City to Partner in Hotel Project

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a $325 million public-private partnership to build a 296-room W Hotel as well as condominiums, apartments and retail space, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. In its 13-0 vote, the council agreed to put $4.8 million of public funds into the project, mostly for land acquisition costs in the Hollywood and Vine area. That's in addition to $40 million already spent on various projects in Hollywood. Legacy Partners would develop 350 apartments. Gatehouse Capital and its equity partner, HEI Hospitality Fund Acquisition, would build the W Hotel, a boutique chain owned by Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide.

No-Bid AIDS Contract Draws Dissent
Amid questions about the way Los Angeles County doles out grants to combat AIDS, a divided Board of Supervisors approved a nearly $200,000 contract Tuesday with a private non-profit agency without accepting competing bids, the Los Angeles Times reported. The 3-2 vote comes at a tumultuous time for the county Office of AIDS Programs and Policy, which recommended the award and is responsible for granting $82.5 million in federal and state funding for education and treatment programs. Supervisors questioned the way the county AIDS office selected the company, AltaMed. County auditors are investigating a tip that AltaMed did not adequately provide AIDS and HIV-related services under other county contracts.

Transition Team Strategizes
Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa promised Tuesday to make dramatic changes at City Hall by creating an ethical climate and putting together a team focused on issues that address the public's concerns, the Daily News of Los Angeles reported. Sixty-six of the 82 members of the transition team attended the session, where they were given a notebook outlining their roles as they heard from committee chairman Bob Hertzberg and staff director Robin Kramer on how they can suggest people for the 360 commission slots to be filled. Villaraigosa outlined the major areas he plans to address, including education, public safety, economic development, traffic and quality-of-life issues.

Questions Arise Over LMU Professor's Roles
Loyola Marymount University associate professor Fernando Guerra just finished a season as an L.A. political pundit, offering views on the election that put Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa in office but the mayor's race also left him fielding questions about the clients of his lobbying firm, Copley News Service reported. Guerra & Associates represents Richard Meruelo, whose family poured $220,000 into Villaraigosa's candidacy. While Guerra the political science professor analyzed the mayoral candidates, Guerra the lobbyist earned $71,500 in the first three months of 2005 by lobbying Villaraigosa, his council colleagues and city agencies overseen by Mayor James Hahn. Those dual roles have spurred questions at City Hall about where his loyalties lie.

Deal to Sell Legoland Parks Is Expected
Financially troubled Danish toy maker Lego Holding is about to sell four of the biggest bricks in its empire , its Legoland theme parks. Blackstone Group, a New York-based private equity firm, is close to an agreement to buy Lego's family entertainment parks, including one in Carlsbad in San Diego County, the Los Angeles Times reported. The deal would be valued at about $461 million. The Kristiansen family, which founded the company and still controls it, is expected to keep a 10 percent to 15 percent share of the theme park business. Lego put its four theme parks on the block earlier this year in an effort to gain some liquidity after suffering a record loss in its toy business.

KB Home's Shares Hit New High on Continuing Boom
The stock of KB Home reached a record high Tuesday on the strength of speculation that declining mortgage rates would sustain the hot housing sector. KB has been among the beneficiaries of the booming housing market. Low mortgage rates, high demand and rising home prices have driven steady earnings and revenue growth. KB Home's profit rose 30 percent in 2004 from 2003. Shareholders also have seen rewards: KB Home's stock price is nearly eight times its level of five years ago, the Los Angeles Times reported. The company's latest stock surge was fueled Tuesday when the yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to its lowest level since October. Shares of the homebuilder rose 1.9 percent to $67.54 on Tuesday.

Song to Offer Nonstop L.A.-Boston Service
Song, the low-fare division of Delta Air Lines Inc., plans to announce nonstop service from Los Angeles to Boston and Hartford, Conn., starting Sept. 6, the Los Angeles Times reported. The carrier plans to offer two daily flights between Los Angeles International Airport and Boston's Logan International Airport and one daily flight between LAX and Hartford's Bradley International Airport, which Song said would be the only nonstop service between the two cities. On the LAX-Boston route, Song would face nonstop competition from American Airlines and United Airlines. JetBlue Airways offers nonstop service between Long Beach and Boston.

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