Councilman Thomas D. Shepard went to jail
The debate over land use and zoning in Los Angeles is as old as many of the city’s neighborhoods.
The Aug. 28, 1925, front page of the “Larchmont Post” (framed on a wall in the offices of the Larchmont Chronicle) boasts the headline, “Zoning of Wilshire will be up to vote at next election.”
The article tells of a referendum petition filed to repeal an ordinance adopted by the City Council to rezone residential Wilshire Blvd. from Western Ave. to Rimpau Blvd. as commercial.
Proponents of the latest anti-development ballot initiative, targeted for the Nov. 2016 election, have a long list of 22 “findings” in the preamble to their petition. The “findings” are the proponents’ justification why their requested changes in the planning and zoning laws of 2016 should be made directly by the voters. Five of the proponents’ findings to justify action in 2016 relate to 1966 zoning scandals—40 years following the 1925 “Larchmont Post” article . . . and 50 years ago.
1966 Grand Jury
Today’s anti-development petitioners state that a 1966 Civil Grand Jury report from that year found “credible evidence of a corrupted City of Los Angeles planning and zoning process.” That Grand Jury recommended that the city “form a commission” . . . to study and propose comprehensive reform of the planning and zoning process of Los Angeles.
As 2016’s anti-development petition states in its 22 “findings,” those recommendations from 50 years ago actually were adopted, and a Citizens’ Committee on Zoning Practices and Procedures subsequently presented recommendations for comprehensive city charter and zoning code amendments. Those reforms were adopted. But that 1960s and ’70s reform came only after a City Council scandal.
As part of the 1966 Grand Jury term, its Criminal Complaints Committee investigated City Councilman Thomas D. Shepard over a complex Planning Dept. case in the San Fernando Valley that involved zoning variances and possibly locating Jack Kent Cooke’s proposed Forum basketball arena in the agriculturally-zoned open space of the Sepulveda basin.
Residential groups in the west San Fernando Valley area led the call for an investigation because they felt Councilman Shepard and the Recreation and Parks Commissioners were failing to protect parkland.
“Tom Shepard, that’s a name I haven’t heard for a while,” said one of those former activits, who asked not to be identified. “That controversy was a long time ago.”
Shepard eventually was convicted of bribery in Nov. 1969 and served a 15-month sentence in state prison.
Proponents of the 2016 anti-development ballot initiative offer Shepard’s 1969 conviction as a reason why people should sign their “Neighborhood Intergity Initiative” petition, more than 47 years later.