I created a page on Archive.Org to collect pleadings from the Okulicks’ case, and you can find it right here. Unfortunately right now I only have the original petition and yesterday’s tentative ruling, since adopted as final. This article from the Times is also useful background.
Last month, it seems, Chalfant agreed with the petitioners, stating in his tentative ruling at that time that:
The Petition for writ of mandate is granted in part. Only the portion of the assessment directed to properties used by their owner exclusively as their residence is unlawful. A writ shall issue directing a refund of that portion of the assessment and Petitioners are entitled to a declaratory judgment to that effect. In all other respects, the Petition is denied.
However, it seems that the respondents, i.e. the City of Los Angeles and the Venice Beach BID, convinced him to hold off on making this ruling final to allow for another round of briefing just on the specific part where he found in favor of the Okulicks. I don’t have copies of those briefs, but yesterday’s hearing consisted of the oral argument surrounding them. Whatever the City of LA put in its brief did the nasty trick, evidently.
A couple weeks ago, a group of brave and determined residents of Venice filed a writ petition against the City of Los Angeles and the Venice Beach BID asking the court to set aside the ordinance that created it, to force the City to redraw the BID’s boundaries in accordance with the law, and, most interestingly, to order the City to contest the assessments levied against City-owned properties in the BID. You can read a copy of the initial petition:
Or here — on the new dedicated page, also available through the menu structure above.
Or here — directly from static storage; see the titles better!
They argue that their residential properties will get no special benefits from the BID, which violates the California Constitution. They argue that many of the proposed activities of the BID, specifically the security program, are inherently incapable of providing special benefits. And most interestingly from the point of view of general anti-BID theory, they argue that the City has a duty to its citizens to scrutinize the BID plan to be sure that City-owned parcels included in the BID actually benefit from being in the BID, and that by rubber-stamping the BID proposal, the City has abdicated this duty. If this argument succeeds it will shake the very foundations of BIDs in Los Angeles, which rely to various extents on the automatic yes votes provided by City-owned property. This automatic approval, by the way, was set up in 19981 via Council File 96-1972 which, in pertinent part, includes a directive to:
REQUIRE the City Clerk to sign off on Proposition 218 ballots and support petitions for property-based BIDs, unless the Council directs otherwise.
If you’ve been following the story of the Venice Beach BID at all you will know that the first hearing that the City held on this matter was shown to be invalid via some sharp lawyering by superhero public interest attorney Shayla Myers and that subsequently the City had to call a complete do-over of the process. Well, the time for the do-over hearing is rapidly approaching. It will be held at City Hall on Tuesday, November 8, at 10 a.m. If you can fit it in I hope you can show up and voice your opposition.
And your opposition is being heard by the City. For instance, City Clerk Holly Wolcott was recently quoted in the Argonaut to the effect that
… the drama surrounding the Venice Beach BID is unprecedented. “Since I’ve been in office, we’ve never seen the level of turnout we had for the BID nor had a BID ordinance repealed for these reasons,” she said.
Whether or not we’re ultimately successful in preventing this BID1 is less important than to show the City that they can no longer expect that their BID-building shenanigans will unfold unopposed in the quiet of their formerly smoke-filled back rooms. It’s important to show them that what Wolcott thinks is an anomaly may well be the new normal.