Remember at the end of the hearing at which the City Council established the Venice Beach BID in November 2016 CD11 repster Mike Bonin told the audience that he was going to help get residential-use properties out of the BID. Listen to him here, and here’s what he said:
And I would just say one final thing to those who talked about the fact that they have properties that are zoned commercial but are used as residential. As I said when I met with [unintelligible] recently, I am happy to help those folks get their properties rezoned as residential properties.
Bonin reneged on that promise, and since then he’s been parroting Tara Devine’s mendacious theory that there’s no way for commercially zoned properties to be removed from a BID even though the PBID law very clearly states otherwise.1 It empowers the City Council to lower assessments and/or to remove properties from a BID for any reason or no reason at all.2
Mike Bonin is so committed at this point to hewing to Tara Devine’s bizarre interpretation of the law that he even lets her respond to press inquiries on the matter using his name. And the City Clerk, Ms. Holly Wolcott, is also all-in on this theory, even though it’s provably wrong, wrong, wrong. So presumably her staff in the Clerk’s office are also true believers.
Thus it was not much of a surprise to learn from this January 2018 email exchange between CD11 Venice field deputy Taylor Bazley and City Clerk BID honcho Rita Moreno that Bonin was still obsessed with finding legal support, no matter how shaky and wrong it might be, for never ever removing any property from the BID ever.3
The short version is that Taylor Bazley wrote to Rita Moreno and was all can we remove a particular affordable housing project from the BID?! And Rita Moreno, who is evidently not even worried about getting popped for the unlawful practice of law, was all no way Taylor!! Properties can’t be removed from the BID for any reason whatsoever until the end of the BID!!
And to support her position she quoted a bunch of wrong-headed contradictory nonsense from Tara Devine! Anyway, there’s a transcription of the email thread and some commentary after the break, so read on, friends!!
So again, here’s a link to the email exchange.
And first, Taylor Bazley wrote to Rita Moreno, and thus spake Taylor Bazley:I wanted to confirm a few points with our understanding of BID operations. Even though I think I know the answer, I was told to confirm that there is no process for properties to exit a BID once the vote is confirmed – correct?
Well, Taylor Bazley, even though you think you know the answer, it turns out that actually there is a “process for properties to exit a BID once the vote is confirmed.” You can find it right in the PBID Law, right there at §36650, which specifies that the annual planning report of the BID may include “proposed changes in the boundaries of the property and business improvement district or in any benefit zones or classification of property or businesses within the district.”
Continuing on with his wrong-headed assumptions, and really, who asks an expert for advice this way, like, please confirm what I already know, thank you, Taylor Bazley declaimed “If there was, for example, a specific affordable housing development we wanted to remove from the BID we would need to wait for the 5-year renewal but as long as the BID remained contiguous there wouldn’t be too much issue – correct?”
Well, this is super-interesting! Obviously he has ” a specific affordable housing development” in mind. The real question is whether his boss wants to remove it but sincerely thinks he’s not allowed to or does he not want to remove it and just wants to confirm his self-serving excuses before he tells them to the constituents involved?
I’m guessing it’s the latter, because if it were the former it seems that he’d direct the City Attorney to find a way to do it rather than feeding the desired answer to Rita Moreno, who’s competent enough but not a lawyer, so she can confirm that it can’t be done, even though it actually can be. In fact, with the VBBID’s 2018 annual planning report poised to be considered by City Council, this is an ideal time to get it done!
But things don’t get truly kooky until Rita Moreno weighs in. First of all, sez Rita Moreno: “The only manner in which a parcel can be excluded from being assessed is if there is a change in the zoning.” And as we’ve seen above, this just isn’t true. The PBID law at §36650 allows the BID or the City Council to exclude properties by changing the boundaries. There’s nothing at all in the actual law about a change in zoning being necessary.
And what, you might well wonder, is Rita Moreno’s authority for such an extraordinary misstatement of the facts? Why, it is Tara Devine! And the textual source is the VBBID’s management district plan:
The Management District Plan (MDP) states:
“Future development: Other than future maximum rates and the assessment methodology delineated in this Management District Plan (MDP), per State Law (Government Code Section 53750,) future assessments may change for any given parcel if such a change is attributable to events other than an increased rate or revised methodology, such as a change in the density, intensity or nature of use of the land. Any change in assessment formula methodology or rates other than as stipulated in this MDP would require a new Proposition 218 ballot procedure in order to approve any such changes
First of all, whatever random nonsense Tara Devine put in the Management District Plan doesn’t actually override state law. If the state law says a parcel can be removed and the MDP says it cannot, state law wins. Next, it’s not clear what Rita Moreno thinks this quote has to do with anything. Taylor Bazley seems to be asking about a building they want to take out of the BID. This paragraph is about future development.
And not only that, but Tara Devine quotes a section of the Government Code in support of her implausible theories. It’s §53750. But it turns out that that’s a section full of definitions. The only part that seems to relate to what she’s talking about is (h)(3), which says:
A tax, assessment, fee, or charge is not deemed to be “increased” in the case in which the actual payments from a person or property are higher than would have resulted when the agency approved the tax, assessment, fee, or charge, if those higher payments are attributable to events other than an increased rate or revised methodology, such as a change in the density, intensity, or nature of the use of land.
This bit ultimately means that the BID can raise the assessments if it happens because of use changes in the property instead of by revising the assessment methodology. But notice, and this is crucial, whatever this subsection is talking about it’s only talking about increasing assessments. Obviously, obviously, it’s not necessary to have a new hearing to reduce assessments.
Assessments can be reduced essentially at will, and if they can be reduced, they can be reduced to zero. So Rita Moreno, probably not intentionally although who knows, is using Tara Devine’s weirdo self-serving theories to lead Taylor Bazley and therefore Mike Bonin badly astray. The rest of Rita Moreno’s reasoning is slightly less crazy when considered in itself, but in context it’s based on the foregoing crazy assumptions, and crazy is strongly inherited.
The point, as always, is that Tara Devine gets paid beaucoup bigly bucks to keep properties in her infernal BID and she’s not above making stuff up in order to do so. The real question is why all these City people find her so damnably plausible, although, potentially, that’s changing. And as it changes I’ll be covering it, so stay tuned!
Transcription of the whole exchange:
Taylor Bazley <email@example.com> Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 4:54 PM
To: Rita Moreno <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I wanted to confirm a few points with our understanding of BID operations. Even though I think I know the answer, I was told to confirm that there is no process for properties to exit a BID once the vote is confirmed – correct? Also – when the BID would be up for revote in 5 years is it possible to add or subtract property at that point? Would it just be a different geography outlined in the application for renewal?
If there was, for example, a specific affordable housing development we wanted to remove from the BID we would need to wait for the 5-year renewal but as long as the BID remained contiguous there wouldn’t be too much issue – correct?
Let me know – thanks.
Rita Moreno <email@example.com> Wed, Jan 31,2018 at 8:39 AM
To: Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The only manner in which a parcel can be excluded from being assessed is if there is a change in the zoning. The Management District Plan (MDP) states:
“Future development: Other than future maximum rates and the assessment methodology delineated in this Management District Plan (MDP), per State Law (Government Code Section 53750,) future assessments may change for any given parcel if such a change is attributable to events other than an increased rate or revised methodology, such as a change in the density, intensity or nature of use of the land. Any change in assessment formula methodology or rates other than as stipulated in this MDP would require a new Proposition 218 ballot procedure in order to approve any such changes.
If a residentialiy-zoned parcel within the District boundaries is rezoned to R4, R5, commercial, industrial or open space, the parcel shall be neither assessed or serviced during the term of the District, but will likely be included upon any renewal of the District. Each year, any commercial, industrial, open space, R4, or R5 zoned parcel within the District boundaries that is rezoned to residential (R3 or below) shall be removed from the assessment roll and shall no longer receive the services or special benefits outlined in this Management District Plan.”
However, the Engineer’s Report makes an assumption about residential use properties in the District in order to assess them, and states:
“For residential parcels and residential portions of mixed use parcels within the BID (all located on commercial or industrial zoned parcels), it is the opinion of this Assessment Engineer that each of these parcels and uses specially benefit similarly to commercial/industrial parcels, from the clean and safe and district identity and special project programs designed to improve the cleanliness, security, marketability and livability of these parcels and residential units on them. Since the majority of residential units within the Venice Beach BID are used as business enterprises, live/work units, rental units, or vacation rental units whether single family units, apartments or residential condominiums, it is the opinion of this Assessment Engineer that each residential unit shall be treated as an existing or potential for-profit business enterprise, live/work unit, rental unit, or vacation rental unit. As such, the proportionate special benefits conferred on all residential parcels and units shall be considered similar to those conferred on commercial/industrial parcels within the Venice Beach BID. For these parcels, BID programs, services and improvements are designed to increase residential rental occupancies, rental income and return on investments.
These programs, services and improvements are designed to improve commerce, security and aesthetic appeal for tenants, visitors and landlords of these parcels within the Venice Beach BID by reducing crime, litter and debris and increasing the safety and attractiveness of residential rental units within the BID and the nearby array of tourist related goods, services and activities, all considered necessary in a competitive properly managed tourist-based business district.”
You may want to have a conversation with the City Attorney about those residential properties that are not a “for-profit business enterprise,” and whether the Council can make such a finding and modify the MDP to exclude those parcels from the assessment.
When the BID is up for renewal, everything is on the table and can change. And there is no legal requirement that the boundaries be contiguous.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
- In particular, see the PBID law at §36624, which allows assessments to be unilaterally lowered by City Council when BIDs are being established and also at §36650, which allows City Council to do the same thing in any year of the BID’s existence when the Annual Planning Report is in the process of being approved.
- The main limitation on the City Council’s power in this regard lies in the fact that it’s not permitted to add properties into the BID or to raise assessments. Those two actions require a full Prop-218-compliant hearing process. But no process at all is required to lower or to remove assessments or to remove properties from a BID.
- That email is part of a larger release of material, which can be found here on Archive.Org. There are one or two other items in there which are both interesting and new, and I’ll be writing about them in due course.