Celebrating the Creative Community of Venice.
I reported a couple of weeks ago that as late as two months ago, Mike Bonin aide Debbie Dyner Harris had refused to tell Becky Dennison of Venice Community Housing the names of the three members of the Board of Directors of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. Dyner Harris even sent an email to shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine asking for permission to share the names, which Devine evidently didn’t give, because Dyner Harris didn’t give up the names. Well, I’ve been asking CD11 for the names as well, and after a long three weeks, for whatever reason, Debbie Dyner Harris emailed me this morning and told me that the Board of Directors presently consists of Steve Heumann, Carl Lambert, and Mark Sokol.
Steve Heumann was not a surprise, as his name appears as agent for service of process on the POA’s registration with the State.1 But the other two are of great interest indeed. I recently wrote about how Carl Lambert’s campaign contributions to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti probably violated City campaign finance laws, but that argument wouldn’t fly if he weren’t on the Board. Since he is, I’ll be reporting him to the City Ethics Commission in the next few days.
But Mark Sokol’s case is even more fascinating. Recall that the POA has been meeting with the City about the BID at least since September 2014. Well, take a look at all of Sokol’s contributions since then. They add up to $10,750. The output of the City’s database lists each contribution separately, but here are the totals:Mark Sokol’s Campaign Contributions Since September 2014 Recipient Total contributions Paul Krekorian $350 Mike Bonin $700 Felipe Fuentes $700 Marqueece Harris-Dawson $700 Jose Huizar $700 Nury Martinez $700 David E. Ryu $700 Curren Price $1,200 Gilbert Cedillo $1,400 Paul Koretz $1,400 Ron Galperin $2,200
It is shocking. I’m not going to reiterate the reasons that this is almost certainly illegal, but they’re worth reading. Later tonight I will publish a letter that I’ll be sending to the nine remaining Councilmembers2 who took Sokol’s money asking them to recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on the Venice Beach BID ordinance version 2.0.3 And all the money to Galperin? Well, the Controller is meant to audit BIDs, and they have done in the past. They mostly refuse to these days,4 but how’s Sokol supposed to know that? Or maybe it’s something else nefarious.
In any case, I’ve noted before that the City Charter, at Section 470 gives the purpose of Municipal Campaign Finance laws:
The purpose of this section is to encourage a broader participation in the political process and to avoid corruption or the appearance of corruption in city decision making, and protect the integrity of the City’s procurement and contract processes by placing limits on the amount any person may contribute or otherwise cause to be available to candidates for election to the offices of Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and City Council and promote accountability to the public by requiring disclosure of campaign activities and imposing other campaign restrictions.
Carl Lambert’s contributions to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti were bad enough with respect to corruption or the appearance of corruption, but Mark Sokol’s more than $10,000 spent just since the BID formation process began is unconscionable. Stay tuned
2014 VBBID Emails Reveal, Among Other Things, That Bonin Staffer Debbie Dyner Harris Was On Venice Beach BID Steering Committee Since 2014 Despite Consistent Denials of City Involvement In Formation Process
Here we go again! Another giant step in the gentrification of Venice is on it’s way — the proposed formation of a Business Improvement District (BID), initiated by Carl Lambert (currently being sued by the City Attorney for operating illegal hotels in Venice and illegally evicting tenants) and the Venice Chamber of Commerce (VCC) — gaining momentum at City Hall.
There is a City Council public hearing planned for August 23, 2016 downtown, but we can’t wait ’til then to take action. Below is a well-written document that describes why a Venice BID is not what it’s cracked up to be:
“Why We Should Vote NO to the Venice Beach Business Improvement District —
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are, by design, controlled by a very small group of commercial property owners, excluding the voice of most paying into the BID and completely excluding residential property owners, tenants, commercial operators who lease their sites, and other stakeholders in Venice.
Venice Beach has long been a center for democracy and diversity in views and a BID reduces democracy and participation in decisions that impact our community.
Go here to sign: https://www.change.org/p/no-b-i-d-for-venice-ca
First and foremost, there are no “voting rights” for those that have to pay for the BID after the BID is created, or other mechanism to directly impact the decisions and actions of the BID. Instead, BIDs are controlled by a non-profit organization, with no clear mechanisms to ensure ongoing accountability to commercial property owners in the BID who are all required to pay assessments, nor to the City, which controls almost 25% of the property assessments in the BID.
The materials received with the BID petitions are misleading, and make promises to commercial property owners that cannot be upheld.
1. “The Venice Beach BID will provide services the City doesn’t, such as homeless outreach…” In fact, the City and County provide resources for outreach to homeless residents and more outreach will not help move people into housing. The City and County, as well Venice stakeholders, need to fund and advocate for more housing solutions so that people can move off of our streets and sidewalks. Until we increase housing supply, more outreach will just duplicate services, waste resources, and not produce any visible change in homelessness in our community.
2. “The Venice Beach BID will work with the City to make sure limited City services are delivered more consistently.” BIDs do not have any unique mechanism to make this happen and, in fact, watch-dogging the City is one of the key reasons neighborhood councils were formed. This purpose is duplicative and likely will not make any impact.
3. “This stability can protect your investment and attract additional investment to the neighborhood.” Venice has seen some of the greatest increases in property values and commercial investment in the region over the past decade, without a BID.
Commercial property owners in Venice have long supported the culture and character in Venice. And, in fact, have PROFITED from being a part of the largest tourist attraction in the City of Los Angeles for decades!
BIDs have completely changed the character of communities throughout Los Angeles and the state, leading to displacement of small businesses, locally-owned businesses, and residents.
The Venice Beach BID is overly reliant on City land and funds. The City owns substantial land, and is also taking on the cost of assessments for the State-owned land in the area, totaling more than 25% of the annual budget, resulting in more than $450,000 in general fund dollars each year dedicated to this BID. BIDs were intended to be mechanisms for private owners to vote to assess themselves, not to utilize public funds in an unaccountable structure.
A majority of private property owners did not submit petitions to move the BID to this final vote. At the first City hearing, only 53% of assessment values were represented in the petitions and, since the City represents 25% of that vote, only about 30% of the votes in support came from private businesses.
BID activities have led to numerous lawsuits against the BIDs and the City of Los Angeles for improper, illegal and unconstitutional activities, and the legal fees to defend against a lawsuit can add up.
Property owners’ assessments could go to pay legal fees for activities that they may not even support and over which they had little or no say!!!”
PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION AND SEND A MESSAGE TO CITY HALL THAT WE DON’T WANT A VENICE BID – NOW OR EVER!