Irvine mega-developer FivePoint Communities is apparently repeating its 2014 campaign of TV attack ads and “hit” mail — intent on defeating Mayoral candidate Mary Ann Gaido and other growth-control candidates.
In 2014, former two-term City Councilmember and long-time Planning Commissioner Mary Ann Gaido challenged Mayor Steven Choi, who was then seeking re-election to a second term as Mayor. Taking her grassroots, growth-control message to every corner of the City, Gaido’s underdog campaign came within 953 votes of defeating incumbent Mayor Steven Choi. Choi’s narrow victory came only after mega-developer FivePoint Communities — now building 10,000 houses and apartments at the Great Park — unleashed a vicious anti-Gaido “independent expenditure” campaign.
ANTI-GAIDO CAMPAIGN WORKED IN 2014
Using dark money and money concealed by layers of political action committees, FivePoint spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on anti-Gaido TV attack ads and a barrage of “hit” mailers. Campaign reports later revealed that FivePoint’s so-called “independent expenditure” campaign involved between $500,000 and $1 million — enough to beat Gaido by just 953 votes. Also running with Gaido, and also attacked in her bid for City Council, was Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox. Fox lost by just 210 votes.
fivepoint-oct-issueBy the narrowest of margins, FivePoint managed to keep Choi and his pro-developer majority in control of the City Council. The result? Gaido says, “It was just as I warned. The Mayor and Council had no interest in controlling growth and development. So, the developers ran wild.” Gaido noted, “The issuance of new residential building permits exploded — from an average of about 2,000 housing units per year to nearly 5,000 per year. This means not just more houses and apartments, but more people, more cars, more traffic gridlock, overcrowded schools, and growing public stress and anger.”
GAIDO AND FOX RUNNING AGAIN
Now, Gaido is running again for Mayor, but this time Mayor Steven Choi is running for State Assembly, so the Mayor’s seat is open. Meanwhile, Melissa Fox is running again for Council, this time to fill the open seat of retiring Councilmember Beth Krom. Gaido has said that, with overdevelopment and traffic getting worse by the day, her growth-control message is more popular than ever.
Apparently, FivePoint Communities President and CEO Emile Haddad — and his political operatives — have come to the same conclusion. For months now, fearful of losing control of the City Council, they have been preparing to target Gaido and Fox once again. But according to sources close to FivePoint, this time Haddad and FivePoint, along with other developers and special interests, are ready to spend $1 million to defeat Gaido and Fox, and retain control over the Mayor and Council.
Here are the steps they’ve taken in apparent readiness to conduct a massive campaign against Gaido:
- FivePoint officials and political operatives have recruited and assembled a reliably pro-development team, beginning with termed-out State Assemblyman Don Wagner. For City Council, they’re backing incumbent Councilmember Christina Shea and Planning Commissioner Anthony Kuo. Shea and Kuo have been FivePoint’s most aggressive advocates for fast-track approval of thousands upon thousands of houses and apartments, beyond the strict limits and “caps” in the City’s General Plan.
- Both Wagner and Shea have apparently received assurances that they could, in effect, “outsource” their campaigns to FivePoint. According to their most recent campaign finance filings, Wagner, Shea and Kuo have raised very little money. It’s clear they are relying on FivePoint to spend up to $1 million to execute a so-called “independent expenditure” campaign on their behalf.
- A series of citywide “push-polls” in Irvine — presumably funded by FivePoint — were clearly testing strategies to tear down Gaido’s record and reputation for advocating good planning and strong growth and traffic controls. The polling tried to suggest that Gaido was somehow responsible for Irvine’s traffic mess when, in fact, she has been sounding the alarm against overdevelopment for years. As Gaido has said repeatedly, “Traffic control begins with growth control.“
- Upon filing his campaign papers, Wagner refused to sign the State’s Code of Fair Campaign Practices. This pledge includes promises to not let others use “libel, slander, or scurrilous” attacks. In not signing, Wagner appears to be signaling the go-ahead to FivePoint to run an “independent expenditure” campaign, however dirty, that is calculated to get him elected Mayor.