I Just Read One Freaking Time Too Many That 77% Of The Freaking Property Owners In Freaking Venice Were In Freaking Favor Of The Freaking BID So I Had To Write This Article Showing That In Fact Either Only 25.2% Were In Favor Or Else Only 51.8% Were In Favor Depending On How One Counts

Reporters in Los Angeles trying to understand what passes for arithmetic over at the City Clerk's Office.
Reporters in Los Angeles trying to understand what passes for arithmetic over at the City Clerk’s Office.
I just read in this ridiculous article on Patch.Com that 77% of the property owners in Venice voted in favor of the BID. This is some kind of echo chamber meme being passed around the campfires of the journalistic tribes of Los Angeles. Just look at this freaking Google search if you don’t believe me.1 So I just have to point one thing out. Look at the freaking official ballot tabulation, reporters! Of course, Holly Wolcott created it in Excel and then printed it out and scanned it to PDF just to make it especially useless, but you’re journalists. Don’t let that stop you. Count the total number of property owners.2

There are 338 of them. Of these, 85 voted yes, 79 voted no, and 174 didn’t vote. That works out to 25.2% yes, 23.4% no, and 51.5% didn’t vote. That doesn’t look nearly as overwhelming as the figure that’s being bandied about like gospel truth by our lazy LA media. And not only that, but even if you only count the property owners who did vote, which is part of how the Clerk does it, there were 164 total ballots cast, of which 51.8% were yes and 48.2% were no. Also that isn’t very overwhelming.

The locus freaking classicus of the utter, abject confusion of everyone in the mainstream media who is reporting on the Venice Beach BID election.
The locus freaking classicus of the utter, abject confusion of everyone in the mainstream media who is reporting on the Venice Beach BID election.

But where did that 77% figure come from that they’re all repeating like Moses brought it down from Mount Sinai engraved on freaking tablets of stone? Well, it’s right there on the report on the ballots signed by Holly Wolcott. But God forbid that a reporter is going to read about what the figure means.3 In fact, this is 77% of the weighted value, not 77% of the property owners. In other words, the 51.8% of the 164 property owners that voted own 77% of the property. If 20% of the property owners had owned 51% of the weighted value, the BID still would have passed. A majority of property owners is absolutely irrelevant to the BID approval process and the fact that there was a small one here is nothing more than a coincidence. By glossing over this fact and reporting that 77% figure as if it had anything at all to do with a percentage of property owners, these reporters are at best just adding to the confusion and at worst granting even more legitimacy to the deeply undemocratic process by which BIDs are approved. Not helpful, friends.


Picture of confused math kid is released by its creator, Danny under the CC BY 2.0 and is available via Flickr.

  1. Note to the future: This probably won’t work when you’re looking at this. Sorry!
  2. It’s necessary to count this by hand because if property owners have multiple parcels they still only get one ballot.
  3. Although to be fair to the reporters, as much as it pains me to do so, Holly Wolcott has designed this report in an especially misleading way.
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3 thoughts on “I Just Read One Freaking Time Too Many That 77% Of The Freaking Property Owners In Freaking Venice Were In Freaking Favor Of The Freaking BID So I Had To Write This Article Showing That In Fact Either Only 25.2% Were In Favor Or Else Only 51.8% Were In Favor Depending On How One Counts”

    1. I wondered about that too. I especially wondered why so many of the low ones are the same. Like how does $387.29 come up over and over again? The assessment methodology is explained in the management plan, which is here:

      http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2016/16-0749_misc_06-24-2016.pdf

      (that’s a link to the council file). They can’t use the assessed value of the property because the effects of Prop 13 would make that wildly unfair, so instead they use a combination of square footage of the building, square footage of the lot, and linear feet of frontage. It did occur to me while I was tallying stuff up that they could easily have fiddled the assessments and that people wouldn’t really check too closely unless they were wildly high.

      Do you have any more thoughts? Feel free to email too if you’d like.

    2. So I’m reading through the engineer’s report more carefully. It turns out that they assess condominiums by (a) calculating the assessment for the whole building and then (b) dividing it up among the condo owners, who get to vote separately. This seems to account for most of the low assessments as well as the fact that there are clusters of identical figures. I can’t be sure without actually going out and looking at which parcels are condominiums. I may do this at some point because there are other pretty shady aspects to the assessment methodology that I hope to write on in the future.

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