Major Lobbyists Host Thursday Fundraiser for John D’Amico’s City Council Election Campaign

City Councilmember John D’Amico is having a campaign fundraising event on Thursday hosted by Steve Afriat, Jim Arnone and Jeff Seymour, lobbyists who represent development, billboard and other interests before the City Council.

The event will be at 8 a.m. at the London Hotel, 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd. Those attending are asked to donate $500, the maximum allowable from an individual, to D’Amico’s campaign. In an email to WEHOville, D’Amico said the topic is “sustainable and resilient design and development along the Sunset Strip and throughout in West Hollywood.” He said he plans to discuss “balancing residential and business community values through design technology.”

D’Amico announced earlier this year that he would run for re-election in March 2019 for a third term on the City Council. While he previously had pledged to not serve more than two terms, D’Amico in February said that his decision to run for a third term was in response to requests from community members.

The fact that D’Amico’s event is hosted by three of the city’s most prominent lobbyists may upset some of his supporters who have opposed what they see as too much development in West Hollywood.

D’Amico was first elected to the Council in 2011 on a campaign focused on shaking up the establishment. That establishment included John Heilman, who has been on the City Council since West Hollywood’s incorporation as a city in 1984; John Duran, recently installed as mayor, who was first elected in 2001, and Abby Land and Jeffrey Prang, who have since left the Council.

During his tenure, D’Amico has surprised some of his most avid supporters with shifts in his positions on some issues. Perhaps the biggest surprise was his announcement in January of last year that he was endorsing Heilman and Duran for re-election. Early in his first term, D’Amico’s relationship with Heilman was so acrimonious that the two council members were criticized for refusing to shake one another’s hands. D’Amico also had angered Duran by calling him out at a Council meeting for viewing Grindr, the gay sex hookup app, while sitting on the dais during Council meetings. “For years I have glanced over and seen John trolling on Grindr for men,” D’Amico said. “I can no longer agree to believe that we can give John Duran a pass.”

In endorsing the incumbents, D’Amico called out the turmoil created by the election of Donald Trump as president and what he said was a need for stability.

“I have a history of endorsing outsiders,” D’Amico said, “and yet I have been thoughtful in considering this election, and I decided to endorse John and John.”

“I just see that John Duran’s eloquence and speaking up for people and keeping alive the history of our people and what matters to them is unmatched,” D’Amico said. “John Heilman’s deep history with elected and appointed officials across the city at all levels of government is unparalleled.”

According to the city’s registry of lobbyists, the Afriat Consulting Group’s clients include the developers of the James Hotel and the Arts Club on Sunset Boulevard, which will be a focus of Thursday’s event. Other Afriat clients include five prominent billboard companies.

Seymour’s clients include Faring, the developer of the Robertson Lane hotel project, which comes before the City Council on Monday, as well as developers such as Combined Properties.

Arnone is a lawyer with Latham & Watkins, which also represents Faring, and Mark and Arman Gabaee, also known as Armand Gabay, who are the owners of the Charles Company, developer of the Melrose Triangle.  Armand Gabay recently was arrested on federal bribery charges.

Other announced candidates thus far include Councilmember Lauren Meister and Duke Mason, a member of the city’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board and a previous candidate; Timothy Williams, who is head of a production company called Haus of Liontruth; Tom deMille, a local artist who was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2013 election, and Eric Schmidt, who describes himself as a former fitness trainer and who has gotten attention with his promotion of online videos depicting him having sex with other men.  Councilmember Lindsey Horvath has not yet announced whether she will run for re-election.  Meister held a fundraising event earlier this month with hosts listed as Michael Niemeyer of Micky’s, Tom Doherty and Rick Bicanovsky of Cafe D’Etoile, Marta Knittel and Shoshana Joseph of Yogurt Stop, Nicklaus Fox, who performs as Helen Back with Weho Cheer, and Bobby Trendy.

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of this story, based on a list of lobbyists’ clients maintained by the City of West Hollywood, stated that Afriat Consulting represents the developer of AKA West Hollywood and the Charles Company.  Afriat no longer represents those clients, and the story has been updated to correct the error. The story also said that Seymour Consulting represents the Charles Company, however Jeff Seymour has told WEHOville that that no longer is the case.

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