So remember a couple weeks ago I went to yet another damn meeting of the damn board of damn directors of the damn South Park BID and they were all yukking it up over what they apparently see as their exceedingly clever habit of referring to various homeless encampments as different cities in India cause that’s evidently the kind of thing that passes for wit amongst the white zillionaire elite of Los Angeles?
And then Parkie board members self-proclaimed schmuck Paul Keller and Bob “Mr. Clean on Halloween” Buente were all like why don’t we just send our cleaning crew over to “Bombay” and “Calcutta” and clean up the damn streets? Like what would actually happen to us? Would we go to jail with the homelesses?! And Ellen Salome Riotto, zeck dreck of the Parkies, said no, friends, we would get sued cause it’s illegal but never fear we are taking pictures and uploading them to the Dropbox and almost certainly that’s going to fix everything.
Well, whatever, amirite? Cause who has time to waste on interpreting the delusional legally-themed meanderings of a bunch of zillionaires? But when I hear about BIDs putting stuff on Dropbox I know it’s time to fire off yet another request for public records, and that’s just what I did! And, because whatever their flaws, faults, failings, and foibles, the South Park BID under Ellen Salome Riotto is exceedingly ultra-compliant with the CPRA,1 just a few days later I got a link to the very Dropbox itself.
Here’s the link if you want to poke around for yourself, and in case it goes away at some point I downloaded everything, lightly renamed the files for easy sortability, and popped them onto Archive.Org for your viewing and analytical pleasure. And the pictures reveal a probably predictable truth, which is that despite all her showy public caution about not sending BID cleaning crews outside of the district, Ellen Salome Riotto and/or her photo-snapping minions broke the same law they would have broken had they just gone ahead and cleaned up the trash. Turn the page for a disgustingly detailed analysis, why dontcha?
First of all, the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, which authorizes and regulates the BID’s existence, states really clearly at §36625(a)(6) that:
The revenue from the levy of assessments within a district shall not be used to provide improvements, maintenance, or activities outside the district or for any purpose other than the purposes specified in the resolution of intention
And paying staff members to go outside the district to take photos which are then posted to a Dropbox paid for out of assessment revenues is just as much an activity as paying for a damn cleaning crew. There’s no viable distinction to be made here.2 And I don’t know if you looked at any of the pictures yet, but it’s actually possible to prove from internal evidence that the subjects are outside the district and the photographer(s) was/were outside the district when they were taken.
The photos fall into two main groups. First there are a bunch of pictures taken between September 18 and September 26, 2018 and identified as being taken at “James M. Wood & 8 St.” This is slightly cryptic because I really think that James M. Wood and 8th Street don’t intersect. From the content of the pictures it appears that what’s meant is James M. Wood and 8th Place, which do intersect right under the 110, at least according to Google Maps.
Also, take a look at the map of the SPBID. A crop of the relevant corner appears somewhere near this sentence. It’s clear from the map there that the underpass is not part of the BID. And many of the pictures taken in that area were taken under the underpasses. Here are links to all of them:
The next group of pictures were taken on Olive Street south of 17th Street according to the Dropbox folder they’re in. Again, a quick look at the BID map will show that the South Park BID’s southern boundary is 17th Street. Thus any activities taking place south of 17th Street or even on the south side of 17th Street are taking place outside the boundaries of the BID. And here are links to all the Olive Street photos:
And as before, it’s clear from the map that the actual underpass is not in the BID, so all of these pictures that were taken under there by BID employees were taken outside the BID boundaries. But with other pictures it’s not so clear. For instance, take a look at this one. It’s not especially clear where the photographer was standing, but some detective work reveals all!
First of all, here’s the metadata that is appended to the image:
File size : 3753609 bytes
File date : 2018:10:19 03:43:00
Camera make : Apple
Camera model : iPhone 7 Plus
Date/Time : 2018:10:15 10:17:36
Resolution : 3024 x 4032
Flash used : No (auto)
Focal length : 4.0mm (35mm equivalent: 28mm)
Exposure time: 0.0003 s (1/3195)
Aperture : f/1.8
ISO equiv. : 20
Whitebalance : Auto
Metering Mode: pattern
Exposure : program (auto)
JPEG Quality : 92
This tells us that the photo was taken at 10:17 AM on October 15, 2018. However, daylight savings time ended on November 4 this year, so that the actual time the photo was taken was 9:17.3 It’s pretty well known that it’s possible to tell time from the position of the sun in the Northern Hemisphere by using the shadow of a thin vertical object, which points to the hour on an imaginary clock face with 12:00 pointing North.4 Possibly less well known is the fact that this process can be reversed. If the time is known, then a horizontal clock with a shadow pointing to the hour will have 12:00 pointing North.
This process is not especially accurate given the fact that local time doesn’t actually exist any more now that everyone has a phone, but it’s not important, as we also have the street grid to orient ourselves to. So I’m just going to assume here that it’s 10:00 AM PDT, which is 9:00 AM PST, which is approximately 9:00 AM sun time in Los Angeles. An image with the shadow of a utility pole pointing towards 9:00 shows us that North is more or less to the left of the picture. That proves that the photographer was facing East, and therefore that the picture was taken from the Southwest corner. If this is indeed the intersection of Olive and 17th Street then it was not taken inside the BID.
Now, these pictures didn’t take themselves. They were taken by people. And if those people were on the BID’s payroll, they were paid with “revenue from levy of assessments.” Not only that but did you see in the metadata that the picture was taken with an iPhone? There’s at least a reasonable chance that the BID supplies its employees with their phones. I know, e.g., that the Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance pays for BID staff phones.5 If that’s the case, and obviously I already have a CPRA request in to find out, then that’ll be another use of “revenue from levy of assessments” to fund activities outside the BID.
So what is to be done? Sadly, the most likely answer is that probably nothing will happen to the BID. As I’ve said on many occasions, the City of Los Angeles seems to have no interest whatsoever in making sure that its BIDs comply with the law. But it’s not healthy to let cynicism coax one into inaction. As soon as my schedule allows I’ll report these people to the Controller, who has ultimate authority to audit BIDs.
But I have previously asked the Controller to audit some BIDs. Notably the Central City East Association for precisely this kind of violation. And they told me that they did not have the authority to do so. This is patently false because the BIDs’ contracts with the City include a clause giving the Controller audit authority. But I failed to explain this in the complaint, which was written before I learned the importance of including an argument to convince the tribunal that they in fact have the authority to decide the case.
And in fact there was a moment in 2005 when the Controller actually did audit some BIDs. And the results weren’t pretty. More recently, in 2016, the City Clerk has at least created the impression that they were ready to audit some BIDs, but as far as I can tell nothing has come of it. And probably nothing will come of this complaint either but, nevertheless, it has to be made.
Image of Ellen with the good hair is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.org and is kinda scroofed around from this twit pix of ESR with a little extra hair added in from hither and yon.
- God only knows how long that’s gonna last. Probably about two minutes after I send them a Brown Act demand letter, if experience is any guide.
- By the way, this seems to be a characteristic move of Ellen Salome Riotto. I know I keep hinting about this nuclear-level Brown Act thing with this BID, and it is coming, don’t worry. But there too, she’s all like we can’t do X because it violates the Brown Act so instead we’ll do Y, never stopping to consider that Y violates the Brown Act even more flagrantly than did X. Man, that’s going to be a heart-stopping post when I am finally able to write it, just wait!
- When I say “actual time” I just mean the time it would be without daylight savings time. Obviously this is a complicated issue and it’s not really possible to go into it here. And it doesn’t matter.
- Of course this also works in the Southern hemisphere, but 12:00 is pointing South.
- Kerry Freaking Morrison told me this personally way back when she was still speaking to me.