There’s an unresolved problem in the application of the California Public Records Act to business improvement districts. The thing is that the Property Owners’ Associations which administer the BIDs are, in part, subject to CPRA because §36612 of the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 makes them so, stating that:
“Owners’ association” means a private nonprofit entity that is under contract with a city to administer or implement improvements, maintenance, and activities specified in the management district plan. … an owners’ association shall comply with the California Public Records Act … for all records relating to activities of the district.
The problem is that the Owners’ Association doesn’t seem to be required to comply with CPRA until it actually is under contract with the City. This, if accurate, means that the activities of the POA before the BID is approved are largely opaque to scrutiny. And this has been a severe problem in the case of the Venice Beach BID, where a number of people, not just me, have had the experience of CD11 staff,1 City Clerk staff, and even freaking Holly Wolcott herself, falsely denying that the City is involved in the BID formation process at all and telling members of the public that they should therefore seek information from shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine. Tara Devine, of course, ignores all requests for information from anyone who seems to be even a little skeptical about the benefits of BIDs.
None of this is the final word on the matter. The only reason that the legislature even made BIDs subject to CPRA is that Aaron Epstein, a brave and determined property owner, sued the living shit out of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance2 in the 1990s and the Courts determined, in a stunningly righteous decision, that BIDs were subject to both CPRA and the Brown Act. It’s quite possible, perhaps even probable, that if the courts were asked whether or not POAs were subject to CPRA before the contract was signed, they would find that they were. However, that’s not a struggle in which I presently have the resources to engage, so alternative methods of information collection are required.
Fortunately,3 Tara Devine is not a one-BID woman. See, in 2015 the South Park BID was up for renewal.4 The process of BID renewal is essentially the same as the process for BID establishment, with the huge difference that it’s carried out by a POA that’s already under contract with the City, and is thus subject to CPRA. And thus was it possible to gather surprisingly much information about how Tara Devine conducts her dangerous business!5
For a while now I have been collecting records from the South Park BID. I haven’t written much on them, and they don’t yet have a page in the menu structure, but they do have a dedicated directory in our static storage and there are a bunch on Archive.Org as well. In fact, just yesterday, I uploaded two PDFs full of SPBID’s transactions by vendor from 2013 through June 2016. These actually show every payment the BID made. I uploaded them because it occurred to me that they logged payments to Tara Devine for her consultancy on the 2015 SPBID renewal and that that, being essentially the same process as the Venice Beach BID establishment, would have cost something in the same ballpark.
And you can page through the long reports yourself, but also, for convenience, I split off the relevant pages, and you can get them individually here:
You can run through and add up the figures yourself, but by my calculation, the South Park BID paid Tara Devine $79,100 between December 2013 and April 2016. I don’t have explicit proof that this was for BID renewal consultancy, but it’s hard to imagine what else it might have been for. And the Venice Beach process, being about eleventy-zillion times more contentious than any other BID formation in the entire history of the universe, could not plausibly have cost less than the completely routine, completely unopposed, South Park BID renewal. So there it is, people of Venice. Do you want to know what thirty pieces of silver are worth nowadays in the financial thinking of
Caiaphas Carl Lambert and friends when they hired Tara Devine to betray to the freaking Romans all that was once good and holy on the far west side of Los Angeles? About $80,000, that’s what.
Image of Tara Devine is ©2016 MichaelKohlhaas.org.
- I’m looking at you, Debbie Dyner Harris.
- Not their name then, but their name now.
- Not fortunately for the people and the City of Los Angeles, but fortunately in the extremely limited sense of being good for this investigaton.
- See CF 12-1168 for all details.
- This is the first installment. I have requests out for much, much more information.