Yesterday the Los Angeles City Council heard protests against the proposed Venice Beach Business Improvement District. You can watch the whole thing here. There were impassioned public comments and a lot of heckling. Also, on Monday Laura McLennan of CD11 gave me over a hundred pages of material on the VBBID, which is worth looking at. After the public comment, Mike Bonin gave a speech about why he supported the BID, which is my topic for today. You can jump directly to Bonin’s remarks in the video and as always, you can find a transcription at the end of the post. I’m just going to address a few of Bonin’s comments in detail:
Let me for a second or two correct some of the wide misperceptions about the BID and what process… the process for establishing a BID is established by state law.
Here Mike Bonin is trying to shift away responsibility for the City’s secrecy and underhandedness in the BID formation process by claiming that the state controls the process and that the City is therefore somehow helpless. Even if it’s true that the state law governing BIDs requires certain procedures, it emphatically does not require City Councils to approve BIDs, so his claim is disingenuous at best. Furthermore, state law absolutely does not require cities to include municipal property in BIDs, and it does not require cities to vote their property in favor of BID formation, both of which happened not only in the case of the Venice Beach BID, but are commonplace in BID formation generally in Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles has made an intentional choice to vote for BIDs in all cases. This is not mandated by the state, and without it this BID and many other BIDs would not have been established. The state of California is not responsible for many of the worst aspects of BID formation in Los Angeles.
I understand that this is a controversial issue. And it’s a difficult one for folks to wrestle with, as are most issues with Venice.
This, at least, is true. See here for one way this aspect of Venice has played out with respect to this BID.
There is a broad mischaracterization that this is somehow a privatization of public resources. It is a false statement that this somehow turns governments and public facilities over to private…
Bonin either misunderstands the very nature of BIDs or else he’s lying about this. It’s hard to know which at this point. Last Spring, Bonin and his aides discussed a contentious Venice Neighborhood Council meeting in this email chain from April 2016. At that point Bonin clearly had no idea what BIDs were about. His aide Debbie Dyner Harris told him:
I will also add that there was some concern about the BID process and how there really is no public component until it gets to council. The small group that cornered me last night had a lot of concerns and even suggested organizing people against it in big way. [sic] They felt we were hiding the process.
No surprise but this is going to get ugly as the steering committee members start meeting with the property owners. …
And Bonin responded:
A BID is a group of people assessing themselves to provide services. What public component do they want in that process? This is far more like a street lighting assessment district that the LCP process.
So in April, anyway, Bonin genuinely seemed not to understand what a BID does or the kind of pervasive social effects it can have in a neighborhood. He’s repeating the City’s lies about BIDs here, but he doesn’t seem to know these are lies. This makes sense because prior to this one, the only BID in CD11 seems to have been the Gateway to LA, which mostly has to do with hotels near the airport, so doesn’t have much opportunity for social engineering like BIDs in areas with a large homeless population. But by yesterday’s Council meeting, he either understood or should have understood the substance of anti-BID arguments. At this point, to accuse BID opponents of mischaracterizing the effects of BIDs is not acceptable. He can disagree, of course, but he really ought to understand that there are valid reasons to oppose BIDs. Note that the “LCP” he refers to is the Venice Local Coastal Plan. You can watch activists crashing a meeting about this just a couple days before this email was written, which provides some context for Bonin’s remarks.
And the implication that having security forces that can help prevent violent assault or theft is somehow anti-homeless is malignant dangerous defamation of the people who are [unintelligible] in Venice. And it’s as bad as some of the Trump-like forces that paint the portrait that everyone who’s homeless in Venice as being criminal. It’s absolutely wrong.
Again, this is not any kind of defamation. With BIDs being sued all over the City for their mistreatment of the homeless, for their illegal conspiracies with the LAPD, and so on, it’s certainly not defamation to discuss this problem. This kind of over-the-top accusation more than anything makes Bonin look ignorant of what’s going on in Los Angeles with BIDs. And the Trump comparison? Well, I could go on about how offensive it is, how stupid, and so on, but what’s more interesting is that it seems to instantiate the emergence of a new corollary to Godwin’s law. Anyway, it certainly doesn’t make Bonin seem like one of the sort of wise, calm leaders this City so desperately needs. And that’s the latest installment in the disturbing story of how the City of Los Angeles got a BID in Venice Beach.
Herb Wesson: …to Mr. Bonin… you’re disrupting the meeting. Mr. Bonin.
Mike Bonin: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you…
HW: Hold back. You’re disrupting the meeting. You’re disrupting the meeting. We’ve been as fair as possible. Now [unintelligible] Mr. Bonin..
MB: …and thank you to my colleagues for paying attention today and thank everyone from both sides of this issue for coming out today. A spirited and quintessentially [unintelligible] conversation on a controversial issue. Let me say to clarify things…
HW: Just stop, just stop. OK, hold it, hold it. Folks, folks. Folks stop [unintelligible] is over for today. [unintelligible] public comment has been closed. If you yell and scream you’re not helping your case. I’ve warned you on at least three or four occasions to be cool. If you continue to do that then all of you will leave, OK? So let’s let Mr. Bonin speak and then we will move on to the next item. No action being taken today.
MB: Thank you, Mr. President. And I’ll explain what that means as well. Thanks again to both sides of this very controversial issue for coming out here today to have your voices heard. Let me for a second or two correct some of the wide misperceptions about the BID and what process… the process for establishing a BID is established by state law. Under that, what happens is that people are mailed ballots. They have 45 days in which to return those ballots. They impact the property owners who are being asked whether or not to assess themselves. At the conclusion of that period a public hearing is held. After the public hearing is held the ballots are counted. The ballots will be counted this afternoon and an announcement of the ballot results will be made during tomorrow’s Council meeting. That is the process, the public process set out by state law. Let me say a few words about some of the misconceptions that I heard. I understand that this is a controversial issue. And it’s a difficult one for folks to wrestle with, as are most issues with Venice. Folks that identify on both sides that there are a lot of problems in Venice. And for a long time, nothing got done because controversy prevented action. And I think, like myself, most folks in Venice are done with nothing getting done. And so I respect the folks who got together and are forming a BID and I am a supporter of that. There is a broad mischaracterization that this is somehow a privatization of public resources. It is a false statement that this somehow turns governments and public facilities over to private…
HW: OK, Mr. Bonin, I’ll give you one more shot at it, and if not we’re gonna clear…
MB: Thank you, Mr. President. [unintelligible] resources over to private [unintelligible]. It does not do so. What it does is it allows the BID to augment City services but adding more maintenance, more [unintelligible], and more security. Now, at Venice Beach, in the past year or so, we have had people beaten in the head with chairs, people assaulted…
HW: OK, thank you Mr. Bonin…
MB: We’ve had people assaulted with skateboards, we’ve had people [unintelligible], we’ve had bicycles stolen. And LAPD cannot [unintelligible] and we need more eyes and ears down there. And the implication that having security forces that can help prevent violent assault or theft is somehow anti-homeless is malignant dangerous defamation of the people who are [unintelligible] in Venice. And it’s as bad as some of the Trump-like forces that paint the portrait that everyone who’s homeless in Venice as being criminal. It’s absolutely wrong. The victims of so much of the violence are themselves homeless. So it is very important that they have these services. I would note that many of you have expressed a genuine concern for people who are homeless. I would note that many having done so have not yet weighed in publicly or [unintelligible] my colleagues [unintelligible] actual proposals I have put forward to help address homelessness. Permanent supportive housing in Venice, storage facilities, bathrooms, mobile showers, and I would invite you to do so, because there’s a way that we can work together and actually address homelessness. So…and colleagues, thank you so much for listening and thanks to both sides for coming down. The votes will be counted this afternoon and we’ll be announcing the results tomorrow.
Image of Mike Bonin is ©2016 MichaelKohlhaas.org. Image of Debbie Dyner Harris is a public record and I got it here.