Here’s Actual Proof That Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott Is Refusing To Sign BID Establishment Petitions For LA City Property Until Half The Other Property Owners In The Proposed District Have Signed — This Is Not Exactly A Policy But Her “Preference” — According To Clerk Staff Anyway — Also See The Extraordinary Petulance Of Gil Cedillo’s Weirdo Flunky Jose Rodriguez When He Learns About It — And Turns Around And Covertly Threatens Clerk Staffer Rick Scott For Bearing The Bad News

This is a quick update on a technical but highly consequential issue regarding City of Los Angeles property included in business improvement districts. The state law is very clear that BID assessments apply equally to public property, which means that the City of LA gets to vote on BID formation and renewal. Furthermore, in 1996, when the modern era of California BIDs began, the City Council told the City Clerk to always vote yes unless specifically directed otherwise.

Which of course led BID proponents to include as much City property as possible within their boundaries since it made establishment very significantly easier given the guaranteed favorable votes from the City. This strategy reached a hitherto unseen level of absurdity in 2016 with the Venice Beach BID establishment process, in which City property constituted 25.05% of the assessed value and the non-City property owners who signed pro-BID petitions for only 27.26%. The BID would never have been established without the automatic yes from the City.

This already absurd outcome was surpassed in 2017 with the renewal of the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID. The proponents in that case included huge tracts of essentially empty parcels belonging to the Port of Los Angeles. They brought the City’s proportion of assessed value to 37.24%, which left only 26.04% non-City property owners in favor of the BID. The case of the San Pedro BID seems not to have been widely noticed at the time, but of course the outcry over the Venice Beach BID was monumental, and the City’s role in ensuring its existence was discussed at great length.

It hadn’t been clear exactly what was going on, but something regarding the voting of City property changed over at the City Clerk’s office after the San Pedro BID fiasco. I first heard about it in 2018 in relation to the Byzantine Latino Quarter BID when Donald Duckworth, BIDdological freak show specimen and BID establishment consultant, told his clients that the City of Los Angeles would no longer vote its petitions in favor of formation until 50% of the private property owners had already voted in favor.

As we’ve seen above, this would be a major change. If this policy had been in place in 2016 neither the Venice Beach BID nor the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID would exist. But Duckworth is a liar and a fabulist and exceedingly unreliable, so while his testimony did in fact convince me that something was happening, it’s not really safe to assume that he’s telling his clients the full story or even accurately relating part of it.

And there’s always a lot going on here at MK.Org secret headquarters and consequently my attention wandered away from this important question for a year or two. But just recently, in the course of researching another exceedingly important story,1 I learned that this is indeed an actual policy, albeit not an official one. Take a look at these emails between CD1 staffer Jose Rodriguez and Rick Scott of the City Clerk’s Neighborhood and Business Improvement Department discussing the renewal of the Lincoln Heights Industrial Zone BID. The story begins with Rodriguez’s January 27, 2020 email to Rick Scott:

Hi Rick,
I hope all is well.

As you know, the Lincoln Heights Industrial BID is up for renewal that includes City
properties.

Pls advise on current process to have out City petition signed.

Thanks,

Jose Rodriguez, Deputy District Director
Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo

Scott answered him a mere six minutes later with the news we’re interested in here:

Hi Jose,

The City’s policy is to sign once the BID gets to 50%.

Rick Scott
Senior Project Coordinator
Business Improvement District Division
Office of the City Clerk

Three minutes later Rodriguez responded with his characteristic bureaucratic passive aggression liberally salted with covert petulance:

Rick,,
[sic]

Understood. Pls send me the policy reference either admin or legislative code as I will need to share this with Councilmember.

Jose Rodriguez, Deputy District Director
Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Gilbert Cedillo

And now that it’s clear that the metaphorical daggers are metaphorically unsheathed Scott checks in with the higher powers:

Rick Scott <rick.scott@lacity.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 6:43 AM
To: Christopher Garcia <christopher.garcia@lacity.org>
Cc: Patrice Lattimore <patrice.lattimore@lacity.org>, Yurida Ramos
<yurida.ramos@lacity.org>, Petty Santos <petty.santos@lacity.org>, Holly Wolcott <holly.wolcott@lacity.org>

Should I tell him it’s unwritten policy and is just standard operating procedure?

Let me know.

Thanks.

And his boss, Patrice Lattimore, lets us know that actually, this is less than unwritten policy. It’s Holly Wolcott’s preference:

Patrice Lattimore <patrice.lattimore@lacity.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 6:53 AM
To: Rick Scott <rick.scott@lacity.org>
Cc: Christopher Garcia <christopher.garcia@lacity.org>, Holly Wolcott <holly.wolcott@lacity.org>, Petty Santos <petty.santos@lacity.org>, Yurida Ramos

It’s really a Clerk preference and not a City policy. We can discuss more when I get in.

The train is late but I should be there in about 15 mins.

Patrice Y. Lattimore, Chief
Council & Public Services Division
Business Improvement District Division

Next another NBID staffer, Christopher Garcia, weighs in. This is an extremely interesting response because it shows that they’re flailing around for a way to justify the policy apparently two years after adopting it. I think it’s a good policy2 but I think due process is more important than policies I agree with. Not up to me, of course:

Christopher Garcia <christopher.garcia@lacity.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 27, 2020 at 9:51 AM
To: Rick Scott <rick.scott@lacity.org>, Patrice Lattimore <patrice.lattimore@lacity.org>

We could rely on the attached BID Policy and Implementation Guidelines in lieu of a distinct petition signatory policy. Based on previous Council action and these guidelines, we could state the following:

“As the Central Coordinator for the Business Improvement District process in the City, the City Clerk serves as the designated signatory on support petitions for property-based BIDs. While the City Clerk may sign off on support petitions, the City Clerk will only do so after significant support from the proposed BID’s stakeholders is demonstrated. This ensures that 1) the City does not initiate or impose the development process, 2) that themotivation and request for district establishment is generated by the BID community, and 3) that the district’s establishment and success is reflected from the direct efforts of its proposed members. These objectives are articulated in the attached BID Policy and Implementation Guidelines.”

Christopher Garcia

City of Los Angeles | Office of the City Clerk | Business Improvement Districts

Also, this is pretty hilarious given that the document he’s quoting from, which by the way can be found in its entirety at the end of the PDF spool of emails, is ancient. It’s not dated, but it’s been kicking around forever and as far as I know Holly Wolcott never once thought to use it like this until, all of a sudden, she did. She violated it in 2016 and 2017 with the Venice Beach BID and the San Pedro Historic Waterfront BID, and quite likely a bunch of times prior to that. But in any case, she seems to be sticking to it now, which is important. Also, it probably spells the doom either of the Venice Beach BID, up for renewal in 2021, or the policy itself.


Image of Holly Wolcott is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and you can watch this or download that.

  1. To be published by tomorrow sometime, but possibly later today! Wait for it!
  2. It’s a good policy assuming we’re going to continue to have business improvement districts in Los Angeles. I’m definitely opposed to that, so actually I mean that this is a good policy in a bad context. We should abolish BIDs but until we can this isn’t a bad tool to have.
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