Here’s the deal. Some people we met at a show in Silver Lake1 the other day told us that this thing was happening and where to find contact info on the web. We looked it up, emailed the contact, phoned the contact, were told the address, took the Red Line to North Hollywood and the Orange Line to Van Nuys and then walked over to an actual normal house on a normal street in the Valley. You can see from the images what we found there, and the music was fabulous, and we met a bunch of very interesting people. I mean, we’re as opposed in theory to vicious criminal conspiracies as the next folks, but this one had really positive results! We’re as in favor in theory of governments of laws rather than of men as the next folks, but damn it, this whole thing was just too wonderful to seriously be illegal. And what does this have to do with the BIDs? Why, we’re glad you asked! Turn the page to find out.
Think about hysterical freak-out of the BIDs and their rich white co-conspirators when faced with legalized street vending in Los Angeles. They hire lying, scheming, conspiring, evil PR firms to form bullshit astro-turf fake-ass political fronts like the Coalition to Save Small Business. They send their employees out to public meetings to give opinions as if they were real humans, and they do this repeatedly. They have a long list of putative problems with legalized street vending that they trot out again and again like tired little organ-grinding monkeys at public meetings and in letters to politicians: cash-only business so can’t collect taxes, will hurt “brick-and-mortar” businesses who have to pay more taxes, will mess up parking, will create crime, will exacerbate no-bathroom situations, and so on.
Now, which of these don’t apply to the house concert we attended last night? We paid in cash and the cash was handed to the musicians at the end of the night. Taxes collected? Surely no one knows. There are “brick-and-mortar” venues we could have gone to instead of this place. Lost business? Check. Expensive regulatory requirements to be fulfilled by said “brick-and-mortar” establishments not fulfilled here? Check. Parking? We took Metro, but a lot of people didn’t, and they parked on a residential street in Van Nuys. One assumes the hosts have this worked out with the neighbors, but don’t forget, those “brick-and-mortar” places have laws determining how many parking spaces they have to provide and these house concert givers do not. Unfair competition! Crime? Both street vending and house concerts constitute criminal activity, but only because they’re against the law. This is a circular argument in both cases. Bathrooms? The hosts shared theirs with their guests. Street vendors in many cities are required to work out bathroom deals with local businesses. None of this would even be an issue if the BIDs weren’t so flat-out no-quarter dead-body-over opposed to public restrooms. They’d much rather arrest people for pissing in public than give them a private place to piss. They create the no-bathroom situations, so they don’t also get to whine about them.
So we really must wonder why it is that the BIDs aren’t inundating their councildudes and dudettes with anti-house-concert screeds. Why they aren’t hiring thuggish PR flacks to shut down the thriving house concert scene? It can’t just be that they aren’t happening in a BID. Most of the street vending that’s happening is also not happening in a BID. In fact, the only reason we can think of why the BIDs aren’t freaking the fuck out about house concerts is the same reason that’s always left unstated when the BIDs screech out their opposition to street vending. Street vendors in Los Angeles are mostly not white. Now, the people at this house concert we went to mostly were white. We don’t know if this kind of thing is popular with non-white homeowners or not since we just discovered the whole scene yesterday, but if it is, by definition it will mostly be taking place in non-white areas of the city. We would bet good money that if the BIDs could be sure that street vending would stay in non-white areas they wouldn’t oppose it so viciously. There’s some evidence for this in the fact that their fallback position if legalization is inevitable is to force neighborhoods to opt in and, failing that, to allow them to opt out. The BIDs and their ancestors have made and are making tons of money from racial segregation, not just in housing but in regulated social association as well. For instance, they’re on record as wanting Hollywood nightlife to have fewer black and brown participants.
And so here we are at the heart of the BIDs’ troubles. They want so very badly to keep street vending illegal, but they probably don’t want to enrage white homeowners in the Valley and wherever else they do these house concert things. They probably can’t win that battle, so why start it? However, it’s not possible in this country to pass laws that only apply to specific racial groups. Thus we see white supremacists in a perennial struggle with the problem of how to write laws that mostly apply only to their bêtes noires but which will also stand up to judicial scrutiny without also alienating other white people.3 The anti-street vending law probably doesn’t make house concerts illegal, but there are laws just like that one which do. It’s certainly illegal to run a business out of one’s home, especially a music venue which attracts an audience. In the usual course of events disclaimers about donations and so on aren’t going to be enough to prevent cop interference. If that worked, more bacon dog sellers would have disclaimers.
On the other hand, house concerts are patently something which putatively free people should be able to do. If the people doing it are white this will be even more transparently clearly obviously true to onlookers (the media and so on) who don’t always remember so well that non-white people have rights too. What’s going to happen, then, in the long term, we predict, if the BIDs get their whiny way about street vending, is that a lot of moral contradictions in how these various associated laws are enforced are going to start to be made more and more manifest. This house concert thing is just one example, and we’re guessing that there are many more yet to be discovered, e.g. places like the Starry Kitchen once was. The result will be more tension, more pain, more arrests, and more pressure to constructively deny the white supremacy at the root of the BIDs’ campaign by arresting more white people involved with house concerts, secret restaurants, and so on. How much better, then, to legalize street vending, legalize house concerts, let freedom, love, food, and music flourish!
Note: Maybe you’re thinking, well, the house concerts are taking place on private property whereas street vending takes place on public property and thus, maybe, is more appropriately a subject of the BIDs’ interest. This would be a plausible argument if we were dealing with sane people. However, our correspondent has personally sat in a BID meeting and heard BID people complain about food carts operating on private property with the permission of the owner, something which is completely legal, even in Los Angeles. Someone then reminded the complainer of this fact, who then expressed his utter surprise that it was legal and even proposed that it be outlawed. These are supposedly defenders of the inalienable right to own property, unless it’s used for food carts. Why then would they stop at house concerts? (Sorry we have to be so vague about this but no one can track down the actual bit of tape where this conversation takes place).
- For some reason it’s quite painful for us to admit in public that we went voluntarily to Silver Lake (not to mention the fact that we had an absolutely wonderful time). There’s still some human and magical stuff left in Silver Lake but not for long, not for long… The hipster apocalypse grinds slowly, but it grinds exceedingly small,2 and come to think of it, it doesn’t actually grind nearly goddamned slowly enough for our taste.
- Do we like Longfellow or do we not?
We used to know, but we forgot.
We do like this poem, though. Check it!.
- We’ve written before about some of the forms this struggle took after the 1948 Supreme Court opinion in Shelley v. Kraemer, which effectively forbade racial discrimination in housing. This was an interesting case study because those white supremacists allied with the real estate industry realized that they’d actually be better off financially if they could restrict housing not only away from black people but from white trash as well.
Images of house concert are ©2015 MichaelKohlhaas.org. Map of Valley BIDs not subject to copyright for the usual reasons. Image of public toilet in Sydney is available via Wikimedia and is licensed under the CC BY 2.0 by its creator, sv1ambo. Image of white people and house is a work of the U.S. Government and, as such, is not subject to copyright. We got it here from Flickr. Picture of Starry Kitchen guy is released under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by its creator StyleSpotting and we got it from it/their Flickr Stream. Image of fruit cart is released under the CC BY-SA 2.0 by its creator Stu Spivack and we got it via Flickr.