I can’t remember where I learned that the Office of the Chief Legislative Analyst writes briefing notes for each meeting of each City Council committee, but obviously as soon as I heard I started trying to get copies via the California Public Records Act. And so on June 24, 2020 I fired off a request asking for a few years worth.
And you know how the City of LA is. I didn’t get a response at all until September 29, when CLA staffer Karen Kalfayan sent me this ill-considered bit of crapola, claiming that she would have denied my request as “overly broad” but that instead she was denying it as so-called “deliberative process,” a court-created interpretation of the CPRA at §6255(a):
With regard to your request for briefing notes for the period January 1, 2016 through June 24, 2020, please be advised that this Office has made its determination on your request as required by Government Code section 6253(c).
Please note that the request is overly broad, and normally we would request you to clarify your request in order for us to search for specific records. However, please be advised that records may be withheld under Government Code Section 6255 because they would show the officials’ deliberative process. As to these documents, Government Code Section 6255 permits nondisclosure because the public interest served by protecting the official’s decision-making process clearly outweighs the public interest served by the records’ disclosure.
But, you know, I had a thought about this. These briefing notes must be distributed to committee members, otherwise what’s the point? And the Brown Act, not the Public Records Act, contains a really important, really useful bit at §54957.5, also worth quoting:
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Staff Lie All The Time About The Public Records Act — And Also Did You Know That The Chief Legislative Analyst Prepares Briefing Notes For Council Committees? — Two Sets For Each Meeting — One Is For The Chair — The Other For The Members — And CLA Staffer Karen Kalfayan Had The Nerve To Claim These Were Exempt From Production — Even Though The Brown Act States Specifically That They Are Not Exempt And Must Be Released Immediately On Request
On June 16, 2020 Council District 5 rep Paul Koretz was one of only three Councilmembers to vote against asking City staff to report back on ways to cut a mere $150M from the LAPD budget. For some background check out this excellent essay by Jacob Woocher in Knock-LA. Koretz defended his position both before and after the vote by admitting that he’d received public comments urging him to support the cuts but also, according to Elizabeth Chou of the Daily News, “Koretz said he’s heard “emphatic” calls to defund the police dept, but he said he’s also heard from others who “feel very differently, and for whom public safety is a very high priority.” Those people fear “slower response times” from police”.
Koretz wants to show the world that he’s representing his constituents, rather than voting the straight LA Police Protective League line in opposition to his constituents’ desires. But doesn’t he sound like he’s lying? So I thought I’d check it out by asking CD5 for the communications from the public, hoping to learn how many of these folks who, according to Koretz, “feel very differently, and for whom public safety is a very high priority” actually did get in touch with Koretz.
Continue reading In June 2020 Paul Koretz Was One Of Only Three LA City Councilmembers To Vote Against Even Studying An Absurdly Minuscule LAPD Budget Reduction — He Told The Daily News That He Had Heard From People On Both Sides Of The Issue — Creating The Impression That He Was Balancing The Conflicting Wishes Of His Constituents — But I Just Got Copies Of All The June 2020 Constituent Emails To Him On Police Defunding — Can’t Count Precisely But There Are Around 270 In Favor Of Defunding — And One — Yes, One — Against — So It Looks Like Koretz Was Confused — Which Is A Politely Sarcastic Way To Describe What Koretz Really Is — About Who He Represents
If you follow business improvement districts in Los Angeles you’ll already know that the Chinatown BID, run by the strange, violent, and unhinged George Yu, is one of the City’s worst. The BID is up for renewal this year, and the hearing is to be held on September 29, 2020. Such hearings are not regulated by the Brown Act, by the way, but by another code section entirely, which allows for unlimited public comment.
BIDs are established by a balloting process, but the City Council is not required to establish a BID even if balloting is successful. BID renewal has been mostly pro forma in Los Angeles, with the notable exception of the Venice Beach BID in 2016. Yu’s BID has less support than any BID in recent memory, and may in fact be vulnerable to City Council denial or extreme modification. Therefore I think public comment is essential. The renewal is in Council File 12-0489, and you can drop a comment there using the icon that says “NEW”.
And this morning I sent my own letter of opposition for the file to Gil Cedillo. Here’s a copy of my letter, mostly about Yu’s financially irresponsible defiance of the California Public Records Act and the harm it’s done to the civic life of our City. I also touch on Yu’s sadistic sense of humor regarding the electrocution of homeless residents of Chinatown. Read on for a transcription if you don’t prefer PDFs.
Continue reading My Letter To The Los Angeles City Council Opposing The Renewal Of The Chinatown Business Improvement District — The Hearing Is In Eleven Days — On September 29, 2020 — Still Time To Get Your Comments In!
This post is based on a Twitter thread I wrote recently.
The Los Angeles City Council uses the Council File Management System, or CMFS, to keep track of every matter pending before them. This is terrible software. There are so many things wrong with it, the worst of which is that the search function is completely broken. I’ve been told by more than one Council District staffer that they also find the CMFS search function to be useless, so I’m probably not imagining it.
The City is famous for making it difficult or impossible for the public to access information, and I have no doubt that if they didn’t purposely design the CMFS to prevent people from finding stuff, at least they’re not fixing it because they rely on its brokenness. It’s broken, but it’s what we have if we want to keep track of what the Council is up to, and we certainly do want to. This post is about how to discover pending matters that interest you and keep track of them through the entire process.
Continue reading How To Discover And Keep Track Of Motions And Other Matters Before The Los Angeles City Council
For a little while it looked like George Yu had messed up the Chinatown BID renewal process and that there would be no BID for 2021. But Yu and Gil Cedillo, acting through his flunky Hugo Ortiz, maneuvering behind the scenes and off the record, managed to get the process back on track somehow and ballots have been issued announcing a hearing on September 29, 2020 to solemnize the renewal and allow the BID to continue operations in 2021.
There are two essential things for activists to understand about this part of the process. First, anti-BID property owners MUST vote no and return their ballots. The BID will be established unless received votes against outweigh received votes in favor. Unreturned ballots essentially count as yes votes.
The second thing is that BID renewal hearings are not regulated by the Brown Act. Instead they’re covered by Government Code §53753 The main difference is that, as Los Angeles activists know all too well, the Brown Act allows City Council to limit the total time for public comment but §53753(d) specifically forbids such a limitation:
At the time, date, and place stated in the notice mailed pursuant to subdivision (b), the agency shall conduct a public hearing upon the proposed assessment. At the public hearing, the agency shall consider all objections or protests, if any, to the proposed assessment. At the public hearing, any person shall be permitted to present written or oral testimony. The public hearing may be continued from time to time.
The City messed this up in 2016 when the Venice BID was being established. Herb Wesson, then president of the Council, cut off public comment and thus didn’t allow everyone to talk, as if it were an ordinary Brown Act hearing. The incomparable Shayla Myers of LAFLA wrote a demand letter to the City explaining the problem, and the City repealed the ordinance establishing the Venice BID and had to redo the entire process.
In any case, on September 29, when the Council is hearing objections or protests to the renewal of the Chinatown BID, they will have to hear all of them, every last one. Everybody gets to convey their feelings about the BID and about why it is a terrible idea to keep funding and empowering George Yu. And if there’s not time for everyone to talk on September 29, well, as the law says, “[t]he public hearing may be continued from time to time.” Here are a few things that might be worth mentioning, but there is so much more:
Continue reading Chinatown BID Renewal Hearing Scheduled For September 29 At 10 AM — BID Renewal Hearings Are Regulated By Government Code §53753 Rather Than The Brown Act — The Main Difference Is That The City Is Not Allowed To Limit The Time For Public Comment At Such Hearings — The Law Explicitly Mandates That All Objections Must Be Heard — The City Ignored This In 2016 — And Thereby Messed Up The Venice Beach BID Establishment — It Is Also Essential For Anti-BID Property Owners To Return Ballots Opposing The BID — Because Of Quirks In The Law Unreturned Ballots Essentially Count As Yes Votes
A couple days ago it came out on Twitter that a lot of people in Los Angeles don’t understand how homeless encampment sweeps get scheduled and why, in particular how encampments to be swept are chosen. I promised to write a post about it, and here we are! Part of the reason for the delay is that the story is really complex, so I’m just going to talk qualitatively about how encampments end up being targeted by Council Districts and leave the rest for another post or two. For instance, the City has two kinds of sweep teams, which are CARE and CARE+, but I’m not going to talk about the differences, which are probably important, but not for this post.
Each Council Office has a staffer whose job is to work out their District’s sweep schedule with LA Sanitation. I think that ordinarily every request for a sweep in a given District goes through this San contact. The scheduling is done by email as well as by editing Google Docs, and the emails occasionally reveal the reason a given encampment is being targeted. Here are the sets of records this post is mostly based on. If you’re interested in the subject it’s really worth looking at these. There’s a lot more information there than I’m using here:
⬟ Some 2020 Emails Between CDs and LA San
⬟ Housedweller Complaints to Juan Fregoso About Echo Park Encampments — From 2019 and 2020
⬟ CD15 Emails With LA Sanitation — January through May 2020
Continue reading A Brief Discussion Of How Homeless Encampment Sweeps Are Scheduled In The City Of Los Angeles — Or At Least Part Of The Process — The Whole Thing Is Driven By Housedweller Complaints — Filtered Through Council Districts As Political Patronage — LAHSA Involvement — Every Kind Of Outreach — Is Basically A Cover For Relocation — The Only Actual Goal
It’s strange in these apocalyptic times to remember that just last year anti-encampment planters, illegally placed on sidewalks in utter antisocial defiance of the law, were such a huge part of the City’s discussions about the rights of the unhoused. The planters were set up by psychopathic NIMBYs like Mark Ryavec, assisted by the LAPD, the Venice Neighborhood Council, and CD11 rep Mike Bonin, who lied about his office’s involvement until emails revealed the deep complicity of his former Venice field deputy Taylor Bazley.
I ended up reporting Bazley to the Los Angeles Ethics Commission and a bunch of LAPD officers to Internal Affairs. I haven’t heard back about Bazley yet but last month I did hear back from LAPD about the officers I’d complained about. Here’s their response, also transcribed below. Can you imagine?! LAPD investigated themselves and discovered that they were innocent! We knew it would happen, and it did. What turns out to be slightly more interesting is my subsequent conversation with Paul Aeschliman, the officer who conducted the investigation,
Continue reading Remember Last Year When We Learned That LAPD Was Helping Psychopathic NIMBY Housedwellers To Install Illegal Anti-Encampment Planters — And I Filed A Complaint Against A Bunch Of Them From Pacific Division — Well In June 2020 LAPD Informed Me That They Had Completed Their Investigation And Declared My Complaint “Unfounded” — And Invited Me To Ask Them Questions If I Had Any — Which I Did — Namely Would They Release The Results Of The Investigation — And The Investigator — A Dude Known As Sergeant Paul Aeschliman — Told Me He Wasn’t Allowed To Release The Info — But He Didn’t Know Why He Wasn’t Allowed — And The Laws He Cited In Support Of His Position Actually Didn’t Forbid The Release Of The Documents — So That Discussion Is Ongoing Even If The Officers Aren’t Busted For Their Illegal Planter Placing — Or Not Yet Anyway!