Tag Archives: Venice BID

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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Full Recording Of Yesterday’s Venice Beach BID Meeting Now Available For Scholarly Analysis And Weekend Hatewatching!

This is just the briefest of notes to announce that, thanks to a faithful friend of this blog, I’m able to make available a complete recording of the April 13, 2018 meeting of the Board of Directors of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District. I will watch this 90 minute monstrosity this weekend and report back on highlights, but I wanted to provide links as soon as possible. It’s available both on YouTube and also on Archive.Org.

Like I said, I haven’t watched it yet, but my first impression after skimming around in the depths of this invaluable item is that President & CEO Tara Devine is even more unhinged than I had originally thought, and that’s saying an awful damn lot.
Continue reading Full Recording Of Yesterday’s Venice Beach BID Meeting Now Available For Scholarly Analysis And Weekend Hatewatching!

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Judge James Chalfant Issues Final Judgment In Okulick Petition Against The Venice Beach BID — The News Is Not Good, Friends, Even Though It Seemed Last Month Like It Was Going To Be


I created a page on Archive.Org to collect pleadings from the Okulicks’ case, and you can find it right here. Unfortunately right now I only have the original petition and yesterday’s tentative ruling, since adopted as final. This article from the Times is also useful background.

Yesterday afternoon the final hearing in the Okulick’s lawsuit against the Venice Beach BID took place before Judge James C. Chalfant in Department 85 of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. One of the petitioners’ claims was that BIDs don’t give any special benefits to property owners whose parcels are zoned commercial but are used solely as owner-occupied residential.

Last month, it seems, Chalfant agreed with the petitioners, stating in his tentative ruling at that time that:

The Petition for writ of mandate is granted in part. Only the portion of the assessment directed to properties used by their owner exclusively as their residence is unlawful. A writ shall issue directing a refund of that portion of the assessment and Petitioners are entitled to a declaratory judgment to that effect. In all other respects, the Petition is denied.

However, it seems that the respondents, i.e. the City of Los Angeles and the Venice Beach BID, convinced him to hold off on making this ruling final to allow for another round of briefing just on the specific part where he found in favor of the Okulicks. I don’t have copies of those briefs, but yesterday’s hearing consisted of the oral argument surrounding them. Whatever the City of LA put in its brief did the nasty trick, evidently.

By yesterday Chalfant had changed his mind completely, and nothing that the petitioners’ lawyer, the brave, the honorable Geoffrey T. Stover, could say would sway the judge. Turn the page for the money quote from yesterday’s bad news tentative ruling and a little bit of amateur discussion based on notes I took at the hearing.
Continue reading Judge James Chalfant Issues Final Judgment In Okulick Petition Against The Venice Beach BID — The News Is Not Good, Friends, Even Though It Seemed Last Month Like It Was Going To Be

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President Tara Devine Begged Fashion District To Hire Her For BID Consulting At $72,000 But They Hired UPC At $55,000 Instead Even Though Estela Lopez Really Loves President Devine And Steve Heumann Had “Front Row Seat” To President Devine’s Work In “Impossible” Venice — President Devine Admits Against Interest That Purpose Of BID Consulting Is To “Effectuate Approval” Of Municipal Legislation

As you may recall, I’ve been studying the relationships between BIDs and the consultants they hire to guide them through the process of establishing or renewing their BIDs. As part of this work I discovered, e.g., that the Fashion District BID is paying $55,000 to FDBID Executive Directrix Rena Leddy’s former employer Urban Place Consulting for renewal services. But before the Board hired UPC they, acting as the fiscally responsible grownups they are, for whatever reason, presumed to be, solicited proposals from the City’s various BID consultants.

And, although it’s probably not such a surprise given how few BID consultants there are in this City, it turns out that famously shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine submitted a proposal! She didn’t get the job, though, possibly because her bid was almost $20,000 higher than UPC’s. And there are many things to be learned from this document, not least of which is the fact that Tara Devine, utilizing the grammatical voice known technically as “unhinged third person,” refers to herself throughout as “President Tara Devine.”1

The most important information in the document, though, has to do with the scope of services, which contains crucial information for my ongoing project of turning BID consultants in to the Ethics Commission for failing to register as lobbyists. One necessary element of the registration requirement, found in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance,2 is that a lobbyist be employed “…for the purpose of attempting to influence municipal legislation on behalf of any person.”3

BID renewal requires the City Council to pass two distinct ordinances,4 and this fact is a key element of my my general argument that BID consulting is lobbying. But how much more effective than me arguing for this position to just have President Tara Devine admit herself, in her own words, that when a BID hires her as a consultant they are hiring her to get some legislation passed. Given this admission against interest, she’ll have a hard time arguing that she’s not a lobbyist:

Coordination with City Clerk, HCED Chair, Council President, and Council District 14 to effectuate scheduling and approval of:
o Ordinance of Intention
o Ordinance of Establishment
o Prop 218 Ballot Issuance

Anyway, the whole document is well worth your time to read, although most of it’s merely mockable rather than substantial. Turn the page for transcriptions of some selections, including a bunch of risible testimonials from President Tara Devine’s cronies in BIDlandia and their comments, as filtered through her considerable third-person ego, about her work in Venice and elsewhere.
Continue reading President Tara Devine Begged Fashion District To Hire Her For BID Consulting At $72,000 But They Hired UPC At $55,000 Instead Even Though Estela Lopez Really Loves President Devine And Steve Heumann Had “Front Row Seat” To President Devine’s Work In “Impossible” Venice — President Devine Admits Against Interest That Purpose Of BID Consulting Is To “Effectuate Approval” Of Municipal Legislation

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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 South Park BID In 2017

So you may recall that I’ve been working on establishing the fact that BID consulting constitutes lobbying as defined in the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. I kicked off this project in February with shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine, whom I reported to the Ethics Commission for working as a lobbyist but failing to register as a lobbyist. Meanwhile, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a reasonable introduction to the concepts of both BID consultancy and why it’s almost certainly the kind of thing for which registration with the Ethics Commission is required.

My theory gained some credibility with the discovery that some BID consultants in Los Angeles do register as lobbyists. Since February I’ve been collecting evidence against Ed Henning for his work with the San Pedro BID and also against Urban Place Consulting for their work on Fashion District BID renewal and also Media District BID renewal.

And, of course, against Tara Devine for her ongoing work with the South Park BID. Finally, a few weeks ago I completed a generic argument1 that BID consultancy constitutes lobbying. And this morning I’m pleased to announce that, despite the twisted CPRA-defying machinations of South Park BID director of operations2 Katie Kiefer and her less-than-competent lawyers,3 I have submitted yet another complaint to the Ethics Commission against Tara Devine, this time for her BID consulting for South Park. You can read the whole complaint here.

And turn the page for a technical discussion of an interesting issue which came up while I was putting this complaint together. Note that I discussed this same issue the other day, so if you read that post, you might want to just skip the rest of this one.
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 South Park BID In 2017

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Venice Beach BID Still Not Operational Despite The Fact That Their Contract Was Attested More Than Two Months Ago — Mark Sokol Sent Out A Letter, Likely Ghosted By Tara Devine, Two Weeks Ago Begging For Patience And Donations And Offering A Freaking Unmonitored Email Account For Consolation!

It’s been a long, long year for the Venice Beach BID, friends. Last August they had their first hearing but due to generalized arrogance they messed up the process and so the City Attorney called a do-over, which happened last November. For undisclosed reasons it took until June of this year for their administration contract to get signed and as of today they still have not commenced operations.

And evidently the property owners are getting restless out there on the very West side, because on July 31, Mr. Venice Beach himself, Mark Sokol, sent out a letter to the property owners (transcription after the break) begging their forbearance, asking them if they had any office space to donate, and telling them they weren’t going to get any money back even if the BID didn’t start working until freaking December cause that’s the way they roll.

And if you have questions you’re welcome, according to this letter, to send them to admin@venicebeachbid.com even though, and I am not making this up, no one checks that account. Just as an aside, not in the letter, but you may have more luck with tara@venicebeachbid.com or marksokol@hotmail.com or mark@mphotel.com or carl@lambertinc.com or sheumann@sidewalkent.com. Property owners were also offered a chance to sign up for a mailing list, although signups seem to be closed now. Anyway, there’s a transcription after the break, and I’m not sure what it all means, but it seemed important to publish it.
Continue reading Venice Beach BID Still Not Operational Despite The Fact That Their Contract Was Attested More Than Two Months Ago — Mark Sokol Sent Out A Letter, Likely Ghosted By Tara Devine, Two Weeks Ago Begging For Patience And Donations And Offering A Freaking Unmonitored Email Account For Consolation!

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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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The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce Amended Its Lobbying Registration Form in April 2017 And The Only Change Was The Date They Qualified — More Interesting, Though, Is The Fact That They Consider Their Pro-Establishment Advocacy For Jeff Zarrinnam’s Inchoate Hollywood-Western And Route 66 BIDs To Be Lobbying Activity

It’s well-known that the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance requires lobbyists of all stripes to register with the City Ethics Commission. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is no exception to the rule.1 They are also required to amend their registration forms if there are any material changes in the information provided.2

And as you know if you follow this blog, I find everything to do with lobbyists in Los Angeles fascinating, and thus I haunt the Ethics Commission’s lobbying pages, poring over the alphabetical lists of individual lobbyists and of lobbyist firms and employers to see if anything’s changed or if something is newly interesting.

And lo! Last night I noticed that our old friends, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, had amended their registration form on April 28. Here are the two forms:

Well, I stared and stared and stared at those two forms just trying to figure out what had changed. Eventually I noticed that the original form had January 31, 2017 as the date they’d qualified as a lobbying entity3 whereas the amended version had January 1, 2017 as the day of qualifying.

One of the Hollywood Chamber’s registration forms superimposed on the other with 38% opacity so that it’s clear that the only difference is in the qualifying date. Click to enlarge, of course.

There’s a lot of information on the forms, though, and I didn’t feel confident that the difference I’d noticed was in fact the only difference. I wasn’t sure what do to until this morning, when it occurred to me that if I put both pages into the GIMP, superimposed one on top of the other, and then faded the opacity up and down I’d be able to notice what changed.4 And it turns out that in fact, it’s correct that the only change was the date of the Hollywood Chamber’s qualifying as a lobbyist.

Which leads irresistibly to the question of why Leron Gubler and/or Nicole Shahenian, who are the Hollywood Chamber’s two registered lobbyists, felt the need to make this tiny change. Read on for speculations and some other chit-chat about the fact that Leron Gubler lists the establishment of the Hollywood Western and the Route 66 BIDs as issues the Chamber is lobbying for this year.
Continue reading The Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce Amended Its Lobbying Registration Form in April 2017 And The Only Change Was The Date They Qualified — More Interesting, Though, Is The Fact That They Consider Their Pro-Establishment Advocacy For Jeff Zarrinnam’s Inchoate Hollywood-Western And Route 66 BIDs To Be Lobbying Activity

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News Flash! Venice Beach Property Owners Association Contract With The City Of Los Angeles To Administer The Venice Beach BID Was Attested Yesterday (But As Of Right Now Is Not Available Online)

Game on in Venice!
UPDATE: The signed contract is now available online.

There’s not much to say here. It’s Contract number C-129375, and I assume a PDF of it will show up at that link at some point in the future. I also assume that this means that the Venice Beach BID is finally going to commence operations, so let’s get ready for action, friends!
Continue reading News Flash! Venice Beach Property Owners Association Contract With The City Of Los Angeles To Administer The Venice Beach BID Was Attested Yesterday (But As Of Right Now Is Not Available Online)

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Kosmont Invoices For Gateway To LA BID Reveal How Much Time It Takes To Get A BID Renewed, And It Doesn’t Look Good For BID Consultants, Like Tara Devine, Like Urban Place Consulting, That Are Not Registered As Lobbyists With The City

Larry Kosmont handled the Gateway to LA BID’s 2014-5 renewal and was, very properly, registered as a lobbyist while doing so.
You may recall that the Los Angeles Municipal Lobbying Ordinance requires qualified lobbyists to register with the City Ethics Commission and also disclose a bunch of interesting information about their clients and their income. Also, the process of establishing or renewing a BID is fairly complex, and most property owners’ associations1 hire a consultant to guide them through the process. These consultants are regulated and recommended by the City Clerk’s office.

The process of getting a BID established or renewed, it turns out, looks an awful lot like the definition of lobbying activity to be found at LAMC §48.02, which is essentially preparing information and discussing it with City officials as part of influencing the passage of municipal legislation. The law requires anyone who’s paid for thirty or more hours of this over three consecutive months to register as a lobbyist, and it’s generally extremely hard to prove that someone’s met this criterion. You may, e.g., recall that earlier this year, in order to make a reasonably convincing case that Venice Beach BID consultant Tara Devine had passed this threshold, I spent months piecing together more than a hundred pages of evidence regarding her BID consultancy work.

But recently it’s occurred to me that these consultants have contracts with the BIDs they service, and that at least in the case of BID renewals, the contracts will be accessible via the Public Records Act.2 The contracts will contain some information about how much time the consultants spend on the project, and thus should be useful as evidence in reporting consultants to the Ethics Commission for lobbying without a license.

The project started to produce results at the end of February, when the incomparable Laurie Hughes of the Gateway to LA BID supplied me with her BID’s contracts with Larry Kosmont, who was handling the renewal process.3 Well, late last week, Laurie Hughes gave me an absolutely essential set of documents, consisting of detailed monthly invoices from Kosmont to the BID during the 15+ month renewal process. These are fascinating,4 containing as they do detailed inventories of every individual task involved in the renewal process broken down into fifteen minute billing increments. Turn the page for more descriptions, discussion, and speculations.
Continue reading Kosmont Invoices For Gateway To LA BID Reveal How Much Time It Takes To Get A BID Renewed, And It Doesn’t Look Good For BID Consultants, Like Tara Devine, Like Urban Place Consulting, That Are Not Registered As Lobbyists With The City

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