This is just a quick note to announce the availability of a first batch of renewal materials from the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID. They’re available here on Archive.Org. These are from the petition phase, where property owners holding $1 more than 50% of the total assessed value have to petition City Council to renew their BID. I’m collecting material like this as part of a long-term project to send out countermailings when BIDs send out mailings in favor of establishment or renewal. They uniformly send blank petitions on which the only choice is to vote yes. See this sample, for instance.1
I think it would be reasonable, effective, and entertaining to send out petitions on which the only choice was no. Of course, the way the petition phase of BID renewal/establishment is structured, not voting is the same as voting no, but nevertheless, it would be politically valuable to see that property owners have a choice. In order to carry out this plan, it will also be necessary to have quick access to natively formatted copies of the mailing lists that the BIDs use. They have historically been exceedingly reluctant to give up this information.
You may, e.g., recall the fact that it took me five months of nagging Miranda Paster at the City Clerk’s office to get her to give me the mailing list for Venice Beach.2 In that case as in every other case where I’ve actually managed to obtain mailing lists, it came too late to be useful. But at some point, and this is the main reason this is a long term project, I will have convinced the BIDdies3 that they have to hand over mailing lists promptly so that they’re still politically useful.
Naturally, when sending out alt-petition forms, it will be necessary to send out alt-propaganda. Just take a look at the San Pedro BID’s info sheet that they sent out along with the petitions. Count the lies. Imagine an alt-petition that not only invites property owners to vote no on the BID but also informs them what their money’s really being spent for like, e.g., to to keep criminals from getting arrested because they can’t put out their own damn dumpster fires!
Every BID wastes its money on exactly that kind of nonsense, never publicized. This kind of campaign probably won’t stop any BIDs, but it may well increase the protest rate, which would be interesting indeed! And turn the page for links to all the items with a little bit of commentary.
- Cover letter for petition packet — BID services will end if you don’t vote yes!! Also includes another sample petition.
- Petition signing instructions — Who’s legally allowed to sign the petitions. Interestingly, this isn’t so easy for people to figure out and a lot of petitions have to be redone because they’re not signed appropriately. This is a (fairly minor, but still) part of what makes BID consultancy a form of lobbying.
- Sample petition — Another copy of this.
- Summary of the Management District Plan — The management district plan is required by the PBID law at §36622. It’s meant to specify exactly what the money collected can be spent on. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that the law requires that the money not be spent on anything that’s not laid out in the MDP. Thus it’s a mystery to me why this document states that “[t]he services which will provide special benefit to individually-assessed parcels may include, but are not limited to [blah blah blah whatever]” That is, the BID seems to be reserving the right to do whatever they want with the assessments. But state law, I really think, forbids this. Another problem to be solved in the future.
- Map of the BID — I believe that the San Pedro BID is expanding its boundaries with the current renewal. I think they’re pretty gerrymandered to include a ton of land belonging to the Port of Los Angeles. This is a typical tactic with City of LA BIDs, and I believe serves at least two fairly shady purposes. First, the more City land is included in the BID the fewer actual human property owners have to vote yes to get the BID established. Second, the assessments levied on City property give the City a way to funnel money to relatively unaccountable zillionaires to carry out the local Councilmember’s purposes with much less accountability than would be required to spend City money directly on whatever it is they’re spending money on. That has little to do with this map, but, looking at the map, it sure does look gerrymandered, doesn’t it?
- Description of BID services — Pure propaganda! Do you think those property owners are happy to be paying tons of extra property tax so that the BID can have more instagram followers? Didn’t think so!
- If you’re interested in the technical details, the petition phase of BID establishment/renewal is laid out in the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994 at §36621.
- That was a ballot mailing list rather than a petition mailing list. If you don’t already know the difference I’m not going to go into it here because it’s far too much detail for right now. For the purposes of this project it’s not an important distinction. The mailing lists should have the same people and the same addresses on them.
- By force of law if necessary.