City Hall says property owners will have to vote all over again

By Gary Walker

Just as soon as Venice commercial property owners voted the Venice Beach Business Improvement District into existence, Los Angeles City Hall is sending the BID vote back to the start.

Acting on a legal complaint that the Los Angeles City Council cut an Aug. 23 pre-vote public hearing short before 18 opponents of the BID could speak, L.A. City Clerk Holly Wolcott recommended and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer has agreed that due process was violated and the city must repeat the hearing and the vote.

BID supporters will soon mail out new ballots and the do-over public hearing is expected in mid-to-late November, Wolcott said.

A mechanism for funding neighborhood cleaning, maintenance, landscaping, infrastructure and public safety programs beyond what the city already provides, the Venice Beach BID would cover non-residential properties on the boardwalk, Windward Circle and Main Street as well as Venice Boulevard from the beach to Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Supporters say that businesses paying to supplement public services would amplify inadequate city efforts to keep public areas clean and safe. Detractors say the BID would give business interests too much control over public spaces and fear the potential of a private security presence on the boardwalk.

Only commercial property owners in the BID area could vote, but anybody could speak during the hearing.

In raw numbers, the vote tally was 85 in favor to 79 against, or roughly 52% support. Those votes were weighted, however, according to the size and usage of the property — owners of larger, more valuable commercial parcels will pay more into the BID — producing a more decisive 77.2% in favor to 22.8% against.

More than 150 property owners — nearly half — did not cast a ballot last month, according to the City Clerk’s office, and the weighted value of those votes was not immediately known.

The numbers do suggest greater support for the BID among owners of large parcels, however.

“This BID is being created for the boardwalk and for the business there that own large properties. We’re not going to get any benefit from it,” said Marlene Okulick. She and her husband John, a sculptor, own an art loft and studio on Hampton Drive.

Okulick complained further to The Argonaut that they did not receive a BID petition in the mail and received their ballot three weeks after a city-imposed deadline.

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, said it’s important that everyone who wants to speak before the council gets that chance, but he still supports the BID.

“The Venice Beach BID will help create a cleaner and safer boardwalk for everyone to enjoy, and I remain committed to working with property owners and neighbors in the area to get the BID approved and operational,” he said.

While other BIDs in L.A. have been challenged and some have been invalided for various reasons, Wolcott said 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.