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Neighborhood Comparison, or Hit Piece on a Competitor?

By Eric Richardson
Published: Monday, January 26, 2009, at 06:38PM

In a guest story on LAist today titled "Urban Design: A Tale of Two Downtowns," Jack Skelley paints a comparison between two Downtown development projects:

How hard has the housing slump hit Downtown L.A.? Two buildings tell two different stories. The Rowan in the Old Bank District has scheduled an auction to unload 79 lofts on February 8. Whereas Evo in South Park has closed sales on a dozen condos in the last eight weeks: This includes a $3 million, all-cash penthouse deal last week - the largest purchase price for a single residential unit in Downtown, ever.

The problem? Skelley's a spokesman for the Evo development, and the piece includes no mention of his conflict of interest.

Skelley's argument says that Evo's South Park location and LEED-certified design make it a far more appealing buy than the adaptive-reuse Rowan. He cites a recent $3 million penthouse sale at Evo, one that recently got a mention on the LA Times' LA Now blog in which Skelley was quoted.

Skelley's argument is legitimate enough to make, though one would likely find just as many Downtowners that would take the opposite stance and give their preference to the Historic Core. His opinion of the Rowan auction also seems misguided; on Thursday we wrote about the interest that project is receiving.

What's unbelievable is that a publicist would be so brazen as to bash a competitor in print without listing his title. It's similarly remarkable that a publication like LAist, even as a blog, would run a guest story without understanding who had written it.

At the end of the day, the real lesson is one for readers. Be skeptical and do your homework. Don't get fooled by bad stories, even on otherwise good publications. The new media age shouldn't throw out the rules of disclosure, but it also doesn't remove your responsibility to make good judgments about what you read.

Update (7pm): In the last few minutes the story has been updated to include this tiny disclosure:

Photos courtesy of Jack Skelley. Jack Skelley also represents Evo and Urban Land Institute Los Angeles.

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