*Updated, with new info on the bottom…
Earlier, we discussed the developmental gerrymandering that seemingly allows SanTana mayor Miguel Pulido and councilmember Vince Sarmiento to vote on the city's Renaissance Specific Plan (RSP), the controversial project that seeks to “diversify” and “revitalize” SanTana's downtown. Now, the Weekly has learned that another councilmember might have a conflict of interest that would preclude him from voting on the RSP: David Benavides.
Say hola to PrimeUrban, a SanTana-based developer which keeps a cool brick building on Santa Ana Boulevard that also houses SolArt Gallery and, as its verbose self-description states, is “committed to acquiring, designing, building and marketing real estate assets that meet the demands of the urban market, profit our investment partners, and create a unique sense of place within the cities and neighborhoods we work.” It owns two properties in the RSP zone–one near the SanTana Train Depot they want to turn into 140 residential units, and another on the northeast corner of Minter Street and Santa Ana Boulevard; they plan to turn the latter into Minter Court, a “a boutique residential community that is a unique vision of simple contemporary architecture.” Construction for the latter is scheduled for this winter, pending city approval–and both plans are being developed with an eye toward complying with the RSP.
Where does Benavides fit in? On PrimeUrban's website, the developer proudly proclaims it's “committed to giving back to the communities in which it works” (we'd link to the passage, but PrimeUrban has one of those annoying sites that always keeps the same URL). One of the non-profits they list as supporting is KidWorks. Its board chairman? Benavides.
It's not known in what capacity does PrimeUrban support Kidworks, whether with money or via volunteer efforts. And SanTana conflict-of-interest rules are mum on councilmembers voting on projects where the principles have donated to an organization affiliated with a councilmember–but that's the same shit California State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez pulls. We can't fault PrimeUrban for buttering up councilmembers, but we can fault Benavides if he votes on the Renaissance Plan. Even if it's not technically illegal, David, it sure doesn't look good voting on something that's going to greatly benefit your amigos.
*UPDATE: Turns out Benavides has god-honestly broken conflict-of-interest laws in the past. Hmm…
**Benavides' previous conflict of interest involved David DiRienzo, builder of the Santiago Lofts, which sit–where else?–in the RSP zone and are near PrimeUrban's proposed transit village. Perhaps Benavides likes the sound of choo-choos?