Controversial Tactics Spotlight Allegedly Disreputable Developer
Updated: Jan 20
Protestors have unfurled a controversial banner and are distributing flyers outside of Kadima Day School in West Hills. According to protestors, the banner campaign aims to highlight a local developer's ignominious flouting of labor laws and workers' rights on various job sites around the city. The school is heavily financed by Shawn Evenhaim, the developer behind California Home Builders and even bears the Evenhaim name on its most forward-facing campus building.
Currently, Evenhaim and California Homebuilders have 4 projects in varying stages of development. Workers from a local labor union have been protesting outside of his Q Variel in Canoga Park in recent months hoping to get Evenhaim's ear and reconcile what they consider improper labor practices. The same group is now targeting the elementary school in the hope that this new banner gets the mega developer's attention and opens a dialogue between the two groups.
The banner language reads, "Sexual Predators, Pedophiles and Rapist Lurking Nearby," with a QR code linking to the Megan's Law website. The protestors hope that beyond the attention-grabbing banner, parents at the school will delve deeper and understand the gravity of the allegations they are levying against Evenhaim and his company.
The Kadima Day School banner is part of what labor representatives call a "public awareness campaign." These campaigns can be specific to the site that they are protesting or as is apparently the case with the day school banner, a tactic to force someone to respond to other grievances. Union Special Representative Jerred Langford, had this to say about the banner;
"Admittedly, we are trying to get Evenhaim's attention. But also important for citizens to know, is the fact that California Homebuilders has a history of developing in areas that are rife with these kinds of ex-cons. One look at the Megan's Law website... the information is public. We think that there is something to that. Where he builds, how he treats his workers; to us it seems like it's all part of a methodology that is not beyond reproach."
While our reporter was present, LAPD labor department detectives arrived and determined that the protest was legal and that first amendment laws were being upheld. BDN spoke with one of the school's armed security guards and he echoed this sentiment, acknowledging that the protest was well within its right, as long as they don't block the car entry and exit he added
Evenhaim and California Homebuilders; history of labor violations
The accompanying flyer outlines and highlights Evenhaim's unscrupulous labor actions. One side of the flyer that the protestors are distributing echoes the sensational nature of the banner message with a headline that reads, "Are the kids safe?", followed by a selection of mugshots from the Megan's Law site. The other side outlines in specifics what the labor activists are taking the developer to task for.
According to documentation provided exclusively to BDN, Evenhaim and California Home Builders- job sites have generated numerous legal actions. Evenhaim reportedly failed to reimburse his employees for equipment, expenses and failed to pay all wages; a case that he settled for $350,000. He also reportedly failed to pay employees for waiting and unloading periods at the beginning and end of workdays in a case that was pending that amounts to $60,000.
Evenhaim currently has 26 active companies that list him as an officer. Dozens more have expired business licenses and/or are somehow affiliated to him through relatives. Evenhaim's many companies have generated dozens upon dozens of complaints and lawsuits. Over the years, these companies have amassed 23 civil lawsuits naming Evenhaim as a defendant.
The documentation also alleges that Evenhaim paid his workers in cash and kept two sets of accounting books on these sites. Cash pay is highly illegal and amounts to tax fraud. If Evenhaim kept two sets of accounting records, he could be looking at criminal prosecution in the future.
Public persona vs private
Evenhaim has carefully crafted his image as an upstanding businessman and pillar in the community. This only tells one side of the story according to Langford, who stresses that it's "all smoke and mirrors," and behind the scenes what he sees is a legacy of, "worker exploitation and fraud and hurting the little guy."
Evenhaim is a very public figure in Los Angeles. He is a board member and former chairman of the Israeli American Council. He navigates posh big money circles and he is very established in the Jewish community. But according to the protestors, they are trying to demonstrate who the real Shawn Evenhaim is or at least give him a chance to live up to his philanthropic public persona.
There are also examples of Evenhaim coming out publicly against affordable housing and workers' rights. In 2015, Evenhaim opposed a proposal from the Mayor's office that would have surcharged new developments to raise money for affordable housing.
In 2016, Evenhaim was an opponent of measure JJJ which included provisions that dictated that; construction wages be on par with those required for public-works projects; 30% of the workforce be hired from the city's residents with 10% of jobs for residents within 5 miles of the project; 60% of workers possess experience on par with graduates of a union apprenticeship program.
These facts lend credence to the Union's assertion that Evenhaim is pro-developer at the detriment of his work force. The protests are in response to how low he is willing to allegedly push that bottom line.
The end game
When asked how long the protestors expected to stay, they did not give an end date. Meanwhile according to a parent with a child at the school, complaints are coming in and students are asking questions about the protest.
According to the labor reps, the campaign is a means to an end. They contend that the banner will be on display in the indefinite future and more campaigns are possible on any and all properties affiliated with Evenhaim.
As controversial as the method is, it is certain to get Evenhaim's attention. And, according to the protestors, until Evenhaim accounts for his questionable past and takes a seat at the bargaining table in the future, the banner and it's Megan's Law information isn't going anywhere any time soon.
Kadima Day School and California Home Builders have not responded to requests for comment at time writing