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Olympic Land Grab Exposed by Councilmembers’ Racist Tirade

How Proposition SP, the 2028 Olympics, and the Fed Tapes are connected.

illustration of a boot with the LA28 Olympics logo stomping on a neighborhood
(Source: NOlympics)

With the LA Times and Knock LA breaking the story behind the leaked Fed Tapes last week, much of the coverage has rightly centered on the deplorable racism exhibited by former LA City Council President Nury Martinez, Councilmembers Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, and LA Labor Federation leader and former LA28 board member Ron Herrera.

But we at NOlympics LA, a coalition advocating for the cancellation of the LA28 Olympic Games, caught another crucial moment around 27:20 of the 80-minute recording that has to this point has gone under-reported:

To break down what is happening here:

The initial LA City Council redistricting maps pushed the Sepulveda Basin, one of the Valley’s largest green spaces, from Council District 6, Martinez’s former district, into Council District 3, Bob Blumenfield’s district (the “he” Nury mentions is Blumenfield). The Sepulveda Basin has been earmarked for partial use in the LA28 Olympics plan as the “Valley Sports Park,” with two temporary venues built for equestrian events and shooting, and a permanent canoe slalom venue installed. This was all public knowledge.

What wasn’t public knowledge was that Nury Martinez had been working with the mayor’s office to hand this land over to the LA Rams. The “Stan and Kevin” mentioned on this tape are Rams owner and Republican megadonor Stan Kroenke and Rams COO Kevin Demoff. Nury’s fear in this section of the recording is that a deal that she has been working on with these parties could be scuttled by a redistricting process gone awry. In the days after this recording, the maps were redrawn so that Nury could keep the Basin and attempt to consummate whatever deal she had negotiated with Kroenke and the Rams.

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard about the Rams and their Walmart Billionaire owner buying up a huge park in the Valley, it’s because that effort hadn’t been reported or made public until now. The Rams have been buying up land around Warner Center in Blumenfield’s district, but their move to grab the Sepulveda Basin is different. It would be a huge change from the original Olympics plan for the Valley Sports Park as outlined in the original LA 2024 bid book, which called for temporary venues that will be taken down after the games. And it would involve gifting a public resource to a private entity for unknown purposes.

Much like how Kevin de León does not know the difference between Hansen Dam and the Sepulveda Basin (hint: the Sepulveda Basin is the one that’s closer to Sepulveda), there is so much that we still don’t know.

A key question is, what has been promised to the Rams by the City of Los Angeles and LA28? With Stan Kroenke purchasing large swaths of Woodland Hills, what is the play being made for land in the Valley? Why are the Rams negotiating a deal for a venue that is theoretically for equestrian and canoe slalom events? What information did Ron Herrera get as an LA28 board member and give to the three people whose reelection he considered his “goal in life?” And what of Gil Cedillo’s speech at a recent Ad Hoc Olympic Committee meeting claiming Herrera was the person who would guarantee that the Olympics would benefit working class people? What now?

Also, remember these conversations were happening a year ago; have they progressed since? What is the mayor’s office’s involvement in the matter? Why was there a $2.5 million earmark in this year’s budget for a “Sepulveda Basin Vision Plan” (scroll down to page 830 here)?

We can answer one question, though: Why didn’t we know any of this? That’s easy: because the Olympics are about forcing big decisions to happen in back rooms with the false deadline of the games forcing the hands of decision makers. The Olympics don’t have time for democracy, so they push the people out of the process. Do the residents of the Valley want a billionaire like Stan Kroenke to own their biggest park? The Olympics won’t ask and don’t care.

The Olympics’ other modus operandi is to privatize public lands, and move green spaces into the hands of wealthy developers. In claiming that LA28 would be a “no-build” Olympics — a claim media accepted without interrogation — organizers pretended like these Games would break the mold.

However, the map of needed venues and infrastructure proposed from the start has made it clear that the “no-build” Olympics was a lie. In the city of Los Angeles, the Valley’s largest green space was always under threat, and across the region, proposed venues are on public land in areas as far flung as Long Beach, San Dimas, and Santa Monica. These sites will be enclosed, surveilled, and privatized. What we heard on the Fed Tapes is just the tip of this corrupt iceberg.

One more thing:

Pundits have been referring to the release of the Fed Tapes as an “October surprise” meant to somehow impact the upcoming local election, despite none of the people on the recording appearing on any ballots this November, and the impact on most November races being mixed at best.

LA Podcast’s Scott Frazier referred to the tapes as political “mustard gas,” which seems accurate and suggests that they were not deployed by a savvy operator trying to get a specific mayoral candidate into office. And unlike some truly desperate local media outlets and LA28 board members, we aren’t insincere enough to speculate wildly as to the source of these leaks with a cartoonish and ghoulish misreading of what is actually going on.

However, the Olympics and the fate of the Sepulveda Basin actually are on the ballot. Proposition SP, authored by Rick Caruso endorser Joe Buscaino, is a massive parks tax that has been decried by opponents in the official city voter guide as a backdoor Olympics tax. Even though we are loath to side with the conservatives opposing SP, we agree with their analysis. Why?

  • The $6.8 billion this parcel tax is projected to raise matches the Olympics’ budget to the decimal point.
  • The Sepulveda Basin is one of the few sites named as receiving funding in what is otherwise largely a blank check:
The proposal: The measure would authorize a new parcel tax of approximately 8.4 cents per square foot that
would generate approximately $227 million annually. The tax would be reduced to approximately
2.2 cents per square foot upon completion of capital programs or in 30 years, whichever
occurs first. These funds would be dedicated to the rehabilitation, remediation, improvement,
development, addition, acquisition, and operations and maintenance of open spaces and
recreational venues and programs, including the Los Angeles Zoo and civic center green
spaces, waterways and water elements, including the Los Angeles River and the Sepulveda
Basin, and park facilities, such as pools, childcare facilities, and playgrounds. Monies in the
fund may be used to pay the costs of audits and operation of the oversight committees. A
Citizen Oversight Committee shall be established to make recommendations to the City on
projects to be funded. Such recommendations shall consider the City’s equity index.
(Source: City Clerk Voter Information Pamphlet)
  • The motion is focused on displacing the unhoused. When Nury referred to the Sepulveda Basin always being on fire, there was some confusion from locals as to what she was talking about, as the Sepulveda Basin is a floodplain. The answer: she was glibly referencing an encampment fire.
  • When a motion to develop the ballot measure was introduced by Buscaino in council last year, he specifically cited that the money needs to be spent for the Olympics.
With the City hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics, and several of Recreation & Parks facilities serving as venues for various competitions, we must act now, to ensure all needed upgrades and repairs are completed prior to the games. I therefore move that the department of recreation and parks, with the assitance of the city administrative officer, and any other departments as needed, be directed to hire a consultent to assist in the development of a ballot measure to provide funding for the purposes identified in the "Parks Condition Assessment Report" and Executive Directive 31, Achieving Park Equity. Presented by: Joe Buscaino. Seconded by: signatures of Mitch O'Farrell and Nury Martinez
The December 8 motion signed by Nury Martinez & Mitch O’Farrell cited the Olympics as the need for the tax.

That last item is particularly damning. Despite proponents now claiming this tax has nothing to do with the Olympics, just one year ago its author said explicitly that it absolutely had everything to do with the Olympics. We choose to take Buscaino’s words at face value and ignore the more recent dissembling. Proposition SP is Los Angeles City Council saying they need access to $6.8 billion of our money to throw a party.

Los Angeles and LA28 know that the Olympics will cost billions, and that they know the Games will impact the use of public land for decades to come. The Fed Tapes show us what’s really going on. The LA Olympics are what the Olympics have always been across the globe: a corrupt cash grab, and they’re trying to funnel your money into the pockets of Stan Kroenke.

The city’s leaders also know that no one wants to spend a lot of money for a two-week event that will cost LA immeasurably in dollars, land, and freedom. No one wants to hand our city’s policing apparatus over to DHS and ICE, and no one wants to spend as much as $10 billion of public funds so some folks from Switzerland and Casey Wasserman, a billionaire heir with his own questionable past, can throw a party for Delta Airlines executives before sticking us with the tab while exacerbating our ever-worsening housing crisis.

That’s why hosting the Olympics was never put to a vote. That’s the other reason these deals are being cut in backrooms, under dark of night: so that the lie can last long enough that the tragedy of the games becomes an inevitability.

But we’re not there yet. With six years to go, this upheaval on City Council is LA’s best chance to shake off the yoke of the IOC before it’s too late.

It’s not enough that Ron Herrera and Nury Martinez have resigned. It isn’t enough that other early Olympic boosters like Mitch Englander, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Jose Huizar are also gone. It won’t be enough when Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León follow them into history’s dustbin. It won’t be enough when the people of LA reject Proposition SP’s Olympic cash grab.

The wrongs that were dragged into the light in this tape, from redistricting to the Olympics, must be righted. We must take this opportunity and cancel the games.