In July 2016, San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID executive directrix Lorena Parker contacted CD15 staffers Ryan Ferguson and Jacob Haik1 apparently in an attempt to have them fix pending citations and criminal charges against local property owners, possibly including BID board president Eric Eisenberg, stemming from sanitation violations involving dumpsters. You can read the details in this email chain (as always, there’s a transcription after the break).2 This episode quite possibly involves the dumpster next to the Cabrillo Hotel, the filthy state of which has been obsessively3 chronicled by Bruce Ecker at The Renaissance Dump website.
We here at MK.Org have discussed at length the much-violated requirement that business improvement districts only spend their money on activities that are approved by the City Council at the time the BIDs are established.4 These preapproved activities are enshrined in the so-called Management District Plan. The San Pedro BID’s MDP can be found here (Careful — huge PDF download). You can read it over and over again and you will find no mention whatsoever of paying Lorena Parker a salary so that she can try to get Joe Buscaino’s staff to try to make criminal charges go away.
And why would anyone think this is OK? Aside from the fact that having Lorena Parker act as a fixer isn’t listed in the MDP, there’s the simple fact that if people have criminal charges pending against them based on the unsanitary state of their dumpsters, they ought not to be seeking intercession to halt the proceedings. Instead, they ought to clean up their damn dumpsters. This is citizenship 101.5 And the elected officials of the City ought to be enforcing the City’s laws for the benefit of its citizens, rather than meeting with zillionaires in an attempt to subvert them.
Also, the money that the BID spends is collected coercively by the City from all the property owners in the District. Although no one who writes for this blog thinks this is reasonable, we all admit that it’s at least arguably fair if the money is being used for things like tree-trimming and sidewalk washing that actually benefit all the assessed property owners.6
However, it is not fair, it is exceedingly unjust, for the money to be used to hire Lorena Parker to try to cover up and disappear the criminal actions of the president of the BID’s board. Is it plausible that any of the property owners in the district would have voted to establish a BID and pay their assessments if they knew that this is the kind of thing their money would be used for? It seems incredibly unlikely.
And not only that, but the City of Los Angeles pays close to $300,000 in assessments into this BID.7 That’s roughly 30% of the BID’s annual budget, which means that the City of Los Angeles is paying roughly 30% of Lorena Parker’s salary. In short, the City is paying for 30% of the time that Lorena Parker spends to try to get Joe Buscaino to subvert the City’s own laws. This is absolutely outrageous, and almost certainly ethically, and probably legally, untenable.8
So let’s take a closer look at the email conversation:
On July 28, 2016 Lorena Parker wrote to Jacob Haik:
We would like to meet with you next week regarding an issue we are having with several of the trash dumpsters in our alleys. Several property owners have received violations and we need your assistance to resolve.
Can you please suggest a few dates/times when you are available? We have our board meeting at 9:00am next Wednesday morning so we would not be available then. Perhaps we can meet after 10:30am Wednesday?
Thank you for your assistance.
And Jacob Haik is only too eager to please:
Absolutely! Ryan will coordinate a meeting with us all.
Acting Chief of Staff
Office of Councilman Joe Buscaino
That’s Ryan Ferguson, who is Joe Buscaino’s San Pedro field deputy, brought into the conversation by Jacob Haik in order to schedule a meeting. Next there’s a bunch of back/forth about times and dates and the meeting gets scheduled. However, it’s soon unscheduled:
My apologies, but tomorrow at 2pm will no longer work. How about next Wednesday, August 10, 2016 at 10am?
But that won’t do for Lorena Parker. That won’t do at all. No, her problems, the problems of the very few property owners she’s representing in this matter, are too pressing, and not for a good reason, either:
That won’t work due to time sensitivity of the problem. We have property owners who have been cited and the City is requiring immediate action with threats of criminal prosecution.
And Ryan sees reason! He really does! Nothing’s too good for San Pedro’s criminal zillionaire classes, who, after all, can’t seriously be expected just to clean up their own damn trash like everyone else has to. Which is why Ryan replied just two freaking minutes later:
What about Thursday morning at 10am?
And Lorena Parker is happy with this, but are her masters happy?
Ok. Let me try and get in touch with Eric.
The story continues in this fork of the email chain, where we discover from Lorena Parker that the time works for Eric Eisenberg:
Eric confirmed 10:00am. Where? Can we meet at the PBID office? If posssible, can we meet at 9:45am?
Unfortunately that’s where my evidence presently ends. I don’t know what happened in the meeting, I don’t know if the problems got fixed for the zillionaires. But I do know, thanks to the obsessive chroniclery of Bruce Ecker at The Renaissance Dump, that Eric Eisenberg has not yet cleaned up his damned dumpsters. And he doesn’t seem to be in jail. So something must have happened.
And the BID is still going strong. In fact, only last month City Council approved their 2017 planning report. So Lorena Parker’s misuse of assessment funds was evidently overlooked9 or fixed. It’s unlikely, though, that it would need to be fixed, because it’s unlikely that anyone with oversight responsibility even notices this super-commonplace form of BID misfeasance. In fact, it would be a vast improvement in this City’s BID oversight practices if the Clerk would notice that they were breaking the law in this and similar ways, and then proceed to cover up. At least they’d be, if only tacitly, admitting that something illegal was happening. I’m not holding the proverbial breath, though.
Lorena Parker headshot started out here in the Daily Breeze.
- Ryan Ferguson is Joe Buscaino’s San Pedro field deputy and Jacob Haik is deputy chief of staff for San Pedro. It’s possible that at the time this episode was unfolding, Jacob Haik was acting chief of staff.
- It’s worth reading, if only to experience the authentically entitled tone of command that Lorena Parker takes, privilege dripping from each word. Also note that this email chain, which is mostly different, branches slightly at the end (the beginning of the PDF), and is also part of the story.
- In a good way. Around here we’re not in much of a position to criticize people for obsessive chronicling.
- This requirement is found in the Property and Business Improvement District Law, which governs the establishment, administration, and renewal of BIDs in California, at §36625(a)(6).
- Which, I admit, the evidence shows, is like graduate quantum mechanics as far as the freaking BIDs are concerned.
- The requirement that assessment money be spent to provide benefits to all the property owners is also imposed by the law. How could it be otherwise? It’s certainly unfair to coercively collect money over and above the taxes that everyone must pay from one group of people to provide specific benefits to another group. It begins to look more like strong-arm robbery than public policy.
- It’s actually $298,902.63. You can check the figure by adding up the assessments due from various City departments as listed in this summary of assessments of publicly owned parcels in the San Pedro BID.
- Although I haven’t been able to figure out exactly how it’s illegal, it’s the kind of thing that usually is. More news soon, I hope.
- More likely.