SIMI VALLEY, CA: An environmental group created by Hollywood power players has stepped up efforts to derail a proposed development in the Santa Monica Mountains by enlisting the aid of other celebrities and putting former Clinton communications staffer Chad Griffin in charge of the campaign.Rally To Save Ahmanson Ranch (RTSAR) is a coalition founded by director Rob Reiner and HBO executive Chris Albrecht to stop developer Washington Mutual from building 3,050 new homes and retail facilities on a stretch of coveted land that lies near the wealthy enclave of Malibu on the ocean side, and the busy business area of San Fernando Valley on the landlocked side.
The project has been in the pipeline for 15 years, and has slowly worked its way closer to a proposed fall 2003 groundbreaking.
The RTSAR appointed Griffin as campaign director last week; he previously served as a strategist on the effort. He will oversee political outreach, coalition building, grassroots activity, and advertising.
"The Seattle-based bank will soon see that it is in their best interest to abandon this project and help to preserve one of Southern California's last remaining open spaces,
said Griffin in a statement.
Griffin has a long history with Reiner, having served as executive director of the nonprofit Reiner Foundation. Griffin also headed efforts supporting California's Proposition 10 in 1998, also backed by Reiner. That measure - which added a tax on cigarettes to fund early childhood education - narrowly passed with 50.6% of the vote after Griffin's team spent about $7 million lobbying for it. Tobacco industry opposition reportedly spent $30 million.
Before his tenure with Reiner, Griffin served the Clinton White House on the staffs of both Dee Dee Meyers and communications director Mark Gearan.
Ahmanson Ranch has also recently won the support of environmental icon Erin Brockovich, who held a press conference last week to highlight possible traffic problems that could be caused by the development, garnering coverage in the Los Angeles Times and local broadcast outlets.
Edelman Public Relations in Los Angeles is also aiding the coalition.