Tag Archives: Byzantine Latino Quarter BID

Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Studio City BID For Three Violations — Most Importantly They Require An ID And Permission From The BID To Attend Meetings — Also They Totally Screwed Up Closed Session Requirements — And Also They Deliberate Via Email Just Like The Byzantine BIDdies — So I Fired Off Another Demand Letter — Now We Wait Thirty Days To See If They Capitulate!

Last week I attended my first meeting of the Studio City BID‘s board of directors, and what a fiasco, friends! Aggressively clueless board member Matthew Dunn walking out because I was filming him and so on. But I put off telling you about the most interesting parts! Which is why I’ve gathered you all here this morning! You see, the BID violated the Brown Act in two very serious ways at the meeting.

First of all, the BID holds its meetings inside CBS Studio Center,1 It not only requires an ID to get in there and the registration of one’s name and an image of one’s driver’s license, but also convincing a hostile security guard who thinks BID meetings aren’t open to the public and some other problems. All together these are, of course, violations of the Brown Act at §54953.3, which states unequivocally that:

A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.

We’ve seen exactly this kind of thing with BIDs around the City, who hold their meetings in so-called secure buildings, where IDs are required by the property owners rather than the BID itself. E.g. in October 2014, the very same month I founded this blog, Kerry Morrison and her Central Hollywood Coalition were guilty of this. More recently, in April I reported the South Park BID to the LA County DA for violating this exact provision. The universal excuse seems to be that it’s legal for the property owner to require ID, just not the BID.

Of course, the plain language of the statute shows that that argument is entirely fallacious. The law doesn’t say anything about who’s not allowed to require ID, so therefore no one is allowed to require ID. And because, as you know, I haven’t gotten much if any satisfaction from the LA County DA on Brown Act violations, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and use the provisions in the law which allow private citizens to enforce it.

I kicked off this project last month with a demand to the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID which was entirely successful, at least so far, in that the BID caved entirely and unconditionally agreed never ever ever to violate the law again. And the Studio City ID and name registration requirement is a perfect test case for the enforcement of §54953.3. Thus did I fire off this demand letter to BID secretary Gilbert Stayner yesterday afternoon, making Studio City the honored second participant in my private Brown Act enforcement project. They have thirty days to capitulate, and if they don’t, we’re off to Superior Court!2

And Brown Act violations are like cockroaches in the usual cliched sense, and this case is no exception to that rule. The BID also seriously messed up its closed session, which of course I added to the demand, and there was a little problem in May 2018 involving them deliberating via email, which I also added. The first of these is highly technical and the second is fairly repetitious, so I put all the details after the damn break!
Continue reading Latest Episode In The Brown Act Enforcement Project Targets Studio City BID For Three Violations — Most Importantly They Require An ID And Permission From The BID To Attend Meetings — Also They Totally Screwed Up Closed Session Requirements — And Also They Deliberate Via Email Just Like The Byzantine BIDdies — So I Fired Off Another Demand Letter — Now We Wait Thirty Days To See If They Capitulate!

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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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Has The Los Angeles Unified School District Turned Against BIDs? — At Its May 8, 2018 The School Board Voted Against A Staff Recommendation To Support Seven Renewals — On The Grounds That The Money Would Be Better Used For — Gasp!! — Educating Students

It’s well-known that the City of Los Angeles always votes its property in favor of BID formation. In fact, an ordinance passed in 1996 directs the Clerk to vote yes on both petitions and ballots unless the City Council specifically directs otherwise. And to my knowledge, the same has been true of the Los Angeles Unified School District. There have been signs, albeit not dispositive, of some LAUSD discontent with the policy, e.g. the probably intentional voiding of all petitions, but no open rebellion that I’m aware of.

And BIDs are evidently used to taking LAUSD petitions and ballots for granted. For instance, the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID is currently in the process of renewing.1 And I just received a huge release of emails about the renewal from BLQBID director Moises Gomez, which you can look at here on Archive.Org. It’s clear from the discussion that Don Duckworth and Moises Gomez were counting the LAUSD petitions as already-hatched chickens2 but, amazingly, it was not to be.

In April 2018 LAUSD staff prepared a report recommending that the Board sign petitions approving seven BIDs in Los Angeles. But at its May 8, 2018 meeting, the LAUSD Board voted down the staff proposal, and, according to staffer Yekaterina Boyajian, writing in an email to Moises Gomez on May 21, this is how it went down:

The proposal for the District to sign these petitions in support of the BIDs was not approved. The Board expressed the desire to support the BID petitions, and staff spoke to the positive relationships schools have with existing BIDs, but the Board felt that they could not justify supporting the expenditure of public education funds for purposes other than education in a time when the District is facing historic budget deficits.

It wasn’t just the BLQ BID that got its hopes dashed, either. The other BIDs whose petitions were rejected were the Arts District, the Fashion District, the Hollywood Entertainment District, the Hollywood Media District, the Lincoln Heights Benefit District, and the Melrose BID. Quite a distinguished list, eh?

And turn the page for a detailed explanation of the BLQ BID’s evolving thinking about these LAUSD petitions between February and May 2018, along with the usual links to and transcriptions of any number of really interesting emails!
Continue reading Has The Los Angeles Unified School District Turned Against BIDs? — At Its May 8, 2018 The School Board Voted Against A Staff Recommendation To Support Seven Renewals — On The Grounds That The Money Would Be Better Used For — Gasp!! — Educating Students

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How Herb Wesson Arranged For His Constituents To Pack A Council File With Phony Astroturf Letters Supporting His K-Town Homeless Shelter — And The Letters Were Written By Herb Wesson’s Assistant Chief Deputy Andrew Westall

One of the important topics we study here is the function of business improvement districts as lobbyists, not least as tools that the City uses to lobby itself in order to create the illusion of popular support for its initiatives. We recently saw an excellent example of this trope when Eric Garcetti used the Wilshire Center BID to supply a speaker putatively from the community to support his and Herb Wesson’s proposed Koreatown homeless shelter.

And it seems that Eric Garcetti was not the only LA Politician engaged in astroturfing support for this project. Just yesterday I obtained a huge trove of emails from the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID along Pico Blvd. The most interesting item in there1 is a May 15, 2018 email from Herb Wesson’s field deputy Cairo Rodriguez to Moises Gomez, BLQ BID director, asking him to submit a letter supporting the shelter.

But the most amazing, unexpected part of Cairo Rodriguez’s appeal is that it came with a letter of support attached, just waiting for the blanks to be filled in. See here for the original DOCX file, and here for a PDF, and there’s a transcription after the break. This is so peculiar, isn’t it? Obviously Herb Wesson’s not trying to convince himself to vote for the shelter, and he doesn’t have to convince his colleagues, because they’ll vote for anything he supports in his own district, so what’s the point of these letters? So strange.

According to the metadata this faked-up letter of support was written by Andrew Westall, one of Herb Wesson’s senior staff members. And a glimpse at Council File 18-0392 shows that a lot of copies of this astroturf letter were in fact submitted by a lot of different organizations on letterhead, with signatures.2 There are links to samples after the break.
Continue reading How Herb Wesson Arranged For His Constituents To Pack A Council File With Phony Astroturf Letters Supporting His K-Town Homeless Shelter — And The Letters Were Written By Herb Wesson’s Assistant Chief Deputy Andrew Westall

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