Saturday, December 13, 2008


This item is far too important to be kept from the widest readership possible.

Developer of San Pedro's Ponte Vista plan is ousted
By Gene Maddaus Staff Writer
Posted: 12/12/2008 11:18:30 PM PST

Bob Bisno, the developer who polarized San Pedro with his plans for a 1,950-unit condo complex, has been ousted from the project's development team.

A division of Credit Suisse bank, Bisno's top investor, has assumed control of the controversial Ponte Vista project, the development team announced Friday.

Though Bisno's departure was hailed by neighbors who have battled him over density and traffic issues for three years, it may not mean the end of the project.

The project's lobbyist said Friday that Ponte Vista would still move forward under the direction of DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Credit Suisse.

"Anyone who becomes a spokesman for a development project becomes a lightning rod," said lobbyist Steve Afriat, speaking of Bisno. "The temperature's going to be turned down now because there's a new sheriff in town. DLJ is committed to working with the community."

The Ponte Vista development, slated for 61.5 acres of former Navy land, has appeared to be in serious trouble since last month, when the Los Angeles Planning Department recommended that it be rejected.

Dispensing with Bisno's arguments, the planning staff found that no more than 1,200 condos should be built on the site, and perhaps as few as 775. Bisno initially seemed ready to fight that ruling at the Planning Commission this week, but later the developers asked to postpone the hearing to February.

Even if the project continues, Bisno's ouster is a major milestone in the history of the development. Community members said that his personal style was too obstinate and that he insisted on a massive project long after it became clear that doing so would split the community into warring factions.

"His business plan was `My way or the highway,"' said Jerry Gaines, who served on a citizens committee that studied the project. "Now you got people that don't want to speak to each other, and a lot of unrest that was not necessary."

Bisno rallied support from local businesses that wanted more customers, and labor groups that were eager for more construction jobs. He also tried to sweeten the deal by offering to build a park for the Eastview Little League, and built a cadre of loyal San Pedro residents.

But many other residents said he was never flexible enough on their central concern: the number of condos. His initial proposal was for 2,300 units, which struck many in the community as wildly unrealistic because it would jam Western Avenue with traffic and put a strain on the city's services.

Neighbors in San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes, which is just across the street from the old Navy site, rallied against the project. In 2007, Bisno came back with a concession: he would cut the number of housing units to 1,950.

"That was no concession at all," said John Greenwood, who chaired the advisory committee. "I think he just fell in love with the plan. I don't think Bisno ever had a Plan B."

If he was inflexible, it may have been because he needed to recoup his $125 million investment in the land. His margins must have tightened even further as the housing bubble popped - making it increasingly difficult to turn a profit.

"My guess is the people with the sharp pencils at Credit Suisse decided this is a losing proposition," said Doug Stern, a Rancho Palos Verdes councilman. "If a lender is stepping in, they think they're at substantial risk of not getting their money back."

In an interview, Afriat would not comment on the reason for Bisno's departure, or even confirm that he had been ousted by his investors.

But Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn said Afriat had told her that Credit Suisse decided to remove Bisno.

"I feel very positive that Credit Suisse saw the writing on the wall," Hahn said. "I believe I'll have a better working relationship now. I would like the developer to go back to the drawing board, start over, and design a project that would have a better chance of being approved."

Allan Abshez, the project's attorney, said that nothing has changed and the development team still intends to go before the Planning Commission on Feb. 12.

Afriat said, however, that DLJ is willing to be flexible about the number of condos.

"Is it 1,950?" he asked. "No. It doesn't have to be 1,950. It's not 1,200 either, though. That's a little thin."

You need to know at the outset that Mr. Steve Afriat has been and continues to be the largest lobbyist in the city of Los Angeles and he has many powerful friends in high places.

It is now apparent more than ever that the members of OUR community assume much of the control over deciding what could be built at the site by creating reasonable proposals that might find acceptance.

It must not be enough to just react to future proposals credit by DLJ Real Estate Capital Partners now that they have taken over control of the project.

Our community must also work hard to deal with the 'guidelines' set up by the L.A. City Planning Commission for the site and also lobby Councilwoman Janice Hahn to truly consider her support for those guidelines.

OUR community's future is too important not to act and it we must not allow ourselves to simply sit back and react.


Marshall said...

Good Riddance! The problem with this development from day one has been Bob.

Anonymous said...

this is huge, no doubt. but it's not over yet.

Anonymous said...

calling louis dominguez!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your efforts well spent!

Anonymous said...

well, it's safe to say mr. afriat still has his head up his ass. 1,200 isn't "kind of thin". it's still really much too big.

M Richards said...

Thanks all.

Mr. Afriat should avoid being quoted using words like 'thin'. Both he and I need to not be heard uttering that word or having it written coming out of either of us.

In Mr. Afriat's case, the only thing that is thin, unfortunately for him, is his hairline.

spsenior said...

I also believe that you need to work with the members of the community who want senior housing and possibly more than just single family homes. Times have changed, and single family tracts are no longer the most feasible for many families. Perhaps 30 years ago, before wages and home prices became so disconnected, single family homes were the way to go. But that doesn't seem to be the case now.

Anonymous said...


did it ever occur to anyone that this might just be for show?

M Richards said...

Thank you spsenior.

I do feel that if senior housing is wanted, WE need to work with other members of the community. I feel is you want some senior housing, you can join with others like me who could work towards that goal.

We, as in OUR community, need to work together to find the best solutions for the site and that also includes folks like 'spsenior', I believe.

Calling for, demanding, requesting, wanting, needing, and simply writing about senior housing is not enough. Those folks who want senior housing on the site should join forces and help come up with proposals that can be discussed. I think "spsenior" you should contact those you already know who want some senior housing at the site and try to organize in some fashion.

I have written about my feelings about having some senior housing on the site and I have even created an illustration of where I feel it should go.

I can always be reached at the Email address on the top of this blog and I review each comment before they are published.

M Richards said...

Thanks anonymous 10:52 AM,

If it wasn't all for show in the past, perhaps it is now for show, for sure?

DLJ is a mammouth group owned by a financial institution that isn't as bad off as so many other are right now.

Elise Swanson gave me the names of the two Credit Suisse reps that were dealing with Bob, several months ago and she said I should talk with them if I had questions about whether they were still backing Bob, those few months ago.

I think we might want to consider that everything that has been done up to now in preventing a massive project along Western has been 'pre-game' activities.

Now the real game probably begins.

We can see that the guidelines set forth by the Planning Department are the first real set of numbers many folks can get a handle on and we can actually see that in action by Councilwoman Hahn's apparent support for those guidelines.

I think the density bonus efforts might become stronger, even though the marketing arm of BDC wasn't calling for low-income housing on the site.

We all need to be more watchful and organized on every side.

There are those who still want some number of senior housing on the site that should get themselves better organized apart from the Outreach Team to work toward providing influence where it matters.

The New Year will bring a whole new set of things to deal with and I am glad we had our 'pre-game' to help get prepared for what is coming up.

Anonymous said...

i don't believe this one bit. it's a bluff to get him out of the spotlight.

Anonymous said...

Bluff or not, getting BisNO canned on this project is a huge victory for this community. He was a complete ass. He knew nothing about who we are as San Pedrans. I couldn't be happier. Of course now we have to make sure 'ol Janice gets her head on straight and assures this project does not become a low income tenament.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 8:55a.m.: don't be so gullible. he spent years of work and millions of dollars on this project. he's not about to walk away so easily.