By John Earl
Surf City Voice
Kim Kramer, the leader of a group that advocates for downtown and city-wide improvements, has been accused by a prominent local developer of using “bully tactics” in an attempt to pressure him into donating $25,000 per year for-life to the city for a proposed downtown area residential parking permit program that he was promoting.
Joe Daichendt, owner of the Pierside Pavillion on the corner of PCH and Main Street in downtown Huntington Beach, told the Voice that Kramer, chief spokesperson for the Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Association (HBDRA), strongly implied that if he didn’t donate the money to the city he would not receive the support he needed from HBDRA to get permits approved for a live entertainment center that was to be located inside the Pavillion.
The alleged donation request came days after an informational meeting in early September that took place between Kramer, Planning Commissioner Blair Farley and Mary Adams Urashima, a public affairs consultant, to discuss Daichendt’s plans to open the venue using the name of the famous Golden Bear night club that used to stand at the same location but was demolished in 1986 during redevelopment.
Kramer, representing the HBDRA, and Daichendt had formed an informal partnership a year ago to push for approval of the project, which Daichendt said would have been 5-6,000 sq. feet in size, offering comics and local bands on a real stage “like a House of Blues cut in half.” The night club was also to display exhibitions in tribute to the city’s surfing and oil history.
Kramer and Daichendt were both excited about their partnership. “By working together in this fashion, we could establish a new standard of cooperation between the developers and residents that could be ground-breaking,” Kramer wrote in an e-mail to Daichendt in Feb. 2010, expressing their mutually held sentiments.
But the proposal subsequently fell through due to negative feedback from HBPD Chief Kenneth Small about the venue’s size and it is currently being revised, Daichendt says, and will be submitted to the Planning Commission in about two months.
“We’re in the process of taking his guidance and recommendations and incorporating them into something that would be more compatible” with city planners and the Chief, he said.
Contrary to media reports, there was never a plan to reopen or create a new Golden Bear, Daichendt said, and the name has also been dropped from the new version.
Current Planning Commissioner Mark Bixby (who was not on the commission at the time) was also invited to attend the meeting but didn’t due to a schedule conflict. In an e-mail communication to strictly to Daichendt obtained by the Voice, Kramer represented Bixby, Farley and Urashima to Daichendt as his “leadership team.”
The e-mails also indicate that the now dissolved partnership and first meeting between Daichendt and his consultants and the HBDRA team came after Daichendt and Kramer were introduced by former Huntington Beach mayor and long-time Kramer friend Dave Garofalo in Feb. 2010.
Before and after that meeting there were several other separate meetings about the Golden Bear between Daichendt, Kramer and Garofalo, without the knowledge of Urashima, Farley or Bixby who were not included in the exchange of e-mails between Kramer and Daichendt.
Garofalo was convicted of felony conflict of interest in 2002 and was banned from public office for life as punishment. Kramer’s relationship to Garofalo has long disturbed some of his followers and other activists who share his concerns about issues affecting the downtown but disagree with his tactics.
In a response to written questions submitted to him by the Voice (Kramer refused to talk in person), Kramer denied any professional links to Garofalo and sidestepped the issue of involvement by his long-time friend in the Golden Bear project.
“We have spoken on many occasions about Downtown issues and he has offered his insight as a long-time City Council member, as have many other community members and former city officials,” Kramer wrote.
Daichendt says that Kramer requested a one to one meeting about five days after they met with Farley and Urashima and that he was surprised by Kramer’s request. “I had no idea it was coming,” he said, adding that Kramer explained that he would need the HBDRA to overcome opposition from residents and members of the city council, but told him that ‘You’ll never get there on your own, but HBDRA can deliver this in basket.’”
In return for HBDRA support, Daichendt claims, Kramer wanted him to pay $25,000 per year forever for a proposed downtown residential parking permit plan. “He said that the only thing stopping the downtown residents parking program from being approved is that nobody would fund it,” Daichendt claims.
Daichendt refused, he says. “Basically, I told him that was crazy.”
Then, according to Daichendt, Kramer suggested he pay for only three years. When that was refused, says Daichendt, Kramer proposed that he pay for only one year, saying he would get somebody else to pay for subsequent years.
Daichendt took the latter idea to his team of consultants who, he says, rejected it. In an e-mail to Kramer he wrote:
“Kim, let’s talk about the $25,000 contribution to the DRA /Lobby support that will go towards Residents Parking Program.
“Overall I received a very negative/slight angry reaction from the rest of the group. I asked them to curb their enthusiasm at the moment and I’m thinking through some other ideas. Let’s chat next week in more detail.”
But Kramer says he never told Daichendt that he would need HBDRA to get approval for the Golden Bear project. “
“The Golden Bear developer presented an idea based on his experience dealing with a local resident who complained about the late night noise coming from one of their nightclub tenants – they purchased the resident an air conditioner so the resident could sleep at night with the windows closed. Problem solved!”
Kramer continued. “Using this idea as a springboard, the property owner suggested that the Golden Bear project, already estimated at $2 million in costs, pay for the Residential Only Parking Zones at a cost of $25,000.”
The article says that since all HBDRA’s points were agreed to by the developer, “Kramer was in tentative support of the Golden Bear.” It concludes by noting that Daichendt’s team of consultants rejected the contribution idea, then notes his (Daichendt’s) suggestion to talk about other ideas “next week” but that the meeting never took place.
The article is dated Feb. 27. Strangely, however, Kramer didn’t mention the article to the Voice when it asked about the alleged contribution request in a phone conversation that took place either on the 26th or 27th of the month. In fact, Kramer refused to answer any questions about Daichendt’s allegation for the record until March 12.
Asked again by the Voice for a response at the March 7 meeting of the City Council, Kramer again refused talk about it but agreed to answer questions in writing by e-mail. In that response, which came on March 9, he wrote “You can read about the Golden Bear on our website at www.HBDRA.com, referring to the article.
But a forensic examination of Kramer’s web postings may explain why he waited so long to answer questions about the $25,000 contribution when he supposedly could have pointed the Voice to it much earlier. A Google search on March 10 showed that although another article posted on the HBDRA website and dated Feb. 28 (one day after the Golden Bear article was supposedly posted) is cached, the Golden Bear article still was not.
Also, every other article on the HBDRA website appears to also be posted on the group’s Facebook page (where dates of uploaded links are automatically posted and can’t be manipulated by users) in proper order, but there is no Facebook posting for the Golden Bear article.
In addition, a (right click) properties check of the photo used in the HBDRA Golden Bear story reveals that the photo was uploaded in March, not on the Feb. 27 date that the article was given.
That evidence suggests that a false publication date for the Golden Bear article was entered that would create the appearance that the article had been there prior to Daichendt’s public accusation that Kramer had pressured him for $25,000 (and prior for Kramer’s need to defend himself), thus giving Kramer’s different version of the story more credibility.
When contacted by the Voice just before publication of this story, Kramer acknowledged that the article had actually been posted on March 9 and apologized for “the confusion this may have caused.”
Kramer said that the Feb. 27 date stamp “is the only way WordPress allows one to manage the sequence of articles. I placed it in second behind the Public Safety article (dated Feb. 28) which should remain #1 for a while. It is now in third place as the Bomburger alcohol license is now #2. To eliminate any confusion, I have now added ‘Datelines’ to each article, as of yesterday.”
Kramer further explained that “Our Facebook person has asked that someone else take over the Facebook responsibilities,” that he doesn’t know how to use Facebook and no one has volunteered to take it over yet.
When Daichendt (who has not seen Kramer’s explanation at publication time) read Kramer’s blog posting recounting his version of the Golden Bear partnership and the background to the $25,000 contribution, he sent Kramer an e-mail expressing his outrage. “Kim, I just read your article…alleging that I offered the $25,000. You know it’s not true…You exemplify the worst traits in the political process. I pity you.”
Despite the scathing criticism, Daichendt also says that Kramer has obvious and admirable qualities, including being smart, engaging and a pleasure to talk to, but that he is using his organization, HBDRA, to push his own agenda. “He has proved himself and now his organization not to be credible and my hope is that City Staff and members of the public recognize and remember this in future dealings with him.”