Remember Those Underpass Homeless Encampments Outside The South Park BID Boundaries? — The BID Is Not Only Paying Staff To Photograph Them — Also They Are Paying Staff To Lobby Miguel Santiago’s Office To Get CalTrans And CHP To Clear Them Out — Why Is A Member Of The California State Assembly Ignoring The BID’s Lawless Behavior? — Probably For Money, Doncha Think? — Or Because — With The Recent Fall Of The House Of Huizar — Santiago Feels His Path To CD14 Is Wide Freaking Open

OK, remember how there are these underpasses with a bunch of homeless encampments in them that are not in the South Park BID but the BIDdies wanted to clean them up anyway except Ellen Riotto said they couldn’t cause it was against the law but then she sent her staffies out to gather photographic evidence of the encampments which is clearly also against the law? OK, this is another episode in that story!

And it’s worth taking a moment to review just why the BID can’t spend money on stuff going on outside its boundaries, never forgetting for a moment that dedicating staff time to a matter is spending money on it, which is to say the money paid the staff member. It’s all due to the Property and Business Improvement District Act at §36625(a)(6), which states unequivocally 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

Oh, also, keep in mind that the problem, from the BID’s point of view, with these underpasses is that the City of LA seems not to be allowed to evict homeless people from under them, evidently because it’s state property under there. Thus Caltrans and the Highway Patrol somehow have to do it, and the BID just doesn’t have the influence with them that they do with the City, I guess, which apparently makes it a separate and ongoing problem for the BID.

So the other day I received a big pile of emails from the Parkies comprising correspondence between them and any email address at ca.gov or its subdomains. You can gaze lovingly upon the whole steaming heap of them here on Archive.Org. And amongst these are email after email after email between South Park BID staff and staffers in the office of Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, in whose district the BID situates, having to do with those damn underpasses.

That is to say there is plenty of evidence in there of repeated violations of §36625(a)(6). But who does one complain to about it? We’ve already seen that the Los Angeles City Clerk, which putatively oversees our BIDs, will take complaints about insufficient brutality towards the homeless, but not, it seems, about violations of the law by the BIDs themselves. And it’s disconcerting to say the least to see an actual Assemblymember conspiring to violate the laws which he and his colleagues have sworn to defend.1

Although I suppose it’s not surprising that Miguel Santiago would be involved in such a scheme, given his demonstrated proclivity for selling the best interests of the people of California down the river just cause some BIDs asked him to. As I’ve said many times, I wasn’t cynical at all before I started learning about BIDs, but the BIDdies have made me so. Turn the page, if you will, for as much of the chronology as I have, links to the emails, and a few select transcriptions.

The record, although not the story, begins with a February 6, 2018 email from BID staffie Wallis Locke to Santiago minion Jackie Koenig:

From: Wallis Locke [mailto:wallis@southpark.la]
Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 12:33 PM
To: Koenig, Jackie
Subject: DTLA Underpasses

Hi Jackie,

We’re submitting a letter to City Council asking them to design and implement a regular cleanup schedule for underpasses in and around Downtown Los Angeles. As part of that ask, we’re urging them coordinate with the State Government and Caltrans – here’s a copy of our letter just in case that request finds its way to you.

It’s pretty straightforward, but let me know if you have any questions. Hope all is well!

Wallis Locke
Director of Communications & Policy
South Park Business Improvement District

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the BID didn’t supply a copy of this letter. As you can see, though, as early as February 2018 the South Park BID was paying Wallis Locke to lobby the City of Los Angeles over an issue taking place outside the district, which is illegal. Jackie Koenig replied, adding more of her fellow staffers to the list of recipients.

And subsequently Wallis Locke sent these additional Santiago staffies their own version of the email, including some interesting new information. To wit, that not only was the BID at that point lobbying City Council directly (and illegally) to get homeless people “cleaned up” out of the underpasses, but that the BID was also rallying the troops directly (and illegally) to write their own letters demanding action:

From: Wallis Locke [mailto:wallis@southpark.la]
Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 12:40 PM
To: Gonzalez, Mark; Juarez, David
Subject: FW: DTLA Underpasses

Hi Mark & David!

I sent this up to Jackie a minute ago – the BID is requesting that City Council design and implement a regular cleanup schedule for underpasses in and around Downtown Los Angeles. As part of that ask, we’re urging them coordinate with the State Government and Caltrans and I just didn’t want her to be surprised if this makes its way up to you.

We’re currently building a coalition of people to submit letters of their own. David and I talked last week, and I’m attaching the letter here in case you’d like to share it as a template with any other constituents who call about this.

Wallis Locke
Director of Communications & Policy
South Park Business Improvement District

And for whatever reason, either because the BIDdies let the matter slide or because Miguel Santiago’s office forgot about it or some other random reason that we’re never going to understand, there the matter stood until eight months later, when Locke sent this October 18, 2018 email to Mark Gonzalez and Lizeth Zardeneta, which, by the way, was sent only two weeks before board members Bob Buente and Paul Keller had their embarrassing little freak-out about the underpasses right in the middle of their board meeting:2

Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2018 13:51:44 -0700
Subject: Re: DTLA Underpasses
From: Wallis Locke <wallis@southpark.la>
To: “Gonzalez, Mark” <Mark.Gonzalez@asm.ca.gov>
CC: “Zardeneta, Lizeth” <Lizeth.Zardeneta@asm.ca.gov>,Ellen Riotto <ellen@southpark.la>

Hi Mark & Lizeth,

I’m coming back to our favorite topic – Caltrans and the underpasses! The City has put together a task force to deal with their portions of the underpasses, but they’re still not looking very good.

Ellen saw the member recently at a CCA event, and they had a brief conversation about working something out with Caltrans to make sure the state property is cleaned regularly. At one point before I started with the BID we talked about the highway beautification act as a possible angle for doing so. I never found much there, but we would really appreciate your help finding a solution that’s more long term than routinely asking you to tackle this as casework.

I’m adding Ellen in and she can give more details about her conversation with the member. Thanks for your continued help with this, we really appreciate it!

Wallis Locke
Director of Communications & Policy
South Park Business Improvement District

And then a few minutes later BID Zeck Dreck Ellen Riotto weighs in with this little missive, specially interesting because it shows that she was talking up the issue with Santiago at a Central City Association meeting. Which is yet another example of the downright sinister kind of access to power that Carol Schatz’s nightmare horror-show conspiracy provides those who need such access.

BIDs and other suckerfish-to-the-powerful send their reps to hobnob with the politicos and propose bad BIDness. Then the politicos are all like “yeah, sure,” cause they’re softened up by being in the presence of zillions of dollars of potential campaign contributions. And those words are the suckerfish’s clue to get in touch with the staff and be all like “I proposed evil plan X to your boss, who said ‘yeah, sure.'” And that’s code for “git r done!”3 Oh yeah! The transcription:4

Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2018 14:11:37 -0700
Subject: Re: DTLA Underpasses
From: Ellen Riotto <ellen@southpark.la>
To: “Gonzalez, Mark” <Mark.Gonzalez@asm.ca.gov>
CC: “Zardeneta, Lizeth” <Lizeth.Zardeneta@asm.ca.gov>, Wallis Locke <wallis@southpark.la>

Thanks for kicking this off again, Wallis.

Mark, as Wallis mentioned, I brought this up at a recent CCA event and the Assemblymember expressed openness to working together to find some long-term solutions for ensuring that our underpasses (the main entry-points to our vibrant district) are clean and safe.

I want to share recent photos of the 110 at James M Wood and the 10 at Olive so you have a visual on what we’re talking about.

As you know, this task extends across many jurisdictions, and we need the guidance and support from your office to coordinate the many layers. Do you have some time the week of 10/29 to discuss?

Thanks in advance,

Ellen

Ellen Riotto
Executive Director
South Park Business Improvement District

And that’s the story, at least as I have it so far. Sure, there’s not much of a narrative arc, but then that’s how the story of political power and its victims in Los Angeles goes. No resolution, just an interminable sequence of horrifying little episodes reshuffled with new characters but the same plot, like some kind of satanic Oulipian theatrical spectacle. This is one of them.


Image of Wallis Locke is ©2018 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and is a transformative refiddling of this particular public record.

  1. The oath of office is found in the Constitution at Article XX section 3, and it’s worth reading the whole thing, because it’s way freaking kookier than you might expect: “I, ___________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.

    “And I do further swear (or affirm) that I do not advocate, nor am I a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that now advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means; that within the five years immediately preceding the taking of this oath (or affirmation) I have not been a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means except as follows:

    _____ (If no affiliations, write in the words “No Exceptions”) _____

    and that during such time as I hold the office of _____ (name of office) _____

    I will not advocate nor become a member of any party or organization, political or otherwise, that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of the State of California by force or violence or other unlawful means.”

  2. It’s also amusing in a Beavis McButtheadface kind of way since Locke refers to Miguel Santiago throughout as “the member.” Which given my experience of Santiago seems accurate, although it’s not the particular euphemism I myself would have chosen.
  3. I really wonder if the staffies check this out. Like could you or I or other human beings email them and be all like “I met your boss at Powerbrokers-R-Us and asked if we could use eminent domain to take enough land in the middle of the Pacific Palisades to build 50,000 units of ultra-low income housing” and he was all “yeah, sure.”
  4. Which is also interesting because Ellen Riotto refers to “the 110” and “the 10” even though I’m pretty sure she’s not from here. Probably they sent her to the BIDdiequivalent of the Monterey Language School, where they train spies and saboteurs to speak like natives.
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