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. 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
A couple months ago I wrote on how a massive development project in CD1 was approved. One of the aspects of the story most surprising to me was the intimate involvement of lobbyists at every stage of the process. Somehow I had thought that their role was more like influencing City officials, suggesting outcomes to them, talking to them, and so on. Something like ordinary public comment even if supercharged by highly enhanced access to official ears.
But it turned out to be far more than that. E.g. lobbyists actually write ordinances, resolutions, and motions which are then submitted to Council by Council District staff. The lobbyists understand City procedures much more clearly than electeds and staff. In some sense the lobbyists are actually running the planning and land use process with civil service staff effectively working for them. In the case I wrote about in March Gil Cedillo’s planning director, Gerald Gubatan, seemed to do little more than serve as a conduit between lobbyists for the developers and City civil service staff.
And I’m sure this is the norm, but given the dedication with which City officials and staff flout the requirements of the California Public Records Act proof is pretty hard to obtain. However, despite such obstacles there are still a few clues available here and there. For instance, let’s take a look at a project, apparently pending at least since 2017, at 2110 and 2130 E. Bay Street in the Arts District in CD14.
This is a massive project with the usual nauseating mix of live/work and creative blah blah blah of the too-familiar type beloved of zombie urbanist flackmonsters like Urbanize LA. Like all such projects, this one requires bunches of spot-zonings, variances, general plan changes, and so on. In particular, in exchange for a mere 12 “restricted affordable units” the City is proposing to rezone the parcels from Heavy Industrial to Commercial Industrial.
Continue reading Zillionaire Developer Albert Taban — Of The Famous Zillionaire Taban Klan — Is Building A Whole Block Mixed Use Monstrosity In CD14 — The Arts District — 2110 Bay Street — Which Needs Any Number Of General Plan Amendments — And Rezoning — And The Usual Load Of One-Off Ad Hoc Bespoke Exponential Property Value Multipliers Poured Out By Our City Council — Like Yummy Slop — Into The Piggy-Trough At Which These Developers Gorge — And So Taban Hired Lobbyists As These Zillionaires Will Do — But For Whatever Reason Jose Huizar Isn’t Pushing This One — So Eric Garcetti Took A Break From His Self-Declared State Of Emergency — And Sent It To The Planning And Land Use Management Committee Last Week — Which Might All Be Business As Usual — Who The Heck Even Knows? — But What’s Not So Usual Is That Stuart Waldman — LA Olympics Booster — LA 2028 Board Member — Supreme Commander Of Rightwing Fash Front Group VICA — Valley Industrial And Commercial Association — Who Is Not One Of The Lobbyists Hired By Taban — In Fact He’s Not A Registered Lobbyist At All — Actually Wrote The Damn Rezoning Resolution — That Got Submitted To Planning Commission Unchanged — Which Is Revealed By The Metadata — Waldman’s Not On Any Other Record As Being Involved In This — In Some Cities The Lunatics Are Running The Asylum — In Los Angeles The Piggies Are Running The Trough — Is It A Surprise Everything’s Falling To Pieces?
This is just a short post to update you on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation‘s pending California Public Records Act petition against the City of Los Angeles. The petition was filed in September, and you can read about it some detail here. The short version is that the City put out a request for proposals for some housing stuff. AHF’s response was rejected. Subsequently AHF submitted a CPRA request asking for fifteen distinct categories of records related to the RFP process.
One part of the request was for the other responses to the RFP. The others had to do with communications regarding the RFP, names, resumes, and conflicts of interests of the people who scored the responses, and so on. And the City denied the request with a characteristically terse non-sequitur, stating that: “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”
The City of Los Angeles, you may recall, fights very, very few CPRA petitions filed against it. Between 2016 and early 2019 they settled nine out of at least ten cases. I myself have filed eight cases against the City since last year and they’ve settled three of them, agreed to settle three others, and two are just beginning. But they’re not settling this one, or at least they’re buying some time before they do settle.
And therefore on Monday, January 6, 2020, the City filed this answer to the petition. Answers in civil litigation can be notoriously devoid of content, and this one’s pretty much in line with that trend, what with the “to the extent that anything the petitioner said makes any sense respondent the City of Los Angeles denies it” and other such circumlocutions. But Bethelwel Wilson, the Deputy City Attorney who’s staffing the case, did include a couple fragments of substantial argument. In the first place, quoth Wilson:
Continue reading The AIDS Healthcare Foundation Filed A Public Records Suit Against The City Of Los Angeles In September 2019 – And Even Though The City Only Very Rarely Contests These CPRA Petitions They Are Contesting This One – Not Sure Why Though Given That AHF Asked For Fifteen Categories Of Records And The City’s Sole Defense Is Apparently That The California Supreme Court Said That Records In One Of Those Categories Are Exempt Under Certain Circumstances – Which Don’t Even Obviously Apply Here
Yesterday the Aids Healthcare Foundation held a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for its alleged and exceedingly plausible arbitrary and capricious denial of an AHF homeless housing project. This is an important lawsuit with a a powerful and convincing petition in support of AHF’s laudable efforts to house the unhoused in Los Angeles. It’s been well-covered in the press.
Not quite as well-covered is the fact that in September 2019, as part of the lead-up to that lawsuit, AHF sent a request to HCIDLA for public records related to the bidding process in which their project was rejected. HCIDLA rejected it with a message stating that the Mayor’s Office had the records and that AHF should send it there. They did so, and a few days later Garcetti’s office sent them a denial stating “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”
Now, the CPRA is very clear on the fundamental fact that unless there is an explicit reason given in the law for withholding a record, that record must be released to anyone who asks for it. This is found at §6255(a), which says that “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”
Continue reading On September 20, 2019 The Aids Healthcare Foundation Filed A California Public Records Act Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles — Just Four Days After Receiving A Characteristically Inadequate Denial From The Office Of The Mayor — This Is A Necessary — And Laudable — And Entirely Appropriate Action — I Can Only Think Of Two Strategies For Encouraging The City To Consistently Comply With The CPRA — One Is For Us To Pass A Local Sunshine Ordinance — And Until That Happens We Have To Sue The Freaking Crap Out Of The City Immediately Every Time They Illegally Withhold Records — Like Freud Said — If They Don’t Pay They Won’t Get Better — So Yay AHF!
Maybe you remember that on March 1, 2019 representatives from the august office of the august Mayor of Los Angeles journeyed westward to Venice to hold a secret creepy little invite-only conclave with local zillionaires, sponsored by the Venice Chamber of Commerce and held at the locally celebrated white supremacist compound known to the world as the Hotel Erwin. Well, it actually happened, and I recently obtained a list of invitees and some emails about the process of planning the confab and wrote a fairly well-received post about the material.
But of course if there are any unifying themes at all to CPRA-based investigations they’d be the fact that (a) material trickles in very, very slowly and (b) it does not arrive in any particular order. Which is why it’s getting close to eight weeks after that first post and I have just recently obtained the presentation materials from that tip-top secret meeting, which is why I have taken up my metaphorical pen this morning and am metaphorically scribbling this note to you! There are three items on the menu this morning. These are:
And of course, look at them if you want to. Publishing public records is a big part of what we do here at the blog and there’s not much point in publishing if nobody reads. But I will tell you in advance that there’s absolutely nothing interesting in the content of these documents. They say nothing at all and they say it in an incredibly tedious manner.
Not only that, but they’re obviously reworkings of generic presentations that these City staffers and the people from the Los Angeles Tourism Board have given many times, only very lightly edited to reflect the interests of this particular audience. There’s nothing in these powerpoints that needed to be said at all, let alone to be said in person. But nevertheless, it would be an error to write this off as the usual booshwah spewed in such astonishing volume by real-estaties. In fact, the very lack of content is itself the medium that’s communicating the extremely important message.
Continue reading Powerpoints From The Secret Meeting Between Garcetti Staffers And The Venice Chamber Of Commerce On March 1, 2019 Are Now Available — They Are Utterly Vapid And Devoid Of Content — Which Is Not Surprising Given That They’re Merely Pretextual — The Zillionaire Ruling Classes Have Many Such Empty Excuses To Hold Conclaves With City Officials — It Is Always What’s Not On The Agenda That Matters
For about two months now I’ve been looking into the practice of Twitter users being blocked or muted by official City of Los Angeles accounts. I’m still gathering evidence, but yesterday it came out that Police Commission president Steve Soboroff blocks a bunch of users who’ve never even interacted with him, so I thought it’d be timely to write up the information I have so far. This issue is of special interest in these latter days given that in 2018 a federal judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for Donald Trump to block users on Twitter.
What I can offer you today, friends, is Twitter block/mute information for eleven of the fifteen council districts, the City Attorney, the Mayor, and a small selection of official LAPD accounts. There’s also an interesting line of hypothetical bullshit from deputy city attorney Strefan Fauble about some pretty technical claims about CPRA exemptionism, but that, being übernerdlich, is way at the end of the post.
Most of the accounts blocked are porn or spam, but Jose Huizar and David Ryu are notable exceptions. Both reps block accounts that are obviously controlled by actual individual people. Huizar’s list is by far the most extensive, and includes wildly inappropriate blocks like @oscartaracena and @BHJesse.
My research on this question is ongoing, mostly hindered by the City of LA’s familiar foot-dragging CPRA methodology. Turn the page for a tabular summary of the results I have so far along with a brief discussion of how Strefan Fauble is still on his CPRA bullshit.
Continue reading Ever Wonder If You Are Blocked By Your Councilmember On The Twitter?! — We Have The Answer! — Also City Attorney! — Also The Mayor! — But Nury Martinez — And Herb Wesson — And Mike Bonin — And Mitch O’Farrell — They Won’t Even Answer The Damn Requests — Oh, Almost Forgot To Say! — Deputy City Attorney And Insufferable Rich Boy Strefan Fauble Wants To Be Sure You Know — Mike Feuer Isn’t Muting Any Twitter Users But If He Were — The List Would Be Exempt From Release Under The CPRA! — Yeah Right, Strefan Fauble! — Stick To Art Collecting And Leave The CPRA Lawyering To Others!
The proclamations! You’ve probably seen them hanging on the walls of people’s offices, they’re in famous restaurants, like e.g. Musso and Frank has one, The Pantry has one, and so on. Here’s a nice picture of one. Well, here I am, hanging around this City more or less continuously since 1963 and I never knew, never even wondered, where or they came from or why. Amazingly, though, in a set of records recently handed over by the Media District BID, all was revealed!
Here’s the process, at least as it pertains to the office of the Mayor. First, have your minion email Yolanda Flores at email@example.com. She’s actually his staffie in charge of proclamations! Don’t forget to refer to her boss as MEG, which is evidently what the cool kids call him! After she gives you the nod, have your minion write the damn proclamation! That’s it, you can pick it up next Thursday!
Does it seem too simple? Don’t believe it’s that easy? Can’t credit that actual grownups call the guy MEG with a straight face? Want to read the genuine one-and-only proclamation that unreconstructed criminal Lisa Schechter of the Media District BID wrote for former president Laurie Goldman that was subsequently issued by MEG? See the emails by means of which the whole mishegoss was arranged? Well, what are you waiting for?! Turn the damn page!!
Continue reading You Know Those Proclamations From The City Of Los Angeles That Hyperconnected Zillionaires Like Laurie Goldman All Hang On Their Office Walls? — Well, Here’s How You Get One! — Have Your Minions Ask The Mayor’s Staff — Be Sure To Call Him MEG Cause That’s What The In-Crowd Calls Him! — And Two Days Later Go Pick Up The Proclamation! — Did I Mention Your Minions Have To Write The Damn Thing? — Don’t Have Any Minions? — No Proclamation For You!!
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission is charged not only with enforcing ethics laws and regulations but also with reviewing and revising them periodically. Because the City Council is subject to these laws it wouldn’t make much sense for them to be able to alter them at will. The temptation to exempt themselves and their creepy zillionaire buddies would ultimately be too much for their corrupt vestigial little senses of morality to bear and we’d end up without any ethics laws at all.
Thus the process, as described in the City Charter at §703(a), requires the Ethics Commission to propose the changes and gives the City Council the authority only to disapprove but not to modify them. This strikes me as a quite clever way to balance the competing interests involved:
The commission may adopt, amend and rescind rules and regulations, subject to Council approval without modification, to carry out the purposes and provisions of the Charter and ordinances of the City relating to campaign finance, conflicts of interest, lobbying, and governmental ethics and to govern procedures of the commission.
So at its meeting in February, the Ethics Commission approved a bunch of revised enforcement regulations. You can read the original proposal. This was duly sent up to the City Council, where it was placed in Council File 14-0049-S1. Well, on Thursday, after the Mayor’s concurrence was received, the Council finalized the matter and the new regulations are approved and will take effect on August 14.
There were bunches of changes, mostly technical in nature, and beyond my capacity to evaluate. But the one that really excites me is that the new ordinance requires City departments and appointees to report violations of the Ethics laws or the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance within ten days. This is a huge development! Read on for details and for a number of horrific instances in which the lack of a mandate to report created absolutely nauseating scenarios involving law-flouting lobbyists and City officials.
Continue reading City Council Approves Update To Ethics Laws Which, Among Other Changes, Imposes At Long Last A Duty On City Officials And Employees To Report Violations To The Ethics Commission Within Ten Days — A Law Like This Will Cut Down On Apparent Collusion By City Officials Or At Least Provide Another Fruitful Channel For Reporting Them