With the March 8 primary fast approaching, one presumed ally of Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn has stayed on the sidelines.

City Council President Alex Padilla, who supported Hahn's first mayoral bid four years ago, said last week that he isn't planning to endorse anyone in the primary at least not yet.

"I've just had so many other priorities recently," he said, listing the effort to pass Measure 1A (which protects local agencies from state raids on their budgets) and getting the compromise LAX modernization plan through the City Council.

Measure 1A was approved by voters two months ago, and the LAX plan passed through the council more than a month ago.

Padilla, speaking to reporters at the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum last week, said, "You guys (in the press) seem to think my endorsement actually means a whole lot," without elaborating on the candidates.

It's no secret that Padilla and Hahn have had differences since 2002, when Padilla rejected the mayor's request to fund 300 more police officers. Hahn's team has asked Padilla for an endorsement, but it was declined for the present, a source near Padilla's camp said.

Padilla could be treading carefully given his own political aspirations. He could run for mayor in four years, if Hahn were re-elected. But if fellow councilmember Antonio Villaraigosa were to win the mayor's race, it could set back Padilla's plans by at least four years, and Villaraigosa, not Padilla, would become the first Latino mayor of L.A. in modern times.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick, who last summer withdrew her support of Hahn because she claimed he was hindering her pay-to-play investigations, says she won't decide on a new endorsement until after the primary.

"Our city could be so much better than it is," Chick said at a meeting of the Holmby-Westwood Property Owners Association earlier this month. "I'm watching the race very carefully. I would like to see someone who will work with me, to whom I can hand off audits and know that the recommendations will get implemented."

Chick's audits served as a springboard for federal and local investigations that have resulted in the indictment of a Fleishman-Hillard Inc. executive John Stodder.

Chick said she would not be surprised if no criminal wrongdoing is proved in court.

"Pay-to-play allegations are hard to prove. Very often it's literally wiring someone up," Chick said. "And it can't just be innuendoes. It can't be talking to someone and saying, 'Well I know you're interested in work at the airport but we're really in this fight against secession right now and it would be really good if you could support the mayor's efforts in that.' Nobody really says anything that crosses the line and breaks the law," she said.

Chick agreed with one questioner who said that the pay-to-play investigation hasn't resonated with the public yet.

"Maybe the public so expects their politicians to be dirty anyway that I don't think they're paying attention to some of what's being exposed here in the second largest city in America," she said.

Housing Set-Asides

With all five major mayoral candidates coming out in opposition, it's no surprise that the proposed L.A. city ordinance requiring developers to set aside units for affordable housing has been delayed.

The ordinance's authors, L.A. City Councilmembers Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, say the ordinance is being revised to address the mountains of comments received after it was introduced last fall. Developers, business groups, homeowner groups and others have all weighed in.

"We got real proposals from all quarters, many of which we hadn't expected," said Garcetti spokesman Josh Kamensky. "We're trying to cherry pick the best and do away with those that won't fly."

The original target date of December or January to get the ordinance back before the City Council has come and gone, and there's no word when a revised ordinance will be ready. "When the time is right and the analysis is synthesized, we'll be right back out there," Kamensky said.

There is some speculation that the measure won't be reintroduced during the mayor's race.

Hahn, City Councilman Bernard Parks and former Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg oppose the idea of mandatory affordable housing set-asides, saying they would discourage developers from proposing new projects in the city. The two other candidates, state Sen. Richard Alarc & #328;n and City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, say they support the concept of set-asides but have problems with details of the ordinance.

If the ordinance were to come to Hahn's desk before the election (or even after it, if he wins), he would likely veto it. Overriding a veto would take 10 of the council's 15 votes, which Kamensky admitted weren't there in the proposal's original state.

The original proposal had little chance of passage. It would have required developers to set aside up to 12 percent of rental units and up to 40 percent of for-sale units for occupants below certain income levels. In exchange, developers would have received density and height bonuses of up to 50 percent.

Staff reporter Howard Fine can be reached by phone at (323) 549-5225, ext. 227, or by e-mail at hfine@labusinessjournal.com.

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