This Is War?

Behind-the-scenes ties between El Toro Airport supporters and the countys biggest anti-airport groups have to make you wonder

Krogius is decidely pro-developer at the Headlands. In letters to the editors of local newspapers, he has lambasted citizens groups that have questioned what he characterizes as the altruistic motives of developers Headlands Reserve LLC and Master Plan Development Corp. Krogius' daughter Karin, of Corona del Mar, is a real-estate developer for Pacific Bay Homes—one of the most active developers in the county. As an attorney in the early 1990s, Karin Krogius represented developer William Lyons, a former partner of Argyros at Air Cal, a contributor to staunch pro-airport Supervisor Jim Silva of Huntington Beach and a major financial backer of the proposed airport. However, she is, according to Kogerman, a backer of the anti-airport Safe and Healthy Communities initiative. Krogius' other daughter, Mimi Krogius Walters, is a Laguna Niguel City Council member and beneficiary of generous contributions from the BIA and Newport Beach real-estate developers. Like every other South County politician, she talks tough against the developers at El Toro. Walters' campaign staff has included treasurer Corliss Delameter, a longtime employee of—you guessed it—pro-airport strategist Dana Reed.

Concerns about the anti-airport movement might not have arisen if the Headlands affair and the Reed connection were only bizarre anomalies. They are not. A Weekly investigation directly linked the anti-airport leadership to pro-airport developer forces in another highly controversial project just a few miles up Pacific Coast Highway from Dana Point. Campaign records show that the man who helped lead a developer's campaign for a dense, publicly subsidized private development at Laguna Beach's Treasure Island was none other than Tom Shepard, the man the anti-airport, developer-friendly businessmen chose to run the Citizens for Safe and Healthy Communities (CSHC) campaign initiative.

Shepard founded San Diego-based Campaign Strategies Inc. in 1992 and is known as the man Southern California's wealthy developers hire in hopes of demolishing grassroots reasonable-growth initiatives. He has helped a developer destroy a slow-growth ballot measure in Santee, led the corporate community's demands that taxpayers pay for convention-center expansion in San Diego, and guided a campaign that resulted in taxpayer subsidization of efforts to build the San Diego Padres a new ballpark. In January, Shepard told the Weekly's Anthony Pignataro, "The reason I deal with developers so much is because developers frequently have the money to pay for campaigns."

TRP officials have said they hired Shepard precisely because of his close relationships with developers. So it's not surprising that after collecting money from TRP ($20,997 from the anti-airport group during the last six months of 1998), Shepard was also the lead campaign strategist for the developers at Treasure Island. Indeed, the pro-development Treasure Island committee paid Shepard $21,000 in the first few months of 1999. (TRP's records for the first six months of this year are not yet available for public inspection.) Reliable sources say Shepard took behind-the-scenes credit for helping the Newport Beach developers defeat in April a grassroots call for increased open space and usable parkland at the Treasure Island project.

Shepard told the Weeklythat he has no current ties whatsoever with Kogerman and TRP. A January anti-airport coalition memo obtained by the Weeklycontradicts that claim. The memo states that for "image" purposes, CSHC would be headed by a "large and inclusive group from across the county." In reality, however, they "will not have a direct decision-making role in the campaign." Decisions, the memo states, will be made by Shepard, Kogerman, Krogius and others at TRP and Clean Air/No Jets.

TRP's ties to the Treasure Island project and other pro-developer interests don't end there. Norm Grossman works for Kogerman at TRP; thanks to an appointment by pro-development City Council members in Laguna Beach, Grossman is also a planning commissioner who sided with and campaigned for Treasure Island's developers, Richard Hall and Manhattan investment-house giant Merrill Lynch. Grossman's name can be found on both the developers' slick mailers (prepared by Shepard) and on the nomination petitions that helped put at least two ultra-pro-development candidates on the Laguna Beach City Council: Steve Dicterow and Paul Freeman. Dicterow's political career was single-handedly launched by funds from the Treasure Island developers and their associates. Freeman is a ranking lobbyist for C.J. Segerstrom & Sons, the Costa Mesa-based real-estate development company. Segerstrom has contributed at least $50,000 to pro-airport causes.

Nonetheless, Freeman and Dicterow have at least verbally expressed opposition to the developers at El Toro. The Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association (LBTA), an ultra-pro-development group, shares the pro-airport BIA's enthusiasm for Dicterow and Freeman. The group has, for example, contributed to Silva, the key vote on the Board of Supervisors for the proposed airport. Additionally, LBTA's campaign-disclosure reports were at least once mailed in envelopes from the Newport Beach offices of pro-airport strategist Dave Ellis. And guess who LBTA has repeatedly used as a consultant? Dana Reed.

Revelations in recent weeks that the Weekly was probing the ties between anti- and pro-airport leaders prompted bitter reaction from TRP officials. Threats of legal action were continual. In an effort to correct any possible factual errors, the Weekly took the rare step of providing TRP officials with an advance copy of the article. The anger was palpable and immediate. Without any evidence, they wrongly accused Project 99's Agran of instigating this article. Shepard sent a fax telling the Weekly the paper was "on notice" for unspecified "false and defamatory" statements. He was unwilling or unable to provide details in a follow-up telephone interview. Krogius wrote that he was "saddened by your incomprehensible assault on the many decent and generous citizens who have been responsible for turning a done deal on the airport reuse into something that may never happen. . . . You should be aware that all the fanciful innuendo in your article could possibly accomplish is to help the pro-airport forces." Kogerman, an expert in colorful soundbites, called the story "a libelous composite of half-truths, unfounded and illogical conclusions, guilt by association, and contemptuous innuendo that is absent any honest journalistic value." He went on to wildly accuse the Weekly of being pro-development and pro-airport. He noted in conclusion that he is "thrilled that the effectiveness of my responsible land-use planning activities has terrified the radical left-wing activists to the extent necessitating this article. I must be doing something right!"

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