Tag Archives: Business Improvement Districts

Already Heavily Rent Burdened Los Angeles Tenants Struggle To Make Payments — While City Council Whines About Its Own Impotence — Refuses To Implement Meaningful Relief — Creates An Inadequate — Overly Complex — Litigation Inducing — Contemptuous — Half-Assed — Relief Program — That’s So Underfunded The Money Will Be Distributed By Lottery — Of All Damn Things — But When It Comes To Commercial Property Owners — Whose Properties Are Located In Business Improvement Districts — Who Therefore Owe Tax Payments To The City — The Situation Is Quite Different — Apparently Without Any Difficulty — Without Any Whining Or Idiotic Reports From Idiotic Deputy City Attorney David Michaelson — The City Is Allowing Them To Pay Late Without Penalty — Without Proving Anything — Without Litigation — Because They Love Zillionaires More Than They Love You And Me — And Because They’re Not Ashamed Of Their Own Hypocrisy

It’s well-known that the economic destruction wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic is putting already severely rent-burdened tenants at even greater risk of eviction and homelessness. Activists have been pleading with Los Angeles City officials for months now to find ways to mitigate this looming crisis while the officials spend their time whining about how they don’t have the power to solve the problem.

The very few measures the City has actually implemented are overly complex, slanted towards landlord interests, half-assed, and very likely to require court intervention as part of the process.1 Not only are the City’s putative solutions entirely insufficient to meet the looming need, but the City only allocated $100 million to the program, which is so inadequate an amount that the City is going to distribute it by lottery.

Our present situation highlights about as clearly as can be the complete contempt, or at least clueless indifference, with which City officials approach the needs of non-zillionaire angelenos. And it’s not just residential tenants that are economically endangered by the pandemic. It’s also been hell on retail businesses, who are also having possibly insurmountable problems covering the rent.

In turn this threatens the income of their zillionaire commercial-property-owning landlords, who are therefore worried about their ability to cover their own expenses, including mortgages and property taxes. But the City government of Los Angeles is neither contemptuous not cluelessly indifferent towards the interests of zillionaires, of course, and their lack of contempt is demonstrated clearly by their attitude toward business improvement district (“BID”) assessments in the City.

The City of Los Angeles has more than forty BIDs. These operations are funded by assessments paid by commercial property owners in the districts. The assessments are not voluntary. They appear on the owners’ county property tax bills and are subject to the same kinds of draconian collection measures used to enforce payment of any tax. But unlike ordinary property taxes, which are paid to and collectable by the County of Los Angeles, these BID assessments belong to the City.

Which I suppose gives City officials some power over how and when they’re collected, or at least that’s the only way I can make sense of a statement made by Dr. Kris Larson, executive director of the Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance at their recent board meeting. Larson told his board that “while property owners are technically still on the hook to pay their assessments the City is not penalizing those that are late collected.”
Continue reading Already Heavily Rent Burdened Los Angeles Tenants Struggle To Make Payments — While City Council Whines About Its Own Impotence — Refuses To Implement Meaningful Relief — Creates An Inadequate — Overly Complex — Litigation Inducing — Contemptuous — Half-Assed — Relief Program — That’s So Underfunded The Money Will Be Distributed By Lottery — Of All Damn Things — But When It Comes To Commercial Property Owners — Whose Properties Are Located In Business Improvement Districts — Who Therefore Owe Tax Payments To The City — The Situation Is Quite Different — Apparently Without Any Difficulty — Without Any Whining Or Idiotic Reports From Idiotic Deputy City Attorney David Michaelson — The City Is Allowing Them To Pay Late Without Penalty — Without Proving Anything — Without Litigation — Because They Love Zillionaires More Than They Love You And Me — And Because They’re Not Ashamed Of Their Own Hypocrisy

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The City Of Los Angeles Shells Out More Than $2.2M Per Year To Business Improvement Districts — Add In Other Local Public Money — Like LAUSD — And Metro — And LA County — The Total Is More Than $3.7M Per Year To The BIDdies — Not Sure How Many People That Could Put In How Many Hotel Rooms For How Many Nights — But It’s A Lot — Not Sure How Many City Employee Furloughs That Money Could Prevent — But It’s A Lot More Than Zero Of Them — Remember That When They Tell You They Can’t Afford Something — They’re Choosing Not To Afford It

Spend some time hanging around business improvement districts and you’ll certainly hear a bunch of entitled zillionaires whining, bragging, or lying about how they voluntarily agree to spend their own damn money to provide services that the City of Los Angeles is too incompetent, too broke, or too both of these to provide. They just love explaining this to everyone. And the City of Los Angeles is also thrilled with that narrative. This City-produced BID FAQ explains it quite clearly:

[A] majority of business owners of commercial property owners in a given area decide to acquire special benefits and to pay for those benefits themselves.

The story serves everyone’s interests. The BIDdies get to imagine themselves as heroes of putative private sector efficiency and the City gets a bunch of useful idiots to carry out policies that would be incredibly illegal if the City did them directly. Everybody wins but the citizens of Los Angeles. The part you don’t hear too much about, though, the part that none of them really like to discuss, is that when property owned by the City or by other public agencies is included in a BID then the City or the other public agency is also subject to these assessments.

This is specifically authorized by the Property and Business Improvement District Law under which BIDs are established in California.1 This means that when the City Council approves a business improvement district it’s often also approving an ongoing annual payment to the BIDdies. Which, by the way, can be substantial. Over the last few days I looked at various public records involved in BID formation in LA and learned that the City of Los Angeles is on the hook for annual payments to BIDs of at least $2,278,604.2

If LAUSD, Metro, and the County are included the total is $3,710,281 and property owned by the State of California brings the total amount of public money paid annually to LA BIDs to $4,203,276.3 These days, with the City of Los Angeles furloughing employees and moaning about the price of hotel rooms to protect unhoused residents from the ongoing pandemic, there are much, much better uses that that money could be put to.4
Continue reading The City Of Los Angeles Shells Out More Than $2.2M Per Year To Business Improvement Districts — Add In Other Local Public Money — Like LAUSD — And Metro — And LA County — The Total Is More Than $3.7M Per Year To The BIDdies — Not Sure How Many People That Could Put In How Many Hotel Rooms For How Many Nights — But It’s A Lot — Not Sure How Many City Employee Furloughs That Money Could Prevent — But It’s A Lot More Than Zero Of Them — Remember That When They Tell You They Can’t Afford Something — They’re Choosing Not To Afford It

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BIDs Unmasked! — I’m Speaking On BIDs Next Saturday — 3-5 p.m. — UTLA Building — 3303 Wilshire — Graciously Hosted By The Democratic Socialists Of America Los Angeles — And NOlympics Los Angeles

I’m speaking about BIDs on Saturday, February 16, from 3-5 p.m. at the UTLA building at 3303 Wilshire (just west of Vermont), hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America — Los Angeles and NOlympics Los Angeles.

It’s an introduction to BIDs for activists, focusing on how they collude with the City to oppress, to privatize, and to weaponize pretty much every aspect of public life that they can’t destroy.

It seems also that this is also on the Facebook. I hope to see you there!

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The Checkered History Of Streets And Highways Code §36612 — How The California Court Of Appeals Made BIDs Cry By Holding That They Were Subject To The Brown Act And The Public Records Act — And How Bad BIDmother Jackie Goldberg Soothed Their Hurt Feelings By Passing A Law Stating That They Weren’t Public Officials — Is It Constitutional? — It Hasn’t Been Adjudicated So Who Knows?!

The only reason that this blog even exists is that business improvement districts in California are subject to the California Public Records Act. And the first part of the story of how this came to be is fairly well known. In 1998 Hollywood property owner Aaron Epstein wanted to attend meetings of the Hollywood Property Owners’ Alliance1 and Kerry Morrison, who then as now would willingly brook no interference in her proprietary demesne, told him to go pound sand.

Instead of slapping the silica, though, Epstein filed suit against the BID, and the process culminated in the lovely holding, in Epstein v. Hollywood Entertainment District BID, that BIDs2 were subject to the Brown Act and the CPRA. This ushered anti-BID activists into a paradise from which we are unlikely to be expelled. Kerry Morrison didn’t take this outcome with any grace whatsoever and has been pissing and moaning about it from the outset all the way to the present day.

But that opinion isn’t the only authority that subjects BIDs to transparency laws. There is also the famous §36612 of the PBID Law of 1994, which states in no uncertain terms that BIDs are subject to both the Brown Act and the CPRA.3 It also states explicitly (and ominously) that BID board members and staff are not public officials. Obviously this section was added by the legislature after the Epstein ruling, but I never took the time to investigate the history.

Until now, that is. And what an obvious-after-the-fact surprise it was to find that the bill that added that section was written by none other than Jackie Goldberg, who as CD13 Councilmember during the formation of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID was known to have a great deal of blood on her hands already.4 But by March 2001, when Epstein was finally decided, Goldberg was in the Assembly, so naturally it was to her that the BIDdies, emotionally traumatized by the court’s decision,5 went running for comfort.

And in response to their pleas Goldberg introduced AB 1021 (2001) to coat the bitter pill of Epstein with some soothing syrup and to codify these changes in §36612 of the PBID law even while acknowledging that the legislature wasn’t going to be able to change the court’s holding 6 And I recently obtained a copy of the bill analysis prepared at the time for the Assembly’s Committee on Local Government to help them understand what they were voting for.7 Therein are laid out not only the provisions of the new law, but the complaints of the BIDdies, so the connection is perfectly clear.

The main concessions to the BIDdie agenda found in the code section are the explicit statement that BIDs are private corporations and that neither BID boards nor staff can be considered public officials for any reason. This last bit is tied in to the BIDs’ fear that board members might be subject to California’s political reform act and to Government Code §1090 and therefore to various ethics restrictions and financial disclosure requirements, although it’s not really clear to me that the language has that effect. I’m no kind of expert, though.

Another sop to the BIDdies provided here by Goldberg was the authorization of 10 year renewals. Previously BIDs could only renew for up to five years. In any case, turn the page for more detail, more non-expert discussion and, as always, a transcription of the document.
Continue reading The Checkered History Of Streets And Highways Code §36612 — How The California Court Of Appeals Made BIDs Cry By Holding That They Were Subject To The Brown Act And The Public Records Act — And How Bad BIDmother Jackie Goldberg Soothed Their Hurt Feelings By Passing A Law Stating That They Weren’t Public Officials — Is It Constitutional? — It Hasn’t Been Adjudicated So Who Knows?!

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Bye Bye BIDdies! — City Of Los Angeles Finally Concedes The Street Vending Battle As Curren Price And José Huizar Move In Council Today To Instruct The City Attorney To Draft An Ordinance That’s Consistent With Lara’s Safe Street Vending Act

As you know the City of Los Angeles has been arguing over how to regulate street vending for pretty much forever now, with business improvement districts and chambers of commerce and other such-like weaponized implements of zillionaire-aligned white supremacy using every last bit of their political juice to introduce all kinds of complex conditions like opt-in districts, opt-out districts, permission from business owners, limitations on number of vendors per block, immediate confiscation of equipment, fees paid to BIDs, and on and on and on, all obviously designed for the sole purpose of continuing the wholesale arrest of street vendors.

But as I’m sure you also know just last week governor Jerry Brown signed Ricardo Lara’s Safe Street Vending Bill into law, severely limiting the power of cities to regulate vending. This bill has been working its way through the legislature since January 2018 and was well known to have an excellent chance of becoming law, and obviously voids pretty much every single feature of the City’s proposals, and yet nevertheless the City Council didn’t even start thinking about it officially until August.

But oh, they do have to think about it now. If the City doesn’t have an actual regulatory ordinance in place by January 1, 2019 they won’t have the power to regulate vendors at all. This, I guess, was enough to move them to action, and therefore this morning Councilmembers Curren Price And José Huizar introduced a motion in Council instructing the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would comply with SB-946. The whole deal is memorialized in Council File 13-1493-S5.

And the BIDdies don’t have any leverage over this ordinance because state law compels all the essential features. This is a huge blow for our City’s business improvement districts and other nasty, selfish opponents of vending, and a huge win for humanity. We’re going to see some snakey creepy nasty rhetoric from the BIDs over this, you wait and see! Turn the page for the complete text of Price and Huizar’s motion.
Continue reading Bye Bye BIDdies! — City Of Los Angeles Finally Concedes The Street Vending Battle As Curren Price And José Huizar Move In Council Today To Instruct The City Attorney To Draft An Ordinance That’s Consistent With Lara’s Safe Street Vending Act

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CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

Alleged bigamist and CD9 rep Curren Price to developers: Want to build a car dealership? Gimme $50,000 to pay for another damn business improvement district!
Maybe you’ve heard about the impending move of Honda of Downtown Los Angeles to a gigantic new five story building on Martin Luther King Blvd. at Hoover. Building projects of this size don’t happen in Los Angeles without a lot of involvement of the relevant Council District, which in this case is CD9, repped by Alleged bigamist Curren Price.1 The various negotiations and agreements are typically formalized in a development agreement between the City and the developer, and this is no exception. You can read the whole thing here, although it’s a heavyweight 35MB PDF download, so click with care.

And one of the typical elements of these development agreements is a statement of the public benefits that are expected to result from the project. These typically include financial contributions to this or that cause favored by the Councilmember, introduced by the phrase “Additionally, as consideration for this Agreement, Developer agrees to provide the following…” In this case, there are two of these (found on page 7 of the agreement, here’s a PDF of just the relevant page, also find a transcription after the break).

The first is $100,000 for present and future employees of Honda of DTLA to attend LA Trade Tech.2 The other contribution to the putative public benefit is $50,000 to pay a BID consultant for the formation of a new business improvement district in CD9. CD9 presently has three BIDs, which are the Figueroa Corridor BID, the Central Avenue Historic District BID, and the shadowy South Los Angeles Industrial Tract BID, so this would make a fourth.

Originally I thought that this new dealership would be located in the Figueroa Corridor BID, but a glance at their map reveals that the north side of MLK is the BID’s southern boundary, which is why, I suppose, that a new BID is necessary. Anyway, there’s no real moral to this story, although I admit it’s pretty jarring to see the formation of yet another damn BID pitched as a public benefit.

That principle, however, is even written into the Property and Business Improvement District Act of 1994, specifically e.g. at §36601(e), which claims implausibly that ” Property and business improvement districts formed throughout this state have conferred special benefits upon properties and businesses within their districts and have made those properties and businesses more useful…” so I guess it’s no surprise that Curren Price thinks BIDs are good. Anyway, it is always useful to have more information about how and why the LA City government forms new BIDs and pays its BID consultants. Turn the page for a transcription of the relevant parts of the development agreement.
Continue reading CD9 Rep Curren Price Requires Developers Of South LA Honda Dealership To Contribute $50,000 Towards Consultant Fees For The Formation Of A New Business Improvement District As Condition Of Approving Development Agreement

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Sneaky Shit-Sneakers Sneakily Sneak Sneaky Shit Into Current Version Of Street Vending Legalization Process, Setting The Stage For Continued Persecution of Vendors in Business Improvement Districts

Yum, danger dogs!
So today the City Council moved forward with CF 13-1493, which, of course, is the famed street vending thing. For a good, objective,1 discussion of today’s developments, take a look at this article in today’s Times by the incomparable Emily Alpert Reyes.2 This is just a brief post to note the fact that the various anti-human opponents of legalized street vending won a major, seemingly unnoticed by anyone but me, victory via amendment in the current version of the motion.

Today’s motion doesn’t actually legalize street vending. What it does is direct the City Attorney, the Chief Legislative Analyst, and the City Administrative Officer to put together a proposed ordinance. This was to be based on this detailed set of recommendations from the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee report. This report was amended in Council today before being adopted, and at least two of the amended recommendations are quite sneaky, and, I predict, will undermine the future ordinance in quite underhanded ways that will please business improvement districts and other business interests who have been working tirelessly to keep street vending illegal for years now. See the details and some3 predictions after the break.
Continue reading Sneaky Shit-Sneakers Sneakily Sneak Sneaky Shit Into Current Version Of Street Vending Legalization Process, Setting The Stage For Continued Persecution of Vendors in Business Improvement Districts

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Why Is Brentwood Off-Message For Pro-BID People?! Despite Universal Claims of City Neutrality, Miranda Paster, LA City Clerk BID Honcho, Doctors Up CD11 “Messaging” On Venice Beach BID, Advises “Wouldn’t Mention Brentwood.”

David Graham-Caso, CD11 Director of Communications.
David Graham-Caso, CD11 Director of Communications.
I’ve written before about how everyone from the City that’s involved in the BID formation process not only denies that they actually are involved but also hushes up every possible aspect of their involvement. But once in a while the veil drops and we can see clearly what’s going on at 200 N. Spring Street with respect to the City’s pro-BID activism.

Today’s story begins with a newly obtained email chain between CD11 staffer Debbie Dyner Harris and Venice walk-street resident Martha Hertzberg. Hertzberg is relentless and articulate in her questioning of Dyner Harris’s poorly argued assertions about the lack of a public component to the BID approval process, the damage that BIDs do to neighborhoods, and so on. Please read it, because it’s excellent, but too far off-topic for me to discuss at length. While you’re reading it, consider the interesting fact that, according to CD 11 Communications Director David Graham-Caso, Mike Bonin characterized Hertzberg’s position as based on a “…misunderstanding of the BID…”1 although it’s clear from the actual emails that it’s Dyner Harris and, by extension, all of CD11 that are the ones who either misunderstand the very nature of BIDs in Los Angeles or else are lying about what they’re up to.
Continue reading Why Is Brentwood Off-Message For Pro-BID People?! Despite Universal Claims of City Neutrality, Miranda Paster, LA City Clerk BID Honcho, Doctors Up CD11 “Messaging” On Venice Beach BID, Advises “Wouldn’t Mention Brentwood.”

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Los Angeles BIDs To Be Audited by the City Every Three Years According to City Clerk’s April 2016 RFQ, Published At Direction of Council. Also City to Spend $250,000 Promoting BIDs and Training BID People.

Holly Wolcott, Clerk of the City of Los Angeles
Holly Wolcott, Clerk of the City of Los Angeles
One of the advantages that zillionaires have over humans with respect to City politics is that they can hire innumerable minions to keep up with the firehose of crap spewed forth by City Hall, certainly in an effort to keep the minion-deprived majority too busy to address everything. Which is my half-serious, half-silly1 excuse for only having noticed this evening the two matters addressed in this post.

First we have Council File 14-0903, in which Holly Wolcott asked for and received an “amount not to exceed $100,000 …for a period of two years with two one-year extensions to assist with the creation and implementation and coordination of a Public Information Campaign” having to do with how fricking great BIDs are for the City of L.A. Additionally they’re getting “an amount not to exceed $150,000 … for a period of two years with two one-year extensions to assist with the creation and implementation of a capacity building and leadership training series relative to business improvement districts and create public/private partnerships with other nonprofit organizations..” None of this seems like very much money given (a) the amount of truth they’re going to have to overcome in order to achieve the first goal and (b) the amount of sheer incompetence and bloody-mindedness to achieve the second. Brace yourself for the incoming propaganda!

Second, and much more interesting, we have this Request for Qualifications, issued by the Clerk in April 2016 asking for people to submit proposals to audit BIDs. There must be a council file associated with this item, but I can’t locate it. Here’s some background. First of all, the standard contract that BIDs sign with the City allows the City to audit BIDs at will.2 This is rarely done. In fact, as far as I can tell, it has only happened twice, both times in 2005, when then-Controller Laura Chick audited both the Central City East Association and also the Westwood Village BID. The details of those audits are worth reading, although I’m not going to write about them tonight.3 However, Controller Chick made some observations then that are still relevant today:
Continue reading Los Angeles BIDs To Be Audited by the City Every Three Years According to City Clerk’s April 2016 RFQ, Published At Direction of Council. Also City to Spend $250,000 Promoting BIDs and Training BID People.

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