This chain of emails from December 2015 reveals that the Pacific Palisades Business Improvement District paid Urban Place Consulting $21,000 for guiding the establishment process and an additional $4,000 to the consulting engineer.1 This is yet another piece of the BID consultancy puzzle that I’ve been trying to decipher since it became clear that almost certainly BID consulting qualified as lobbying under the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance and that almost all of the qualified consultants were breaking the law by not being registered with the City Ethics Commission like, e.g., Tara Devine.2
After a chaotic hearing on the Venice Beach BID in August,1 after Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles powerhouse attorney Shayla Myers pointed out that the process was legally flawed, and after City Attorney Mike Feuer accepted her argument and told the City Council that they’d better have a do-over, after all that, the rehearing on the abhorrent BID was scheduled to be approved considered in Council on November 8, 2016. This, of course, is also the day that Americans will be deciding the future of the world, which takes up a lot of time. Venice being Venice, there has been a lot of speculation about whether Bonin did this on purpose to make it difficult for detractors to testify. Venice also being Venice, there has been an organized effort to get Bonin to postpone the hearing.
Here are eleven pages of emails from 2014 released to me yesterday by Miranda Paster of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office.1 These provide a unique2 window into the process by which BIDs are created in the City of Los Angeles. It’s clear from these emails that, despite the fact that everyone in the City government denies it, the BID formation process is encouraged, facilitated, and inextricably interwoven with City action at every stage. Of course, this confirms precisely what the California Court of Appeal found in its landmark decision in Epstein v. HPOA: that “by giving the BID the legal breath of life, the City breathe[s] life into the POA as well.”3
A persistent issue in the lead-up to the Venice Beach BID has been the question of the City parcels included in the proposed boundaries. Since City parcels are always voted in favor of BID formation (although why this is is an open question), BID proponents are eager to gerrymander in as many as possible. This is a well-known tactic in the BID consultant playbook. Yesterday, however, after the Council’s shameful and probably illegal approval of the Venice Beach BID, CD11 Councilmember Mike Bonin was quoted in Yo! Venice claiming not only that there was no gerrymandering, but that there could not have been gerrymandering:
The Venice BID boundaries were determined based on the same rules as every other BID, which excludes any residentially-zoned land (but includes commercially-zoned, industrially-zoned and government/public facilities-zoned parcels). The BID proponents decided to include all of the property that is eligible for assessment west of Abbot Kinney (which already has a Merchant’s Association that functions similarly to a BID). This is consistent with state and local law.
This statement is disingenuous at best. Sure, an engineer’s report is required, and there has to be a justification of why the boundaries are set where they’re set, but the “rules” that Bonin seems to be claiming ensure fairness only say which properties can’t be included. They don’t say anything about where the boundaries have to go. So the decision to include a strip of Venice Blvd, notably bereft of businesses of any kind, into the BID is allowed under state law and can be justified easily enough in the report since it’s not residential, but it’s hard to see any purpose for this other than to increase the City presence in the BID, which is certainly gerrymandering. 1 Finally, note that Bonin seems to be intentionally conflating the idea that the boundaries were “determined” by state law with the idea that they’re “consistent with state” law. If boundaries are determined there’s no choice. There are many choices among things that are consistent with the law. Continue reading Newly Obtained Emails Suggest that CD11 Had Significant Input Regarding Inclusion And Assessment of City Parcels In BID Despite Bonin, Staff Denials That This Is So→
Yesterday the Los Angeles City Council heard protests against the proposed Venice Beach Business Improvement District. You can watch the whole thing here. There were impassioned public comments and a lot of heckling. Also, on Monday Laura McLennan of CD11 gave me over a hundred pages of material on the VBBID, which is worth looking at. After the public comment, Mike Bonin gave a speech about why he supported the BID, which is my topic for today. You can jump directly to Bonin’s remarks in the video and as always, you can find a transcription at the end of the post. I’m just going to address a few of Bonin’s comments in detail:
Ask anybody who’s making bank off BIDs. Ask the BID Consortium. Ask the freaking State Legislature, who has incorporated their findings in the freaking Streets and Highways Code at Section 36601(e)(1). Every zillionaire in the state of California and every zillionaire lackey legislator at every level will tell you that the flipping RAND Corporation Report on BIDs proves that they’re better for the health, wealth, and eternal salvation for the people of the Golden State than the the forthcoming resurrection of Jesus, Mary, and all 12 of the apostles.1 And yet when it comes to finding out who’s behind creating them, everybody lies, everybody hides.
Here’s the story. The City creates BIDs. This is no secret. When Aaron Epstein changed the world with his lawsuit the court found that yes, the City of Los Angeles created its BIDs. Read through the records from the years of work Jackie Goldberg dedicated in the 1990s to forming a BID in Hollywood. And yet if you ask anyone at the City for any records to do with the preformation of a BID, they will trot out their official story, which is a lie, that BIDs are formed by a spontaneous movement of property owners.2 This is what Laura McLennan, Mike Bonin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, told me this morning after I asked her for a copy of the list of property owners in the forthcoming Venice Beach BID. She also told me that CD11 didn’t have the list and that I should ask the City Clerk.
I don’t know if that was meant as bitter sarcasm or was just a symptom of ignorance (although I’d hope that someone as intimately involved with the VBBID formation process as Bonin’s senior staff must be would not suffer from the requisite level of ignorance), but actually I’d already asked the Clerk yesterday, been denied at multiple levels, and that’s why I was asking CD11.3 Staff members of the division that oversees BIDs told me that they didn’t have the list, that they didn’t have anything to do with the list, that the list didn’t have anything to do with the City, and that I could ask the shadowy private consultant who’s running the private side of the process, Tara Devine, for the list. I did ask Devine, even though it was obviously a waste of time to ask someone like Devine for anything she wasn’t obligated to provide by law. And it was a waste of time. Continue reading If BIDs Are Such A Good Good Thing For The City Then Why Is Everyone Involved In Their Creation So Darned Secretive?→
Business Improvement Districts in Los Angeles — Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down!