Venice Beach BID Hearing Roundup: Bonin Jettisons Deference, Implicatively Slams Hollywood, Downtown BIDs: “There’ve Been Good BIDs And There’ve Been Bad BIDs” And Hollywood? And Downtown? Not Good BIDs. Wesson/Englander Totalitarian Style Almost Causes Third Do-Over

A battle-weary Mike Bonin graciously acknowledges his ultimate victory this afternoon at the Venice Beach BID hearing.
A battle-weary Mike Bonin graciously acknowledges his ultimate victory this afternoon at the Venice Beach BID hearing.
Quick summary: Venice Beach BID hearing in August was messed up due to habitual arrogance of City Council. Heroic civil rights lawyer calls bullshit. City Attorney sees potential liability for City and advises a do-over. A bunch of other shenanigans, too many to name-check at this point, ensue. This morning the do-over hearing was held. You can watch it here on YouTube.

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.1 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,2 after all the speaker cards had been called, announced to the world at large:3

Mitch Englander on the dais getting whispered advice from a deputy city attorney.  What does it say about our City that almost 15% of our Councilmembers are named Mitch?  Nothing good, friends, nothing good.
Mitch Englander on the dais getting whispered advice from a deputy city attorney. What does it say about our City that almost 15% of our Councilmembers are named Mitch? Nothing good, friends, nothing good.

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.

But far more interesting than that was Bonin’s victory speech.4 In particular, maybe since he was feeling a little conciliatory, he said:

I acknowledge that there have been issues and problems with BIDs in other areas. But there have also been BIDs that have been very successful and have been great partners in solving homelessness. In Pacific Palisades we have a BID that has actually worked with the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and has helped get people housed. In Westchester, also in my District, the Westchester Town Center has helped hire People Assisting the Homeless, PATH, and helped people get off the streets there. And has been very useful, and very helpful.

Note how all the BIDs “that have been very successful and have been great partners in solving homelessness” are in CD11. That seems to mean that when “there have been issues and problems with BIDs in other areas” those are areas like Hollywood, like Downtown, like Skid Row. And he didn’t stop there:

My hope on this, because as I’ve said, there’ve been good BIDs and there’ve been bad BIDs, is that this BID work to help on the issue of homelessness.

See, Kerry Morrison of the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance? See, Carol Schatz of the Downtown Center BID? See, Estela Lopez of the Central City East Association? Mike Bonin thinks your BIDs are bad BIDs. He thinks that “there have been issues and problems with” your BIDs. Even more importantly, do you see, Mitch O’Farrell? Do you see, Jose Huizar? Your colleague, Mike Bonin, with whom you all have some kind of tacit agreement not to criticize, not to contradict, most especially not to vote against, he thinks your BIDs are a bunch of goddamned criminals. And they are, of course, but what’s new, what’s strange, is that an actual City Councilmember is willing to stand up and imply that in public.

Actually, it probably doesn’t mean that much. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say that they, in addition to their agreement to defer to one another in their districts, to vote yes on anything outside their districts in exchange for yes votes on everything inside their districts, in addition to that, they probably have another agreement that allows them to talk a little smack about one anothers’ pet projects if the constituents demand it. And probably even the big money that flows in to every Councilmember from Hollywood, from Downtown, is subject to an understanding that sometimes a politician has to say mean things, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to vote down your megamultibullshitplex when it’s time for your variances, and it certainly doesn’t mean what he implied about the BIDs in Hollywood and Downtown isn’t absolutely true. It is.

Just as an aside, it’s worth thinking about why BIDs in the Palisades and in Westchester can afford to be nice, whereas BIDs in Hollywood cannot. There are essentially four kinds of neighborhoods in Los Angeles.5 There are places that zillionaires live, like Bel Air, like Hancock Park, like the Palisades. There are places where upper middle class people live, like Mar Vista, like Atwater, like Los Feliz,6 There are places where zillionaires are moving out poor and working class people in order to sell everything off to middle class people, like Hollywood, like Downtown. And there are places where poor and working class people live. Anymore, these last neighborhoods are essentially in a holding pattern just waiting to be transformed into the third kind of neighborhood.

And in the first two kinds of neighborhoods, it’s easy to have nice, kind BIDs. After all, there’s no conflict. There’s no pushback. Everything is sociologically static in the Palisades, in Hancock Park. It has been for decades, and in the case of Hancock Park, for a century. No actual violence is needed and more than enough structural violence is supplied by the LAPD, who would swoop down on anyone who even looked like they were smiling while thinking about being homeless Hollywood style in those areas. So why shouldn’t the BIDs be nice? The same sort of argument applies in Westchester.

But which is Venice more similar to? The Pacific Palisades or Downtown? With some minor differences, it’s the latter.7 There is immense potential for violence in Venice. There are vast investments to be protected and there is well-organized opposition like there is Downtown. No one can afford to be nice. And I can’t tell if Mike Bonin knows this or not when he says that the Venice Beach BID will be one of the nice BIDs. But it doesn’t matter, because once there’s a BID, he won’t have all that much control over it.8 If they decide they want to hire armed security like Hollywood, they just can, and he can’t really stop them. He can pressure them, he can cajole them, but he can’t stop them.9 And maybe, given the amount of money he gets from them, he won’t want to. Anyway, it turns out that we all have much worse things to worry about this election day than BIDs, so I’m going to leave off. Cheerio, friends!

  1. Which tonight is far more sickening than funny. I’m finishing this post because I started it, and decidedly not because I have much of a will to do anything that requires believing in a future. When I’m done I’m going to drink myself into a coma. Join me?
  2. Which seems to mean he presides over the Council when Herb Wesson needs urgently to step out to the top secret Councilfolk’s smoking patio to partake in the old three-pack tango to calm his anxiety about bill collectors.
  3. Or maybe it was Herb Wesson. I didn’t point the camera at the dais and now I can’t tell them by their voices. They were both up there presiding together at this point, I believe. The Clerk doesn’t have the official video up at the City’s website yet.
  4. Obviously he hadn’t won yet at the time, but they don’t start these things unless they can win them.
  5. This is an incredibly sketchy theory. It’s really rough, and counterexamples are easy to come by. But it’s good enough for this particular story.
  6. Slightly more complicated. Some parts of Los Feliz are full of zillionaires.
  7. The argument is complicated somewhat by the fact that there actually are a lot of really rich people living in Venice. They’re rich, but they’re not zillionaires. They seem mostly to be rich creative types, like architects, people in the industry, lawyers (yes, I think lawyers are creative. So sue me. Oh wait!) No matter how much money these kinds of people have, their interests are fundamentally different from the interests of the lords and masters of the universe, who are all in real estate, every last one of them.
  8. Which seems to be a feature rather than a bug as far as the City is concerned, but that’s another story entirely.
  9. OK, look, this argument is not entirely correct. Other areas of the City provide examples of how BIDs can be controlled by their Councilfolk. And not only that, but since one of the main functions of BIDs is to work really, really closely with their Council Districts, probably Mike Bonin could make the BID do anything he wants just by threatening not to have breakfast with them once a month (like Dan Halden of CD13 does with the HPOA). But Bonin can’t be pressured to do this. He has to want to. And who really knows if he does? The very fact that the existence of a BID takes the decision out of the realm of democratic politics and makes it reliant on Bonin’s individual desires is more problematic than whatever he decides to do with the BID.

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