Tag Archives: Municipal Lobbying Ordinance

The San Pedro BID Is Paying BID Consultant Edward Henning Only $20,000 To Handle Their Impending Renewal. This Is 64% Less Than The Fashion District Will Pay Urban Place Consulting And 75% Less Than The South Park BID Will Pay Tara Devine. Why The Huge Variation In Compensation For A Job Whose Elements Are Delineated By The City?

You may recall that Edward Henning is an engineer who works with a number of BID consultants on BID establishment and renewal, writing the engineer’s reports required by Streets and Highways Code §36622(n). I’ve previously reported, e.g., that he seems to get paid about $9,000 for writing these things.1 Well, TIL that Ed Henning is also a BID consultant his own self!

The story begins with Lorena Parker, executive director of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID, sending me the contract that Ed Henning and her BID signed for consulting services, along with some ancillary information:

These materials are also available on the Archive, which is useful because of OCR and so forth. And that’s today’s goodies. Turn the page for discussion!
Continue reading The San Pedro BID Is Paying BID Consultant Edward Henning Only $20,000 To Handle Their Impending Renewal. This Is 64% Less Than The Fashion District Will Pay Urban Place Consulting And 75% Less Than The South Park BID Will Pay Tara Devine. Why The Huge Variation In Compensation For A Job Whose Elements Are Delineated By The City?

Urban Place Consulting Set To Earn $55,712.20 For Dealing With The 2017/2018 Fashion District BID Renewal Process According To Contract, Which May Also Shed Light On The Intersection Between BID Consultancy And L.A.’s Muncipal Lobbying Ordinance

The Fashion District BID in Downtown Los Angeles is set to expire at the end of 2018. This means that they’ll be collecting petitions roughly in the first quarter of 2018 and going to City Council approximately in the Summer of 2018. The process is complicated for property-based BIDs and usually requires a consultant, and the consultant has to start early. The Fashion District is using Urban Place Consulting.1 Work began on the process in January 2017.

Thanks to the competence, kindness, and evident commitment to transparency of the Fashion District BID’s executive director, Rena Masten Leddy,2 we have copies of (at least most of) the FDBID’s contract with UPC3 as well as the first three months worth of invoices. You can get these:

Crucially, the contract reveals that the Fashion District will pay UPC more than $55,000 over the course of the two year process. The contract is supposed to include a schedule of hourly rates and the invoices are supposed to include an hourly breakdown, but, at least so far, they do not.

Apart from the general interest created by the essential role that BID renewal plays in the life cycle of BIDs, this kind of data is also crucial to my ongoing study of the intersection between the BID renewal process in Los Angeles and the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Turn the page for a brief discussion of those issues as well as a brief outline of the renewal process itself.
Continue reading Urban Place Consulting Set To Earn $55,712.20 For Dealing With The 2017/2018 Fashion District BID Renewal Process According To Contract, Which May Also Shed Light On The Intersection Between BID Consultancy And L.A.’s Muncipal Lobbying Ordinance

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)

How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer For Knowingly And Fraudently Deceiving Mike Bonin With Regard To A Material Fact Pertinent To The Establishment Of The Star-Crossed Venice Beach BID

“I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to say, ‘It’s not my job,’” Feuer told the Times editorial board. We like that attitude. All L.A. residents should.
If you want to skip the explaining and go straight to the complaint, here it is.

Friends, take a look at the exceedingly fascinating LAMC § 48.04(B). This lovely little slab of ethicalliciousness illegalizes any occasion when a lobbyist might:

Fraudulently deceive or attempt to deceive any City official with regard to any material fact pertinent to any pending or proposed municipal legislation.

And of course, you recall what a lobbyist is, it’s a technical term in this setting.1 Lobbyists are defined in LAMC §48.02 to be:

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.

Well, as you may recall, I spent the last two months assembling a highly detailed argument that Tara Devine met this definition. If that’s right, and I certainly think that it is, she’s also forbidden from fraudulently deceiving Mike Bonin, e.g., about material facts in regard to the formation of the Venice Beach BID which, as I’m sure you know, requires legislation for the BID to be brought into existence.

The argument is that she got everyone to believe that it was required under state law to include commercially zoned properties in the BID, even though not only is this not true, not only did she know it was not true, but her having convinced everyone of this led to more properties being in the BID, which increased the amount of money under the control of her clients, the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. If you’re still interested enough to follow me into the weeds, turn the page!
Continue reading How I Reported Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine To Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer For Knowingly And Fraudently Deceiving Mike Bonin With Regard To A Material Fact Pertinent To The Establishment Of The Star-Crossed Venice Beach BID

Almost 200 Emails Between the City Of LA And the East Hollywood BID. Also, Lunada Bay Boys Hearing Tomorrow And Also Ethics Commission Meeting!

Dwarf bottlebrush plant from some plans that the East Hollywood BID exchanged with a bunch of lackeys at the City of LA in preparation for planting them along Vermont Avenue, most likely to thwart the homeless in some manner.
Tonight I had the pleasure of receiving from self-proclaimed active member of the revitalized Hollywood community1 Jeffrey Charles Briggs almost 200 emails between the East Hollywood Business Improvement District and various far-too-friendly folks at the City of Los Angeles. For now these are available here on Archive.Org. They’re PDFs, but they’re that super-PDF-format that one can make with genuine Adobe software that embeds attachments right in there with clickable links.2 I have only been able to give these a cursory look-over, but I can already see a few crucial items. I’ll be writing on these matters as soon as I possibly can, but if you want a preview of one of them take a look at this juicy little number.

And tomorrow is a huge day at the Civic Center. In the morning there is a hearing in the Lunada Bay Boys case, featuring Palos Verdes Peninsula zillionaire surf-localism-thuggery at its most flamboyantly weird. In the afternoon there is an essential meeting of the Ethics Commission. Turn the page for times, locations, and brief descriptions. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
Continue reading Almost 200 Emails Between the City Of LA And the East Hollywood BID. Also, Lunada Bay Boys Hearing Tomorrow And Also Ethics Commission Meeting!

Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Concerning The Question Of Whether BID Consultants Qualify As Lobbyists And What The Proper Course Of Action Might Be If They Do

A pseudo-artistic computer-modified image of Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott.
Here’s a letter I sent this morning to Holly Wolcott and Miranda Paster concerning the question of whether BID consultants qualify as lobbyists for the purposes of complying with the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. My feeling, of course, is that they do qualify, they ought to register with the City, they should be punished for the fact that they have not done so, and the City staff who work with them without insisting that they register ought to be busted for aiding and abetting. But since evidently this has never occurred to anyone before, I thought it would be decent to give everyone involved a chance to assess their own risk in choosing a course of action. Hence this letter. There’s a transcription with live links after the break if you don’t want to deal with a PDF.
Continue reading Open Letter To Holly Wolcott And Miranda Paster Concerning The Question Of Whether BID Consultants Qualify As Lobbyists And What The Proper Course Of Action Might Be If They Do

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

Now Mike Bonin Is Tara Devine’s Ventriloquist’s Dummy: How The Shadowy BID Consultant Herself Answered A Bunch Of Questions That Yo! Venice Reporter Melanie Camp Sent To Mike Bonin And How Melanie Camp Subsequently Attributed The Answers To Mike Bonin

Tara Devine in City Council Chambers at the Venice Beach BID Hearing Take 2 on November 8, 2016.
Check out this interesting series of emails from August 2016. It begins when Yo! Venice reporter Melanie Camp writes to Mike Bonin’s communications director David Graham-Caso, stating:

Hi David,

I have several questions regarding the BID. The information you provided, coupled with the information/misinformation flying around raises a couple of issues that need clearing up.

I’m interested in Mike’s opinion, as well as your own, on any or all of these.

Less than 40 minutes later, David Graham-Caso forwarded the email1 to Debbie Dyner Harris along with a terse note that said:

Can you please send this to the BID consultant to get her help with the answers?

And a mere 13 minutes after that, Debbie Dyner Harris forwarded the email2 to Tara Devine, stating:

Hi Tara. Can you please respond to her? Thanks

David Graham-Caso, CD11 Director of Communications, is a really cute guy, but also a conduit for misattributed propaganda!

Further conversation ensued, but the upshot is that, the very next day, Tara Devine sent over a page of answers, not to Melanie Camp, but to David Graham-Caso and Debbie Dyner Harris to do with as they would do. And evidently what they did do was send the answers to Melanie Camp. And evidently what Melanie Camp did was attribute the answers to Mike Bonin in the article she published a few days later, entitled Venice BID Approved.3 She not only attributed them to Mike Bonin when they were written by Tara Devine,4 but she essentially copy/pasted them into her article. You can see some specifics after the break!
Continue reading Now Mike Bonin Is Tara Devine’s Ventriloquist’s Dummy: How The Shadowy BID Consultant Herself Answered A Bunch Of Questions That Yo! Venice Reporter Melanie Camp Sent To Mike Bonin And How Melanie Camp Subsequently Attributed The Answers To Mike Bonin

Some Money Is Even Too Dirty For Mike: A Look At One Of Bonin’s Recent Returned Campaign Contributions And Subsequent Trip Down A Lobbyist-Money Rabbit Hole

Mike Bonin making kissy-face with Eric Garcetti in 2013 just before laying waste to the canals like Godzilla laying waste to Tokyo.
The L.A. City Ethics Commission website is a marvelous repository of fascinating minutiae. It more than repays the kind of obsessive poring-over in which we here at MK.Org specialize. Today’s subject is the quarterly reports that every qualified candidate has to submit detailing their expenditures. You can find all of Mike Bonin’s here.1 In particular, take a look at his 3rd quarter report for 2016. On Schedule E, the list of expenditures, note that some items are labeled “Returned contributions.” No reasons are given for the returns, but at least in some cases it’s possible to track down at least some elements of the story via the Google.

For instance, consider the case of Shannon Murphy Castellani. She gave Mike Bonin $700 on June 14, 2016. Exactly four weeks later, on July 12, 2016, she registered with the Ethics Commission as a lobbyist.2 Now, section 470(c)(11) of the City Charter forbids candidates from accepting campaign contributions from registered lobbyists. It’s vague on the timing, and I don’t see that it actually explicitly prohibits someone from donating money and then registering as a lobbyist the very next day, but on the other hand, does Mike Bonin want to argue that case in public? Obviously not, so the best thing to do is to return the contribution. Just as obviously, the $700 itself isn’t so important. These people are all zillionaires, after all. It’s the good will that the $700 creates, and that lingers on after the money is returned.
Continue reading Some Money Is Even Too Dirty For Mike: A Look At One Of Bonin’s Recent Returned Campaign Contributions And Subsequent Trip Down A Lobbyist-Money Rabbit Hole

How The City Of Los Angeles Arranges For Itself To Be Lobbied By BIDs Even Though The City Attorney Requires Most City Contractors To Be Explicitly Forbidden From Lobbying The City By Means Of A Contract Clause

Kerry Morrison not thinking of herself as a lobbyist, even though she does lobby and the City of Los Angeles encourages her to lobby.
Kerry Morrison not thinking of herself as a lobbyist, even though she does lobby and the City of Los Angeles encourages her to lobby.
Issues surrounding business improvement districts and the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance have been fraught with controversy at least since 2009, when the Los Angeles Ethics Commission submitted a comprehensive report to City Council proposing a series of reforms to the law.

One minor part of their proposal would have clarified without altering the application of these laws to business improvement districts which then, as now, are almost certainly required to register as lobbyists, even though none of them do nor have they ever. This minor clause in a major reform proposal kicked off a whirlwind of mouth-slavvery craziness on the part of the BIDs, which ended with Eric Garcetti effectively killing the CEC’s proposal in 2010 for no good reason other than that Kerry Morrison giggled at him in a committee meeting.1

So it was with a great deal of interest that I read in this Power Point thing from 2012 that, according to Miranda Paster, who is in charge of the division of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office which oversees BIDs, that she considers part of her duties under the heading of “Optimal Government/Taxpayer BID oversight” to be to “encourage BIDs to lobby council members.”2
Continue reading How The City Of Los Angeles Arranges For Itself To Be Lobbied By BIDs Even Though The City Attorney Requires Most City Contractors To Be Explicitly Forbidden From Lobbying The City By Means Of A Contract Clause