Two years ago, negative energy stalked the city of Gardena. Bad business deals had created a budget deficit of $4.7 million, and a former city manager was suspected of embezzlement.

Things got so bad that then-Assistant City Manger Mitch Lansdell decided to call in a feng shui practitioner.

Angi Ma Wong worked with Lansdell and his staff to realign the energy in their offices. She persuaded Lansdell to replace dried flowers with a large tropical plant, and got him to remove papers from the ground that were restricting the flow of energy, or chi. And she suggested Lansdell use only one of the doors to his office, to prevent beneficial energy from leaving.

Wong's advice seems to have worked. As of June 30, the city's deficit had shrunk to $2.9 million and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt had opened a casino that promptly paid off $1 million in city fees owed by the previous property owner.

"I have faith in a whole lot of things; this is just a piece of it," said Lansdell, now city manager and a feng shui believer. Lansdell says the changes Wong recommended were practical and easy to accomplish. "We didn't have to spend $50,000 in redoing the office."

Feng shui, which translates to "wind and water," is a "Chinese environmental system of placement that aligns or harmonizes energy with the natural energy of the Earth and rhythms of the universe," Wong said. "You're capturing this energy."

It is also becoming increasingly popular and not just among New Age homeowners in West L.A. A number of large corporations like Ford Motor Co. and Universal Studios Inc. are reportedly incorporating feng shui principles into their office designs.

Increasing interest

Palos Verdes-based Wong, who had only a handful of business clients a few years back, added 70 new businesses nationwide to her roster this year. The American Feng Shui Institute in Monterey Park used to offer seminars every couple of months, but in the last two years demand has increased so much that classes are now taught every weekend.

Prices for consultations vary widely, from several hundred dollars an hour to 50 cents per square foot, with a $3,000 minimum, which is the fee charged by master Larry Sang and the Feng Shui Institute. Some new practitioners charge as little as $25 per hour.

Wong and Sang practice a form of feng shui known as the compass method, which uses a lou pan, or Chinese compass, with eight directions that designate the areas of life that feng shui can influence. While Wong believes that those areas are fixed for example, the north governs career, the south fame and fortune, the east health and the west creativity Sang believes that energy shifts, depending on the alignment of the planets and the year of a building's construction.

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