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 few items from a small set of emails that LAHSA produced to me recently. There’s other interesting stuff in there, so take a look at the whole set!
In June 2020 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority staffer Kristy Lovich started a petition calling on her employer to sever ties with law enforcement agencies. On July 28, 2020 LAHSA Director Heidi Marston fired her in retaliation, which prompted swift and brutal criticism on social media and a powerful public response from Lovich the next day, July 29. And very soon thereafter Marston’s publicity machine started revving its powerful engines! I don’t yet have the full story, but on July 30 Marston emailed her communications staff and thanked them for their work:
From: Heidi Marston <email@example.com>
To: Christopher Yee <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nadia James <email@example.com>, Ahmad Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Paloma Beltroy <email@example.com>
Subject: Letter response for social
Thanks for pulling this together. My comments are attached but overall, I like the google doc and the messaging in that the best. Also love the call to action in asking municipalities to commit to our principles. The more we can center on compassion and humanizing this, the better.
Continue reading LAHSA Director Heidi Marston Fired Kristy Lovich In July 2020 For Advocating That LAHSA Cut Ties With Law Enforcement — For The Simple Reason That Cop Involvement Makes Effective Outreach Impossible — As Her Comms Staff Struggled To Concoct A Response To The Subsequent Outcry Marston Told Them Not To Say Explicitly That The Response Was About Lovich — And To Rewrite Their Messaging “To Infuse A Tone Of Compassion” — You Can Read The Actual Comments She Inserted In The Document!
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
The FBI is investigating tattooed gangs of LA County Sheriff’s deputies and a suit filed by a former deputy includes allegations of gangs with matching tattoos controlling the Compton Station. Thus the idea that LASD gang tattoos may be subject to the California Public Records Act is in the air! So I thought that I would give you my amateurish and decidedly nonlawyerly take on it. The starting point for any such inquiry is the CPRA at §6253(a), where we read that:
Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.
This is very clear. If they’re public records they must be open to inspection unless they’re exempt. If Sheriff gang tattoos are public records, then we can look at them! So are they?
Continue reading Are Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Gang Tattoos Public Records? — And Therefore Subject To The Public Records Act? — I Don’t See Why Not! — Although I’m Not A Lawyer And Could Easily Be Wrong — But I Could Easily Be Right!
I recently obtained a few huge sets of records from the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and wrote about them here. The most important record in the set, by far, is this 96 slide Powerpoint presentation from September 2019. The date is significant as that’s when,thanks to the indefatigable Services Not Sweeps Coalition, the City implemented a new and putatively more humane version of its encampment sweep policy.
The point of this training is to explain these new policies to the Sanitation staff responsible for conducting the actual sweeps, how they’re expected to behave, when to call in LAPD, and so on. In July 2020 the City Council apparently abandoned this ostensibly humane approach, with predictably appalling results, making at least some of the information in the Powerpoint file outdated, but the organizational information is likely to still be accurate. Also note that the claims about the City’s humanitarian goals were false at the time and by now they’ve actually dropped the pretense. So while it’s tempting to expose the hypocrisy in detail it’s not useful enough for me to spend the time on it.
Continue reading September 2019 CARE/CARE+ Team Training Powerpoint From LA Bureau Of Sanitation Reveals Incredible Detail About Team Organization — Including Daily Schedules — Team Roles And Size Of Teams — Differences Between CARE And CARE+ — Guidelines For How To Do Outreach To Encampment Residents — When To Call In LAPD — Role Of Unified Homelessness Response Center — SECZ Rules — Some Of This Has Changed Recently But Much Of The Structural Info Is Probably Still Good — And It’s Fascinating To Compare The City’s Humanitarian Self-Presentation With The Actual Reality Of Encampment Sweeps
I recently obtained a huge pile of records from LA Sanitation about encampment sweeps and some other issues. Most of them are current versions of the kind of things we’ve seen before, but there are also a few unexpected and incredibly interesting items.
The most important, the most shocking of these is a 96 slide powerpoint presentation prepared by LA San to train its homeless encampment sweep teams in the new protocols adopted by the City of Los Angeles in September 2019. I wrote a separate post just on this one item. The others are job descriptions of the various roles in the encampment sweep teams. Here are links to the three full sets:
◎ CARE/CARE+ job descriptions — These are from November 2019. The relevant ones are:
▸ Environmental Compliance Inspector
▸ Maintenance Laborer
▸ Refuse Collection Truck Operator
▸ Senior Environmental Compliance Inspector
◎ LA San training materials — This looks like the most important set of the three right now. Four of these came to me as Powerpoint files, and I exported those to PDF for convenience and they’re what’s linked to below. The rest were PDFs originally.
▸ 56.11 Public Information Powerpoint — From October 2016, so completely outdated by now, but of historical interest.
▸ Biological Agents Decontamination Policy
▸ Bloodborne Pathogens PPT — Perhaps made by OSHA?
▸ CARE/CARE+ Training Powerpoint September 2019 — This is an immensely important document. I’ll be writing about it separately.
▸ Human Waste Cleanup Policy — From February 2019.
▸ LA San 56.11 Standard Operating Procedure — From 2018 so only of historical interest now.
▸ Clean Harbors Staff Enforcement Manual — I’m not sure what this is.
▸ LA San Operation Healthy Streets Bloodborne Pathogen Control Plan — From 2018.
▸ Bloodborne Pathogen Training Course Outline — I’m also not sure what this is.
◎ Spreadsheets from LA Sanitation — Sanitation does a lot of its sweep scheduling and planning via spreadsheets, many stored on the City’s Google Drive account so they can be collaboratively edited. This is a set of 44 spreadsheets of various kinds. There is a lot to be learned from these, but I’m not going to write about them in detail.
Continue reading Huge Set Of Records From LA Bureau Of Sanitation — Including A 96 Slide Training Powerpoint For The CARE/CARE+ Team Revisions In September 2019 — And Job Descriptions For CARE/CARE+ Staff — And An Incredibly Rich But Sadly Mostly Pretty Old Spreadsheets From LA San’s Livability Services Division — Which Coordinates Encampment Sweeps — Lots Of Stuff To Look At Here
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
Homeless people need cell phones to survive, and charging them is a perennial problem. Although the City of Los Angeles could very, very easily put electrical outlets on streetlights they refuse to do so, which leads to the dangerous but necessary practice of makeshift rewiring by unhoused people. As revealed by this newly obtained email conversation, in March 2019 this was happening regularly in Chinatown.
LAPD Officer Stephen Nichols told George Yu, the unhinged megalomaniac leader of the reprehensible Chinatown Business Improvement District, that if Yu gave him a list of affected lights he would personally deal with the unauthorized wiring. But Yu told him not to do that. Yu cited a recent electrocution death in Westlake and told Nichols:
“Lets let BSL do their work. I would prefer natural selection like the Westlake incident to happen as that will be the only way that the City will take care of business.”
When Nichols finally got Yu’s point, which took a surprising amount of discussion, he thought it was hilarious. Nichols’s entire response: “☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺” Here we see the thoroughly disgusting spectacle of an LAPD officer, sworn to protect and to serve, sharing a laugh with a notorious psychopath over the tactical political utility of mass electrocutions of homeless people.
Continue reading Chinatown Business Improvement District Chief George Yu Calls Self-Electrocution Of Homeless People “Natural Selection” — Yu Told LAPD Officer Stephen Nichols Not To Repair Dangerously Altered Streetlight Wiring — So That More Homeless People Would Die When They Charged Their Phones — Because “that will be the only way that the City will take care of business” — And LAPD Officer Stephen Nichols’s Response To Yu’s Homicidal Mania? — And I Quote — “☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺☺”
Nuisance abatement suits are brought by the Los Angeles City Attorney against homeowners or commercial landlords or tenants who allegedly allow their property to be used to further criminal activity. The City of Los Angeles notoriously uses such suits along with gang injunctions and the myriad of laws criminalizing homelessness to effect and defend the progress of gentrification.
The suits benefit the City on a number of levels. More broadly they’re a way to terrorize poor property owners by reminding them that they can be randomly targeted and forced to sell their homes. Nuisance suits also give the City a way to change the character of a neighborhood by targeting businesses that don’t suit the image being created by gentrifying developers. Most pragmatically, most cynically, the City also uses them to increase its surveillance capacities in gentrifying neighborhoods.
For instance, prior to bringing suit the City often demands that property owners install street-facing surveillance cameras and give LAPD full-time at-will access to the video feed. If you’re walking by Holiday Liquor at 4966 W. Adams, e.g., smile for the camera because LAPD is watching you! This phenomenon, among many others, is discussed in an essential recent paper by Ananya Roy, Terra Graziani, and Pamela Stephens, who note that in the infamous 2017 Chesapeake Apartments nuisance case, the City sought a number of concessions of this sort from the owner:
the establishment of extensive security systems at the property with direct access by the Los Angeles Police Department to these systems of monitoring and surveillance. … including video monitoring and electronic access control systems and private security guards.
Continue reading Three Depositions Of LAPD Officers Reveal Interesting Facts About The City Attorney’s Gentrification-Enhancing Nuisance Abatement Program — They Force Property Owners To Install Surveillance Cameras And Give LAPD Immediate Access To The Feed — E.g. Holiday Liquor At 4966 W. Adams Has Cameras That Cops Can Watch You On 24/7 Without Even Asking Anyone — And It Really Sounds Like These Cops Made Up Stories About Whatever Bad Stuff Was Happening At The Liquor Store — And Those Damn Gang Classes LAPD Teaches…