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Ethics breach alleged in Fox land fight

The land skirmish over Fox Inc.’s plans to expand its Century City lot is heating up, with the latest salvo fired against Fox and City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky–a perceived champion of the studio’s aims–by a local homeowners group.

The Cheviot Hills Homeowners Assn. has written the L.A. City Ethics Commission requesting an investigation into “possible improper use of corporate funds” by Fox to influence the council. The group also sought expedited commission action in light of a public City Planning Commission hearing to take comments on the re-zoning plan scheduled for Monday.

The homeowners allege that a phone poll–which may have cost as much as $ 25, 000 to conduct–eliciting support for the Fox project was taken with Fifth Council District residents, benefiting Yaroslavsky and the studio. The group also maintains that the group, “Friends of Fox,” which supports the expansion plan, is really a lobbying arm of Fox Inc. and not the community-based consortium of residents and chambers of commerce it represents itself to be.

Finally, the group says it anticipates that Fox will bring people to the public hearing claiming to be Westside residents supporting the renovation who are, in fact, “current employees, extras, employees of vendors and others doing business with Fox.” Many local residents opposing the expansion work in the entertainment industry, the group writes, but are “reluctant to speak out publicly for fear of reprisal.”

Fox officials have maintained that they enjoy community support from numerous residents and local businesses and civic organizations and that those seeking to block its program are a small but vocal minority.

For its part, Fox also added some star power to Monday’s hearing by announcing that stars of two Twentieth TV series, Tom Skerritt (“Picket Fences”) and Susan Ruttan (“L.A. Law”), will lead a rally supporting its efforts as part of a “save Fox” rally preceding the hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Century Plaza Hotel.

The “save Fox” message reflects the studio’s stance that it will be forced to leave Century City if thwarted in its renewal effort, taking with it thousands of jobs and millions in revenue.

Westside homeowners who oppose the growth plan fear it will increase traffic congestion in the area. The Cheviot Hills band and a Century City homeowners coalition have also filed several court challenges seeking to obstruct the Fox plan–a $ 200-million program that would increase office and studio space on the 53-acre lot by nearly 70%.

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