Once upon a time in 2016 an organization called Hot Import Nights was going to host a car show in Downtown San Pedro. This would seem to be a natural fit, since San Pedro is nestled between such motorhead meccas as Torrance and Gardena and Carson and Long Beach, famed hot spots of both formal and informal Southern California car culture due not in small part to the feverish and innovative automotive, aerospace, and marine manufacturing activities centered in the subregion for more than a century at this point.
But if there’s a BID in the woodpile they’re going to have an opinion, either puritanical, stupid, or both, on any proposed activities within their jurisdiction, whether it’s any of their concern or not. And it’s well-known to those who know it well that Downtown San Pedro is cursed by being chronically subject to the tender mercies of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID. And thus it is no surprise that the BID weighed in on the car show. And it’s no surprise that they hated it. It’s exactly the kind of thing that knee-jerk puritanical real estate minions will hate.
But what is a surprise is that they changed their little minds and came to love it. They loved it so darn much that they signed an MOU with it and agreed to lobby the City on its behalf. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch and white supremacy will exact payment for any favors it bestows. In exchange for the BID’s aid and comfort, the car show had to agree not to play any rap music or hip hop at their event, and a bunch of other, as weird but possibly less racist, conditions as well.
This unreasoned, or at least publicly unreasoned, hatred for all things insufficiently caucasian, is for whatever reason, a signature element of BIDolatry in the City of Los Angeles. Over the years we’ve uncovered, e.g., the fact that the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance really, really hates Chicano-associated art genres as well as music that attracts dark-skinned patrons. The freaking HPOA even hates Peruvians if they seem like they’re getting too comfy in Hollywood.
These weird, crypto-racist attitudes are not just the province of our frenemies at the HPOA. They are evidently shared by BIDs all over the City. Thus it’s really no surprise to find that the San Pedro BIDdies are a bunch of cultural crypto-racists as well. But, as always, it’s still surprising, still disconcerting, to see the details figured plain as though upon a lighted screen. Turn the page for the story in detail with extensive documentation!
The car show, it seems, was scheduled for September 2016. In March 2016 the first evidence of the BID’s discontent appears. After some back-and-forth, on March 4, 2016, BID vice president Alan Johnson emailed some of his co-conspirators about the matter:
I feel strongly that after all the negative blowback we are getting from this event we should not touch it with a 10’ pole or in any way be associated with it and let the promoters and City know that.
And it was not an idle threat Alan Johnson was making. On May 9, SPBID executive directrix Lorena Parker sent an email to CD15 staffies Jacob Haik, Ana Dragin, Nicole Wells, and Ryan Ferguson not just expressing their lack of support for the car show but actually asking their Council District how to stop the freaking car show:
I wanted to inform all of you that the San Pedro Property Owners’ Alliance voted unanimously to oppose the Hot Import Nights event in downtown San Pedro. It is my understanding that the POLA1 does not want this event on their property either.
I am writing to you to clarify our position and to seek assistance on how to prevent this event to coming to San Pedro. I know that our office assisted them last year in getting the street closure permit.
I am concerned because their website actually states that they will be coming to the streets of San Pedro.
And less than two weeks later, on May 19, the BID followed through by an email to Joe Buscaino with an actual formal letter of opposition to the car show attached to it. The email minced no words in expressing the BID’s unanimous opposition to the car show on grounds of inappropriacy:
The Honorable Councilmember Buscaino,
Please see the attached letter regarding our opposition to the Hot Import Nights event currently scheduled for September 24, 2016 in downtown San Pedro, according to their website.
The San Pedro Property Owners’ Alliance Board of Directors were unanimously opposed to the event as they believe it is not appropriate for the downtown San Pedro Business Improvement District.
Thank you for your consideration.
And the letter itself went even farther, explicitly asking for Joe Buscaino’s help in actually stopping the car show from coming to San Pedro and including a super-bizarre request that the Council District Office report to the BID on the car show’s activities:
Dear Councilmember Buscaino,
The San Pedro Property Owners’ Alliance Board of Directors passed the following motion at its May 4, 2016 Board of Directors meeting.
“Eisenberg motioned and Schirmer seconded that the San Pedro Property Owners’ Alliance not endorse or support the Hot Import Nights event as it is not appropriate for downtown San Pedro and to write an opposition letter to Councilmember Buscaino’s office asking the City not to support the event. The motion was unanimously approved.”
Therefore, I would like to formally request that the City oppose this event from coming to downtown San Pedro. We also respectfully request that you keep our office informed of any actions taken by the Hot Import Nights organization of their intentions to pursue this event in downtown San Pedro.
But by July 11, 2016, less than two months later, everything had changed, changed utterly. In fact, the BID and the car show had not only come to terms but they had somehow managed to negotiate and execute an actual memorandum of understanding. Unfortunately the records I have on hand do not cover this astounding volte-face2 so I’m unable to tell you how and when it happened,3 but, fortunately, I’m at least able to tell you what it entailed.
First of all there are lists of what each party will do. The BID (referred to as SPPOA, the San Pedro Property Owners Association), on the one hand, in part,
…will assist event producers with the logistics required for City and County of Los Angeles and State of California permits including street closures, fire permits, food and alcoholic beverage permits. SPPOA will also act as a liaison between the event producer, property owners, merchants, residents, law enforcement agencies, LA City Fire Depratment, and the City of Los Angeles.
SPPOA will circulate a petition required by the City of Los Angeles to all merchants and property owners located within the area of the event. SPPOA will submit the completed petition to the City of Los Angeles…
This is interesting because it’s essentially lobbying activity as defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Right there in §48.02, where it states that lobbying activity
… includes the following and similar compensated conduct when that conduct is related to a direct communication to influence any municipal legislation:
(1) engaging in, either personally or through an agent, written or oral direct communication with a City official;
(3) providing advice or recommending strategy to a client or others;
(5) seeking to influence the position of a third party on municipal legislation or an issue related to municipal legislation by any means, including but not limited to engaging in community, public or press relations activities; and
And of course, Lorena Parker is paid by her BID to do this kind of stuff for the car show.4 It’s likely that she’s violating the registration requirement found LAMC 48.07(A) by having lobbied for the car show and on a bunch of other issues in the Summer of 2016, but the details of that will have to wait for another post.5
And it seems that the car show did get some value out of Lorena Parker. Just take a look at this email from Lorena Parker to Michael Munar, who seems to run the car show. Just for instance, she tells him:
As I mentioned to you earlier, I requested that the permit fees be reduced this morning. The IED-Investigator will request a fee reduction from the supervisor.
Not to mention the fact that
I also spoke with LAFD John Williams. He said that the reason why the charge was so much was that he allocated two Inspectors for your event because you were moving things around last year. I offered to give him Donte as his assistant if he would remove the charge for the second LAFD officer. He agreed. Can you please order him a radio?
And she arranged to reduce or eliminate other charges:
Good afternoon DOT and Street Maintenance, Please remove all DOT sign postings fees from this permit. It will not be needed for this event. Also, please remove all charges for street maintenance. We have already made arrangements for this service. We would appreciate those charges being removed by Thursday afternoon.
That’s good value for high quality lobbying, friends!
And next there’s a list of the things the car show (referred to in the MOU as “HIN”) will do for the BID in exchange for all this help, and here is where things get weird and racist:
HIN agrees to produce a family-friendly professional event showcasing no fewer than 125 special interest vehicles…
HIN agrees to adhere to a “family-friendly” theme such as Rockabilly Retro, 1920’s to 1950’s themed event.
HIN will monitor and enforce a “no string bikini” rule for the event.
HIN will monitor and enforce a “no marijuana-type promotions” or emblems during the event.
HIN will feature music from two stages. … Music selection should be appropriate for the guests in attendance. HIN will not allow any Hip Hop or RAP music6 …
And what the hell, amirite? What in the world is the BID thinking when they force this car show to agree not to play any “Hip Hop or RAP music” Well, of course, we know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking that scary non-white people are attracted to and incited to violence by those kinds of music. They’re thinking all kinds of pernicious racist nonsense.
What I really want to know is what they’re saying to one another or to themselves about what they’re thinking. Like if one of them had to explain out loud in words what they hoped to accomplish by including this restriction in the MOU, what in the world would they say? For the most part even very very racist people don’t want to just come out and sound really racist out loud, so what’s the code here, what would they pretend? It’s a serious question because I cannot actually guess.
I asked Lorena Parker for a comment on this, but she had not responded by press time, so there’s no enlightenment to be found there. I asked her for copies of the minutes of the meeting at which this nonsense was decided upon, so maybe we’ll figure it out at that point. If you can explain it, please, let me know. Write a guest post. Something.
And what does anyone hope to gain by forcing the car show to agree that “Music selection should be appropriate for the guests in attendance.” This one really escapes me. And why do they need both that clause and the no RAP music clause? Like if people show up for whom RAP music is appropriate, the car show still can’t play it? It’s probably beyond explanation. And as a wise man once said, “whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” And thus I am signing off.
Oh P.S.! I forgot to mention one thing. Remember those Buscaino staffers that Lorena Parker sent the letter of opposition to in May? The very ones that were supposed to help the BID ban the car show? That is to say Jacob Haik, Ana Dragin, Nicole Wells, and Ryan Ferguson? Well, take a look at this email from Lorena Parker to the same list of suspects and even some extras including a bunch of cops, i.e. Maligi Nua and Catherine Plows. In it she offers them all VIP passes!
Hot Import Nights is just around the corner and I wanted to know if any of you were planning on attending. Please RSVP if you are planning on attending ASAP as I need to add you to a VIP list. The VIP lounge will be located in the courthouse parking lot.
As this event has caused great attention, this may be a good opportunity to see it first hand. Please let me know if anyone from your office would like to attend. Also, please let me know if I’ve forgotten anyone.
Thank you for your kind attention.
This is the kind of thing that lobbyists routinely get fined huge sums of money for doing. Whether this episode meets the criteria will take some research to determine, but I’ll let you know. And now I will sign off for good and for real!
Image of Eric Eisenberg started out on Dude’s LinkedIn and ended up in the much-improved state you find here, proudly bearing the symbol: ©2017 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.
- Port of Los Angeles; a major player in CD15, in San Pedro, and in the BID itself.
- Although I have pending requests out which may explain matters.
- I asked Lorena Parker if she’d explain it to me, but she had not responded to my request for comment by press time.
- Note that “municipal legislation” doesn’t just include actual laws and ordinances and whatnot. It’s a term of art with respect to the MLO, also defined in LAMC §48.02 to be “…any legislative or administrative matter proposed or pending before any agency (as defined in this article), including but not limited to those involving the granting, denial, revocation, restriction or modification of a license, permit or entitlement for use (including all land use permits) if the Mayor, the City Council, any of its committees, any agency board, commission, committee, or general manager, or any agency officer or employee charged by law with holding a hearing and making a decision, is charged by law with making a final decision on the matter. “ Thus all this permit advocacy and signature gathering is lobbying activity since the granting of the car show’s various permits counts as municipal legislation in this technical sense.
- A brief summary: The MLO requires people to register when they (a) are paid to (b) carry out lobbying activities for (c) 30 or more hours over three consecutive months. It’s obvious that Lorena Parker satisfies the first two criteria. Whether or not she spent an average of 10 hours per month for some sequence of consecutive months that contains July 2016 is a question of fact. My feeling is that she did, but these things aren’t always so easy to prove when the person in question doesn’t bill for their time. I have a ton of information to sort through and I’ll post either way on the 30 hours question. Or if you’re up for it, you can sort through the information yourself. Everything I have on the subject is in the linked-to archive.
- Weirdo capitalization in the original.