Independent expenditures enter WeHo race

February 14, 2013

Independent campaign expenditures have hit the Creative City once again.

Used as a way to skirt campaign finance laws that limit direct contributions to any candidate or ballot measure to, in West Hollywood’s case, $500, the independent expenditures

The Friends of West Hollywood, A Committee Supporting John Duran for City Council 2013, filed papers with the city clerk’s office over the past week showing that it had received two donations totaling $10,000 that is intends to spend on behalf of the 12-year incumbent.

The original $5,000 came from BMB Investment Corp., a firm owned and operated by Ben Soleimani, owner of Mansour, a London-based rug showroom with a major outlet on Melrose Avenue.

The second $5,000 came from Micky's nightclub owner, Michael Neymeyer, under the corporation’s name of W.H.B.T. Inc.

Both of the men behind the Political Action Committee (PAC) have been in the public limelight recently.

Mr. Soleimani, through his family’s real estate venture, is trying to develop the stretch of Melrose between La Cienega and San Vicente Boulevards “into one of L.A.’s most stylish hamlets,” according to a 2010 Los Angeles Times Magazine story.

Part of that vision is developing 8564-90 Melrose as a Restoration Hardware wholesale and retail store against the wishes of the powerful 1,000 member West Hollywood West Residents’ Association (WHWRA)’s wishes.

Mr. Soleimani has close ties to Restoration Hardware as their rug designer. The planned 30,000 sq. foot, two story building was approved by the city council in May, 2012.

The WHWRA believes the development too large and feels the “public process has been circumvented” when the council voted to approve the project as a wholesale/retail use using a “negative declaration,” not an environmental impact report.

The vote, 3-2, was John Duran, John Heilman and Abbe Land for the project and John D’Amico and Jeffrey Prang against.

The group claims that the traffic and parking caused by the retail use will impact their neighborhood, so sued the city to stop the project.

That suit, however, failed when the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in the city’s favor early this year.

Micky’s entered the public eye last year after the Yes on Measure C (term limits) group had qualified their initiative for the March ballot.

The group planned a celebration at Micky’s after the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder in November verified that the initiative received more than the 2,344 signatures required to place the measure on the ballot.

That celebration, however, had to move to another location when representatives of Mr. Neymeyer called at the last moment to inform the group that their reservation for space had been cancelled.

Calling the canceled reservation “political skullduggery,” practiced by the incumbents, Scott Schmidt, campaign manager for the West Hollywood Term Limits Committee 2013, told a number of neighborhood leaders at the new location, another nightclub a few steps away, "We know that taking on City Hall can be a dangerous thing," according to the LA Weekly.