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Angels Landing Developers Say They Can't Work With de León After Racist Leak

A rendering of Angels Landing by Handel Architects

Developers of one of the biggest projects in Los Angeles, Downtown's Angels Landing, say they can no longer work with the council member representing the area and called for his resignation after hearing him on leaked audio that has caused a massive scandal at City Hall and across the city. 

"As the developers of Angels Landing, we cannot, in good conscience, go forward and work with Council Member Kevin de León on the Angels Landing project and call for his immediate resignation from the Los Angeles City Council," The Peebles Corp. CEO R. Donahue Peebles and MacFarlane Partners CEO Victor MacFarlane wrote in an Oct. 14 letter submitted to then-acting City Council President Mitch O'Farrell and obtained by Bisnow.

“We don’t deal with racists,” MacFarlane, who is Black, told The Real Deal. “So we are not going to interface with Kevin de León, period.”

The developers of the $2B project said that they felt unsupported by de León over the last two years that he has been in office. In that time, MacFarlane and Peebles said de León only met with them once for about 15 minutes prior to a press conference about the project. 

"Despite the importance of a project like Angels Landing, which would deliver thousands of jobs to Los Angeles and has the highest commitment to economic diversity in Los Angeles’ history, we believe the Council Member, due to our sponsorship, was unwilling to work with us to move forward with the project," the letter says. 

De León contested the accusation. 

“Absolutely, unequivocally, no,” Pete Brown, de León’s communications director, told The Real Deal.

In a statement provided to TRD, Brown said the project's delays were caused by the developers' “inability to provide a proposal that meets the standards of the City of Los Angeles and the California Redevelopment Agency.”

“Despite this deeply cynical ploy to give themselves a favorable advantage in negotiations, the council office is committed to continue to work with other city offices toward an agreement that brings a mixed-use project to this long vacant site," Brown said.  

MacFarlane told Bisnow in May that the project still had a few hurdles to overcome before it could break ground, including securing financing and completing the purchase of the parcel, which is part of the development agreement being negotiated with the city.

They have more time to do the latter, which was supposed to be completed before the end of 2022. Due to a state bill passed at the end of September, this and a handful of other properties formerly owned by the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency have until the end of 2024 to be sold. Angels Landing Partners, the official entity developing the project, has spent the last five years moving it through the complicated process. 

"We still believe in Los Angeles and are demonstrating that by the millions of dollars we have committed to Angels Landing even during the pandemic and by the billions of dollars we have previously invested in Los Angeles," MacFarlane and Peebles said in the letter. "But we can no longer work with Council Member de León."

Following the release of audio — featuring de León, then-Council President Nury Martinez, Council Member Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera — in which racist comments are made about Black people, the Black son of a council member and a number of other ethnic groups that make up the constituency of the council, Martinez resigned last week.

Cedillo lost a bid for re-election and will leave office in December. Brown declined to comment to TRD about whether de León would resign.