A Very Brady Scandal

Placentias mayor runs aground on redevelopment regulations, doesnt care

Whenever Scott P. Brady discusses redevelopment, his voice races with joy.

"Old Town Placentia is dormant after 9 p.m.; south of that is dormant after 5," says Brady, a real-estate agent by day and mayor of Placentia at all times. "By virtue of this project, it will re-ignite Placentia. Placentia will now be vibrant after 5 p.m., after 6, after 9. On a Friday night, if you want to go out, you'll know where to go."

The project Brady refers to is the Orange County Gateway Development Initiative (OCGDI), a proposed $440 million plan that would radically alter the area bordered by Chapman Avenue to the north, Placentia Avenue to the west, Bradford Street to the east and Orangethorpe Avenue to the south by building a Metrolink station on the railroad tract bisecting the area and surrounding it with hotels, restaurants and a railroad museum. Brady has advocated redevelopment for the past two years, and his dream is closer to fruition than ever before—the six-member Placentia City Council unanimously agreed on Nov. 4 for the city to negotiate exclusively with TOD Properties and devise a south Placentia redevelopment plan.

Not everybody's as happy. Residents of the district, most of them Latino, say they fear being driven from homes in which many have lived for generations.

But where residents see history, Brady sees dollars. "I'm tired of other cities chipping away at our businesses," Brady stresses. "Rather than have all of our community shopping and spending their dollars outside of Placentia, redeveloping [the south side] would keep those dollars within city borders."

Brady may also have an ulterior interest in seeing south Placentia redeveloped: he owns property in the area.

Public records reveal that Brady purchased lots at 109 S. Walnut St. and 138 S. Walnut St. late last year. Walnut Street is not part of south Placentia's proposed redevelopment project area but does fall within a half-mile of the proposed Metrolink station deemed by developers as a "sphere of influence" that the OCGDI would directly affect.

Despite his potential profit from the redevelopment, Brady has not recused himself from voting on agenda items dealing with the OCGDI nor has he publicly disclosed ownership of the properties. And according to both Brady and Placentia's attorney, he shouldn't have to.

"Nothing that Mayor Brady has done with regard to the proposed development of the TOD has violated conflict-of-interest laws," says Placentia city attorney Tom Nixon. "All that has been done with TOD Properties is that the council received and filed the TOD Properties' due-diligence package. At some point, there may be a proposal or agreement, then Brady will take appropriate measures."

"I sell more real estate than anyone in Placentia," boasts Brady. "Because of that, I have to have a heightened awareness of what I can and cannot vote on."

Both Brady and Nixon argue that the sphere of influence designated by TOD Properties does not violate California conflict-of-interest law, which states politicians owning property within 500 feet of redevelopment projects cannot vote on such projects because they might benefit from them.

"It's my belief that the sphere of influence does not impact my ability," says Brady. "The sphere is merely a planning tool, not a legal tool, and doesn't affect property. I find it very hard to believe that the sphere of influence would be considered by law to have the same meaning as the 500-foot regulation."

Legislators apparently think otherwise. Assembly Bill 1320, sponsored by California Assembly member John Dutra (D-Fremont), would make the sphere of influence a legal construct—not merely a planning device. It would also double the area to a half mile. Brady says he'll divest himself of the properties if AB 1320 passes (it's been in committee since April).

Brady remains unrepentant about possibly profiting from redevelopment, however. "On a personal level, I invest in real estate, and I'm not ashamed to invest in real estate," says Brady. "The properties I bought have been on the market—anyone could have bought them. I cannot directly benefit by a vote I make, but I can indirectly benefit from votes I make by voting on issues for my community. I don't think that because I'm a real-estate owner, I should be barred from doing what I'm doing."