Pointy-Headed Longhaired Ivory-Tower-Dwelling Urbanists At Texas A&M Collaborated With Miranda Paster In 2015 On A Grant Proposal To Prove, Yet Again, That BIDs Are The Greatest Thing Ever And Holly Wolcott Had Doubts About Whether It Was A Good Idea Given The Hostile Political Climate

George Oliver Rogers, an exceedingly hip looking fedora-sporting professor of zillionaire-serving urbanist bullshit at Texas A&M and 2015 collaborator with Miranda Paster et alia on some densely-prosed lefty-fascistico-academic bosh-slash-nonsense that it’s barely worth your time to read. The dude himself, though, is cute. I’ll give him that!
I know we all have better things to do in our short lives than to voluntarily read a grant application written by a bunch of fedora-wearing Texan urbanists asking for boo-coo bucks to promote yet another weirdo theory about how BIDs are to cities as Jesus was to wedding-water. But it may, nevertheless, repay some attention, and I’m going to summarize and extract the interesting parts for your benefit. You’re welcome!

So it seems that in 2015 these fellows from Texas A&M got in touch with our old friend Ms. Miranda Paster and asked her for data and so forth for their grant application. Then they asked her to be a collaborator. You can get a copy of the whole darn stack of records I got from the City Clerk on Thursday. There are emails and a copy of the proposal itself in there.

And you can read the abstract here if you want to, and it’s transcribed after the break if you’re PDF averse, but the TL;DR is that they propose to prove that BIDs not only increase commercial property values but also residential property values.1 Interestingly, this topic of investigation turned out to be a big red flag for Holly Wolcott when it came to approving Miranda Paster’s participation. She approved Miranda Paster’s participation in 2015, but by 2016, when the professors were fixin’ to resubmit their grant,2 Miranda Paster declined to participate, citing unspecified “concerns.” See the full story after the break.

Also, Miranda Paster has hitherto been somewhat of a conundrum in the field of anti-BID studies. She exercises an inordinate amount of control over BID activities, she presents at pseudoscholarly pro-BID conferences, helps shape pro-BID messaging, and arranges for BIDs to lobby the City of Los Angeles, and yet we3 have been able to discover surprisingly little about her. Well, this latest document dump has changed that to some extent. As part of the application process, Miranda Paster submitted a brief professional biography. Again, find a transcription after the break.

First of all, here is an email exchange between Holly Wolcott and Miranda Paster discussing whether Miranda Paster will be allowed to collaborate. It begins with Miranda Paster asking Holly Wolcott for permission:

Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org> Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 4:02 PM
To: “Wolcott, Holly” <holly.wolcott@lacity.org>
Cc: “Hinkson, Rosemary” <rosemary.hinkson@lacity.org>, Greg Allison <greg.allison@lacity.org>

Hello.

Pg 9 of the attached proposal has the description of partnerships. The objective of the proposal is to show impact of BIDs on neighboring residential properties (local housing market value increase). They have chosen Granada Hills and Chatsworth. I am not sure that these BIDs are the best choices. My role will include advice on results interpretation and policy implementation. I feel it would be OK.

Are you OK with this?

Thanks.

And just two minutes later, Holly Wolcott fires off a reply:

Holly Wolcott <holly.wolcott@lacity.org> Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 4:04 PM
To: Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org>

I haven’t looked at it yet. ..but general benefits?

Holly Wolcott is worried because all this was unfolding just a year or so after a brave and honorable judge dissolved the Arts District BID because they were spending money on so-called general benefits when the law explicitly only allows BIDs to spend money on special benefits. It seems that no one actually understands the distinction fully, but it seems to be something like a prohibition on BID money being spent on things that provide no extra good to the property owners over and above any goods that they provide to random other people. If they do that, it seems that they can be dissolved. Miranda Paster is on top of this:

Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org> Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 4:11 PM

To: Holly Wolcott <holly.wolcott@lacity.org>

Inasmuch as the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Assn vs County of Santa Clara case indicated that increase in property values does not constitute a special benefit, I think we are O.K. and Prop 218 says that residential zoned parcels do not benefit, which has been interpreted to mean special or general.

This is quite interesting, actually, at least to the six people who’ve read this far. The point of the Proposition 218 reference is that that proposition defines special benefits in such a way that property value changes aren’t them. The case she cites, Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association v. County of Santa Clara, is beyond my comprehension. But I see no reason to doubt Miranda Paster, who knows way more about this nonsense than is healthy for anyone. And evidently Holly Wolcott felt the same way, because Miranda Paster joined the merry crew of grant applicants, because Behold! A letter of support from her.

But something mysterious happened during the next year. Here are a few more emails, these ones from the Spring of 2016. First, Wei Li wrote back to her:

Wei Li <wli@tamu.edu> Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 12:39 PM
To: Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org>
Dear Miranda:

Hope everything has been going well with you!

Our proposal to Lincoln Institute of Land Policy was not successful. But we are moving on!! We are revising it and will submit it to the Haynes Foundation by March 9th.

I was wondering if you would be willing to offer a letter of support for us again for this incoming submission? I attach the letter you provided last fall. If so, you would just need to change the date to today’s date.

I also attach the current draft proposal for your information. Thanks very much in advance!! Please let me know if you have any question.

Cheers,

Wei

And then Miranda Paster does not seem to have emailed him back, but sometime during the next five days, they evidently had a conversation on the phone.4 This conversation elicited a follow-up email from Wei Li:

Wei Li < wli@tamu.edu> Mon, Mar 7, 2016 at 9:54 AM
To: Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org>
Dear Miranda:
I just wanted to say thank you for the phone conversation. I look forward to hearing your decision, and I would completely understand if you have any concerns that prevent you from participating in this project. If that is the case, I would appreciate if you could recommend anyone from the City of LA, if possible, who might be a suitable candidate for our project’s Advisory Board.

Thanks very much!

Cheers,
Wei

But alas! ‘Twas not to be. It took her one whole month. Thirty freaking days! To make up her mind, and when she did it was nothing but nix:

Miranda Paster <miranda.paster@lacity.org> Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 4:08 PM
To: Wei Li <wli@tamu.edu>
Hello Wei.
I do have concerns that prevent me from participating in the project. I don’t know of anyone else to recommend.
Sorry and thanks.

So what happened?! We will probably never know. I got all this material via CPRA, and the Clerk’s office seems to be claiming that that’s all of it. It’s a sad but probably necessary aspect of CPRA litigation that one can’t go to court with nothing more than a feeling that the dastardly govermentals are holding stuff back and ask the judge to ask them in a scary judge voice if they really handed over everything. It’s necessary to have some evidence of withholding. It’s sad to say that there’s none here. But clearly something happened. Perhaps Holly Wolcott’s concerns over assisting in generating evidence that BIDs by their very nature provide general benefits?5 Perhaps something else? Perhaps it was just that guy’s really irritating hat and his self-loving smirk? Like I said, we’ll probably never know. And this is your host at MichaelKohlhaas.Org, signing off with yet another tale from BIDworld.

Oh, I almost forgot! Read Miranda Paster’s autobiography, which was in some ways the most interesting item to come out of all this nonsense. Also below is the abstract and an extract from the professoriat’s expected results.


Miranda Paster Biography:

I attended Mount St. Mary’s College and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in International Business. I have a Masters degree in Public Administration from California State University— Dominguez Hills. Currently, I am a Chief Management Analyst with the Office of the City Clerk, Neighborhood and Business Improvement District Division. Since 2005, I have been responsible for coordinating and directing the work of managers and personnel engaged in administering the City of Los Angeles Business Improvement District Program which collects more than $54 million in assessments for 41 business improvement districts (BIDs). In my career, I have worked with the public, elected officials and their staff, the City Council, and many other civil servants and citizens of Los Angeles. I have received several “Outstanding Employee awards and an award from the Quality and Productivity Commission for my efforts in the Election Division. I am happy to be called a civil servant. I have met many civil servants that are dedicated and perform great jobs for the City of Los Angeles.


Project Abstract (150 words limit)

Business Improvement Districts and Residential Housing Markets

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have become essential means to ease the local fiscal stress in providing public services needed for commercial areas. Despite numerous publications discussing the impacts and advantages within the BIDs, the impact of BIDs on nearby residential areas has not been studied. The proposed research will focus on the effect of BIDs on the values of residential properties in two adjacent neighborhoods that adopted BID in 1999 in the City of Los Angeles, one with small neighborhood retail stores and the other with big-box retails. Sales data from 1994 to 2013 will be employed in longitudinal spatial hedonic models. This approach addresses impacts of BIDs on the local housing market before and after their adoption. It also reveals how the impact changes over time and which type of BID is more efficient in promoting fiscal health of local government.


Expected results
The desirability of commercial areas depends on the condition of maintenance, the layout of physical design, and the level of safety. BIDs promote security, beautification, and marketing on the designated commercial district. The residential area nearby will enjoy aforementioned benefits as the district improves and eventually become a desirable amenity. Generally, the distance to BID is expected to have positive association between proximity and property values. The positive association will increase after the adoption of the BID program. … This research aims to examine the process of changes in the impact of BIDs on the property values after its designation. How long it takes to alter the residents’ perception and preference and be accounted in the market may be revealed. To our knowledge, it would be the first study to examine the impact of proximity to BIDs on residential property values. The results from this research will help planners, residents, and local governments to explore possibilities in developing and expending more innovative models for the BID programs. Based on the results, private and public sectors may work together to improve existing BID programs to advance economic development, improve neighborhood livability, and promote the fiscal health of local government.


Image of professor in hat is a public record.

  1. Strangely enough, they propose to do this via something called longitudinal spatial hedonic models, which on first reading I thought was a fancy name for taller-than-average porn stars and that “spatial” was a phonetic rendering of the standard Texan pronunciation of that one word that means really extraordinary, but it turns out that it means something else entirely with a lot of got-damn mathematics in it. Ain’t that just like an academic?! Doing math when they could be talking about porn stars…sheesh!
  2. Evidently it was rejected by the funding source on the first go-round; I don’t know why that was…yet!
  3. We in the tight-knit community of antiBIDologists, that is.
  4. The phone is the first resort of people who have substantial matters to keep hidden away when they’re under intense CPRA pressure. I don’t have evidence for my theory that I’m to blame for Miranda Paster’s suddenly acquired reticence, but I’m sticking to it anyway!
  5. Of course I mean general benefits under the law, not in reality. In reality they’re nothing but general detriments all the time, unless you’re homeless, in which case you get some special detriments over and above the general detriments that everyone else gets.
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