Recall that on April 11, Venice Beach BID opposition activist Margaret Molloy spoke before the California Coastal Commission, urging them to conceptualize the formation of the BID and the BID’s activities as development under the Coastal Act. Her argument was sufficiently convincing that commissioner Effie Turnbull Sanders directed Commission staff to report back on whether the BID fell within the Commission’s jurisdiction.
And at the Commission’s May 11, 2018 meeting, Deputy Director Steve Hudson did just that. You can watch his entire presentation here on YouTube, and, as always, there’s a complete transcription after the break. Mostly the guy, who’d evidently talked to boss BIDdie Tara Devine at great length, parroted BID propaganda about how they’re just going to clean sidewalks and not hire security guards, but just so-called safety ambassadors who are going to mostly give directions to tourists and so forth.
Given that the BID hasn’t actually even started doing anything, it’s pretty hard right now to expose these bogus claims as the blatant self-serving lies that they obviously are, but eventually we’ll be able to. And here’s just one example of the Tara-Devinean parrotry if you don’t feel like reading the whole speech below. In a weirdly contemptuous display of Kool Aid drinking, Steve Hudson, perhaps inadvertently, revealed much about the utter inhuman contempt that Tara Devine and her nightmare employers on the BID board have for our homeless brothers and sisters in Venice. Note that the transcribed laughter is quite real. Listen for yourself:
I spoke with the president of the nonprofit association. She indicated that these security guards and police do not target homeless or any segment of the population. They’re there to provide information, so for instance if they saw a crime occurring or, the example they gave me is if someone was urinating in a doorway they would ask them to stop and direct them to the appropriate facilities. Ah ha ha ha ha. So it would not be an operation intended to target or displace the homeless.
Anyway, Steve Hudson concluded that the mere formation of a BID in the coastal zone did not constitute development under the Coastal Act. This isn’t that surprising since there are probably dozens of BIDs in the coastal zone and what bureaucrat is going to propound a wholly novel theory with vast consequences for hundreds of well-connected zillionaires and their lackeys in a ten minute report-back?
However, and this is fairly hopeful, I think, Steve Hudson did also raise the possibility that future BID actions beyond the mere formation might … well, read for yourself:
… as we have said in some of our previous hearings, it is possible that a district may potentially carry out a development project or implement an action in the future. And we would have to assess such an action to determine if those actions could constitute development under the coastal act. For instance, a concern might be if there are security personnel that operate in such a manner that would preclude a member of the public’s ability to access the water. That meets our definition of development. That would trigger a coastal development permit.
The lesson here is that we all have to watch every move the BID makes using the Public Records Act, the Brown Act, and whatever other tools we can find. When they start restricting access to the water, and they will do it at some point because that’s one of their primary reasons for existence, collect documentation and turn it over to the Coastal Commission.
Of course, it’s not necessarily so very simple to do this. The VBBID has been ignoring the Public Records Act for years, although that’s starting to cause them some pain. They’ve clearly ignored the Brown Act as well, although there too they may suffer more than they’re prepared to pay for. Anyway, the moral I draw from the guy’s remarks are that we must keep struggling, keep collecting evidence, keep asserting our legal rights at every possible juncture against these pernicious morons on the Board of Directors of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. And keep reading here, of course!
Transcription of Steve Hudson’s report-back:
At our last meeting in April, in response to comments received during the public comment period, the Commission at that hearing asked staff to provide a briefing on the Venice Business Improvement District, or the BID, that was formed by the City of Los Angeles. And if we could cue up one slide for that, please? The Venice Beach BID, or business improvement district, is a property assessment district approved by the City pursuant to an ordinance and that occurred in November 2016. It was approved for a limited five year term beginning in January 2017 and would end in 2021. And that could only be extended if it was approved by the City and a majority vote of the member property owners. The Venice BID is similar to many other business improvement districts that have been formed in many other cities within the coastal zone and it is operated through its charter by a nonprofit owners’ association that’s contracted by the City specifically to manage the district. The boundaries of the district are shown here on this slide. And they’re delineated by the areas shaded in orange and blue, which show the two different assessment rates that they apply. The BID consists of four hundred and sixty four parcels that are owned by three hundred and forty nine different property owners. And they’re primarily, it’s within this commercially zoned area that extends along Ocean Front Walk and along much of the beachfront and other commercially zoned areas. Now there’s a mix of uses within there. The City’s zoning does allow for some residential, but the intent was that residential use would be limited and it was intended to support commercial uses, so really more along the lines of mixed use projects. There’s also some publicly owned properties, a City library is located within that area as well. All these properties are assessed through the City’s different assessment districts. They’ve developed a mathematical formula on how that’s applied and assessed for the various stakeholders. Now the primary purpose of the BID is to provide enhanced maintenance, cleaning, and safety services within the area, such as more frequent trash pickup services, street and sidewalk cleaning. The BID would also use a second chance organization named Chrysalis, whose members are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction or have criminal pasts or other issues and gives them a second chance. They would be the employees who would actually perform the cleaning and street cleaning and sidewalk cleaning and trash service. It should be noted that the services provided are intended to augment the similar services provided by the City, not replace them. So the City would continue to do its normal street cleaning. Additional street cleanings and sidewalk cleanings would be provided by this new entity, the BID. In regard to the safety component of the program, the BID would not use police or private security but would have safety and information personnel, sometimes called ambassadors by other business improvement districts. And they would be located in public places, would have some sort of clothing that would identify them as BID personnel. And they would primarily function to provide directions and visitor-serving information. They would be more focused on conversation and cooperation oriented safety services. They would not perform any police duties, although they would also function as a sort of a neighborhood watch, where if they witness a crime they would contact City police. The secondary purpose of the BID is to promote district identity through special projects such as production and distribution of a newsletter and marketing designed to promote and increase tourism within the area, bring more people down to the waterfront, commercial core. As I mentioned there are two benefit or assessment zones. Rates are assessed based on this mathematical formula that takes into account the size of the structure, the lot, and the street frontage, so rates would vary. I looked at some of the approximate estimates for a typical 35 or 45 foot wide parcel and they’re typically around four to three or five thousand dollars for a lot of these assessments, but it varies based on those three parameters so it could be smaller or larger. The zone one, that area that’s in orange, is assessed at the higher rate, and that’s because it’s primarily located along the Ocean Front Walk in their commercial core. These are the areas that receive their highest amount of visitors and the City determined those areas need the highest amount of services. Zone two, shown in blue, includes more publicly owned properties and areas that are still commercial and retail but receive less traffic and thus, the City determined, need fewer services. Now, at our public comment periods at many previous Commission hearings and in several emails to staff and members of the Commission have received, we’ve heard from opponents to the BID who have spoken and indicated that they have … there are various issues, which I think can be primarily summarized with three different areas of concern. And those concerns are that this would somehow result in the privatization of public spaces, and that it could result in the displacement of homeless folks if these security personnel were to roust out homeless folks in the area, and that it could unfairly burden residential homeowners within the district. And they have requested that the Commission either take some form of enforcement action against the City or require a coastal development permit for the formation and operation of the BID. Now, as I have described, the BID does not involve privatization of public lands in any manner or even privatization of public services. Its purpose is to augment the existing public services. Those public services continue. It doesn’t change the management structure for any public spaces. It only affects commercial and publicly open space zoned properties and although there’s some residential development located within those areas the City appropriately found that all properties within the assessment district benefit from the enhanced services provided. And in addition the program’s safety and ambassador program is primarily information those security guards and I spoke with the president of the nonprofit association. She indicated that these security guards and police do not target homeless or any segment of the population. They’re there to provide information, so for instance if they saw a crime occurring or, the example they gave me is if someone was urinating in a doorway they would ask them to stop and direct them to the appropriate facilities. Ah ha ha ha ha. So it would not be an operation intended to target or displace the homeless. Moreover, Commission staff have evaluated the City’s program and would note that the formation of a BID or other types of self assessment districts such as school districts or geologic hazard abatement districts do not themselves constitute development under the coastal act. They do not meet our definition of development, and thus they do not trigger the need for a coastal development permit. Now, that said, as we have said in some of our previous hearings, it is possible that a district may potentially carry out a development project or implement an action in the future. And we would have to assess such an action to determine if those actions could constitute development under the coastal act. For instance, a concern might be if there are security personnel that operate in such a manner that would preclude a member of the public’s ability to access the water. That meets our definition of development. That would trigger a coastal development permit. We have not seen any information to date that any such sort of action is contemplated or would be carried out in this case by this assessment district. I would also note that although the BID had formed or it was initiated in 2016 they are still in the planning phase. They have not initiated their service programs as yet although they are slated to roll out later this month. Thus although we continue to receive correspondence and concerns from some members of the public who are opposed to the BID I would just again reiterate that the formation and the operation of the BID, we do not believe, is a matter that our agency would have jurisdiction over as it is currently formed.
Image of Steve Hudson is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is a transmogrified visionary reworkification of a screenshot from here.