Opinion: Fivepoint Lobbyist Patrick Strader Serving on the Irvine Community Land Trust is Like a Fox Guarding a Hen House
When I hear the word “trust” in the name of an entity, it resonates with me. “Trust” is a strong word which speaks of confidence, reliability, and uprightness. It brings to mind honorable custodians of a sacred charge: people sworn to protect and advance interests beyond their own.
Perhaps the City of Irvine had something like that in mind when it named the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT), a non-profit corporation created “to ensure that its residents are able to secure low income housing,” and the recipient of tens of millions of dollars from Irvine’s coffers. Amid a housing crisis, that’s no small mission to entrust to the ICLT, which is why its bylaws stipulate that two of its at-large directors be nominated by the city (currently Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmember Anthony Kuo).
But see if this tracks for you: when creating an organization designed to ensure accessibility to low income housing, would you allow one of its other at-large directors to be a paid lobbyist of a real estate developer – a company that has a fiduciary responsibility to its investors to sell homes with the highest price tag possible? Because that is precisely the situation on the ICLT Board of Directors.
Patrick Strader is the Chief Executive Officer and General Council for Starpointe Ventures, a lobbying firm that specializes in entitlement consulting (obtaining authorization from cities to build homes, commercial buildings, and other development), a firm that proudly lists Five Point Communities as one of its clients. He is also a founding board member of the Irvine Community Land Trust and currently serves in that capacity.
It’s amazing to me that I must point this out, but private lobbyists should not be placed in positions of direct authority over public resources, nor should they be trusted with projects designed to advance the public welfare. Instead of the noble custodian of the public good I envisioned at the beginning of this piece, we have in Mr. Strader a registered agent of corporate special interests – a man whose sole objective is to maximize FivePoint’s profits by directing City of Irvine policies.
This is not an arrangement worthy of the word “trust.” It is a clear conflict of interest that betrays every definition of that term. The City of Irvine and the Irvine Community Land Trust need to show us that our confidence in them is not misplaced. Expel Patrick Strader from the ICLT Board of Directors and take concrete steps to ensure no such conflicts of interest will exist in the future.