Complaint Filed Against City Councilman

First published in the Sept. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

A La Cañada Flintridge resident filed a complaint on Monday with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission — a nonpartisan, five-member panel that administers the Political Reform Act — against a local city councilman.
The complaint, filed by Scott Van Dellen, alleges that Councilman Jonathan Curtis violated two regulations set by the act, including “attempting to use official position to influence a government decision,” concerning a proposed three-story development at 600 Foothill Blvd. in which Curtis owns a financial stake.
In an interview on Wednesday, Curtis denied the allegations, emphasizing that he has never spoken with a city councilmember or city staff regarding the details of the project.
“I am part of the project; I am a member, but I’m not part of the day-to-day operations,” he said. “I have neither spoken to nor provided any information to any of the city council members. I have not spoken to nor provided any information to any planning commissioners or city staff.”
In the complaint, Van Dellen submitted more than a dozen pages of evidence to the FPPC that includes the grant deed and emails, which he said he obtained from the city through a Public Records Act request. The emails detail communications from Curtis to fellow councilmembers and city staff regarding a presentation that would provide an overview of the project.
Local residents Nancy Antonoplis and Linda Deacon signed as witnesses in the complaint, according to a copy of the submission provided to the Outlook Valley Sun by Van Dellen.
The enforcement division of the FPPC informs complainants and those alleged to have violated the law how it will proceed within 14 days of receiving the complaint, procedural information on the FPPC website said.
“[It] just seemed unseemly that a city councilmember would be a sponsor of the project,” Van Dellen told the Outlook Valley Sun in a phone interview on Tuesday. “I thought, let’s look at the public records and see what’s going on here, and we were kind of surprised to hear what was going on.”
Curtis, who has been a member of the City Council since 2013, told the Outlook Valley Sun that he vehemently disagrees with the complaint and has never spoken to any city official or staff about the project.
“I only made the introduction,” Curtis said about the emails, which were sent before any application for the Foothill Boulevard project had been submitted. “I did not participate in any [presentations] with any of the city council members and staff.”
City Manager Mark Alexander said he was aware of the complaint but declined to comment further on the situation.
Alexander had previously told the Outlook Valley Sun prior to the June 24 Planning Commission meeting that the proposal was going through the appropriate legal procedure and that Curtis followed the Political Reform Act by recusing himself from discussing or making decisions on any matter pertaining to the parcel. He added that “a property owner, whomever they may be, including the owner of a property who happens to be a member of City Council, has a right to submit an application for development of their property.”
Curtis also said that an anonymous complaint had previously been filed against him recently and the FPPC notified him days later that it would not move forward with an investigation.
Van Dellen is one of dozens of residents who have stated their opposition to the development. The 1.29-acre parcel — the former site of the Christian Science Church — was purchased in 2019 by a limited liability company called 600 Foothill Owner, LP, for $4.2 million. After various designs and iterations of a proposed project, the group — which includes Curtis — proposed a 77,310-square-foot, three-story development that would provide 47 senior housing units, 12 non-serviced hotel units and 7,600 square feet for office use.
The LCF Planning Commission backed the plan and adopted six resolutions — including a recommendation to modify LCF’s General Plan and zoning code — on Sept. 2 that advanced the project. The panel is due to vote once more to affirm its approval of the development, and its recommendations would then be presented to the City Council, which has the final say on the proposal.
The city staff has said it supports the project because it would help LCF accommodate the demands of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which projects how many new dwellings are needed throughout the state and tells cities how many it should be ready to provide. LCF is expected to show it can provide 612 residential units, though that does not necessarily mean they would be built.
Van Dellen is a member of the local nonprofit group Together La Cañada that has closely monitored the site, previous proposals and the current one before the planning commission. TLC, which has more than 200 followers on its Facebook page, has said that it does not oppose senior housing and asks that the development be done in accordance with existing city ordinances and zoning codes.
Antonoplis, also a member of TLC, echoed Van Dellen’s concerns about having a city government official involved with such a project and hopes for improved communication between the city and residents.
“Hopefully this serves as a warning [to city government officials] that you need to be transparent,” Antonoplis said. “You owe it to the people. We want to be able to foster public trust in our political system and see everything is done in a fair and unbiased manner.”
Curtis expressed an appreciation for LCF residents who have been following the project, which he views as part of the Vision 2030 — a goal in the LCF General Plan that was developed by city officials with input from the community that encourages development. One of the objectives in Vision 2030 is to provide “new housing opportunities for senior citizens and families” that are within “mixed-use developments that are close to businesses, health care services, community and recreational facilities and transit.”
“We’re very pleased that the community is taking an interest in something that was looked at as part of Vision 2030,” Curtis said.
The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled Sept. 23, where the panel is expected to approve the consent calendar to advance the Foothill project proposal before City Council.