If you’re following the situation in Highland Park these days you’ll know that one big issue is with commercial landlords jacking up their tenants’ rents by as much as 300% in some cases just because they can. This drives out familiar businesses to make room for even more hot yoga studios or whatever. And of course, this kind of thing doesn’t just happen by itself. There are actually people making a living arranging it.
And it’s well known that business improvement districts represent the interests of commercial property owners, like these rent-jacking landlords.1 So it wouldn’t be big news that BIDs were in on these conspiracies as well. And thus it was no surprise to discover, when I visited the North Figueroa Association last week, to discover that the plight of the small businesses along Figueroa was a hot topic of discussion.
Well, let me qualify that. It was a hot topic of discussion for Jesse Rosas, a local businessman,2 but, probably because they were hyper-aware of my camera,3 BID boss Tom Wilson and Bill Freaking Cody, the world’s oldest field deputy, kept interrupting him and trying to shush him up. They eventually did get him to stop talking, but not before he managed to mention the words they all dread so very much, to wit: commercial rent control.4
Oh, and not before BIDdenführer Tom Wilson made one of the most ludicrously false statements to which, over the long and illustrious course of my entire BIDdological career, I have been privileged to serve as witness: “we’re here to talk about security and trash.” The only sane response to that is “Yeah, right, Tom Freaking Wilson!!” Watch the conversation for yourself and there’s a transcription and discussion of a few details after the break.
First thing after Jesse Rosas introduces the subject, Bill Cody tells him: “We have Barrio Planners, who’s been helping a lot of the local businesses to try to find placement for some of the ones who, um, … a couple of properties have changed situations and …” It’s hard to decipher that, but first I think “changed situations” is some kind of zillionaire code for a small business’s financial plans having been curbstomped by the unfortunate fact that a hot yoga place will pay four times the rent they’re paying.
Second, Bill Cody reveals here that his boss, Gil Cedillo, CD1 repster and all, has hired Barrio Planners to “to try to find placement for some of the ones who” are being driven out? Bill Cody doesn’t finish the sentence, probably from shame,5 but that’s clearly what he meant. And I read their website as many times as I could stand6 and I still don’t know what Barrio Planners does for a living.7 But it seems that Cedillo hired them to help relocate older businesses.
And then Jesse Rosas brings up commercial rent control, and Bill Cody flips out: “AAHHHHH, I don’t … well, we could talk about that later.” And with that unpleasant noise and the offer to talk later, presumably off camera, Bill Cody introduced the major theme of the rest of the conversation:
Bill Cody: I can get into that later, about what’s going on there.
Tom Wilson: We could talk about that later but …
Bill Cody: But I can talk to you about it later.
Tom Wilson: You’ll have to work that with the Council people.
Bill Cody: I’m more than happy to talk to you about it afterward.
It’s almost as if they didn’t want to talk about the subject on camera, isn’t it? In any case, Tom Wilson really pulled out the big guns to try, not only to get Jesse Rosas to shut up, but also to make sure that, since they were on camera, the larger audience understood really really clearly that his business improvement district, the Highland Park BID, did not have anything whatsoever to do with businesses in Highland Park being constructively evicted.
In his zeal to support this probably unsupportable position he let loose with a major whopper,8 that is, he said: “we’re here to talk about security and trash.” Maybe he thinks that’s convincing? In any case, if that’s true, and I don’t think it is, then the BID is neglecting their actual duties.
We’ve discussed many times before the fact that a BID is required by state law to have a so-called management district plan. According to the Property and Business Improvement District Act at §36622 this MDP delineates what the BID’s money must be spent on. And, if you have the stomach for it, take a look at the Highland Park BID’s MDP. It says right in there that two of the things the BID is meant to do are to “improve commerce for individual commercial properties within the BID boundaries” and to “provide improvements and activities to assist in economic and commercial revitalization within the BID boundaries.”
Neither of these has to do with security, neither has to do with trash. Both are activities that the BID is meant to spend their money on. And all Jesse Rosas wanted to do was to talk about subjects very much like these, only to be shushed into oblivion by Bill Freaking Cody and Tom Wilson. What other reason for it than that they didn’t want their remarks on the record? Anyway, that’s today’s lesson in BIDdology, friends. Who can say what’s next, but you’ll sure see it here first!
Transcription of Bill Cody and Tom Wilson shushing Jesse Rosas about small businesses being evicted in Highland Park:
JR: … The rest of the businesses they have [unintelligible] and concerns, because they are mom and pop businesses on the Boulevard.
BC: And I’m always worried about that. Oh, one more thing. We have Barrio Planners, who’s been helping a lot of the local businesses to try to find placement for some of the ones who, um, … a couple of properties have changed situations and … just to let you know … that one stretch? With the typewriter? Pretty much everybody’s staying there, they’ve all been able to negotiate decent things and they’re gonna do some upkeep. But … the watchmaker …
JR: Yeah, but I just want to emphasize to you that you really talk to the councilman to work on that and something related to the small business, the rent control on businesses. Because it’s kind of difficult, I know it’s commercial, but you have to … [unintelligible due to Bill Cody’s interruption]
BC: AAHHHHH, I don’t … well, we could talk about that later.
JR: Yeah, because the older businesses here in the Northeast area, there’s the typewriter. There’s one other older business exists besides Folliero’s Pizza. Those are the two oldest businesses that exist still in Highland Park and [unintelligible] we have to recognize and emphasize to keep some of them in business … [unintelligible due to Bill Cody’s interruption]
BC: You know what, I’ve spent …
JR: … that’s the meet and greet of the community.
BC: I’ve spent a lot of time on those two buildings. We think we’ve worked something out so the barber’s gonna stay. And I am very concerned about Juan [?] at Elmer’s. I can get into that later, about what’s going on there.
JR: Yeah, because eventually, from 1,200 to 5,000, over $5,000, you know, threefold, in the rent …
BC: That’s not the final rent. That wasn’t the final rent.
JR: I know, but … they didn’t serve them with black and white papers but there was a conversation, either you pay or leave.
TW: We could talk about that later but …
BC: I have been working with all those businesses, I [unintelligible] them together with Barrio Planners, they’ll work on that issue, we pay them to do that. So, we’re very, very concerned about that and we’ve been working tirelessly on that issue. But I can talk to you about it later.
TW: You’ll have to work that with the Council people. The BID unfortunately has no authority on that particular issue. So we’re here to talk about security and trash. [general nervous guilty laughter]
JR: But small business is concerned with business property, which is related. Business properties or [unintelligible], since it’s gonna increase …
TW: But we have no say over individual landlords …
JR: Yeah, definitely not, but they have to be [unintelligible]
BC: And we’ve been spending a lot of time on that issue, Jesse, and I’m more than happy to talk to you about it afterward.
- This is an oversimplification. Most BIDs in Los Angeles are run by property owners’ associations that do not actually have members and which have no way outside of public comment at board meetings for the property owners who pay assessments into the BID to influence the BID’s actions. In actual pragmatic fact BIDs represent the interests of their boards and staff, no more. One major exception in Los Angeles is the Fashion District BID which, alone amongst LA BIDs to my knowledge, practices direct election of board members.
- And the guy who so very kindly offered to be my friend after Bill Cody, that toadlike weirdo, evidently told the whole BID that I didn’t have any, a bizarre, but not atypically bizarre, move on Cody’s part that can certainly be summed up in three small words: Pro Jeck Shun! Given the guy’s toadlike nature I’m moved to share with him a little bit of my grandma’s wisdom, to wit: just because you’re slithering around all day in a muddy metaphorical pond with a bunch of your toadlike fellow minions and henchies doesn’t mean you have friends, Bill Freaking Cody!
- As liars and people with guilty consciences, dripping with the metaphorical blood of their fellow humans often are.
- Commercial rent control is almost certainly constitutional, so could be passed into law anywhere in this country. It mostly hasn’t been tried much, but two other hotbeds of gentrification have tested it out to some extent, which are Berkeley and New York. New York evidently had a law in place from 1945 to 1963.
Costa-Hawkinsappears to forbid commercial rent control in California, so until and unless it’s repealed there’s seemingly not much to be done on this front. Correction Commenter Jared points out below that commercial rent control in California was actually outlawed by the Costa-Keene-Seymour Commercial Property Investment Act of 1987 rather than the much more well-known Costa-Hawkins. Jim Costa certainly has a lot to answer for, and not just with respect to that nineteen year old prostitute, either.
- By which I mean what passes for shame amongst the political elite, which is to say a reptilian sense for what will and won’t play well in the media later. Not the human emotion shame, sadly.
- Before it gave me eye cancer. Sad but true.
- My feeling is that with that name they could actually be involved in forced relocation of putative undesirables in support of zillionaire redevelopment plans and they’d still mostly get good press. That doesn’t mean that’s what they ARE doing, just what they COULD BE doing if they wanted to. It also doesn’t mean it’s NOT what they’re doing.
- A lie so mendacious that I wouldn’t be surprised if freaking Joseph Goebbels, the king of the liars, sat up in his unholy unmarked grave and nodded as if to say “Gut gemacht, Herr Tom Wilson, wirklich gut gemacht!”