About 20 elderly residents of the Westwood Horizons retirement hotel turned out for Tuesday's public hearing on the Westwood hotel dispute after receiving a flyer warning them that "your home as you know it could cease to exist."
Allies of a developer who wants to build a hotel across the street from Westwood Horizons acknowledged that they were responsible for the flyer, which an opposing attorney labeled a dirty trick.
The one-page memo, which said it was from the "Senior Housing Advocacy Group," asked the residents: "Will you be forced to move from your home in 1990?"
It also urged the residents to "take action" to protect senior citizens whose rights were being 'threatened" and "disregarded," and offered door-to-door transportation by bus and a box lunch for those who attended the hearing.
Public relations consultant Nann Miller acknowledged in a telephone interview that she had produced the flyer and said the Senior Housing Advocacy Group does not really exist.
Miller was hired for the job by Fred Fulcher, who said he is a longtime friend of Nansay Corp. President Eric Yokeno. Nansay is seeking permission from the city of Los Angeles to build a 350-room hotel in Westwood Village. Fulcher said he did not consult Yokeno before mounting the public relations effort.
Miller shepherded the group to the hearing, and several of them deferred to her when asked why they attended the public hearing.
According to Miller, she was told to get the word out to the senior citizens. "All we were telling the tenants is come to the hearing and make up your own mind." The memo, she said, "was certainly meant to get their attention," but "wasn't meant to scare anybody."
'Taken as Eviction Notice'
Kenneth Bley, an attorney for the owners of the Westwood Horizons property, who lease it to the retirement hotel operators, accused Nansay of unfair, misleading tactics that upset the residents. "It was taken as an eviction notice by some people," Bley said.
Bley's clients, David and Natalie Roberts, are attempting to preserve their option to convert the Westwood Horizons to a commercial hotel in the future. They oppose the Nansay hotel project because the city's development plan for Westwood allows only one hotel in the neighborhood.
Several Westwood Horizons residents noted that the flyer had upset some of those for whom any change in routine precipitates a major crisis. "There's such distress throughout the hotel with the residents," Mabel Seelen said. "He's planning to throw us out on the street."
Defending the flyer, Fulcher said: "The main thing was to notify the people. . . . What's deceptive? It's a public hearing."
Later, Fulcher said he might have taken a "wrong action" by not notifying Yokeno. A spokesman for Nansay denied involvement in the public relations campaign.
Nansay attorney Maria Hummer, however, said she did not understand an objection "to neighbors of a proposed project coming to a hearing."