Tag Archives: BID Consultants

It Appears That The City Of Los Angeles Will No Longer Sign Petitions For BID Establishment Or Renewal Until 50% Of Non-City Petitions Have Come In — If True This Would Be A Radical Change In The City’s BIDscape — Just For Instance The Venice Beach BID Would Never Have Been Established — San Pedro Would Never Have Been Renewed — If This Is True It Would Seem To Be Impossible For Venice Or San Pedro To Renew Again In Their Present Forms

I just wrote this morning on the surprising fact that it seems the LAUSD will no longer automatically approve BID establishment/renewal petitions. This in itself is a monumental development, which may make it somewhat more difficult for BID establishment to happen. The emails on which that earlier post were based, between staffers at the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID and various parties including their renewal consultant Don Duckworth, are available here on Archive.Org, are an extremely rich set, and there is much of interest in there.

Now, recall that in order for the City to move forward with the BID renewal process it’s required by the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994 for the proponents to collect petitions in favor of renewal signed by property owners holding more than 50% of the proposed assessed value, which is known in the jargon as 50%+.1 Hitherto, in accordance with an ordinance adopted by the City Council in 1996, the City of Los Angeles would always sign petitions for establishment.

However, at least according to what is clearly the most consequential item in this release, and one of the most consequential records in my entire collection, which is this May 1, 2018 email from BID consultant Don Duckworth to BLQ BID staffers Moises Gomez and Rebecca Drapper, that policy may no longer apply. Therein Duckworth is informing his clients of the status of their ongoing petition drive. Up until May 1, Don Duckworth and the staffers working with him had taken the City’s support for granted, as would be expected. However, that morning, says Duckworth, everything changed:

The City Clerk’s Office informed me this AM that the City Petitions count
[sic] not be counted until the overall total of all other Petitions was 50% or more. (That’s a new practice.) This does affect our methodology for completion of the Petition Drive as shown below. We still have some work to do!

If this is accurate, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be, it raises two monumental questions. First of all, how is it legal for the Clerk to adopt a policy like this without City Council approval given that it seems to contradict the 1996 policy, which was approved by the City Council? I am in the process of investigating this and I’ll get back to you on it if I learn anything.

Second, what will happen to BIDs with extraordinarily high proportions of City property, included by BID proponents to take advantage of the City’s automatic approval policy? The BLQ BID only has around 2.5% City property in it, so it wasn’t hard for the proponents to get to 50%+ without the City’s petitions.

However, some BIDs, and the Venice Beach BID and the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID are two of the most egregious examples, don’t seem to have any hope at all of hitting 50% approval without the City’s petitions. What will happen to BIDs like this when they come up for renewal? Turn the page for more detailed analysis and some speculation!
Continue reading It Appears That The City Of Los Angeles Will No Longer Sign Petitions For BID Establishment Or Renewal Until 50% Of Non-City Petitions Have Come In — If True This Would Be A Radical Change In The City’s BIDscape — Just For Instance The Venice Beach BID Would Never Have Been Established — San Pedro Would Never Have Been Renewed — If This Is True It Would Seem To Be Impossible For Venice Or San Pedro To Renew Again In Their Present Forms

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Two Very Interesting Records For Release — The Contract Between The City Of Los Angeles And Civitas Advisors For Establishment Of The Hollywood Route 66 BID — Shedding Light On Intersection Between BID Consulting And Lobbying — Also On Exactly What Role The Engineer Plays In Establishment Process — And February 2018 Feasibility Report Produced By Civitas

There seem to be two distinct ways that BIDs get started in Los Angeles. One is that a bunch of property owners want to start one, they talk to their council rep or the City Clerk, hire a consultant, and go through the process we’ve all come to know and love. But it seems that sometimes the City takes the initiative, they hire their own consultant, and as part of their duties, the consultant puts together a proponent group.

That seems to be what’s going on with the infamous Echo Park BID, and it’s also the way that the Hollywood Route 66 BID is being formed.1 Both of these establishments are being handled by OG2 BID consultancy Civitas Advisors. And as you may recall, a good citizen of Los Angeles recently supplied me with a massive set of emails between Civitas and the City Clerk‘s office.3

And buried amongst the interminable babbling about God-knows-what-all4 I uncovered a couple of really interesting gems. First, there is the contract between the City and Civitas for establishing the Hollywood Route 66 BID, and second there is a feasibility study for the BID prepared by Civitas in February 2018.5 Both of them have a lot to tell us about how BIDs get started and function in Los Angeles! Turn the page for excerpts and discussion.
Continue reading Two Very Interesting Records For Release — The Contract Between The City Of Los Angeles And Civitas Advisors For Establishment Of The Hollywood Route 66 BID — Shedding Light On Intersection Between BID Consulting And Lobbying — Also On Exactly What Role The Engineer Plays In Establishment Process — And February 2018 Feasibility Report Produced By Civitas

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In 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Revised Its Standard BID Administration Contract To Remove Language About Complying With CPRA And The Brown Act — Which Is Yet Another Example Of The City Refusing To Hold BIDs Responsible For Complying With Any Laws Whatsoever — It’s Not Clear What Effect This Will Have On Anything — They Certainly Did It In Response To My Activities, Though, For What That’s Worth

Regular readers of this blog are well aware that business improvement districts in California are subject to the California Public Records Act and to the Brown Act by virtue of the Property and Business Improvement District Law at §36612, which states explicitly that BIDS … shall comply with the Ralph M. Brown Act … at all times when matters within the subject matter of the district are heard, discussed, or deliberated, and with the California Public Records Act … for all records relating to activities of the district.1

Also, maybe you recall that the standard contract that BIDs sign with the City of Los Angeles contains2 a clause basically repeating this requirement. There’s a transcription of this section after the break. So in March 2016, faced with blatant disregard of the CPRA by the Downtown Center BID, I wrote to the City Clerk, Holly Wolcott, asking her to enforce the terms of the City’s contract with this obstructionist BID.

And on March 14, 2016, she wrote back to me, stating pretty clearly that she wasn’t going to make sure that BIDs complied with the Public Records Act. Again, there’s a transcription of her response after the break, but her main argument was that the City wasn’t obligated by the contract to consider whether a given BID was complying with the CPRA.

And I thought that was the end of it, but I just recently discovered that actually, it’s likely that the City took my argument much more seriously than anyone was letting on. So seriously, in fact, that in April 2016 the City Attorney completely rewrote the standard contract between BIDs and the City to eliminate all language about CPRA and the Brown Act!
Continue reading In 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Revised Its Standard BID Administration Contract To Remove Language About Complying With CPRA And The Brown Act — Which Is Yet Another Example Of The City Refusing To Hold BIDs Responsible For Complying With Any Laws Whatsoever — It’s Not Clear What Effect This Will Have On Anything — They Certainly Did It In Response To My Activities, Though, For What That’s Worth

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BID Consultant John Lambeth Of Civitas Advisors Is Working On Forming The Echo Park BID For The City Of Los Angeles — And The Route 66 BID For That Matter — No One’s Paying Him For Route 66 And The City Won’t Act Promptly Re Echo Park — What’s A Putatively Ethical Consultant To Do? — Refuse To Sign The Damn Contract Until The City Gets Its Act Together!

Good God, could the neverending saga of the inchoate Echo Park BID get even weirder? Since you ask, the answer, of course, is obviously yes. You may recall that very recently Councilbaby Mitch O’Farrell moved that the City give BID consultants Civitas Advisors another heaping beaucoup de bigly bucks to let them continue working on the extraordinarily multiyear process of creating the Echo Park BID.

The City memorialized this effort in Council File 10-0154-S1, created on February 27, 2018 to contain the above-mentioned motion. On April 13, 2018 the full council adopted the motion which, for reasons I won’t even think about pretending to understand, doesn’t seem to require Mayoral concurrence to take effect. So they got the money, they got the BID consultant, what’s the damn problem?

Well, this newly obtained April 17, 2018 email from head Civitas Honcho John Lambeth to Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott about the progress of the also-pending Route 66 BID1 sheds some light on problems with the BID formation process in Echo Park.2 As always, there’s a transcription and commentary after the break.3
Continue reading BID Consultant John Lambeth Of Civitas Advisors Is Working On Forming The Echo Park BID For The City Of Los Angeles — And The Route 66 BID For That Matter — No One’s Paying Him For Route 66 And The City Won’t Act Promptly Re Echo Park — What’s A Putatively Ethical Consultant To Do? — Refuse To Sign The Damn Contract Until The City Gets Its Act Together!

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President & CEO Tara Huckabee Devine Quoted A Renewal Consulting Price Of $49,000 To The Studio City BID — John Walker Complained — She Lowered It To $36,000, Proving That Her Original BID Was Based On Nothing At All — So Why Didn’t South Park Or Venice Get A Price Break? — Accounting Is Easy When You’re Playing With Other People’s Money — And Why Would None Of Her References Return John Walker’s Phone Calls? — Nothing Good To Say Don’t Say Anything, Perhaps?

I reported a couple days ago on interactions between Studio City BID Executive Boss Dude John Walker and thoroughly disgraced BID consultant and former engineer Ed Henning concerning the BID’s impending renewal, for which Ed Henning is the BID consultant. Well, it turns out that before hiring Ed Henning, John Walker conversed with and ultimately solicited a proposal from everyone’s favorite shadowy BID consultant, the inimitable Ms. President & CEO Tara Huckabee Devine!

And of course, these conversations took place via email! And of course I asked John Walker for copies! And of course he handed them right over!1 And of course I published them all over on Archive.Org for your edification and enjoyment! So basically, here’s what happened.

After some introductory chit-chat, President & CEO Tara Devine sent John Walker a proposal for renewal services, quoting a price of $49,000 max. John Walker was all like this is too damn much money! And in response President Tara Devine sent another proposal, and now the price was only $36,000. How is it possible to have an actual proposal for services where the price can be dropped by more than 26% just because a client complained?

If the bid could be slashed to that extent, it must have been a piece of blue sky to begin with, which means it was more than likely to have been a piece of blue sky after the price drop. That this is so is strongly suggested by the fact that Ed Henning is willing to handle the renewal for no more than $18,900, which is right around half of what Tara Devine wanted.

Of course, the real questions that Tara Devine’s jumping bean figures suggests are first, why did the South Park BID pay her around $80,000 for their renewal, and second, how freaking much money did the Venice Beach Property Owners’s Association pay her to establish their Satanic BID-by-the-sea?

“Why” questions like the first are notoriously hard to answer, but I’m going to bet that, despite President Tara Devine’s pig-headed turned-up-to-eleven intransigence with respect to public records, the second is going to be revealed soon enough.2 Anyway, turn the page for links to the emails, some transcriptions, and the usual good humored bad attitude!
Continue reading President & CEO Tara Huckabee Devine Quoted A Renewal Consulting Price Of $49,000 To The Studio City BID — John Walker Complained — She Lowered It To $36,000, Proving That Her Original BID Was Based On Nothing At All — So Why Didn’t South Park Or Venice Get A Price Break? — Accounting Is Easy When You’re Playing With Other People’s Money — And Why Would None Of Her References Return John Walker’s Phone Calls? — Nothing Good To Say Don’t Say Anything, Perhaps?

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Emails Between Studio City BID Director John Walker And Disgraced BID Consultant Slash Civil Engineer Ed Henning Shed Some Newish Light On The BID Renewal Process — E.G. Lawsuits Against BIDs Have Greatly Complicated Matters But Ed Henning Is “In constant touch with the attorneys defending the City BIDs” — The Agreement Between Henning And The BID Sheds A Lot Of Light On The Still-Unresolved Question Of Whether BID Consultancy Is Lobbying

As I mentioned the other day, I recently received a huge set of emails from the Studio City BID.1 This is an interesting time to be looking at their correspondence, because the SCBID is set to renew in January 2020, so the process is just now getting started. And although I haven’t had time yet to prep the whole multiGB release for publication, I did get this set of emails between John Walker and Ed Henning ready, along with all the attachments.

Ed Henning, you may recall, is a civil engineer and popular BID consultant. He recently handled the San Pedro BID‘s renewal. He did the engineering report for the South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID in 2015, the South Park BID in 2017, and, most famously, for the Venice Beach BID establishment in 2016. His work on that last project was so shoddy that it led to a Venice resident filing a complaint against Ed Henning with the California Board for Professional Engineers.2

And, as it turns out, he is also handling the entire renewal for the SCBID, at an estimated total cost of no more than $18,900.3 And although John Walker’s email conversation with Ed Henning was only tangentially responsive to my CPRA request,4 I got a really good set of records.

The emails contain discussions of Ed Henning’s fees, of the various tasks to be completed in the renewal process, of the wisdom of the SCBID’s adding more territory to their BID, of how various lawsuits against BIDs in Los Angeles have complicated the renewal process and of how Ed Henning is being coached by the defense attorneys in those cases on how to modify his Management District Plans and Engineer’s Reports to withstand challenges, and so on.

This is invaluable information for students of the BID consulting process. Turn the page for links, transcriptions, and discussion!
Continue reading Emails Between Studio City BID Director John Walker And Disgraced BID Consultant Slash Civil Engineer Ed Henning Shed Some Newish Light On The BID Renewal Process — E.G. Lawsuits Against BIDs Have Greatly Complicated Matters But Ed Henning Is “In constant touch with the attorneys defending the City BIDs” — The Agreement Between Henning And The BID Sheds A Lot Of Light On The Still-Unresolved Question Of Whether BID Consultancy Is Lobbying

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Echo Park BID Formation Process Rolls On, With Economic Development Committee Just Yesterday, At Behest Of CD13 Rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell, Recommending Allocation Of God Only Knows How Much Money To Civitas To Complete The Establishment Process

It’s been almost two years now since our esteemed City Council breathed new life into the inchoate Echo Park BID in May 2016 in response to a letter from the Echo Park Chamber of Commerce, who is apparently the BID proponent group for this mishegas. Well, that infusion of cash into its zombie veins apparently wasn’t enough to send it lurching off into what passes for the civic life of this fair but wounded City of ours.

Thus, evidently, CD13 rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell found it necessary a few weeks ago to move in Council that the BID formation contract with Civitas Advisors, who’s acting as the BID consultant,1 be extended.2 Yesterday, the Economic Development Committee approved3 Mitchie’s motion and sent a report to the full Council for their sadly inevitable approval.

The original Echo Park BID formation materials are collected in CF 10-0154 and for all this contract extension voodoo they started a supplemental, which is at CF 10-0154-S1. Turn the page for a transcription of O’Farrell’s motion from February 27 as well as of an interesting selection from the Committee’s report which sheds some light on where things stand.

Continue reading Echo Park BID Formation Process Rolls On, With Economic Development Committee Just Yesterday, At Behest Of CD13 Rep Mitch O’Freaking Farrell, Recommending Allocation Of God Only Knows How Much Money To Civitas To Complete The Establishment Process

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CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

Alleged bigamist and CD9 rep Curren Price to developers: Want to build a car dealership? Gimme $50,000 to pay for another damn business improvement district!
Maybe you’ve heard about the impending move of Honda of Downtown Los Angeles to a gigantic new five story building on Martin Luther King Blvd. at Hoover. Building projects of this size don’t happen in Los Angeles without a lot of involvement of the relevant Council District, which in this case is CD9, repped by Alleged bigamist Curren Price.1 The various negotiations and agreements are typically formalized in a development agreement between the City and the developer, and this is no exception. You can read the whole thing here, although it’s a heavyweight 35MB PDF download, so click with care.

And one of the typical elements of these development agreements is a statement of the public benefits that are expected to result from the project. These typically include financial contributions to this or that cause favored by the Councilmember, introduced by the phrase “Additionally, as consideration for this Agreement, Developer agrees to provide the following…” In this case, there are two of these (found on page 7 of the agreement, here’s a PDF of just the relevant page, also find a transcription after the break).

The first is $100,000 for present and future employees of Honda of DTLA to attend LA Trade Tech.2 The other contribution to the putative public benefit is $50,000 to pay a BID consultant for the formation of a new business improvement district in CD9. CD9 presently has three BIDs, which are the Figueroa Corridor BID, the Central Avenue Historic District BID, and the shadowy South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID, so this would make a fourth.

Originally I thought that this new dealership would be located in the Figueroa Corridor BID, but a glance at their map reveals that the north side of MLK is the BID’s southern boundary, which is why, I suppose, that a new BID is necessary. Anyway, there’s no real moral to this story, although I admit it’s pretty jarring to see the formation of yet another damn BID pitched as a public benefit.

That principle, however, is even written into the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994, specifically e.g. at §36601(e), which claims implausibly that ” Property and business improvement districts formed throughout this state have conferred special benefits upon properties and businesses within their districts and have made those properties and businesses more useful…” so I guess it’s no surprise that Curren Price thinks BIDs are good. Anyway, it is always useful to have more information about how and why the LA City government forms new BIDs and pays its BID consultants. Turn the page for a transcription of the relevant parts of the development agreement.
Continue reading CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

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President Tara Devine Begged Fashion District To Hire Her For BID Consulting At $72,000 But They Hired UPC At $55,000 Instead Even Though Estela Lopez Really Loves President Devine And Steve Heumann Had “Front Row Seat” To President Devine’s Work In “Impossible” Venice — President Devine Admits Against Interest That Purpose Of BID Consulting Is To “Effectuate Approval” Of Municipal Legislation

As you may recall, I’ve been studying the relationships between BIDs and the consultants they hire to guide them through the process of establishing or renewing their BIDs. As part of this work I discovered, e.g., that the Fashion District BID is paying $55,000 to FDBID Executive Directrix Rena Leddy’s former employer Urban Place Consulting for renewal services. But before the Board hired UPC they, acting as the fiscally responsible grownups they are, for whatever reason, presumed to be, solicited proposals from the City’s various BID consultants.

And, although it’s probably not such a surprise given how few BID consultants there are in this City, it turns out that famously shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine submitted a proposal! She didn’t get the job, though, possibly because her bid was almost $20,000 higher than UPC’s. And there are many things to be learned from this document, not least of which is the fact that Tara Devine, utilizing the grammatical voice known technically as “unhinged third person,” refers to herself throughout as “President Tara Devine.”1

The most important information in the document, though, has to do with the scope of services, which contains crucial information for my ongoing project of turning BID consultants in to the Ethics Commission for failing to register as lobbyists. One necessary element of the registration requirement, found in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance,2 is that a lobbyist be employed “…for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.”3

BID renewal requires the City Council to pass two distinct ordinances,4 and this fact is a key element of my my general argument that BID consulting is lobbying. But how much more effective than me arguing for this position to just have President Tara Devine admit herself, in her own words, that when a BID hires her as a consultant they are hiring her to get some legislation passed. Given this admission against interest, she’ll have a hard time arguing that she’s not a lobbyist:

Coordination with City Clerk, HCED Chair, Council President, and Council District 14 to effectuate scheduling and approval of:
o Ordinance of Intention
o Ordinance of Establishment
o Prop 218 Ballot Issuance

Anyway, the whole document is well worth your time to read, although most of it’s merely mockable rather than substantial. Turn the page for transcriptions of some selections, including a bunch of risible testimonials from President Tara Devine’s cronies in BIDlandia and their comments, as filtered through her considerable third-person ego, about her work in Venice and elsewhere.
Continue reading President Tara Devine Begged Fashion District To Hire Her For BID Consulting At $72,000 But They Hired UPC At $55,000 Instead Even Though Estela Lopez Really Loves President Devine And Steve Heumann Had “Front Row Seat” To President Devine’s Work In “Impossible” Venice — President Devine Admits Against Interest That Purpose Of BID Consulting Is To “Effectuate Approval” Of Municipal Legislation

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How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To The City Ethics Commission For Failing To Register As A Lobbyist Based On Her Work For The South Park BID In 2017

So you may recall that I’ve been working on establishing the fact that BID consulting constitutes lobbying as defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. I kicked off this project in February with shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine, whom I reported to the Ethics Commission for working as a lobbyist but failing to register as a lobbyist. Meanwhile, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a reasonable introduction to the concepts of both BID consultancy and why it’s almost certainly the kind of thing for which registration with the Ethics Commission is required.

My theory gained some credibility with the discovery that some BID consultants in Los Angeles do register as lobbyists. Since February I’ve been collecting evidence against Ed Henning for his work with the San Pedro BID and also against Urban Place Consulting for their work on Fashion District BID renewal and also Media District BID renewal.

And, of course, against Tara Devine for her ongoing work with the South Park BID. Finally, a few weeks ago I completed a generic argument1 that BID consultancy constitutes lobbying. And this morning I’m pleased to announce that, despite the twisted CPRA-defying machinations of South Park BID director of operations2 Katie Kiefer and her less-than-competent lawyers,3 I have submitted yet another complaint to the Ethics Commission against Tara Devine, this time for her BID consulting for South Park. You can read the whole complaint here.

And turn the page for a technical discussion of an interesting issue which came up while I was putting this complaint together. Note that I discussed this same issue the other day, so if you read that post, you might want to just skip the rest of this one.
Continue reading How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To The City Ethics Commission For Failing To Register As A Lobbyist Based On Her Work For The South Park BID In 2017

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