Miranda Paster Whitewashed Homelessness Out Of The Hollywood Media District BID’s 2017 Annual Planning Report, Thereby Unilaterally Altering The BID’s Proposed Activities And Yet Again Putting The Lie To Holly Wolcott’s Often-Used But Thoroughly Discredited Excuse That The City Of LA Has No Control Over BIDs

Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott interpreting the Property and Business Improvement Law of 1994.
One of the many interesting documents contained in the yield of a recent CPRA request to the Hollywood Media District BID is their 2017 Annual Planning Report, the final revised version of which was filed by executive director Lisa Schechter with the City Clerk’s office on December 14, 2016.1 The annual submission of these reports is required by §36650 of the California Streets and Highways Code, part of the Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994, which regulates the establishment and governance of BIDs in California.

One of the purposes of these reports is to keep the City updated on what the BID plans to do during the new year. In particular, at §36650(b)(2) the law states:

The report shall be filed with the clerk and shall refer to the property and business improvement district by name, specify the fiscal year to which the report applies, and, with respect to that fiscal year, shall contain all of the following information: … The improvements, maintenance, and activities to be provided for that fiscal year.

So for instance, the Media District’s plan explains what they’re going to do about cleaning and security, which are two of the core functions of BIDs. Here’s part of their statement on cleaning:

Other expenditures anticipated include tree trimming, purchase of additional trash receptacle, and other similar projects to beautify the District in accordance with the approved Management District Plan.

And part of their statement on security:

Safe Committee meetings address a full range of issues: loitering, public urination, drinking in public, prostitution, vandalism, graffiti, and quality of life issues.

Naturally, the BID’s activities for the year have to be approved by the Board of Directors of the BID’s associated Property Owners’ Association,2 which is fitting, since according to §36612 of the Property and Business Improvement District Law, the owners’ association is:

a private nonprofit entity that is under contract with a city to administer or implement improvements, maintenance, and activities specified in the management district plan.

And this explains the statement in the plan’s cover letter that:

…the Board of Directors of the Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District3 has caused this Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District Annual Planning Report to be prepared at its meeting on October 27, 2016.

It’s an interesting and not-entirely-unrelated fact that it’s the very same code section that makes property owners’ associations subject to the California Public Records Act:4
An owners’ association is a private entity and may not be considered a public entity for any purpose, nor may its board members or staff be considered to be public officials for any purpose. Notwithstanding this section, an owners’ association shall comply … with the California Public Records Act … for all records relating to activities of the district.

And the two sentences quoted here are in an interesting tension with one another, especially because the City of Los Angeles has also incorporated this requirement into the contracts that POAs sign with the City to administer BIDs. Once upon a time I tried to use this fact to get Holly Wolcott to force some recalcitrant BIDs5 to comply with the relevant clause of their contract6 and hand over some records I’d asked for. Back then, when she was still speaking to me, she was still unwilling to help me out, but at least she was willing to explain (in this email) why she wasn’t going to do anything at all that I asked her to:

the Clerk’s office
[does not] have the authority to control/direct the records management practices of the various BIDs which are entities wholly separate from the City.

Since then I’ve gotten used to Holly Wolcott making this same excuse in pretty much every situation where anyone asks her to do anything about a misbehaving BID. Most recently she used a version of it to befuddle and befuse property owners who didn’t want to be in the Venice Beach BID. Interestingly, though, in this case of the Media District BID’s Annual Planning Report, it is possible to tell precisely what authority the Clerk’s office has to “control/direct” the practices of BIDs with respect to records.

Did it slip your mind that the Annual Planning Report we are talking about7 is a revised planning report? Now it’s time to discuss how that situation came about.

  • According to the October 20 minutes, the Media District BID finance committee met, edited, and approved a draft of the planning report.
  • According to the October 20 minutes, the Media District BID executive commitee met, edited, and approved a draft of the planning report.
  • According to the October 27 minutes, the Media District BID Board of Directors met and Board President Laurie “Goldman reported that both the Finance and Executive Committees have reviewed and approved the draft of the HMD 2017 Planning Report. Goldman said a final draft of the Report would be presented at the next Board meeting for approval.”
  • On November 2, 2016, despite the fact that the next Board meeting after October 27 took place on November 17 and there is no mention whatsoever of the Planning Report in the minutes,8 Jim Omahen, Media District BID Director of Operations, emailed the report to BID analyst Rita Moreno at the Clerk’s office, kicking off this email chain.
  • On November 3, Rita Moreno told Jim Omahen and Lisa Schechter that they couldn’t email it to her, they had to submit it through the Clerk’s new online BID Portal, and Lisa Schechter said she would, and then she did.
  • On November 16, 2016, Rita Moreno told Jim Omahen and Lisa Schechter that Miranda Paster had “a couple of typos” for them to correct.
  • A later email that same day, seeingly automatically generated, enumerated the necessary corrections: Add spaces between paragraphs and correct “manager” under management section.

And at this point I have to bust out of the list, since too much is happening! On December 14, another request for corrections came through from the Clerk:

Analyst Comment: Per our conversation, please edit the 3rd paragraph under Streetscape to indicate “similar” beautification projects are consistent with MPD; last paragraph under Security to change “homelessness” to “homeless outreach,” and add a space between bullet point starting with “Deployment” and “Committee”, and add comma after “This past year…”

This is an amazing development. Here is another link to the final Planning Report. In an email to Rita Moreno sent later that day, Lisa Schechter responded:

Dear Rita,

Please find attached the PDF of the Revised Annual Planning Report — I have made Miranda’s requested revisions and completely removed homeless from the report. So we will not indicate outreach.9
Recall from above that the final version of the salient paragraph looks like this:

Safe Committee meetings address a full range of issues: loitering, public urination, drinking in public, prostitution, vandalism, graffiti, and quality of life issues.

So it seems reasonable to conclude that prior to revision “homelessness” was on the list of issues addressed by the BID’s security committee.10 Miranda Paster insisted that they remove “homelessness” from the list of issues the BID planned to deal with during the year and replace it with “homeless outreach,” even though this BID is famous for not doing homeless outreach in any shape or form.11

Mostly what they seem to do with their homeless population is illegally but successfully lobby City Council to ban motorhomes in the District, conspire with City officials to violate the Lavan injunction, engage in bizarro-world psychologizing with moronic LAPD officers about how childlike the homeless are, spying on the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition for years on end after their years-long series of attempts to destroy the Coalition fizzled out, and on and on and on, but nothing there that looks much like outreach.12 In other words, the Media District BID doesn’t do outreach, but Miranda Paster told Lisa Schechter to add outreach to the list of planned activities. Schechter, perhaps realizing that it’s better to say nothing than to lie, just removed the word altogether, thus side-stepping the issue.

And interestingly enough, I would bet good money that Miranda Paster is absolutely within her rights here. Recall that these Annual Planning Reports are mandated by the Streets and Highways Code §36650, which in particular at §36650(c) states:

The city council may approve the report as filed by the owners’ association or may modify any particular contained in the report and approve it as modified.

In other words, the City Council has the explicit power to modify the planning report, which means, of course, that they have the implicit power to modify the plan itself. The City Council has absolute control over the activities of BIDs. And really, how could it be otherwise? In any case, no one expects the Council to sit around discussing the details of what some random BID is going to do next year. In practice, the way this power is going to play out is that the Neighborhood and Business Improvement District Section of the Clerk’s office is going to issue a recommendation to the Council when the Planning Report comes up for approval, and the Council is going to accept it, because that is just generally what they do.13

Thus Miranda Paster, and by extension the office of the Clerk, not only has the power to control the activities of BIDs, but actually uses that power. So the next time Holly Wolcott breaks out with some story about how the BIDs are private organizations and the Clerk has no power to make them do anything or to refrain from doing anything, well, probably she’s not going to listen to any arguments about it, because that’s her way of dealing with being called out, but at least you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that her lies are pre-exposed right here on MK.Org. And with the fact that the legislative tools are there, and if we can only figure out how to use them, we may be able, in the times to come, to bend these BIDs to our will.

Image of Pinocchio is in the public domain for some esoteric international reasons that I’m sure the anoraks over at Wikimedia, whence I obtained the file, can explain to you far, far better than I am able.

  1. A link to more of this material is here.
  2. The Business Improvement District itself is a geographical area within which property owners are taxed (or assessed, as they like to insist, as the use of this phrase evidently eases their way through some loophole in state laws governing taxation). By law, each BID comes with an associated property owners’ association, which contracts with the City to administer the BID. The BID itself is the land, the POA is the people. If you want to sue a BID, e.g., you sue its POA. It’s confusing, and they seem to like it that way.
  3. Even the freaking BIDs can’t keep this straight. Strictly speaking the Hollywood Media District BID doesn’t have a Board of Directors. The associated property owners’ association, in this case the Hollywood Media District Property Owners Association, has the Board of Directors. The BID is the geographical area, not the people. If you’re interested in proof of this assertion in this case, here is the 2016 POA statement of information filed with the Secretary of State, who keeps track of corporate registrations. Note that subway-riding-whenever-possible Hollywood attorney Jeffrey Charles Briggs is listed as the agent for service of process. If you know why that’s funny, you know why that’s funny. It’s also worth noting that in many cases, including the present case, no harm is done by conflating the BID with the POA. It’s an easy shorthand and it’s probably actually more clear since no one but a few BID policy wonks even knows what a POA is. However, in this precise instance, it’s definitely worth mocking Lisa Schechter for her conflation because of the pseudolegalistic nonsense with which this sentence concludes. It’s like legal jargon has some kind of magical force for these BIDdies, and they think if they just use enough of it they’ll be safe from the demons they’ve summoned up to oppress the homeless, chase non-white residents out of their districts, and to do all the other evil mischief up to which they characteristically get. They may in fact be correct in this theory, since one of the functions of legal jargon is to act as a shibboleth for zillionaires. However, as with all magic, it’s important to get the phraseology precisely correct or not only does one risk the spell’s failure, but, indeed, one risks the very demons breaking free of their confining diagrams and laying waste to one’s kingdom. We here at MK.Org like, by the way, to think of our blog as one of these very free-broken demons. Also, I’d like to note for the record that we are not in any way intrinsically opposed to legal jargon. In fact we more or less believe that the law and thus its jargon are our society’s only hope for salvation. But we’re exceedingly opposed to some of the uses to which the law and its jargon are put by zillionaires. As our frenemies the rabid second amendment supporters might say if they were slightly more sane, it’s not laws that kill people, it’s zillionaires forging and wielding weaponized laws that kill people.
  4. This statement is only partly accurate. It was, of course, the pathbreaking lawsuit Epstein v. HPOA that made POAs subject to CPRA. I think the legislature here must be tracking the courts in order to clarify the situation.
  5. Now I’m conflating the POA with the BID. It’s actually OK to do this as long as it’s not going to cause confusion. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to mock others for taking the same shortcut if I deem them mockworthy for independent reasons.
  6. It’s Holly Wolcott’s responsibility to do this as the City Clerk is what’s called the administering authority for the contract. That means that as far as the City is concerned, it’s as if the contract were with the Office of the City Clerk rather than the City at large.
  7. Maybe it even slipped your mind that we are talking about an annual planning report. It’s been a long, strange trip, I know.
  8. Which means that as far as the official record goes, this Report was never actually approved by the Board!
  9. This is interesting in itself. Lisa Schechter is the executive director. She answers to the Board, which is not only supposed to approve this report (even though the Board minutes suggest that they did not do so) but, presumably, to approve all changes to it. But Lisa Schechter changed it unilaterally. That’s probably dereliction of duty or some such thing. When I have time I mean to figure out if this is prohibited by the Corporations Code. Wouldn’t *that* be interesting? In any case, she left in the part of the Report which states that it was approved by the Board, even though the Board didn’t approve it and she changed it after the Board ostensibly approved it. Ah, sigh. I would have thought that these people would have at least some minimal respect for the rule of law, but it turns out that they do not.
  10. It is unlikely that it will be possible at this point to get a copy of the pre-revised version via CPRA due to the much abused preliminary drafts exemption, found in the law at §6254(a). This is a subject awaiting a lawsuit, but I don’t have the time or the resources to deal with it right now.
  11. It’s an open question as to why Miranda Paster thinks it’s better to say outreach here. She’s somewhat famous for her slightly inscrutable opinions on what sounds best in BID contexts. For instance, her unexplained insistence to Debbie Dyner Harris that mentioning the Brentwood BID was off-message in the contentious debate over the Venice Beach BID.
  12. Except for maybe this surreal episode, about which the less said the better.
  13. And what they ought to do in the regular course of things. This is how governments run in a democracy. The subject-matter experts in the executive branch recommend to the legislators, who ordinarily mostly follow recommendations.

2 thoughts on “Miranda Paster Whitewashed Homelessness Out Of The Hollywood Media District BID’s 2017 Annual Planning Report, Thereby Unilaterally Altering The BID’s Proposed Activities And Yet Again Putting The Lie To Holly Wolcott’s Often-Used But Thoroughly Discredited Excuse That The City Of LA Has No Control Over BIDs”

  1. Michael,
    Very good article. I have been trying to get Holly Wolcott to give me the procedures of establishing and selecting a Property Owner’s Association. They of course chose Lambert, Sokol and Heumann who months before the vote established their own POA without informing any of the property owner’s they will represent. I told them that I was establishing my own POA and since then they have become silent. The city contracts with a group that they create. So these guys will get ten million to do whatever they want. It is unbelievable.

    1. Thanks for your input, John. I also don’t understand how the City chooses a POA. I don’t think it’s come up very often, but the case of the Arts District is informative. They had competing POAs there, and Miranda Paster ended up getting taken off the case because of conflict of interest allegations. I have not been able to discover more detail than what’s in that post. Please let me know if you get more information on how they choose POAs. The whole thing is truly unbelievable.

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