The Greater Leimert Park Village BID Renewed For Five Years Starting In 2020 — Despite LA City Clerk Holly Wolcott’s Declared Policy Of Not Using City Owned Properties To Tip A BID Over The Formation Threshold She Voted All The City Property Yes — Without These Votes The BID Would Have Overwhelmingly Failed To Be Created At Both The Petition Stage And At The Balloting Stage — The BID Was Thus Forced On Property Owners By The City Of Los Angeles — Which Is Not How Things Are Supposed To Work —This Smells Of Council Office Interference But As Usual It’s Going To Take Forever To Learn What’s Going On

General background: This post is about the Greater Leimert Park Village Business Improvement District. I sued them over CPRA compliance in 2018 and they produced records and settled up with my lawyer, Anna von Herrmann, in 2019.
Technical background: There are two phases in the establishment of a business improvement district. The first is the petition stage. In order for the establishment process to move forward petitions in favor representing more than 50% of the total assessed value in the BID must be submitted. If this happens the process moves to the balloting stage. In order for the BID to be established ballots representing more than 50% of the total assessed value represented by the ballots received must vote in favor of formation.

Key point: To create a BID more than 50% of the total value must vote yes on petitions but only more than 50% of the value of received ballots must vote yes.1

Warning: The figures I use in this post come from this spreadsheet I made from the actual petitions and this other one I made from the actual ballots. I was forced to make my own spreadsheets because the City of LA would only provide the figures formatted as a PDF.2 None of the differences are enough to change any of the conclusions I draw from the numbers.

When the City of Los Angeles started up the modern version of its business improvement district program in 1994 the City Council required the City Clerk to vote yes on both BID petitions and ballots for City-owned property. In 2018, though, in apparent violation of this requirement, Clerk Holly Wolcott seems to have unilaterally decided not to vote her petitions yes until private owners of property had already brought support over the 50.1% threshold.

She stuck to this policy in 2020 with the Chinatown BID renewal fiasco to the point where Gil Cedillo introduced a motion requiring her to vote the petitions yes even though she was already required to do so by Council’s 1996 action. So isn’t it interesting that the Greater Leimert Park Village BID, which renewed in 2019 for five years beginning in 2020, would have failed to be established at both the petition stage and at the ballot stage if Wolcott hadn’t voted the City’s outrageously high 12.8% of the assessed property values in favor of formation?

In other words, like the Venice Beach BID, this BID would never have been formed without the outrageously high level of City property included. At the balloting stage, when only the percentage of yes votes on the actually returned ballots matters, the City’s property was essential for approval. Slightly more than 56% of the returned ballots were in favor, with slightly more than 43% opposed.

The City’s ballots accounted for more than 37% of the returned yes ballots, and without them the vote would have been more than 68% opposed and the BID would have failed. So what are these City properties? Mostly parking lots, which is exactly how the Venice Beach BID got approved. I am not sure what’s going on over there in Leimert Park that the City felt they needed this BID so badly as to cause Wolcott to renege on her principled promise, but I will certainly find out.

  1. What I’m saying here is technically wrong. The Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994 at §36623(b) says:

    If written protests are received from the owners or authorized representatives of businesses in the proposed district that will pay 50 percent or more of the assessments proposed to be levied and protests are not withdrawn so as to reduce the protests to less than 50 percent, no further proceedings to levy the proposed assessment against such businesses, as contained in the resolution of intention, shall be taken for a period of one year from the date of the finding of a majority protest by the city council.

    The difference is that to stop a BID more than 50% of the assessed value must vote no rather than more than 50% voting yes. If no one votes or if there’s a tie then it’s not true that more than 50% of the value voted no, so the BID will be established. This doesn’t happen with BIDs to my knowledge, but it happens pretty regularly with e.g. street lighting districts, which follow the same procedures and are from time to time established because no one bothers to vote at all. As long as at least one ballot is received the two conditions are equivalent in the absence of a tie, which is unlikely to happen.

  2. They have the absolute gall to claim that they have no way to produce them as a spreadsheet, which is obviously a lie. Did they add up all those decimals and calculate the percentages by hand? No. Did they pay money for software that operates on PDFs as if they were spreadsheets? Also no. They’re lying because they think they can lie. Anyway, the point is that my figures differ from theirs by relatively small percentage points values. I can’t figure out why that is without entering all their numbers in a spreadsheet, which I’m unable, because I am a human being, to do accurately. I’m also unwilling to do it given that the law requires them to produce a spreadsheet. Anyway, even if I did it I’m as likely to make even more entry mistakes in the process, and I wouldn’t know if I did or not.

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