Tag Archives: City Council

Mitch O’Farrell Endorses Upstart Hipster Bike Rider Joe Bray-Ali In Stunning Vindication Of MK.Org Prediction! Our Editorial Policy Is That Mitch O’Farrell Is Always Wrong!! Therefore We Endorse Gil Cedillo!!!

A few weeks ago we predicted that Mitch O’Farrell was endorsing Joe Bray-Ali for City Council in CD1 based on the fact that O’Farrell’s cowering toady scheduler Dave Cano had donated $125 to Bray-Ali in February.1 Well, today our prediction was vindicated beyond our wildest dreams by the fact that Mitch O’Farrell himself actually made his endorsement explicitly in the LA Times. 2 Our next prediction is that O’Farrell’s toadying staff, who’ve been taught by the charismatic but fecklessly idiotic leader of their cult that money equals love, will all start donating money to Joe Bray-Ali. Stay tuned here for details!
Continue reading Mitch O’Farrell Endorses Upstart Hipster Bike Rider Joe Bray-Ali In Stunning Vindication Of MK.Org Prediction! Our Editorial Policy Is That Mitch O’Farrell Is Always Wrong!! Therefore We Endorse Gil Cedillo!!!

It Appears That East Hollywood BID Director Nicole Shahenian Lied To Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott About The Circumstances Of The Preparation Of The EHBID’s 2015 Annual Planning Report And, As Shahenian Was A Registered Lobbyist At The Time, Thereby Violated LAMC 48.04(B)

Nicole Shahenian, you got some splainin’ to do!
The background to this post is unavoidably technical and lengthy. If you’re already familiar with the Annual Planning Report process for BIDs as mandated by Streets and Highways Code §36650, you may want to skip directly to the report I submitted to the City Ethics Commission this morning.

One requirement that the Property and Business Improvement District Law places on BIDs, found at §36650, is the submission of annual planning reports (“APRs”) to the City Council:

The owners’ association shall cause to be prepared a report for each fiscal year, except the first year, for which assessments are to be levied and collected to pay the costs of the improvements, maintenance, and activities described in the report. … The report shall be filed with the clerk … The city council may approve the report as filed by the owners’ association or may modify any particular contained in the report and approve it as modified.

And it seems that the BID isn’t allowed to spend money on stuff that’s not discussed in the APR, so it’s not a trivial matter.

The way this piece of code plays out in Los Angeles is that, first, a BID director submits the APR to the Clerk along with a formulaic cover letter. For instance, here is the one submitted by Nicole Shahenian on December 30, 2014 to accompany the East Hollywood BID’s APR for 2015. This is essentially the same letter submitted by all BIDs:

Dear Ms. Wolcott:
As required by the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, California Streets and Highways Code Section 36650, the Board of Directors of the East Hollywood Business Improvement District has caused this East Hollywood Business Improvement District Annual Planning Report to be prepared at its meeting of December 29, 2014.

And don’t forget that state law requires the City Council to adopt the report either with or without modifications. In Los Angeles this part of the process is initiated by the Clerk sending another form letter to City Council, recommending that they adopt the BID’s APR. It’s my impression that the Clerk doesn’t recommend modifications to the report at this stage. These seem to be handled by Miranda Paster before the APR is submitted to Council, as in this example involving the Media District BID. Anyway, take a look at Holly Wolcott’s January 14, 2015 recommendation to City Council with respect to the East Hollywood BID’s APR. Like every such document, this states:

The attached Annual Planning Report, which was approved by the District’s Board at their meeting on December 29, 2014, complies with the requirements of the State Law and reports that programs will continue, as outlined in the Management District Plan adopted by the District property owners.

And it goes on from there to recommend:

That the City Council:

  1. FIND that the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year complies with the requirements of the State Law.
  2. ADOPT the attached Annual Planning Report for the East Hollywood Property Business Improvement District’s 2015 fiscal year, pursuant to the State Law.


But there are a number of problems with this story. First, it appears that the East Hollywood BID Board of Directors did not actually meet on December 29, 2014. In fact, it appears that they did not meet at all in December 2014. Of course, it’s notoriously difficult to prove a negative, but I’m going to give it a go.
Continue reading It Appears That East Hollywood BID Director Nicole Shahenian Lied To Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott About The Circumstances Of The Preparation Of The EHBID’s 2015 Annual Planning Report And, As Shahenian Was A Registered Lobbyist At The Time, Thereby Violated LAMC 48.04(B)

Huge News: LA Community Action Network Lawsuit Against Central City East Association and City Of LA Poised To Settle, CCEA Agrees To Specific, Extensive Restrictions On Homeless Property Confiscation, Will Pay $25,000 To LAFLA In Damages, Legal Fees, And Costs. City Of LA Settlement Expected To Go To City Council Soon, LAMC 56.11 Enforcement Likely To Be Severely Attenuated

News of a settlement in the momentous lawsuit brought by the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles on behalf of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the LA Catholic Worker, and a number of individuals over the confiscation of homeless people’s property by BID and by City, has been rumbling around PACER for about one year now. Well, yesterday evening, the first concrete details of the ongoing settlement process arrived. The parties filed a joint report indicating that concrete terms had been reached with both CCEA and the City of Los Angeles. The City of LA part still has to be approved by City Council, but according to the document, this is likely to happen within 45 days.

On the other hand, amazingly, the proposed agreement between the CCEA and the plaintiffs has actually been filed! It must still be approved by Judge Philip Gutierrez, but it strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely that it would not be. The agreement severely restricts the circumstances under which the BID can confiscate property. The terms of this part of the settlement make it seem very likely that the City will agree to severe restrictions in its enforcement of LAMC 56.11, the property confiscation ordinance, at least on Skid Row. CCEA will also pay LAFLA $25,000 for damages, fees, and costs. Turn the page for some details of what the CCEA has agreed to.
Continue reading Huge News: LA Community Action Network Lawsuit Against Central City East Association and City Of LA Poised To Settle, CCEA Agrees To Specific, Extensive Restrictions On Homeless Property Confiscation, Will Pay $25,000 To LAFLA In Damages, Legal Fees, And Costs. City Of LA Settlement Expected To Go To City Council Soon, LAMC 56.11 Enforcement Likely To Be Severely Attenuated

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 Venice Beach Property Owners Association

Tara Devine at the Venice Beach BID hearing on August 23, 2016, a day on which she engaged in at least 2.5 hours of lobbying activity.
The TL;DR is that I believe that in the course of her consultancy with the Venice Beach BID, Tara Devine qualified as a lobbyist within the meaning of the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance, was therefore required to register with the Ethics Commission, and failed to do so, putting her in violation of the law. If you know what all those terms mean, you may want to go straight to the complaint (Warning: 23MB PDF). For a detailed explanation of the background, though, read on!

The key is found in Section 48.07, which states that “An individual who qualifies as a lobbyist shall register with the City Ethics Commission within 10 days after the end of the calendar month in which the individual qualifies as a lobbyist.” After all, anyone can search the Ethics Commission’s database and see that Tara Devine has never registered as a lobbyist. So the question is whether Tara Devine is “An individual who qualifies as a lobbyist.” This turns out to be a fairly complicated thing to determine.

The first place to start when interpreting any law is with the definitions. In the case of the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance (henceforth “MLO”) they are found at LAMC §48.02. In particular, we will find that the word “lobbyist”:

means any individual who is compensated to spend 30 or more hours in any consecutive three-month period engaged in lobbying activities which include at least one direct communication with a City official or employee, conducted either personally or through agents, for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.

And in order to see whether this applies to Tara Devine, we need to understand the following terms:

  • Lobbying activities
  • Municipal legislation
  • Attempting to influence


And once we understand what those three phrases mean, we have to show that Tara Devine was paid for 30 or more hours lobbying on behalf of someone else. The details, as always, are after the break!
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 Venice Beach Property Owners Association

Historic Core BID Executive Directrix Blair Besten Nominated For Measure HHH Citizens’ Oversight Committee, Opposed By Skid Row Organizers, Service Providers, and Sane People Everywhere

Blair Besten, Executive Directrix of the Historic Core BID, all decked out in her patented EZ-clutch pearl necklace.
L.A. voters recently approved Measure HHH, which will fund homeless services via the sale of $1.2 billion in bonds. Last December the City Council approved the creation of a citizens’ oversight committee to monitor the expenditure of this vast sum of money. That committee consists of seven people, three appointed by the Council and four appointed by the Mayor. The Mayor doesn’t seem to have nominated anyone yet, but last Friday the Council, in CF 16-1060-S1, nominated their three. The only weirdo in the bunch is Blair Besten, executive directrix of the Historic Core BID downtown.

Of course, anyone who follows the bad BIDness propagated by our City’s business improvement districts knows this is a bad, bad idea for any number of reasons. It was therefore heartening to see, tonight, explicit opposition to Blair Besten’s appointment coming from a coalition of Skid Row organizations and service providers. Their eloquent and well-argued letter hit the Council file mere moments ago. You can read the whole thing after the break if you don’t like PDFs. Now, I have to say that I agree with their reasoning, and from the point of view of sound public policy, I completely agree that her appointment is a terrible idea. However, for for purely selfish reasons I kind of hope she makes it on, because the potential for chaos is high. Note that this is up for a vote TOMORROW.
Continue reading Historic Core BID Executive Directrix Blair Besten Nominated For Measure HHH Citizens’ Oversight Committee, Opposed By Skid Row Organizers, Service Providers, and Sane People Everywhere

What Does The City Of Los Angeles Consider “A Significant Number Of Protests” Against BID Formation Or Renewal? A Tragic Lesson From A Failed 2016 Attempt To Disestablish The Los Feliz Village BID

Looking south along Vermont Avenue from Russell Avenue in 1974 (with a good old triangular RTD sign in the foreground!). The trees are bigger now, but otherwise is Los Feliz Village really better off 43 years later?
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that the locus classicus of operational BID policies in the City of Los Angeles is to be found in Council File 96-1972, which is too old to have actual documents online, but I scanned and published a number of them last year.1 Therein may be found the City’s BID Policy and Implementation Guidelines, which are meant to provide an L.A.-specific implementation of the Property and Business Improvement Law of 1994.

Chapter 2 of that law describes the process for establishment and renewal of a BID,2 and it’s remarkable how tentative, how conditional the process is. It’s well-known by this point that in order for a BID to be formed it’s necessary that property owners representing more than 50% of the assessed value be in favor.3 It’s necessary, but it by no means sufficient. Section 36625(a) very clearly leaves the question of formation up to the Council:

If the city council, following the public hearing, decides to establish a proposed property and business improvement district, the city council shall adopt a resolution of formation…

The only mandatory requirement with respect to BID establishment in the whole Chapter is found in Section 36623(b), which says that if owners holding 50% or more of the assessed value are opposed to the BID, not only can it not be formed, but no further attempts can be made to form it for a year.

And the discretionary nature of the process is reflected in the City’s BID Policy and Implementation Guidelines as well. Therein it states:4

The City Council can proceed with the BID if the protest is less than 50%. However, BID proponents are cautioned that they should not expect a favorable vote from the City Council with a significant number of protests.

From the context it’s clear that the policy means that there is some threshold of protest less than 50% with respect to which the Council will not establish the proposed BID even though the Property and BID Act would allow them to do so.

Thus the question arises as to what this threshold is. Well, it turns out that an episode early last year involving the Los Feliz Village BID sheds some light on this question.5 The short answer is that business owners6 representing 16.95% of the assessed value protested, an unprecedented number,7 and yet City Council renewed the BID unanimously. Turn the page for a detailed recounting of the tragic details!
Continue reading What Does The City Of Los Angeles Consider “A Significant Number Of Protests” Against BID Formation Or Renewal? A Tragic Lesson From A Failed 2016 Attempt To Disestablish The Los Feliz Village BID

Everybody’s Favorite Puppet-Wielding Crackpot Wayne Spindler Files Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles Alleging Violations Of Constitutional Rights — Here Are Copies Of The Pleadings

Wayne Spindler in normal clothes in 2010.
Habitual City Council commenter Wayne Spindler, he of the don’t-go-near-Herb-Wesson restraining order and the subsequent entirely righteous we’re-not-gonna-prosecute-because-being-an-asshole-isn’t-illegal decision by L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey’s office,1 has filed a federal suit against the City of Los Angeles for violating various Constitutional rights in connection with his May 2016 arrest.

The incomparable Emily Alpert Reyes has the story in this morning’s Times and we have the primary sources, hot off of PACER! As long as I was getting these pleadings, I figured I’d go ahead and get the ones from the case he filed last July as well,2 and all of them are available here:

I’ll collect the papers in those directories as they’re filed because the cases interest me, but I probably won’t be writing more about them unless something extraordinary occurs. Spindler is an attorney3 and seems to be acting pro se in both these cases. As always, this makes for some fairly lively legal writing, samples of which you can find after the break if you, like so many these days, are PDF-averse.4
Continue reading Everybody’s Favorite Puppet-Wielding Crackpot Wayne Spindler Files Yet Another Federal Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles Alleging Violations Of Constitutional Rights — Here Are Copies Of The Pleadings

Is Mike Bonin A Liar Or A Fool? Which Is Holly Wolcott? Tara Devine? They’ve Acted As If There Was No Effective Way To Remove Residential Properties From The Venice Beach BID Without Rezoning When They Must Or Should Have Known That State Law Explicitly Empowers City Council To Do So Unilaterally

Did Mike Bonin lie about his ability to remove properties from the Venice Beach BID? Or did he just not care enough to read the law governing BID formation? Or both?
One of the most contentious issues in the very, very contentious formation of a business improvement district in Venice has been the existence of properties with commercial zoning that are used solely for residential purposes that were included in the BID and therefore assessed. This is the basis of a recently filed lawsuit against the City as well as a significant number of other protests against the BID.

For instance, in May 2016, Venice homeowner1 Louis Traeger wrote to the City protesting the inclusion of his home in the BID. On June 1, 2016 Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott answered him, stating:

In address of your request to remove said property from the proposed Business Improvement District, the City Clerk does not have the authority to remove or add properties in a Business Improvement District. However, we will forward your request and this information to the Engineer conducting the survey and analysis for the creation of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District.

Further, you requested notice of any hearing concerning the approval of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District in order to submit your written opposition. If your property is ultimately included within the Business Improvement District boundaries, a notice of the City Council hearing date will be mailed to you. At the hearing, an opportunity will be provided to protest the establishment.

Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott whispering secrets to Councildude Mitch Englander on November 8, 2016. She tells the truth, and nothing but the truth, but no how, no way, are you telling the whole truth, Ms. Holly.

As far as I can tell2 what Holly Wolcott says is the truth and it’s nothing but the truth, but it is in absolutely no way at all the whole truth. Her statement that “the City Clerk does not have the authority to remove or add properties in a Business Improvement District” is true. When she follows it up with a statement that she will “forward your request and this information to the Engineer conducting the survey and analysis” she is certainly creating the impression that ONLY the engineer is empowered to remove properties. This is not true. It’s really badly not true, as I will demonstrate below.

On July 27, 2016 Holly Wolcott wrote to Venice homeowners William and Laura Kuel making essentially the same argument, but with this additional twist:3
Continue reading Is Mike Bonin A Liar Or A Fool? Which Is Holly Wolcott? Tara Devine? They’ve Acted As If There Was No Effective Way To Remove Residential Properties From The Venice Beach BID Without Rezoning When They Must Or Should Have Known That State Law Explicitly Empowers City Council To Do So Unilaterally

Save Valley Village Vote-Trading Lawsuit Against LA City Council Dismissed With Prejudice Despite (Or Perhaps Because Of) Entirely Truthful Yet Delightfully Unhinged Pleading Filed By The Good Guys

Morning in Valley Village in 2007.
In September, local activist group Save Valley Village filed suit against the City of Los Angeles and the City Council alleging in their petition that

The Councilmembers of the Los Angeles City Council operate according to an agreement, i.e. The Vote Trading Pact, not to Vote No on any Council Project in another council district and said agreement by its very terms requires reciprocality, also called mutuality, whereby the agreement not to Vote No by one Councilmember is given in exchange for the other Councilmember’s not to vote No on a Council Project in his/her council district.

In October the City filed a demurrer,1 and then in the last couple weeks there have been a number of documents filed, leading up to the Court’s dismissing the case with prejudice.2 It’s a pity in one sense, because this is precisely one of the ways in which the City Council is corrupt. It ought to be against the law, and if the Court is correct in its ruling that there presently are no laws which it’s against, then such a law needs to be written. That it should be written is self evident. How to write it, how to enact it, these are not such easy questions to answer. Turn the page for links to all the recent filings, including the judge’s detailed ruling on why he dismissed the case as well as excerpts from the tragically, beautifully loony and also fairly convincing petitioners’ memorandum in opposition to demurrer.3
Continue reading Save Valley Village Vote-Trading Lawsuit Against LA City Council Dismissed With Prejudice Despite (Or Perhaps Because Of) Entirely Truthful Yet Delightfully Unhinged Pleading Filed By The Good Guys

Evidently a Settlement Has Been Finalized in LA Catholic Worker, LA CAN v. City of LA, Central City East Association

According to a document filed mere moments ago with the court, all parties to LA Catholic Worker and LA CAN v. City of LA, CCEA have agreed on a settlement. The terms of the settlement have not yet been announced, but they will be going to the LA City Council for approval “in the near future.” If you’re PDF-averse you can read salient selections after the break.
Continue reading Evidently a Settlement Has Been Finalized in LA Catholic Worker, LA CAN v. City of LA, Central City East Association