Well, now things are getting pretty interesting in the LA County Assessor scandal, in which a tax appraiser and Assessor John Noguez are accused of underassessing properties (and thus lowering their property tax burdens) in exchange for political contributions. Previous reports have involved single family homes on the Westside, but now the LA Times reports that the infamous old Old Spaghetti Factory at Sunset and Gordon is now caught up in the mess. The site had been owned by developer Gerding Edlen, who came up with plans for a mixed-use tower; its lender took it back in late 2010, and then developer CIM Group bought up the site and the plans last summer. Sometime before CIM's purchase, but after Gerding Edlen had gotten entitlements to build a 22 story residential and retail tower, "Ramin Salari, a property tax consultant and campaign fundraiser for?Noguez, lobbied to reduce the shuttered restaurant’s tax bill because, he said, the land it sat on wasn’t worth the $14 million his clients had paid for it. He convinced Noguez’s staff to assess the shuttered eatery, and three smaller parcels nearby, for $7.2 million."
A month after getting "the last of several six-figure tax refunds based on the lower value," the property sold for $21 million. He also lobbied for a $7.6 million value in 2008 and a $6.3 million value in 2009. To repeat: assessed at $7.2 million. Sold at $21 million. The rank and file saw it "as confirmation of a growing suspicion that Noguez and his top aides were ignoring their duty to assess fair market values." But a spokesperson tells the LAT that the lower value was just due to "uncertainty over the planned development's future."
The District Attorney's office executed search warrants last week that cover Salari's and Noguez's home, as well as several assessor's offices. Salari gave "at least $10,000" to Noguez's 2010 County Assessor campaign.
· Assessor's value for Hollywood landmark fell well below sale price [Updated] [LAT]
· Tax Appraiser Undervalued Westside Properties to Help His Boss [Curbed LA]
· Old Spaghetti Factory Archives [Curbed LA]