This has nothing much at all to do with businesss improvement districts, but it’s Saturday night and I just felt like laying some Form 990s on you. These five beauties are from slavering psychopath Mark Ryavec’s agressively moronic Venice-based gang of subliterate meatheads, known to the mundane world as the Venice Stakeholders Association. They are available here on Archive.Org for your reading and researchical pleasure.
These items are interesting for any number of reasons. One is that they show that the VSA is not just a vision of sugar plums dancing ‘neath the fevered brow of Mark Ryavec, but that there are actual real-life other people involved:1 Michael King, Bonnie Felix, Anil Comelo, Robert Feist, Richard Myer(s).2 Had they appeared in another context I’d have been willing to bet that these names were merely selected from the myriad to be found in Ryavec’s floridly diverse collection of multiple personalities, but I don’t know many people, even the really, really, crazy ones, who have a lack of foresight sufficient to cause them to swear under penalty of perjury in a document submitted to the Federal government that the names of their imaginary friends represent real-life actual human beings.3
One of the most contentious issues in the very, very contentious formation of a business improvement district in Venice has been the existence of properties with commercial zoning that are used solely for residential purposes that were included in the BID and therefore assessed. This is the basis of a recently filed lawsuit against the City as well as a significant number of other protests against the BID.
For instance, in May 2016, Venice homeowner1 Louis Traeger wrote to the City protesting the inclusion of his home in the BID. On June 1, 2016 Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott answered him, stating:
In address of your request to remove said property from the proposed Business Improvement District, the City Clerk does not have the authority to remove or add properties in a Business Improvement District. However, we will forward your request and this information to the Engineer conducting the survey and analysis for the creation of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District.
Further, you requested notice of any hearing concerning the approval of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District in order to submit your written opposition. If your property is ultimately included within the Business Improvement District boundaries, a notice of the City Council hearing date will be mailed to you. At the hearing, an opportunity will be provided to protest the establishment.
As far as I can tell2 what Holly Wolcott says is the truth and it’s nothing but the truth, but it is in absolutely no way at all the whole truth. Her statement that “the City Clerk does not have the authority to remove or add properties in a Business Improvement District” is true. When she follows it up with a statement that she will “forward your request and this information to the Engineer conducting the survey and analysis” she is certainly creating the impression that ONLY the engineer is empowered to remove properties. This is not true. It’s really badly not true, as I will demonstrate below.
A couple weeks ago, a group of brave and determined residents of Venice filed a writ petition against the City of Los Angeles and the Venice Beach BID asking the court to set aside the ordinance that created it, to force the City to redraw the BID’s boundaries in accordance with the law, and, most interestingly, to order the City to contest the assessments levied against City-owned properties in the BID. You can read a copy of the initial petition:
Or here — on the new dedicated page, also available through the menu structure above.
Or here — directly from static storage; see the titles better!
They argue that their residential properties will get no special benefits from the BID, which violates the California Constitution. They argue that many of the proposed activities of the BID, specifically the security program, are inherently incapable of providing special benefits. And most interestingly from the point of view of general anti-BID theory, they argue that the City has a duty to its citizens to scrutinize the BID plan to be sure that City-owned parcels included in the BID actually benefit from being in the BID, and that by rubber-stamping the BID proposal, the City has abdicated this duty. If this argument succeeds it will shake the very foundations of BIDs in Los Angeles, which rely to various extents on the automatic yes votes provided by City-owned property. This automatic approval, by the way, was set up in 19981 via Council File 96-1972 which, in pertinent part, includes a directive to:
REQUIRE the City Clerk to sign off on Proposition 218 ballots and support petitions for property-based BIDs, unless the Council directs otherwise.
A few weeks ago, Rory Carroll published an excellent article in The Guardian on how the City of Los Angeles has used gang injunctions as a tool of gentrification in Venice. Of course, this is not news to anyone who’s been paying attention since the injunction began in 2000. Even at the time it seemed clear that the injunction was a response to the wave of gentrification that began in Venice in the late 1980s and underwent unprecedented acceleration through the 1990s. Of course, everyone who’s smelting gold out of the housing stock of Oakwood in a blast furnace fueled by the burning bodies and lives of the poor people, the dark-skinned people, fed into the hopper by the LAPD, denies this every which way.
And these arguments have been repeated so often I have nightmares about them. “The cops would never ever do such a thing.” “There’s no conspiracy to chase out darkies.”2 And so on and on and on. But Venice’s own muse of slavering psychopathy, the very king of the gentrifiers, the universally acknowledged whitest man in Venice, Mark Ryavec himself, has distilled all of them, every last threadbare tin-foil-hat characterization, into one bitter pithy little ball. As Rory Carroll puts it:
For Mark Ryavec, head of the Venice Stakeholders Association, the notion that police act as gentrification agents is “a bunch of radical bullshit”.
So everyone made their comments, and they weren’t all that different from the first time, although Mike Bonin managed not to lose his shit and compare the BID opposition to Trump supporters.4 But nevertheless, there were a few surprising moments. Recall that the first hearing was invalidated because third-smartest-guy-in-the-room Herb Wesson cut off public comment too early. So this time, Mitch Englander, who is Council president pro tem,5 after all the speaker cards had been called, announced to the world at large:6
I wanna be extra careful on this one given the problems with the last public hearing. Is there anybody here who filled out a card or tried to speak or [unintelligible] has not been heard yet?
And then the other one, Wesson or Englander, seeing that sanest of habitual gadflies, Eric Preven, indicating that he would like to speak, announced:
Ah, Mr. Preven, you actually spoke to the Council already for your maximum of three minutes per the Council rules.
And Preven said no. And everyone in the room wondered whether they were really going to take the risk of messing everything up for a second time just to prevent Eric Preven from speaking for one more minute after we’d all been there almost an hour already. Well, the Deputy City Attorney told the two prezzes to CTFO, and they folded, for Christ’s sake, and let Eric Preven speak.
According to a recent post on Facebook, Mike Bonin’s Venice Field Deputy Taylor Bazley is telling concerned constituents that1 they [the BID Patrol] cannot touch people at all. He said “They can not do anything that you or I could not do. They just alert police. That’s all.”
The second claim, that BID security cannot do anything that any private person can’t do, is true, but it doesn’t make the point that Taylor Bazley wants it to make. California has one of the most weirdly expansive citizens’ arrest statutes (PC 837 et seq.) in the known universe. A lawyer of my acquaintance once said2 that it essentially authorizes fricking Batman. So actually, you yourself can physically restrain people with handcuffs if they e.g. sit on the sidewalk in your presence.3
I’m writing to urge you to postpone consideration of the proposed Venice Beach business improvement district and to think about placing a moratorium on the formation of new BIDs until we as a City can have a much-needed, long-delayed conversation about their proper role. A major problem is that as they’re now constituted, there is no way for anyone not on their Boards of Directors to have any influence over property-based BIDs in Los Angeles. They have effectively isolated themselves from every one of the City’s means of contractor oversight. People who live in or near BIDs are directly impacted by their activities in many ways but have no effective means of influencing them. Since the property owners associations that administer the BIDs are mostly controlled by self-perpetuating Boards there aren’t even effective ways for the property owners in BIDs to influence their policies. Property-based BIDs also covertly and perhaps inadvertently perpetuate racist policies from the past in unexpected ways. Continue reading Open Letter to City Council Asking For Postponement of Venice Beach BID And A Moratorium On New BID Formation→
Ask anybody who’s making bank off BIDs. Ask the BID Consortium. Ask the freaking State Legislature, who has incorporated their findings in the freaking Streets and Highways Code at Section 36601(e)(1). Every zillionaire in the state of California and every zillionaire lackey legislator at every level will tell you that the flipping RAND Corporation Report on BIDs proves that they’re better for the health, wealth, and eternal salvation for the people of the Golden State than the the forthcoming resurrection of Jesus, Mary, and all 12 of the apostles.4 And yet when it comes to finding out who’s behind creating them, everybody lies, everybody hides.
Here’s the story. The City creates BIDs. This is no secret. When Aaron Epstein changed the world with his lawsuit the court found that yes, the City of Los Angeles created its BIDs. Read through the records from the years of work Jackie Goldberg dedicated in the 1990s to forming a BID in Hollywood. And yet if you ask anyone at the City for any records to do with the preformation of a BID, they will trot out their official story, which is a lie, that BIDs are formed by a spontaneous movement of property owners.5 This is what Laura McLennan, Mike Bonin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, told me this morning after I asked her for a copy of the list of property owners in the forthcoming Venice Beach BID. She also told me that CD11 didn’t have the list and that I should ask the City Clerk.
I don’t know if that was meant as bitter sarcasm or was just a symptom of ignorance (although I’d hope that someone as intimately involved with the VBBID formation process as Bonin’s senior staff must be would not suffer from the requisite level of ignorance), but actually I’d already asked the Clerk yesterday, been denied at multiple levels, and that’s why I was asking CD11.6 Staff members of the division that oversees BIDs told me that they didn’t have the list, that they didn’t have anything to do with the list, that the list didn’t have anything to do with the City, and that I could ask the shadowy private consultant who’s running the private side of the process, Tara Devine, for the list. I did ask Devine, even though it was obviously a waste of time to ask someone like Devine for anything she wasn’t obligated to provide by law. And it was a waste of time. Continue reading If BIDs Are Such A Good Good Thing For The City Then Why Is Everyone Involved In Their Creation So Darned Secretive?→
On Friday, July 1, the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles signed an ordinance of intention to establish a Venice Beach BID. It seems that this isn’t final, and there will be a hearing on August 23, 2016 at 10 a.m. “to determine whether to establish the District.” Please mark it on your calendars and come put the integrity of our City Council to the test. After all, if 169 signatures below one of the most eloquent anti-BID statements I’ve ever had the good fortune to read didn’t sway them, I don’t imagine that a huge public outcry will do much. But that’s no reason for remaining silent.
You can read a description of the boundaries of the proposed BID in the ordinance, although it’s a little hard to follow even for someone who grew up out there. The District seems to be bounded roughly by the Boardwalk on the West, by North Venice Boulevard to the South, by Pacific Avenue to the East, and by Rose on the North. Now, I don’t know how much you know about the history of race relations in Venice, but it’s essential to an understanding of the deep politics of this BID1 to know that the area roughly bounded by Electric Avenue, North Venice Blvd., Lincoln Blvd, and (maybe) Brooks Avenue, known as Oakwood, was originally the only area of Venice that non-white people were allowed to own property in. Thus ownership of commercial property in the area encompassed by the proposed BID, like most such areas in Los Angeles, was restricted to white people only until sometime in the late 1960s, and then only as a matter of law. There is no question that the huge majority of that property is, even now, due to the way that commercial property is passed down in families, owned by white people. Continue reading A Dark Day in Los Angeles: Venice Beach BID Ordinance Approved by Council on Friday. Final Hearing August 23 at 10 a.m. in Council.→
As tragic as the demise of Venice has been to watch over the last five years or so, it turns out that she still has some life in her. If anyone had asked me five years ago which neighborhood of Los Angeles might successfully oppose a BID, I would have said Venice without even having to think about it. But the last half-decade, what with sociopathic techbros of both sexes in possession of orders of magnitude more money than sense buying every sliver of land in sight and thereby running the prices up into the stratosphere even as they’re hogging the waves with their irremediably Barneyfied GoPro equipped styrofoam surfboards, zillionaires remodeling the canals into a nightmare AirBnB horror show, stupid fucking restaurants that…evidently leave me speechless, all this had driven me into what I thought was an inescapable well of cynical despair with respect to the fate of this dearest of all areas of our City.
Well, tonight the Clerk’s office placed a petition with 169 signatures of Venice residents opposing the formation of a BID there and, just like that, my hope in Venice is restored! They oppose it articulately, wisely, and for all the right reasons, too:
We, the undersigned, oppose the establishment of a Venice Beach Business Improvement District (BID). We believe in public control of public resources and oppose the privatization of those resources. We support renters’ rights, both for residential and commercial renters, and oppose taxation without representation. BIDs impose taxes that renters often pay, but which landlords decide upon. BID private security forces have a track record of infringing on the rights of our lowest-income neighbors, especially those people who are unhoused. We oppose private security fources controlled exclusively by commercial and industrial interests when their impact will affect the entire community, especially those disenfranchised from BID governance.