Tag Archives: Streets and Highways Code 36622

Why It’s Quite Likely That Blair Besten Broke A Number Of Laws By Lobbying The City Of Los Angeles Over Skid Row On Behalf Of The HCBID Board Of Directors In November 2016 And Arguably Even Committed A Misdemeanor

Blair Besten rocking the Pharcyde.
So a couple weeks ago I wrote about an episode in November 2016 when Blair Besten, executive directrix of the good old Historic Core BID, at the behest of her Board of Directors, lobbied the City of Los Angeles about incentives for Skid Row development which included a seemingly endless list of wet fever dreams like no taxes ever, no height limits, no required affordable housing, and so on. Well, then someone posted my post to the Facebook asking, among other things, if Blair Besten’s lobbying was even legal. The post unleashed a deluge of stranger-danger visits to our cozy and haimish little blog and the usual slew of idiotic comments by the usual slew of unselfaware idiot commentators over on the Facebook itself.

Well, Mom had a favorite saying about wrestling with a pig, and that goes doubletime for arguing with the Facebook commentariat. So we all just ignored the whole mishegoss until, as will sometimes happen, it occurred to me that one of the most ignorant offensive mansplainy clueless wrong-headed imaginary-internet-lawyerly comments of all would provide a perfect foil for a post that I had been meaning to write for a while now anyway, and that’s how we ended up right here and now, friends.

The dimwitted commenter asked1 the OP: “What specific actions of hers do you think are of questionable legality?” This is one of them Internet comments that’s supposed to make the reader say something like “Hmmm…. now that I read that incisive question I can see that I really am a foolish dupe after all and the only reason I even had an opinion is because no very smart fellow ever challenged me… OK, I retract every idea I have ever had!!

However, as it happens, there are a number of ways in which Blair Besten’s specific action of lobbying the City on behalf of her employers with respect to development conditions on Skid Row violated various laws. For better or for worse, the discussion is unavoidably technical, and you gotta turn the page if you wanna read it!
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Why Are BIDs In Los Angeles Allowed To Pay For Their Renewal Out Of Current Assessments? It Seems To Be Some Kind Of Pernicious Circular Reasoning And May Well Violate The Law

I’m presently working on a number of fairly involved projects which relate to the establishment and renewal processes for BIDs. There’ll be more news on that later, but, tangentially, in the course of my research I’ve noticed that BIDs that are up for renewal tend to state the fact in their Annual Planning Reports (“APRs”). Just for instance, here’s the Fashion District’s 2017 APR. In there, on page 3, you can see BID renewal under the heading “Management/City Fees (Zones 1-9): $487,795.00 (10.67%).”

It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand the importance of these APRs. First of all, BIDs in California are required by State law to produce them. According to the Streets and Highways Code at §36650(a):

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.

In the laconic dialect of the law, this seems to say that assessments are to be spent on “improvements, maintenance, and activities” if and only if they are listed in the APR. This is one reason these APRs are essential to understanding the operations of BIDs. They’re explicitly forbidden from spending money on matters not listed in the APR and they’re explicitly required to carry out matters that are listed. This is possibly part of the reason why the City exercises hyperspecific control over the content of APRs even as they categorically refuse to exercise any control whatsoever even over overt malfeasance by BIDs.

And elsewhere in the law, specifically at §36622(k)(2), we find a statement of the infamous “special benefits” requirement for property-based BIDs:

In a property-based district, the proportionate special benefit derived by each identified parcel shall be determined exclusively in relationship to the entirety of the capital cost of a public improvement, the maintenance and operation expenses of a public improvement, or the cost of the activities. An assessment shall not be imposed on any parcel that exceeds the reasonable cost of the proportional special benefit conferred on that parcel. Only special benefits are assessable …

So BIDs are required to spend money on activities listed in the APR and all money they spend must be spent on special benefits to the property owners. Therefore the presence of BID renewal as a fundable activity in the APR implies that BID renewal in itself must be a special benefit to the property owners.
Continue reading Why Are BIDs In Los Angeles Allowed To Pay For Their Renewal Out Of Current Assessments? It Seems To Be Some Kind Of Pernicious Circular Reasoning And May Well Violate The Law

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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?

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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

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BID Consulting Engineer Ed Henning Seems To Earn $9,000 For A BID Renewal/Establishment. Also A Bunch Of Board Minutes From The Historic Core Reveal … Nothing! But We Have ‘Em Anyway!

Blair Besten of the Historic Core BID — a colorful character, to be sure, but somewhat repetitive…
Earlier this week, not-so-shadowy BID consultant Susan Levi, who among other things serves as the Executive Director of the South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID, sent me a copy of the SLAIT BID’s transactions by vendor from January 2013. The most interesting item, or at least the item I’m presently most interested in right now, appears on page 3, under “Edward Henning & Associates.” Edward Henning, of course, is a consulting engineer and seems to have made something of a career of preparing the engineering reports which are mandated by the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994 at §36622(n) for BID establishments.1 A little arithmetic reveals that the SLAIT BID paid Henning $9,000 for their 2015 renewal. This is roughly 10% of the approximately $80,000 which the consultant seems to earn. There’s no moral to this story, at least not yet. It’s merely the latest datapoint I’ve collected in my attempt to understand the finances of BID establishment and renewal.

Also recently I received a bunch of minutes from the Board meetings of the Historic Core BID, and you can turn the page for a link and some brief comments.
Continue reading BID Consulting Engineer Ed Henning Seems To Earn $9,000 For A BID Renewal/Establishment. Also A Bunch Of Board Minutes From The Historic Core Reveal … Nothing! But We Have ‘Em Anyway!

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