Despite losing the popular vote, supporters emerge victorious in do-over election

By Gary Walker

Like Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, opponents of the Venice Beach Business Improvement District won the popular vote on Election Day but lost the equivalent of the Electoral College.

The Venice BID — a self-governing mechanism for commercial property owners to fund cleaning, maintenance, public safety patrols and other services beyond what the city already provides — goes into effect on Jan. 1 in an area that includes the Venice Boardwalk, Windward Circle, Main Street and part of Venice Boulevard.

Commercial property owners cast 99 votes against the BID and 89 votes in favor. But because votes are weighted according to property size and worth — owners of larger, more valuable properties will have to pay larger annual assessments — the BID cruised to victory with 75.3% support.

The Los Angeles City Council certified the BID vote on Nov. 9 following a Nov. 8 public hearing. Although only those who would have to pay into the BID were eligible to vote, anyone could speak during the hearing.

This is the second vote on the Venice BID in four months. The BID passed 85 to 79 (weighted as 77% support) in late August, but the city scratched the results of that election because council members failed to accommodate all who wished to speak during the related public hearing.

Some of the Venice BIDs more vocal opponents worry that private security patrols funded by commercial interests may change the character of the community and be used to force homeless people off the boardwalk and into other neighborhoods.

Proponents say the Venice BID will provide new resources and tools for collaborative community problem solving.

Brad Neal, owner of the Venice Art Lofts on Brooks Avenue, has supported the Venice BID since early in the process and believes that it can work with others in the community toward the benefit of all.

“It needs to be part of the community. We need to do outreach to people, even those who don’t belong to it,” Neal said.

Meanwhile, BID critics say the weighted vote overruling the popular vote underscores how owners of larger properties have a built-in advantage and will likely benefit most from the BID.

“It’s very ironic that we won the popular vote and lost the weighted vote on the same day that happened during the national election,” said Becky Dennison, executive director of the nonprofit Venice Community Housing Corp. “I think it speaks to the really unfair voting process of the vote being weighted by property value and the majority of opponents are just ignored in the process.”

Opponents of the BID submitted a petition with 652 signatures, but city officials were unable to verify all of them.

As much as 73% of the BID’s nearly $2 million budget for its first year would be allotted for “clean and safe services” that include hiring a private security firm to work the boardwalk, according to a Venice BID information package sent to commercial property owners.

Neal said such patrols aren’t intended to target the homeless.

“The intention was never to bring in a private security force to go after homeless people. I don’t even want [private security] to have guns,” he said.

The Venice BID will be governed by a board of directors and steering committee, with the city clerk, city attorney and city controller providing public oversight.