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Councilwoman says ad is misleading

Beverly Hills official says Measure H backers misrepresent her position on the Hilton hotel project.

November 03, 2008|Martha Groves | Groves is a Times staff writer.

The contentious fight over a Beverly Hills ballot measure has taken a strange turn with an advertisement in a local newspaper suggesting that a staunch opponent of the Beverly Hilton's proposed expansion had switched sides.

But Councilwoman Nancy Krasne said she never changed her position and called the ad "despicable."

The dispute centers around a note Krasne wrote to a Hilton executive.

The twice-weekly Beverly Hills Courier on Friday published several full-page advertisements urging residents to vote yes on Measure H, the Hilton's proposal to build a 12-story Waldorf-Astoria hotel and two luxury condo towers at its site.

The Courier has been an avid proponent of the project, endorsing it with a front-page editorial.

The advertisements were placed and paid for by the Beverly Hilton.

One of the Courier ads read: "A Message From Councilwoman Nancy Krasne. Join Nancy Krasne's Friends and Vote YES on Measure H." The ad reproduced a handwritten note from Krasne to a Hilton executive, reading: "Ted, All my friends seem to be voting yes . . . Good luck! Nancy."

To residents familiar with Krasne's opposition to the project, the ad was a shocker. Krasne was one of two council members who voted against the project in May when it came before the panel.

The three other members approved it, but opponents gathered enough signatures to qualify the issue for Tuesday's ballot.

Like other opponents, Krasne contends that the project is too big and would bring additional traffic to the already congested corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. She said she has contributed $500 to the No on H campaign and covered the $866 cost of a room at the Peninsula Hotel, where opponents held a meeting.

According to Krasne, the note quoted in the advertisement had its origin in an incident on Oct. 17, when she called Ted Kahan, president of Oasis West Realty, to discuss the development issue.

Krasne said she was connected instead to Beny Alagem, chairman of Oasis West and owner of the Hilton. During the conversation, he became "extremely agitated and shouted numerous insults" at her, according to an incident report she filed Oct. 18 with the Beverly Hills Police Department.

According to the report, Krasne quoted Alagem as saying: "I'm going to bury you, Mayor [Barry] Brucker and planning commissioner [Noah] Furie." Brucker voted against the project in May. The Planning Commission, which Furie chairs, favored a smaller project.

The incident report said Krasne requested no further action from the police but wanted a record of the matter "so she can reference it if she files for a restraining order." The police did not investigate the incident.

In an Oct. 20 letter to Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden, Krasne said: "I could handle the verbal abuse and the name calling, but the threat I took very seriously. It takes a great deal to upset me, and this scared me."

In a letter to The Times, Martin D. Singer, Alagem's attorney, said a third person who was "on the call" filed an incident report with police disputing Krasne's report. Krasne said the person was Kahan. The letter also described her allegations as "false and fabricated."

At an Oct. 27 Rotary Club luncheon, Krasne said, she tried to defuse the situation by offering Kahan what she considered to be a conciliatory note and a 1990 bottle of Dom Perignon champagne.

"I took her note saying all her friends are voting for the project and the gift at face value," Kahan said Friday.

"I returned the champagne because I didn't think it was appropriate to accept an expensive gift from a public official," he said.

Krasne said her note "was meant to defuse a problem, not escalate it. Did I make a mistake? Yes. No good deed goes unpunished."


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