I’ve been spending some time looking into the ways in which City Council offices materially support housedweller aggression against homeless residents of Los Angeles, including especially by facilitating illegal hostile architecture. Venice is one of the main theaters in which this drama is currently being performed, what with the proliferation of illegal planters and other, more idiosyncratic projects like for instance the Frederick Passageway, just west of the Penmar Golf Course. So naturally I’m spending a great deal of time sending requests to CD11 under the California Public Records Act.
And for a long time they completely ignored me, but then, by pure good fortune, in response to a request to LAPD, I received a stunning and unexpected email conversation between (now former) CD11 field deputy Taylor Bazley and various worthies proving conclusively that, despite many, many explicit denials from Mike Bonin’s flacks that there was any coordination at all between Bonin’s office and the outlaw planter-placers, Bazley was in fact directly involved in the process, even to the extent of calling in a sweep of a homeless encampment specifically so that illegal planters could be placed.
This discovery magnified the importance of the emails I’d requested from CD11 to the point where we all put on our hustle-hats and filed a petition splickety splat! And, as it turns out the City is wont to do, they pretty quickly started handing over records.1 You can take a look at the first batch here on Archive.Org. And these are all interesting, certainly, but the most interesting of all is this spool of emails between Taylor Bazley and various folks about the Frederick Passageway. There are two threads to the conversation here.
First there’s Bazley coordinating with angry housedwellers to ruin this public passageway by planting crap all over it to thwart the efforts of homeless human beings to survive, mostly because the housedwellers find them unaesthetic. Some of the identities of these housedwellers are known. For instance, there is ringleader Saul C. Janson, who claims to be some kind of lawyer. You can reach Saul at firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number seems to be (310) 452-7978.
There is also self-proclaimed coffee confectioner Allison Altschuler, who can be contacted at email@example.com. And shockingly untalented and shockingly well-known cartoonist Rick Detorie, who you can email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Last but never ever ever least is zillionaire NBC news producer Richard Adams. Get in touch with Adams at Richard.Adams@nbcuni.com or via phone at his office, (818) 684-2873, or, for that more direct and personal touch, on his cell at (818) 391-7508.
Bazley spends months, years, encouraging them. He suggests places they can find funding for their aggressive anti-human project. Listens sympathetically to their crazed rants. Really gets into the details of hostile landscaping, e.g. suggesting that they avoid shade trees because the homeless will enjoy sitting under them. Accompanies them in person to City offices to help them obtain permits. Helps them collect astroturf letters of support for submission to the Bureau of Engineering, telling them they don’t have to be sincere or even have much content as the only purpose is ass-covering in the event that someone sues the City.
And so on, all done in the inimitably sycophantic and cynical Bazleyian manner. This material is an important addition to the history of anti-homeless landscaping in Venice. To date we didn’t really know who was behind the appropriation and destruction of this public street, and we certainly did not know the extent to which Bazley and CD11 were involved in coordinating it.2
But in addition to that conversation, which is new and important but at the same time fairly predictable, familiar in tone and content if not in specifics, there are also a bunch of emails between Bazley, Mike Bonin himself, who repeatedly orders Bazley to cater to the whims of the housedwellers, and Debbie Dyner Harris, at that time a district director for Bonin, also ordering Bazley to please get to work and please please the housedwellers.
This is a side of the process we very rarely get to see. Councilmembers either only send very few emails or else their offices routinely and illegally withhold them. And these few emails are terse. The staff knows what to do, they don’t need to be told explicitly. Records, after all, will end up on the Internet. Best, then, not to generate any. This material, while actually less sensational than the other, is equally if not more important for shining light on the internal processes of Bonin’s office.
Another fact, revealed for the first time by these newly released records, is that the housedwellers were looking to this project not just as a way to exclude some unaesthetic human beings by installing plants on a public street. They were actually looking to literally privatize the street by annexing parts of it and adjoining them to their lots, thereby increasing their property values. This unexpected but ultimately not surprising development demonstrates in a pretty stark way that most if not all anti-homeless housedweller rage is actually about money.
Usually, possibly, the financial gains from hostile architecture are framed as about how aesthetics and perceptions of homeless neighbors affect property values but, at least in this case, it’s about actual annexation of publicly owned land. Thus spake Taylor Bazley: “a lot of the adjacent property owners are looking to assume ten more feet of property through the process of street vacation.” Taylor doesn’t go along with this plan, but not because he sees anything wrong with it. It’s just, he assures his boss, that it takes too long.
But as much as is revealed by these emails, one of the central mysteries remains unexplained. You’ll see, if you read on to the transcripts below, that the complaints that initiated the multi-year process of installing hostile landscaping on the Frederick Passageway are so stupid as to be incoherent. Saul Janson is angry, e.g., that the homeless people in the encampment laugh, eat food from takeout containers, own cell phones, and so on. He compares homeless people’s possessions to cancer, saying that their “stuff metastasizes daily”>.
He thinks single women are more particularly vulnerable to the unspecified predations of the homeless than, I guess, men and non-single women? The man is a slime-oozing braindead ball of enraged emotional putrefaction, certainly no one to be taken seriously. Oh, I forgot to mention! Janson and his neighbors “are mostly caring and socially responsible people.” Just ask them! If he weren’t a housedweller the best he could hope for out of City officials would be to be ignored. The worst would involve throwing away his tent or his insulin, tasing him, jailing him, 5150ing him into oblivion, leaving him to die on the pavement in the rain.
But none of that happens here. Instead of mocking and ignoring him, Bonin writes to Bazley and Dyner Harris to tell them to take care of the guy’s concerns. We’ve seen this exact phenomenon in CD13, as well as in CD11 with a whole different Klown Kar Krew, so it’s not isolated. What I don’t understand, what I despair of understanding, is why Councilmembers are so solicitous of these housedwellers. They’re not necessarily big donors. For instance, according to the Ethics Commission, none of Janson, Altschuler, or Adams have ever given a penny to Bonin.3
They’re not influential, they’re not going to sway an election. And yet the CMs listen to them, sweep encampments, disrupt lives, at their request. Maybe it’s because they’re asking for something the CMs want to do anyway and so provide political cover? I legitimately don’t get it and nothing in these emails gives even a clue. Perhaps some day this premiere open question will be solved! Meanwhile, read on for transcribed selections with some commentary and links!
The story as we know it now begins in January 2017. In fact, on January 3, 2017 at 11:16 a.m. when crazed housedweller Saul C. Janson, using his email@example.com email address, sent an email to CD11 repster Mike Bonin at his firstname.lastname@example.org email address, kicking off separate but synchronous conversations involving, on the one hand, Bonin, Taylor Bazley, and Debbie Dyner Harris and, on the other hand, Bazley and Janson.
Here’s the email chain, and find some transcribed selections below. As I said above, this is important material not so much for the slavering idiocy of Janson’s rant, but for the extremely revealing conversation between Bonin, Dyner Harris, and Bazley, showing how they coordinate their constituent outreach:
Date: Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 11:16 AM
Try walking your kids and maybe a baby carriage through this to the park.
Try being a single woman and navigating your evening run through this.
Try taking your dogs for a walk and avoiding the garbage and food—and human—waste.
Try riding your bike, alone or with your kids, though this.
Try getting a good night’s sleep with loud noise and partying outside your window.
Try not to get upset when you see a guy peeing right here…or a woman throwing a bag of feces in the bushes by your house.
All things my neighbors and I have had to and do endure.
It has actually been—and currently is—worse than when I took these photos.
I know this is not an easy situation but this can’t be the answer. As I mentioned in previous email, from what I observe some of these people are choosing to be here. [Yesterday I saw a well dressed young woman standing there laughing, eating out of a takeout container and chatting on her cell phone.] And none of them are abiding by any norms or laws. The tents are up all the time…and the stuff metastasizes daily. And, by the way, I didn’t need to be admonished by Taylor in your office for referring to the people here as “they” or “them”. I was and am referring to all the people at the end of my street. Let him come and live next to this.
If a consent decree is keeping the city from cleaning these sites up because it needs to safeguard their possessions, it boggles my mind that you and the council have been unable to secure places to store this junk and trash-and I have observed up close that it is predominantly junk and trash- and bikes.
My neighbors and I have had it. You and the city are failing us. And, by the way, we are mostly caring and socially responsible people. I wouldn’t even care that much if a few people came every evening, pitched a tent for the night and carried on. Not that that should be the solution either, but until a grander plan is able to be implemented, OK.
But this is totally wrong and unacceptable.
Saul C. Janson, Esq.
213 Rose Avenue, Suite B
Venice, CA 90291
Twenty minutes later Bonin forwarded this to Bazley and Dyner Harris with no message. I see this a lot from CMs. They have no use for staff that need to be told what to do. But, it seems, Bazley does need to be told. The next day DDH sent him the following note:
Debbie Dyner Harris <email@example.com> Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 11:58 AM
To: Mike Bonin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Taylor Bazley <email@example.com>
taylor, can you please respond to Saul today? thanks
And Mike Bonin was also monitoring the situation closely. Now, in response to Janson’s schizo screed, he was not only asking his staff to handle, he was himself seeking answers. This is a high level of attention. As I said above, it’s not at all clear why Bonin was so responsive to this nut Janson, but he was:
Mike Bonin <firstname.lastname@example.org> Wed, Jan 4, 2017 at 12:01 PM
To: Debbie Dyner Harris <debbie,email@example.com>
Cc: Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
can you guys tell me what is going on here? i looked thru old emails and saw chuy was handling this about a year ago, but have not heard this area was a problem recently, what is the situation and what is being done?
And Taylor didn’t answer right away. He didn’t answer for five more days. Which is, I assume and in case you’re wondering, why he has to start his response with a little shit-eating and back-walking:
Taylor Bazley <email@example.com> Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 8:53 PM
To: Mike Bonin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Debbie Dyner Harris <email@example.com>
I apologize for the slowness of my response.
Homeless activity has gotten pretty bad over the past two months or so at this stretch. This is a rare occasion when the photos are even understated from what I have seen firsthand. In the “short term” I asked for a cleanup here (a little less than a month ago) and continue to follow up on that. They usually take at least a month so this is not atypical for cleanups.
In the more long term, I am in very frequent communication with a committee of constituents we helped put together after a big community meeting a few months ago. Constituents hired an architectural firm and are designing a landscape project to beautify/activate the area. The biggest issue is the space isn’t used and there isn’t anything there. The initial concept included an informal walk path, an informal bike path, vegetation, and landscaping for the entire deserted street.
It is a wildly popular plan for this area and we are coming out ahead at least for now. I’m meeting with the leader next week to go over what they have come up with and then they will seek permits to implement.
Additionally, a lot of the adjacent property owners are looking to assume ten more feet of property through the process of street vacation. The plan is going ahead as if that isn’t happening since it is such a long process.
There’s no record of Bonin’s response to this if he even responded. DDH, though, perhaps used to Taylor’s typical line of bullshit, sticks to the point with him:
Debbie Dyner Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Taylor Bazley <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 10:13 AM
please make sure you get back to the constituent, thanks
And get back to the constituent Taylor does indeed! Here’s Bazley’s response, in which he reveals, as I said, that prior to January 2017 he had already been working on the project for quite a while. Also, and this is new and interesting information, that he’s hoping to pay for the whole damn thing with City money:
Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 2:10 PM
lm happy that I have a good response for this. In a lot of places around the City there are pretty limited things we are able to do because of various court rulings against the City on how it enforces code relating to personal property and encampments. On Frederick however, we have a tremendous opportunity and one which many of your neighbors have already been moving on. I have been in frequent communication with a committee of neighbors (even met with them in person this past Wednesday) about a plan to reactivate this space. Walk path, garden, landscaping, boulders, etc. etc.
They have hired a landscape architectural firm to design a plan, we have committed to making sure the permits get approved expeditiously, and I have even made the commitment to looking for City dollars to fund at least some of it (if not most or all!).
Once it is activated, once it is relandscaped, you will have a beautifully new pocket of your neighborhood and one which it is unlikely that people will be unlikely to set up encampments. Rest assured this exact street is a very high priority for this office and plans are moving ahead at what is by City standards – break neck pace.
And then, later, in February, Saul Janson hadn’t heard anything, but evidently the City did sweep the damn encampment, so he wrote to Bazley to thank him for disrupting, damaging, and endangering the lives of actual human beings solely because they offend his aesthetic sensibilities. And Bazley wrote back revealing a hitherto unknown and actually pretty shocking fact about this hostile landscaping project.
Not only, as we saw above, was he trying to get the City to pay for it, but he himself personally accompanied the revanchist housedwellers to the City counter to get the permit. Note also that Bazley BCCed his boss, presumably to show that he was well about his wicked work. That, friends, is the kind of service Mike Bonin’s office provides to anti-homeless privatizing psychopaths:
Taylor Bazley <email@example.com> Tue, Feb 7, 2017 at 4:15 PM
Bcc: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
I actually went with your neighbors this morning and ensured that the project was permitted and that the City, and not the residents, took on the permit costs. Now that the design is permitted the committee is putting out bids for the work and after that will start a significant capital campaign to finally make the project a reality! They will need to raise anywhere from $30-$70k so it will be a significant push though with the scale of the interest in the project and neighbors such as yourself i’m sure it can be realized. You will be hearing from your neighbors soon about the fundraising details!
For reasons unknown, the project was stalled until October 2017, when Janson emailed Bazley yet again to try to get things moving. The initial email in this particular conversation is not that interesting in itself, but it’s very, very interesting for the fact that it reveals that one of the hitherto unknown housedwellers involved with Bazley in the dim prehistory of this project prior to January 2017 was famous cartoonist Rick Detorie who, according to Janson, was by now sick of the whole damn thing:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 6:06 PM
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Touching base again about the homeless situation at the western edge of the golf course. Definite sense that we are starting down the encampment road again as there is an escalation of activity/camping–and associated garbage—in the last few weeks. I’m surprised it took this long.
I have been quite busy but am somewhat ready to embark on trying to organize this landscaping project. Rick (who is copied) got me the plans and permit info. He is understandably through with the whole thing given the roadblocks he ran into.
I will try to piggyback on and continue his efforts and maybe be able to bring it home.
The permit has expired. Is there anything the Councilman’s office can do to help us get that re-instated. Also, I have spoken with a few neighbors and we’d like the plan to be revised a little bit to allow for some area to walk or play with a dog or two. As the plan is currently constructed there is really no area. As for costs, this foray will all be neighborhood funded. If I can’t raise the money, it won’t happen. But my immediate neighbors have all readily expressed a willingness to contribute- and we don’t even live toward that end of the block. I wouldn’t be embarking on this if I didn’t think I could raise the funds. I just want to make sure if I do, that we will be able to move forward and at least get assistance from your office.
Please let me know.
Saul C. Janson, Esq.
213 Rose Avenue
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 452 7978
Then, maybe weirdly, by November 9, 2017 Taylor Bazley had not answered Janson’s email, so Janson asked him what was up, CCing his query to Mike Bonin, who yet again forwarded that same email to Bazley again, which, as we know by now, is his way of goading the kid into answering, which TB finally did. The content of the conversation here is less interesting than Bonin’s continued interest in making sure the process moved forward. By this November 28, 2017 email conversation, though, Bazley and Janson were getting into some detail about the kinds of plants to be used and also Janson again wants to “annex” the public street.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 8:08 PM
Thanks for meeting me last week. I have reached out to Donna Lasman but have not heard back. I traded emails with Jane—landscape designer–and hope to work on a little revision to the plan. One additional thought is that I would like to add some trees to the plan. Is this possible? I don’t think we need to allow for vehicular traffic since the houses on the end could annex those lots (as the houses on Commonwealth did)…which would not provide for any vehicle passage. But we could also place trees toward the edges if necessary.
Let me know thoughts.
Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 9:57 AM
Some trees could be a great addition. We are all about trees here at CD11; I could get you trees for free. That being said, care should probably be had as to the landscaping below the tree. I have seen shade trees (which often prohibit significant landscaping from existing under it) become magnets to folks who want to loiter because they provide an enclosed, covered feeling that shields you from the elements. None of the landscaping designed so far or imagined is conducive to vehicle traffic already so that isn’t the consideration with trees. Trees would need to be mindful of people’s houses, fences, and underground infrastructure – so far as they are then I couldn’t imagine an issue.
Just to be clear – street vacation isn’t guaranteed and it isn’t a right so it is far from clear that those properties could vacate – the process takes years to get through if the result is even ever going to be affirmative.
Note, by the way, despite the fact that they “are all about trees here at CD11”, Bazley nevertheless nixes the idea of trees based on some weirdo theories about homeless psychology which boil down to not much more than trees are bad because people, including homeless people, like trees. Also note Janson’s revival of the idea of the local housedwellers “annexing” the public street. It’s really striking how this process is imperialism on a microscopic scale.
There are homeless people making use of public property to help themselves survive. Property owners don’t like it, plot to make the public property unusable to thwart the homeless. Then realize that rather than having unusable public property they could accomplish the same goal and greatly enrich themselves by just outright privatizing the property. And that, of course, would provide them with a much more robust right to eject people. It’s really shocking. Bazley wasn’t going along with it, though, putatively because the process is too difficult although, to be (somewhat) fair, it kind of sounds like Bazley’s just making stuff up to put off Janson.
For the next few months the conversation focused on raising funds for the project. Bazley put Janson in touch with Donna Lasman of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, but she eventually declined to be involved. This material is interesting, but to save space I’m not transcribing it. Here are links if you want to read:
By March 2018, though, for some reason Taylor Bazley wasn’t answering Janson again and again had to be admonished by Bonin, whose sustained interest in this project remains unexplained. See this conversation.
To: “email@example.com” <taylor,firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Date: Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 10:30 AM
CC: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Taylor This is the third time I have emailed you in the last 3 or 4 weeks asking whether you can put me in touch with my former neighbor so I can readily get some bids on the pass-through project. I have the revised landscaping plan.
If you are not able or don’t intend to get me her information, please let me know and I will start the process all over again.
From: Mike Bonin <email@example.com>
To: Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 11:44 AM
pis reply to saul
And Bazley replied and the project stalled out yet again until May 2018 when Janson wrote to Bazley with the old homelessness equals cancer metaphor: “Here we go again. It is definitely metastasizing at the end of the block. I try to be sympathetic but the proliferation of trash, bikes and bike parts and drug dealing makes it difficult.” Bazley, though, was still not really on his game, so again in July 2017 Janson sent another rant.
And again in August. This conversation, underneath all of Janson’s moronic delusional self-pity, is interesting in that it contains strong evidence that Bazley’s inaction wasn’t caused by his uncaring incompetence, or at least not solely by such, but also by Janson’s failure to arrange for funding for the project. Which is typical of rageball NIMBY housedwellers, I believe. In any case, read it if you want to, and don’t forget to recognize who the real victim is! It is the housedwellers:
I cannot believe that a judge seeing the situation at the end of our street would deem that a constitutionally mandated situation. It is also frustrating that my neighbors and I seem to be considered as heartless, angry, selfish, etc and that the unhoused are all painted as innocents, down on their luck, having no options and not responsible for their situation. This does not seem to be the case with at least many of them here. And then there is all the stuff!
For the next few months, during which more angry housedwellers, Allison Altschuler and Richard Adams, joined the project, the conversations focused on raising the money. Then, finally, in October 2018, as explained in this long conversation, they’d settled on the ultimately successful GoFundMe and the rest was just details. Oh, except do take a look at this January 2019 thread, where Bazley gives Altschuler his characteristically cynical take on the process of documenting community buy-in for the project. No need, says Bazley, to obtain anything elaborate. It’s just that the Bureau of Engineering wants something on file in case they get sued later.
From: Allison Altschuler <email@example.com>
To: Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: “Adams, Richard (NBCUniversal)” <Richard.Adams@nbcuni.com>, Saul Janson <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 12:18 PM
Hope all is well!
Would you please send me the forms that the neighbors need to sign to show their support for the project? I am going to try to retrieve those this weekend!
Thanks so much,
From: Taylor Bazley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Allison Altschuler <email@example.com>
Cc- “Adams, Richard (NBCUniversal)” <Richard.Adams@nbcuni.com>, Saul Janson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Jan 10, 2019 at 2:54 PM
Hi Allison –
It should just be a generic letter of non objection.
Just something written say that they own property fronting the Frederick Path and are supportive of the proposal to issue an R-Permit and improve the area to turn it into a garden and walk path. I would add that you are excited about the project and think that this will be a big improvement to the project. You may as well add in your contact information just to give added legitimacy to the letter. BOE isn’t planning to be strict about it, they just want something on file so neighbors don’t decide they dislike it and sue the City for not having consulted them as legally required.
So yeah, that’s as much of the story of the Frederick Passageway as we currently understand. It’s a story that’s repeated all over the City, with housedwellers being willing to destroy any public good just to prevent homeless residents from enjoying it. And justifying their appalling anti-humanity with delusional stories about homelessness as cancer, the homeless as cheaters and con men, and themselves as victims.
And if they can make some money off it, like by privatizing actual City land, well, how much better is that? In those senses there are no revelations here. But it’s rare that we get this much documentary insight into the role the City plays in this repeated process, which is at least one of the reasons the story is worth telling in detail. I mean, I think it is, and if you don’t agree just a little bit why have you read all the way down to this, the very last sentence?!
Image of Venice housedweller Saul C.Janson is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org. Take a look at this slabfaced chunkhead’s Facebook thing if you wanna.
- Which under the law means they lose the case and therefore have to pay my lawyer. Not kidding, that’s what it means
- In fact, there’s still history to be uncovered here. In January 2017, which is where this part of the story begins, Bazley makes it clear that he has already been working on the project with a bunch of unnamed housedwellers who don’t seem to be part of the emails released here, except for the aforementioned Rick Detorie, who was part of the earlier effort, although I do not yet understand his role. Of course I continue to investigate this matter and will let you know if anything turns up!
- Not claiming here that this is a good *reason* for Bonin to be solicitous, but it would be a good *explanation* of his solicitude, which is what I’m looking for here.