Good God, could the neverending saga of the inchoate Echo Park BID get even weirder? Since you ask, the answer, of course, is obviously yes. You may recall that very recently Councilbaby Mitch O’Farrell moved that the City give BID consultants Civitas Advisors another heaping beaucoup de bigly bucks to let them continue working on the extraordinarily multiyear process of creating the Echo Park BID.
The City memorialized this effort in Council File 10-0154-S1, created on February 27, 2018 to contain the above-mentioned motion. On April 13, 2018 the full council adopted the motion which, for reasons I won’t even think about pretending to understand, doesn’t seem to require Mayoral concurrence to take effect. So they got the money, they got the BID consultant, what’s the damn problem?
Well, this newly obtained April 17, 2018 email from head Civitas Honcho John Lambeth to Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott about the progress of the also-pending Route 66 BID1 sheds some light on problems with the BID formation process in Echo Park.2 As always, there’s a transcription and commentary after the break.3
The short version is that evidently the Clerk’s BID office is understaffed and overworked and getting farther and farther behind on its BID formation and especially renewal duties. According to John Lambeth the City wouldn’t be ready to review material produced in support of an Echo Park BID until September 2018 and “[i]t would be a disservice to the City, Echo Park steering committee, and us to start work only to be put on hold for four months.”
Lambeth actually says that under these conditions he’s not willing to sign a contract to do the work: “For Echo Park, are concerned about the timing of the project. We are not comfortable starting another contract with the City to complete the Echo Park PBID if the data cannot be reviewed until September 2018.”
And Lambeth is not just another out-from-under-a-rock-crawled BID consultant like Tara Devine or Ed Henning. According to his staff bio at Civitas he actually wrote the freaking Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994. If this is the guy that won’t sign a contract with your city for BID consultancy, maybe it’s time to restructure your City’s BID department.
So that’s what’s going on with Civitas, the City of Los Angeles, and the freaking Echo Park BID. The bulk of John Lambeth’s email, however, concerns the proposed Route 66 BID, which is going to run down Santa Monica Blvd from Hoover to Vine.4 John Lambeth’s complaints with respect to this BID are also that the City’s taking too long to review materials and consequently he’s having to do everything multiple times and, strangely, that he’s not getting paid. I mean, the City government of Los Angeles fails in many ways every day, but it’s hard to imagine they fail in paying their damn bills. Isn’t that kind of thing just done automatically these days? Well, who knows. Very little surprises me any more. Here’s a transcription of the whole email:
From: John Lambeth <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 9:18 AM
Subject: Current Projects
To: Rick Scott <email@example.com>
Cc: Gina Trechter <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nichole Farley <email@example.com>
It was great to connect with you yesterday. I wanted to circle back and reiterate our concerns about what is happening with our current and future projects with the City of LA. We have been diligently working on the Hollywood Route 66 PBID project for 8 months without compensation for the two tasks we have submitted. As you are aware, the Feasibility Report has been submitted twice without approval. For the second submission, we incorporated all of the changes requested and contractual obligations. We also submitted the database information in February and have been told it will not be renewed until September 2018.
For Echo Park, are concerned about the timing of the project. We are not comfortable starting another contract with the City to complete the Echo Park PBID if the data cannot be reviewed until September 2018. It would be a disservice to the City, Echo Park steering committee, and us to start work only to be put on hold for four-months.
I look forward to working with you and City staff to address these concerns and move the Hollywood Route 66 PBID and Echo Park PBID formations to the finish line.
Here is a summary of the Hollywood Route 66 project:
Hollywood Route 66
• DELIVERABLE 1 – FEASIBILITY STUDY: Including, but not limited to: Surveying POTENTIAL ASSESSEES utilizing written surveys, focus groups, and/or interviews to determine probability of success of creating a BID in the proposed area.
o Deliverable: Report detailing the results of the feasibility study. Provide proposed boundaries to Analyst. Proof of contact with each POTENTIAL ASSESSEE (e.g. copy of mailing list, copy of sign in sheets from scoping meetings, etc.)
We are having to resubmit the report in early May with additional ownership outreach and education to address the City’s concerns that we and the steering committee have not complete enough owner outreach. The feedback we received was “We are concerned that the bulk of support for the proposed business improvement district dates back 4-5 years and not as a result of current scoping meetings conducted by Civitas with property owners. The report does not provide evidence that property owners participated in discussions about the types of services included in and the findings of the survey.” Our intent with including the original outreach letters from 2014, was to provide a complete look at the outreach done to property owners for support not to limit the amount of our reach to property owners under the current contract.
Under our current contract, we have fulfilled the contractual obligations of:
o Section 3.1
◾ A detailed explanation of the methods, techniques, and schedules used in concluding all the findings made in the report with supporting documentation for all findings;
◾ The proposed type of feasible BID (Merchant or Property)
◾ The proposed boundaries of the feasible BID; and
◾ Descriptions of any alternatives and the reason why those alternatives may/may not be feasible;
o Section 3.2
◾ A FEASIBILITY STUDY Report which includes, but is not limited to:
◾ Detailed results of the study of the TARGET AREA;
◾ Proposed boundaries of a potential BID
◾ Proof of contact with each POTENTIAL ASSESSES
Additional, the report was not accepted due to “Nor is there evidence of a discussion about the likely cost of those services, based on the square footage being considered.” Nowhere in the contract does the feasibility report require information or conversations around the cost of services to the property owner.” Frankly, we are unable to have these conversations without the approval of the data from the City.
• DELIVERABLE 2 – DATABASE OF POTENTIAL ASSESSEES: Including, but not limited to: Developing a current DATABASE, as defined in Section 2 of this RFP, that is satisfactory to the CITY CLERK and updated as needed.
o Deliverable: A current DATABASE in Microsoft Office Excel format; property assessment and other data; and a report of CITY-owned property.
We submitted our initial round of data on February 16 for review. After nearly 2 months since we initially sent the database to Dennis and Mario, we reached out to Rita to see if she had heard anything. On April 11, Rita notified us that Mario would not be able to review the information until September 2018. We understand that your office is short staffed at the moment and under the gun to get the PBIDs that are forming and renewing this year to the hearing process before May. Our concern is that by September that data that we submitted in February will be out of date, as Property owner data is constantly changing. Additionally, we cannot start to discuss annual assessments, begin drafting the MDP or engage the engineer to begin drafting their report. The project cannot move forward without the data.
President & CEO
- Yet another creature of freaking Jeff Zarrinnam, the big bad BIDfather of East Hollywood and environs.
- And for the Route 66 BID as well, but I’m not presently as interested in that process. I will talk a little about it after the break.
- Also note that this email was one of a vast collection of emails between Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott and Civitas, which were provided to me by a sympatico reader and all of which are available here on Archive.Org. Most of these are newsletters, which at first glance seem unbearably tedious, consisting as they do of miniature case studies of various Civitas clients around the state (and some out of state). But they turn out to be fascinating and shed a great deal of light on the astonishing variety that BIDs take around California. If I ever have time I hope to write something on this, but, of course, the astonishing indefatigable wrong-doing of Los Angeles BIDs seems ever more urgent.
- Although there may be a problem with the northeast corner which I really believe is in the Sunset Vine BID. I’m too lazy to check right now, but I suppose this kind of edge case can be worked out peaceably amongst the zillionaires. If you’re interested here’s the proposed boundary map. Note that Hollywood Forever cemetery is excluded “pending a zoning change.” That ought to make for interesting reading in the engineer’s report, eh?