Tag Archives: Streets and Highways Code 36622

The California Board For Professional Engineers Not Only Continues To Refuse To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Involved In BID Formation Even Though They Have No Written Policy To That Effect But Now, After An Initial Show Of Considering Reasonable Counterarguments To Their Unwritten Policy, Have Been Reduced To Intransigent Stalling And Clueless Unprofessional Mockery

Before a business improvement district can be formed, the Property and Business Improvement District law at §36622(b) requires that a licensed engineer prepare a report supporting the assessment methodology. At least in Los Angeles these reports are pro forma copy/paste monstrosities that are completely unrelated to any actual facts. Now, engineering in California is regulated by the Board for Professional Engineers, and one of their duties is to investigate complaints about unprofessional conduct.

So last year, after the utterly despicably disheartening process of approving the Venice Beach BID came to its tragic end, a resident, fed up with the nonsense promulgated by civil engineer Ed Henning in his report,1 filed a complaint against him with the Board. Amazingly, his complaint was closed unread because, as he was told in a letter by Jackie Lowe, the enforcement analyst who wrote to him, the Board does not consider the preparation of engineer’s reports for business improvement districts to constitute the practice of engineering.

They claim that it’s not within their jurisdiction and, in her letter announcing the close of the investigation, Jackie Lowe told the complainant that “Historically, our Board has deemed these “tax assessment” reports not civil engineering work.” This struck me as being reflective of a Board policy, which was so unexpected that after learning of it I sent a CPRA request to the Board asking for records related to this policy decision.2 After all, if there’s a policy, it ought to be written down so that it can be analyzed and, if appropriate, disputed.

After they ignored me for a long time, their enforcement manager Tiffany Criswell answered and propounded the usual line of nonsense about why they weren’t going to fulfill my request.3 Furthermore, she informed me that there was no written policy stating that the preparation of these engineering reports didn’t constitute the practice of engineering.

Basically she claimed that the Professional Engineers Act, which is the establishing law for the Board, forbade them from investigating anything which wasn’t explicitly defined in the law as the practice of engineering. She seemed to claim that creating a policy was forbidden. That they had to work only from the language of the law.4 I argued that it was pretty clear from the language of the Act that preparing engineer’s reports for BIDs constituted the practice of engineering as described in the Act. Strangely, she seemed to actually listen to my argument. She told me that she would look into it and get back to me.

And listen, when disputing anything at all with a government agency at any level, this counts as a win. So I waited. Heard nothing. Asked what’s up. She said later. Waited. Asked what’s up. She ignored me. Waited. Asked what’s up and CC-ed her boss, the inimitable Mr. Ric Moore. He flipped out and wrote me a weirdly sarcastic email full of malcriado scare quotes and other instances of bitterly bureaucratic sarcasm.

This email convinced me that, even though every aspect of the process remains unresolved, it’s time to publicize matters. Hence this post. The discussion is unavoidably technical, which is why the details are after the break, along with links to and transcriptions of most of the emails involved. As I said in the footnotes already, though, all the emails are available here on Archive.Org.
Continue reading The California Board For Professional Engineers Not Only Continues To Refuse To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Involved In BID Formation Even Though They Have No Written Policy To That Effect But Now, After An Initial Show Of Considering Reasonable Counterarguments To Their Unwritten Policy, Have Been Reduced To Intransigent Stalling And Clueless Unprofessional Mockery

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The California Board For Professional Engineers Explicitly, Openly, Refuses To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Who Produce Crack-Headed Nonsensical Reports For BID Formation , With Venice Beach Being A Prime Recent Example, Even Though The Legislature Clearly Intended Some Oversight — This Is An Overt Abrogation Of Their Duty But At Least It Explains The Submoronic Lobotomized Quality Of The Damn Reports

NOTE: This post turned out to be a lot more complex than I’d originally planned, so here’s a TL;DR:

  1. New BIDs are required to submit a report written by a state-certified engineer explaining why their boundaries and assessments make sense.
  2. Ed Henning, the engineer for the Venice Beach BID, submitted this totally nonsensical report.
  3. One of the same Venice residents who is suing the BID filed a complaint against Henning with the California Board for Professional Engineers alleging that Henning made up a bunch of stuff and otherwise acted incompetently in the report’s preparation.
  4. The Board rejected this complaint with this letter, claiming that they do not consider the preparation of BID reports to be within their jurisdiction. There’s a transcription of this PDF at the very end of this post.
  5. This is yet another example of how no one in the government, state or local, is willing to regulate BIDs at all or hold them accountable for anything.

My recent post on the East Hollywood BID in relation to one of the purposes of the Management District Plan for BID operations, focusing in part on some of the esoteric technicalities of the Property and Business Improvement District Act as it did, reminded me of another topic touching on PBID technicalities I’ve been meaning to write on for a few months now but have not yet, until today, gotten around to dealing with.

One of the required elements of the process of forming a property based BID, imposed by the PBID Law at §36622(n), is:

… a detailed engineer’s report prepared by a registered professional engineer certified by the State of California supporting all assessments contemplated by the management district plan.

This subsection actually incorporates a requirement imposed on all special assessment districts1 by the California Constitution at Article XIIID(4)(b), which imposes the same requirement in slightly more general language, having as it does to apply to any kind of special assessment:

All assessments shall be supported by a detailed engineer’s report prepared by a registered professional engineer certified by the State of California.

Now, these engineers’ reports which go along with BID formation are particularly interesting documents. First they’re interesting because they’re so mind-numbingly boring. My feeling is that if people write stuff this tedious and impossible to read they’re almost certainly hiding something, which is already of intrinsic interest. Second, they’re interesting because of the sheer unexpected variety of the nonsensical bullshit straight-facedly included in them, about which I’ll have more to say at a later date.
Continue reading The California Board For Professional Engineers Explicitly, Openly, Refuses To Enforce Professional Standards Against Engineers Who Produce Crack-Headed Nonsensical Reports For BID Formation , With Venice Beach Being A Prime Recent Example, Even Though The Legislature Clearly Intended Some Oversight — This Is An Overt Abrogation Of Their Duty But At Least It Explains The Submoronic Lobotomized Quality Of The Damn Reports

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East Hollywood BID Poised To Advocate For Cop-Sponsored Delusional Anti-Prop-47 Pro-Death-Penalty Propaganda Presentation At January 16 Board Meeting, Thereby Just About Stretching Their State-Law-Mandated Local-Activities-Only Restriction To The Freaking Limit And Beyond

One of the most neglected aspects of the Property and Business Improvement District Act, the fons et origo of the state’s grant of authority to establish, regulate, and control BIDs, is a limitation found in §36625(a)(6), which states:

The revenue from the levy of assessments within a district shall not be used to provide improvements, maintenance, or activities outside the district or for any purpose other than the purposes specified in the resolution of intention, as modified by the city council at the hearing concerning establishment of the district.

This places two essential limitations on how BIDs are allowed to spend the money they collect from property owners.1 First, BIDs must only spend their money on stuff inside their districts, and second they must only spend it on activities specified in the resolution of intention to form the district. In the City of Los Angeles, at least, these activities are specified by incorporating the BID’s management district plan, which is filed with the City Council at some point prior to the BID’s formation, into the ordinance of intention.2

Now, if you follow this blog even half-heartedly, you’re well aware that this statute is completely flouted by BIDs in the City of Los Angeles. For instance, Blair Besten’s lobbying over Skid Row, which isn’t part of the Historic Core BID at all, not to mention Hurricane Kerry Morrison’s indefatigable lobbying everyone in the whole freaking universe over reforms to the Public Records Act.

And of course, all of them, every last delusional white supremacist BID in the whole freaking City of Los Angeles lobbying3 against Proposition 47, a particularly half-witted example of which can be found here. Which brings us to today’s subject, which is that squarmy little love child of Jeff Zarrinnam and David Miscavige known to the world as the East Hollywood BID.

It seems that at their upcoming meeting,4 at least according to the agenda, they’re poised to discuss the following item:

Presentation on the Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018…………….Michael Ziegler, Public Safety Consultant, Assemblymember Jim Cooper

And turn the page for details and discussion!
Continue reading East Hollywood BID Poised To Advocate For Cop-Sponsored Delusional Anti-Prop-47 Pro-Death-Penalty Propaganda Presentation At January 16 Board Meeting, Thereby Just About Stretching Their State-Law-Mandated Local-Activities-Only Restriction To The Freaking Limit And Beyond

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Apparently The City Attorney Of Los Angeles Has Opined That Business Improvement Districts Can’t Spend Money On Things That Aren’t In Their Management District Plans Unless The Plans Are Amended — At Least That’s What Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Said In 2012 And Why Would She Lie About That?

When business improvement districts in California are created, it’s required by the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994 at §36622 to file a so-called management district plan (MDP) with the City. This is meant to describe exactly what the BID is going to spend its money on, and it’s incorporated into the City’s Ordinance of Establishment, by which means the BID is created. It must be approved by the City Council, and the City has the power to revise it at will. The law makes it pretty clear that BIDs are actually forbidden from spending money on activities that aren’t in the MDP, although this facet of the law is generally ignored by the City.

And I’m presently working on a project that requires a close reading of invoices submitted by Tara Devine1 to the South Park BID over the years, which I obtained last month as the fruit of a CPRA request.2 Although 2012 is outside the timeline I’m working on, I was fascinated to note that Tara Devine seems to have been engaged by the South Park BID to actually write that year’s annual planning report3 for them. One of the things that she billed for in the course of performing her contract to do so Tara Devine billed for was a conversation with accounting firm RBZ, since merged with Armanino, and the subject of that conversation was wholly new to me:
Continue reading Apparently The City Attorney Of Los Angeles Has Opined That Business Improvement Districts Can’t Spend Money On Things That Aren’t In Their Management District Plans Unless The Plans Are Amended — At Least That’s What Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Said In 2012 And Why Would She Lie About That?

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San Pedro BID Renewal Petition Drive Materials Available Including Blank Petitions And Information Sheets

This is just a quick note to announce the availability of a first batch of renewal materials from the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID. They’re available here on Archive.Org. These are from the petition phase, where property owners holding $1 more than 50% of the total assessed value have to petition City Council to renew their BID. I’m collecting material like this as part of a long-term project to send out countermailings when BIDs send out mailings in favor of establishment or renewal. They uniformly send blank petitions on which the only choice is to vote yes. See this sample, for instance.1

I think it would be reasonable, effective, and entertaining to send out petitions on which the only choice was no. Of course, the way the petition phase of BID renewal/establishment is structured, not voting is the same as voting no, but nevertheless, it would be politically valuable to see that property owners have a choice. In order to carry out this plan, it will also be necessary to have quick access to natively formatted copies of the mailing lists that the BIDs use. They have historically been exceedingly reluctant to give up this information.

You may, e.g., recall the fact that it took me five months of nagging Miranda Paster at the City Clerk’s office to get her to give me the mailing list for Venice Beach.2 In that case as in every other case where I’ve actually managed to obtain mailing lists, it came too late to be useful. But at some point, and this is the main reason this is a long term project, I will have convinced the BIDdies3 that they have to hand over mailing lists promptly so that they’re still politically useful.

Naturally, when sending out alt-petition forms, it will be necessary to send out alt-propaganda. Just take a look at the San Pedro BID’s info sheet that they sent out along with the petitions. Count the lies. Imagine an alt-petition that not only invites property owners to vote no on the BID but also informs them what their money’s really being spent for like, e.g., to to keep criminals from getting arrested because they can’t put out their own damn dumpster fires!

Every BID wastes its money on exactly that kind of nonsense, never publicized. This kind of campaign probably won’t stop any BIDs, but it may well increase the protest rate, which would be interesting indeed! And turn the page for links to all the items with a little bit of commentary.
Continue reading San Pedro BID Renewal Petition Drive Materials Available Including Blank Petitions And Information Sheets

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In Which I Present A General Argument That BID Consultancy Is Lobbying Activity In Order To Simplify And Regularize The Process Of Reporting BID Consultants To The Ethics Commission For Failure To Register

It’s a long term project of mine to turn in as many BID consultants as possible to the City Ethics Commission for failing to register as lobbyists. So far, though, I’ve only managed to report Tara Devine for her work on the Venice Beach BID because the work is so involved. Such a report has two essential components:

  1. An argument that BID consultancy satisfies the definition of lobbying activity found in the the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance at LAMC §48.02.
  2. An argument that a specific BID consultant was paid for sufficiently many hours over sufficiently few months to trigger the registration requirement found in the MLO at LAMC §48.07(A).

It occurred to me recently that the first argument will be the same for all BID consultants, and that therefore it would be possible to streamline the reporting process by writing it up in a generic format that would apply to any given BID consultant. So that’s what I did, and you can read the result here. I will be using this to make a number of complaints against BID consultants in the near future, which I will report on here.

Meanwhile, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can find explanations of everything after the break, along with a fairly detailed summary of the argument that BID consultancy qualifies as lobbying under the MLO.
Continue reading In Which I Present A General Argument That BID Consultancy Is Lobbying Activity In Order To Simplify And Regularize The Process Of Reporting BID Consultants To The Ethics Commission For Failure To Register

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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!
Continue reading 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

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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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