Tag Archives: Los Feliz Village BID

Rafik Ghazarian And His Criminal Cronies From The Los Feliz Village BID Saved From Prosecution And Their Infernal BID From Dissolution On The Merest Of Mere Technicalities

One month ago today, you may recall, I reported the Los Feliz Village BID to the Public Integrity Division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.1 I had exceedingly strong smoking gun level evidence, and you can read the original complaint here. Well, this morning I was semi-pleased to receive a copy of a letter from Alan Yochelson of the D.A.’s office to the BID’s attorney, Mr. Hollywood himself, Jeffrey Charles Briggs.

You can read a transcription after the break, but the upshot is that, as the DA received my complaint 91 days after the incident, they were barred by the Brown Act, which requires action within 90 days, from doing anything about it. However, Alan Yochelson, who handles Brown Act matters for the DA, saw fit to advise Jeffrey Charles Briggs to tell his client, the LFVBID, that such discussions as were had outside of duly noticed public meetings by the BIDdies, were against the fricking law.

The stakes were high, as it’s at least theoretically possible to force the dissolution of a BID if they’re found to have violated any law. Hence I expect that they’ll probably pay close attention to the Brown Act’s requirements in the future. I know I’ll pay very close attention to the deadline, which I didn’t know about, more’s the pity!
Continue reading Rafik Ghazarian And His Criminal Cronies From The Los Feliz Village BID Saved From Prosecution And Their Infernal BID From Dissolution On The Merest Of Mere Technicalities

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How I Reported The Los Feliz Village BID To The LA County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit For Brown Act Violations

You may recall that a couple weeks ago I published a big stack of emails from the famed Los Feliz Village BID. Amongst these were this little gem of an email chain, wherein the entire Board of Directors of the LFVBID, over the course of about two weeks in May 2017, discuss some nonsense relating to something called Urban Air Market. The facts themselves are as tedious as can be but, as I noted previously, the Brown Act at §54952.2(b)(1) explicitly forbids this kind of thing:

A majority of the members of a legislative body shall not, outside a meeting authorized by this chapter, use a series of communications of any kind, directly or through intermediaries, to discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item of business that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.

Well, I’ve been so busy working on matters related to the revisions to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance that’s presently being worked on by the Ethics Commission that I’ve barely had time to think of anything else. Yesterday, though, I needed a little break from lobbying and decided to take the time to write up a report to the LA County DA’s Public Integrity Division regarding this egregious violation. You can download a copy of the complaint or read a reasonably faithful transcription after the break.1
Continue reading How I Reported The Los Feliz Village BID To The LA County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit For Brown Act Violations

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A Bunch Of Emails Between The Los Feliz Village BID And The City Of Los Angeles Reveal A Number Of Interesting Issues, Not Least Of Which Is City BID Analyst Giving The BID Legal Advice On CPRA Requests Contrary To Holly Wolcott’s Position That This Does Not Happen

The other day I received a big pile of emails between the Board of the Los Feliz Village BID and people at the City of Los Angeles. They’re available here on Archive.Org. Note that the BID produced these by using some kind of bulk forwarding utility for Gmail to send these to their attorney, uniquely repetitive chair of the famed Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Jeffrey Charles Briggs Esq.

Attorney Briggs then exported the forwarded emails as MSG files and passed them along to me. Unfortunately this process mangled the metadata and made it more trouble than it seems to be worth to sort and rename the files by date and time. Sr. Briggs seems to be willing at least to consider instructing his clients to provide actual exact copies of emails in the future, but for now we’ll work with what we got, especially since the whole process has taken more than six months to get to this point. Anyway, turn the page for discussion of a few highlights.
Continue reading A Bunch Of Emails Between The Los Feliz Village BID And The City Of Los Angeles Reveal A Number Of Interesting Issues, Not Least Of Which Is City BID Analyst Giving The BID Legal Advice On CPRA Requests Contrary To Holly Wolcott’s Position That This Does Not Happen

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Yet Another Example Of City Of LA Indifference To Illegal BID Shenanigans: City Clerk BID Analyst Rita Moreno Hands Out (Literal) Gold Stars To BIDs For Minimal Brown Act Compliance But Doesn’t Do Or Even Say Anything To BIDs Who Are Not Only In Violation Of The Law But Have Been Flouting It For Years On End

Yesterday evening, BID-lawyer-to-the-stars Jeffrey Charles Briggs passed along almost 200 emails between Media District BID executive director Lisa Schechter and various people at the City of Los Angeles. These are available en masse at Archive.Org. As always, there’s a lot of chaff in there and a few super-interesting things.1 Perhaps today’s story is an example of the latter.

It began on February 28, when Rita Moreno, newly of the Neighborhood and Business Improvement Division of the City Clerk’s office, the unit that’s meant to oversee the operations of BIDs and make sure that they follow the law and stuff, emailed a bunch of BIDdies to introduce herself and note that only a few of them had their meeting times posted on their websites. Of course, the Brown Act explicitly requires BIDs to notice their meetings on their websites,2 but that’s actually not why Rita was on about this. She was just trying to find out when they met so that she could attend. In fact, it’s not even clear that Rita Moreno knew about the Brown Act requirement.

However, the very next day, our old friend Lisa Schechter of the Hollywood Media District BID, who is not generally known for her law-abiding behavior but who has by now been educated by years of our intense scrutiny to the point where, I hope, she’s beginning to realize that it’s just easier to follow the law,3 wrote back to Rita Moreno, fishing for praise from this unlikely authority figure:

Dear Rita:

Just to reiterate, all of our meetings are posted in accordance with the Brown Act (Committee as well as Board) – Further you have been placed on our automatic distribution list which triggers and [sic] email directly to you for all of our meetings. If you should require any further information please do not hesitate to contact myself or our operations manager, Jim Omahen.

And, a couple hours later, Rita Moreno replied:

Yes…you got a star


And if you’re new to BID studies, you’re probably wondering why this puerile exchange is not just idiotic, sycophantic, and moronic, but also deeply offensive and discouraging to anyone who cares about the rule of law in Los Angeles. Well, read on!
Continue reading Yet Another Example Of City Of LA Indifference To Illegal BID Shenanigans: City Clerk BID Analyst Rita Moreno Hands Out (Literal) Gold Stars To BIDs For Minimal Brown Act Compliance But Doesn’t Do Or Even Say Anything To BIDs Who Are Not Only In Violation Of The Law But Have Been Flouting It For Years On End

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Unidentified Business Improvement District Seeks Free CPRA Advice From First Amendment Coalition, Does Not Get Answer They Are Looking For

The First Amendment Coalition is, in their own words,

… an award-winning, nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to advancing free speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs.

and their mission includes the fairly forthright statement that

The Coalition is committed to the principle that government is accountable to the people, and strives through education, public advocacy, litigation, and other efforts to prevent unnecessary government secrecy and to resist censorship of all kinds.

For instance, in furtherance of this mission, the FAC is presently suing the City of Los Angeles over Tom LaBonge’s immoral and idiotic destruction of records from his time as Councilmember. They were also a friend of the court in the recent momentous California Supreme Court decision making the personal email accounts of public officials open to CPRA for material that relates to the public’s business. This is not an organization that anyone sane would expect to be sympathetic to the whiny, entitled, and clueless complaints of a business improvement district that has been asked to comply with its legal obligations under the California Public Records Act, amirite?

One of the most useful services that the FAC provides is called Asked & Answered. People can send in questions about CPRA and the Brown Act and the FAC’s attorneys from Bryan Cave will answer them publicly and for free if they might interest a wider audience. These questions are usually from people frustrated by inane, self-serving, and illegal government obstructionism in the face of CPRA requests. So imagine my surprise when, a few days ago, this little gem of a question appeared:

Q: As a Business Improvement District, we are an agency of our local gov’t and subject to PRAs. I have submitted countless reports, minutes/agendas, financials and even a record of one full year of emails. Now I have been asked to submit the email database I have developed for communicating with my business members.

I am not comfortable giving this database to the public. While I have no problem disclosing my email correspondence, I do not feel right giving my email database to someone who can then send mass emails to these businesses.

Do I have to submit the database if requested through the CPRA?

Well, given the FAC’s general orientation towards CPRA, you can probably imagine the answer, and you can also read it, with some commentary and the usual uninformed speculation, after the break.
Continue reading Unidentified Business Improvement District Seeks Free CPRA Advice From First Amendment Coalition, Does Not Get Answer They Are Looking For

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New Documents: Los Feliz Village BID Mailing List, Larchmont Village BID Tax Returns, Wilshire Center BID Tax Returns, Transactions, Bylaws

Los Feliz used to be a normal place, and maybe someday it will be again!
Just a quick note to announce a bunch of new materials. Most importantly, the Los Feliz Village BID, in the person of BID boss Rafik Ghazarian, sent me an Excel spreadsheet with mailing addresses for everyone in the BID. Given the months-long, dentaloextractivist-level dramatics created by the City of Los Angeles in the persons of asylum-running lunatics Miranda Paster and Holly Wolcott over e.g. the Venice Beach BID mailing list and the SLAIT BID mailing list,1 this is a surprising and welcome development. It’s especially laudable given that the Los Feliz Village BID has been the target of at least one significant attempt to destroy it, and, given that it’s a merchant-based BID, and thus required to renew each year, will certainly be so yet again.

I also have tax returns from the creepy little apartheid stronghold in South Central Hollywood known to the world as the Larchmont Village BID, as well as a bunch of assorted jive-ass nonsense from Mr. Mike out in Wilshire Center. Turn the page for links and descriptions.
Continue reading New Documents: Los Feliz Village BID Mailing List, Larchmont Village BID Tax Returns, Wilshire Center BID Tax Returns, Transactions, Bylaws

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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

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Revealed: Why The City Always Votes Yes on BID Formation. Also Some Speculation On The Shady Reasons Why The City Prefers Property-Based BIDs Over Merchant-Based BIDs Despite The Fact That They Instantiate Peak White Supremacy

Holly Wolcott explaining why she votes.
Holly Wolcott explaining why she votes.
You may recall that last month I raised the question of where the City Clerk gets the authority to vote all of the City’s property in favor of establishing BIDs. That the Clerk does this is undisputed. It’s so reliable that BID proponents are famous for gerrymandering in as much City property as possible to improve their chances of hitting the 50.1% approval needed to start the BID formation process.

Well, of course, I filed a CPRA request on the matter and Miranda Paster, however conflicted her interests may be when it comes to her darling baby BIDs, is by far one of the most reliable and honest City officials with whom I deal with respect to public records, yesterday pointed me to the now twenty year old Council File 96-1972. This file is too old to have documents online1 but there are some summary notes on what went on. In particular, the ordinance passed includes an instruction2 to:

REQUIRE the City Clerk to sign off on Proposition 2183 ballots and support petitions for property-based BIDs, unless the Council directs otherwise.

So I was right. There had to be a law, and there is a law. It’s pleasant to speculate on the possibility of exploiting this to add some democratic sauce to the BID formation process. For instance, as I’ve suggested before, it would be much more fair to let residents of the BID area vote on BID formation and apportion the City’s ballots proportionally to the wishes of the residents. This wouldn’t be perfect, but it would be far, far more fair that what’s done now. Of course given the degree to which our Council worships BIDs, and given the wildly disproportionate influence that BIDs have on City policy, this is not likely to happen except through the courts. As I said, though, it’s nice to think about.
Continue reading Revealed: Why The City Always Votes Yes on BID Formation. Also Some Speculation On The Shady Reasons Why The City Prefers Property-Based BIDs Over Merchant-Based BIDs Despite The Fact That They Instantiate Peak White Supremacy

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