Like many superfluous, quasi-criminal, quasi-public institutions, the BIDs of Los Angeles are terrified that people will notice they’re a dangerous nuisance and proceed to abolish them. One symptom of this anxiety is a craving for academic justification stronger than the craving of tweakers for meth.
So one rich guy calls another rich guy and soon enough the RAND Corporation of Santa Monica, California, mostly famous for paying cold warrior par excellence Herman Kahn to analyze potential preemptive nuclear strikes on China while under the influence of LSD,1 has prepared a report on how beneficial the existence of BIDs is to the city of Los Angeles. TL;DR: Confuse correllation with causation and the tune that was called by the piper-payer ends up played by the piper.
We decided that we were going to do some research of our own. Luckily, the existence of a small sliver of land surrounding Olympic Boulevard between Central and Stanford is not claimed by any BID and thus allows us to analyze how beneficial the nonexistence of BIDs is to the city of Los Angeles. We obtained a small private grant and set out into the field.2 We think you’ll be interested in our results.
Standing at the edge of the BID-occupied terrain, on the Northeast corner of Central and Olympic, is like standing in East Berlin looking over the wall. One sees a great flash of color and activity. It’s called the Mercado Olympic, and is precisely the kind of thing Plato was talking about in his famous description of democracy:
…are they not free; and is not the city full of freedom and frankness—a man may say and do what he likes? … And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his own life as he pleases? … Then in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of human natures? … This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower.3
Isn’t it beautiful? But BIDs hate this. Just hate it. You can hear them spit, they hate it so much. At least our local Hollywood BIDs. They hate the freedom that produces this miraculous efflorescence. Just read the 2014-15-WORK-PLAN-FINAL-VERSION1-1, approved by the Hollywood Property Owners Alliance at its Board meeting on October 16, 2014:
“Pedestrians in Hollywood, particularly in the west-end of the BID, may find themselves walking a gauntlet from time to time as they navigate past CD-hawkers, tour bus promoters, street characters posing for tips, skateboarders, and non-permitted food, map and merchandise vendors. In addition to these illegal activities, the busy sidewalks are further impacted by kiosks, umbrellas, selling “stations” and other items of “furniture” placed on the public-right-of-way. The Board would like to see a series of measurable objectives to work with city officials and the LAPD to restore order to our sidewalks once and for all.”
Pedestrians find themselves amongst all these illegal things at the Mercado Olympic, and it’s exhilarating. It’s an urban theorist’s wet dream. It’s real city life. We should be so lucky to have something one tenth as nice in Hollywood, but the BIDs won’t allow it because they love “order.”
Oh, and so as not to mislead, we should mention that Plato loves order too. He didn’t much care for democracy, as you can see from this bit of the above quote that we omitted: “And just as women and children think a variety of colours to be of all things most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is spangled with the manners and characters of mankind, will appear to be the fairest of States.” Democracy is for “women and children.” Oh, SNAP, Mr. Plato! That puts us in our place, doesn’t it? We like womanly and childish things and the Hollywood BIDs are serious and manly like you. Except… except…unless we become as little children, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Which side are you on?
- You might think we’re making this up, but we’re not. We read it in a book. You can find that book for yourself, but it’s almost certainly either this one or maybe this one.
- In the interest of full disclosure we will reveal that this cost us $3.50 in carfare (Red line to 7th Street, the 60 bus East on 7th to Central, walk two blocks South on Central, returning take the 62 to Pershing Square Station or the 60 back to 7th and Hope) and $5.00 for a really fabulous quesadilla with fresh masa, nopales, y hongitos. We also charged $354.22 in unspecified overhead to the grant. Always save your receipts.
- From The Republic (Here is the German equivalent, if you’re interested).
Image of Pied Piper by Kate Greenaway is in the public domain. Screenshot of LA City Clerk’s BID-centric Google maps mashup can’t be copyrighted for the usual reasons. Images of Mercado Olympic are the work of an associate and are ©2014 MichaelKohlhaas.org. Nuremberg rally image in public domain because it was produced by a conquered government, and to the victor go the spoils. We got it from Wikimedia here. The illustration of Matt.19:13-15 is in the public domain and was obtained through the gracious courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation, available here. The image of the Berlin Wall is released under the GFDL and is available from the Wikimedia Foundation here.