partnerships". So why is Weinstein spending AHF's money (albeit, money made by the foundation's pharmacies, not donations) on various city planning campaigns?
LA Weekly asked Weinstein that question. His response was a particularly dodgy. "We're a corporate citizen. This is our international headquarters. Why not? Why are we being asked the question and not all the business groups and the people who want to build anything they want? Why is it somehow less valid for us to be concerned about what happens in a community that we've invested in?"