This article was updated at 2:35 p.m. October 21
The group trying to freeze development in Los Angeles has made a big deal about its celebrity endorsements. Make that purported endorsements.
Turns out, the biggest star—Leonardo DiCaprio—doesn’t actually support it.
That’s according to a spokesperson for DiCaprio, who said today the actor never endorsed the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Set to appear on the March ballot, the measure would place a two-year moratorium on most major construction projects, dramatically restricting the city’s building heights and developments around public transit.
Celebrity endorsements carry a lot of weight, so the group behind the measure, the Coalition to Preserve LA, had announced in August that DiCaprio was among a half dozen actors, including Kirsten Dunst, Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pine, Garrett Hedlund, and Chloe Sevigny, who were supporting the measure.
The announcement was a big deal to many of these stars’ fans. (Take, for example, this Facebook comment about the celebrity endorsements: “Big names help.”)
But within the last week, the coalition has scrubbed DiCaprio’s name from the headline and body of the August press release posted on its website. (The URL to that webpage still includes his name). Since the Coalition to Preserve LA republishes all its news releases to CityWatch, you can see the original article in its entirety:
On October 16, the Coalition to Preserve LA edited an August 18 Facebook post, removing DiCaprio’s name from the list of celebrity endorsers.
According to DiCaprio’s spokesperson, the actor had, at one point, signed a petition from the Coalition to Preserve LA to save a specific Hollywood building—but never endorsed the initiative. (The spokesperson did not say which building DiCaprio wanted to save, or when, but some of the Hollywood projects the group has opposed includes the Palladium Towers and the Paramount Studios expansion).
Until the afternoon of October 21, DiCaprio’s name had not been removed from the official list of signatories for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which appeared further down in the Coalition to Preserve LA’s original press release. It has now been taken down.
Did the coalition take at least one signature from a petition to oppose a project and transfer it into a list of signatures backing the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative?
Curbed LA attempted to determine whether DiCaprio’s signature was among the 104,000 filed with the City Clerk to place the measure on the March ballot. However, a representative from the Office of the City Clerk said the signatures are not public record under state and local statutes.
The Coalition to Preserve LA has not yet responded to Curbed LA’s request for comment, but in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Neighborhood Integrity Initiative campaign director Jill Stewart described DiCaprio’s endorsement as a misunderstanding. “I exchanged a number of emails with his publicists in August and I thought we had received final word, in this exchange, confirming his support for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. I apparently misunderstood. We apologize to Mr. DiCaprio for this misunderstanding.”
Last week, Curbed LA published a story questioning why DiCaprio—one of the world’s most outspoken environmentalists—was supporting the measure when anti-density initiatives have been proven to make climate change worse. Vox, Curbed’s sister site, picked up the story, and one of DiCaprio’s reps reached out to Vox writer David Roberts to confirm that DiCaprio is not a supporter of the initiative.
Here’s the update to Roberts’ story:
The plot thickens. Apparently, there was a petition circulating a few years ago about preserving a particular building with some Hollywood significance. DiCaprio signed it. Ever since then, the Coalition to Preserve LA (which sponsored the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative) has claimed DiCaprio as a backer. A DiCaprio spokesperson has confirmed to me that DiCaprio is not a supporter of that initiative — he and his foundation have taken no position on it.
Not cool, Coalition to Preserve LA.
This revelation could mean the list of signatories that was submitted to the city of Los Angeles to place the measure on the March ballot might include some signatures of people who don’t actually back the initiative.
Or maybe, DiCaprio (or his reps) endorsed something he didn’t fully read or understand, got embarrassed by the coverage, and backed out.
Updated: This article was updated October 21 with Stewart’s statement and with information about public access to petition signatures.
- Attention Leonardo DiCaprio: LA's anti-density movement is bad for the environment [Curbed LA]
- Hey, Leonardo DiCaprio: true climate champions don’t fight against urban density [Vox]
- LA's anti-development initiative added to March ballot [Curbed LA]
- Neighborhood Integrity Initiative rakes in $750K in three months [Curbed LA]
- New poll numbers aren’t looking good for anti-development ballot measure [Curbed LA]
- Anti-development coalition quietly funding campaign to defeat Metro's ballot measure [Curbed LA]