Shadowy BID Consultant Tara Devine Unilaterally Removed A Commercially Zoned Parcel From The Venice Beach BID In 2015 And Then Told Unhappy Property Owners In 2016 That She Was Not Allowed To Remove Parcels From The BID If They Were Commercially Zoned

The Venice Post Office; zoned commercial. Now it’s in the BID! Now it’s out of the BID! Now it’s back in the BID!
I recently wrote in excruciating detail about how everyone involved with the BID formation process denies, almost certainly wrongly, that they have any power at all over which parcels are included in a BID. Thus, e.g., did Tara Devine inform unhappy property owner William Kuel in this email from August 2016 that his property, which is zoned commercial but used for residential purposes, must be included in the Venice Beach BID. She went so far as to tell him explicitly that “neither the Engineer nor I can remove your parcel from the proposed BID.” This phenomenon has been hugely controversial in the formation of the Venice Beach BID, and is the basis of a lawsuit filed against the City by Venice residents upset over the inclusion of their property in the BID.
Tara Devine leaving the lectern at a 2016 Los Angeles City Council meeting.
So what a surprise it was to find, buried amongst thousands of pages of nonsense in this latest pile of emails between Tara Devine and various employees of the City Clerk’s office, this June 30, 2015 missive from Tara Devine to a bunch of people, stating that she was unilaterally removing a commercially zoned property from the BID for, seemingly, no particular reason:

I will also re-send the database as we made one tiny change. After a discussion with Ed, we removed the federal USPS parcel (Venice post office.) It was on the edge of the BID and was not required for a contiguous boundary, so we just removed it from dbase and other docs.

Leaving aside the evident fact that Tara Devine doesn’t know the difference between contiguous and continuous, isn’t this interesting? She “just removed” a piece of property from the BID. And then a year later she was telling property owners that she didn’t have the power to remove parcels, and some of those property owners are now suing the City partially on the basis of this claim she1 has been pushing about her powerlessness. It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be evidence in the lawsuit!2 It’s extremely interesting to see that she told a bunch of City Clerk employees that she’d done this and not one of them questioned her ability to do it, which is in stark contrast to Holly Wolcott’s 2016 assertions that no one was empowered to remove properties.

Tara Devine’s justification for her unwillingness to exclude property has been that commercially zoned parcels cannot be removed,3 so perhaps this property isn’t zoned commercial? Well, good old ZIMAS will let us investigate this matter more thoroughly. This and some other issues with the property, including its current status with respect to BID inclusion, are discussed in painfully obsessive detail after the break.

ZIMAS result for the Venice Post Office at 1601 Main Street, showing commercial zoning. Click to enlarge.
Well, I cannot figure out how to link through to a ZIMAS search, so if you want to reproduce these results, you’ll have to go there on your own and search for 1601 Main Street. If you do that you will find that the zoning is C2-1-O which, according to the LAMC, is about as commercial as they come.4 So the nonsense she habitually cited in 2016 about not being able to remove properties after the whole BID thing blew up in her face, in the face of the City, was even known to her to be nonsense. She excluded the Post Office parcel without even mentioning her theory that she wasn’t allowed to. Without even giving a reason for doing so.
ZIMAS entry for Venice Post Office, showing 2012 sale.
Now, elsewhere in that same email she mentions that removing the parcel doesn’t affect anything with respect to the ongoing BID formation process because it’s assessed at $0, being federal.5 This is probably enough to explain her willingness to exclude the property. There was no money in keeping it in the BID, as opposed to the City and state parcels, which at least in theory do pay assessments. Of course, if she’d read that whole ZIMAS entry more carefully6 she’d have seen that the property was sold in 2012 for $7.6 million. Given that the the post office was built in 1939 she might have seen this as an indication that it wasn’t owned by the feds any more. In fact, as everyone who knows anything about Venice also knows, the property was famously sold in 2012 to Matrix producer and serial collector of Frank Lloyd Wright houses Joel Silver.

Well, of course, it’s more than likely that she took the Post Office out of the BID because it wasn’t worth any money. So presumably at some point she was going to find out that the feds didn’t own it any more and put it right back in with an assessment. And it turns out that that’s exactly what happened.7 Check the parcel in the June 2016 engineer’s report.8 See that 1601 Main Street is right back in the BID, and it’s assessed at $21,584.96, which is worth 1.17% of the entire assessed valuation, a not inconsiderable amount, and clearly more than enough reason for Tara Devine to include the property right back into the BID. But even more so, clearly enough reason for everyone to question Tara Devine’s often-asserted-when-it-is-convenient-to-assert claim that she does not have the power to move properties in and out of the BID. She clearly does have that power.

As a concluding postscript, note that,9 Joel Silver’s plans for the Post Office are pretty famously not going so well. He’s defaulted on taxes, his contractors put liens on the property,10 and the building is falling to pieces under his care.11 He’s obviously having cash flow issues, so it’s hard to imagine that he’d greet the news of his property being put back in the BID and assessed for more than $20K with a great deal of joy. This would explain why he voted against BID establishment.

Image of Tara Devine is ©2016 Image of Venice Post Office is by Michael Dorausch, who has been kind enough to release it under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license and make it available via Flickr. Image from ZIMAS is, I don’t know, fair use?

  1. And the City as well.
  2. ETA: It’s looking more likely that it will, in fact, be evidence.
  3. Which seems to be an example of the fallacy of the converse on her part, whether intentional or not I cannot at this point say.
  4. It’s so freaking commercial that it’s legal to operate a “bird store or taxidermist, or a pet shop for the keeping or sale of domestic or wild animals” on the premises. The surreal specificity of these laws is an endless source of fascination to me.
  5. I’m assuming there’s some kind of rule or law that sets BID assessments of federal properties at $0. I don’t know for sure yet, though.
  6. See image somewhere nearby.
  7. Although I do not yet know exactly when or why it happened.
  8. Note that you can find it in there by searching on parcel number 4238014017 in the PDF.
  9. Sadly, I guess, although really, who knows?
  10. Which are mostly resolved according to the Hollywood Reporter.
  11. None of which stood in the way of his using it as collateral for a huge loan, again according to the Hollywood Reporter.

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