A Los Angeles real estate developer is suing two unions for allegedly attempting to use the state’s environmental law to block the construction of a mixed-use project in Panorama City.
In the lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles federal court, The Icon Co. alleges an illegal scheme by the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters and Local 300 of the Laborers International Union of North America to manipulate the California Environmental Quality Act to block the project unless Icon ceded to the unions’ demands to use union labor to build it.
Attorney Richard Drury, who represents the carpenters and the laborers, said the lawsuit is without merit.
“The allegations are ridiculous,” he said. “Our case is very solid on the merits. We expect the suit will be dismissed very quickly.”
In addition to the unions, the complaint names multiple union officials, charging them with violating the nation’s anti-trust laws as well as the Racketeering Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act — otherwise known as RICO.
In 2016, Icon bought a nine-acre property in Panorama City that is the long-vacant site of a former Montgomery Ward store that closed in 2001. The company announced plans to construct 623 apartments, 60,000 square feet of office and retail space and a public park at an estimated cost of $150 million.
The developer contends the unions have tried throughout the city’s planning process to delay the project despite support from the surrounding community and the L.A. City Council’s approval.
“This practice of exploiting environmental laws against developers in order to bolster union coffers by controlling the supply of construction labor in the market has been going on for far too long,” said Karl Tilleman, an attorney who helped file the complaint on behalf of Icon. “It’s time someone stood up to these illegal bullying tactics of the unions, which are damaging the community and economy in far-reaching ways.”
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