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Members of La Jolla Town Council recently took a trip to Little Italy to study the work of controversial Marco Li Mandri, head of the privately-held New City America, according to the La Jolla Light. La Jolla has been having trouble with a business improvement district named Promote La Jolla, which the City accused of fund misuse. The city attorney says he will sue Promote La Jolla on May 10 if it doesn't come up with money owed the City. Li Mandri told the La Jolla visitors that maintenance assessment district or community benefit districts are more effective than business improvement districts, which are "antiquated," according to the Light. " He {Li Mandri} showed us around town {Little Italy}, showed us how the new model works. What I saw was pretty impressive," says Rick Wildman, who will soon become president of the La Jolla Town Council. "People are making sure the streets are clean."

In two stories, the Reader has shown how the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a City investigator did a long study on Li Mandri and Paul (Joe Mannino), who earlier was convicted of drug, firearms and racketeering violations, broke laws in working together at the North Bay business improvement district. Despite the thoroughness of the investigation, the district attorney would not prosecute the politically-potent Li Mandri.

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Comments

HonestGovernment April 29, 2010 @ 6:16 p.m.

Oh, please. The LJTC is "looking toward a new arrangement"? Such as a property tax that would bring in a lot more money than does the special business license tax collected from merchants? And one that would turn the property tax over wholly to Promote La Jolla, the BID administrator? .... Such a "special" tax would be on all property owners within the largest geographical boundary that PLJ and the City Planning department could get away with defining. Then the special property tax would be used by PLJ to pay itself to decide how to spend the money, and of course the Economic Development division of City Planning would get a cut for approving all of the expenditures.

That is what the City of San Diego/Li Mandri pass off as a "commercial MAD": the BID administrator collects property taxes from owners and spends the money in exactly the same way that the BID's business license taxes are spent (such as on sidewalk sweeping and powerwashing, or security services, performed by New City America). There is no way you can collect as much money from merchants as you can get from thousands of property owners.

The flaw in this plan: imposing a property tax, and establishing it by the legal mechanism designed to create MADs, but spending it to promote and serve the business community, is illegal. Special MAD property taxes must specifically, directly, and proportionally benefit each specially assessed property. Claiming that sweeping the sidewalk on Prospect Street specially benefits Mr. Girard Avenue's parcel doesn't pass the legal smell test. The California Supreme Court said so in Silicon Valley Taxpayer's Assn v. Santa Clara County Open Space Authority. Our own Superior Court said it in Golden Hill Neighborhood Assn v. City of San Diego. But hey, that never stops the San Diego government from proceeding.

The MAD law requires an Engineer's Report, to determine the assessment share cost of a capital project to each property. You don't need an engineer to calculate how much each property will be assessed if you simply want a million dollars to develop into a BID budget. You just need a calculator and the number of properties you can target, and you work backwards.

Anyway, it looks like La Jolla property owners have already put the kibosh on Li Mandri and PLJ's pitch. The La Jolla Light article quotes the PLJ as saying "he [Wildman?] and others [Li Mandri and City Planning?] had suggested finding a way to 'help' both merchants and residents throughout La Jolla - such as a maintenance assessment district or new business district. But he said last week the focus has come back to just the Village merchants."

The "focus has come back." What a quaint way of saying, no MAD.

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HonestGovernment April 29, 2010 @ 7:13 p.m.

Apologies for being such a comment hog, but one more thing (and thank you, Reader and Bauder, for giving me a forum in which to write):

Interesting that the La Jolla Light article refers to the Urban Land Institute's publication citing Li Mandri. It appears that ULI and Li Mandri have much in common. The San Diego ULI's current executive director, Mary McLellan Lydon, is a true Li Mandri soulmate.

A 2006 San Diego Business Journal article, in its own right a nice trip down memory lane, http://www.allbusiness.com/government/government-bodies-offices-regional/10545010-1.html elaborates how Lydon favors special property assessments, ironically, "because City Hall cannot continue to make all the decisions." Given how closely tied Lydon and Li Mandri are to City Hall, its a little hard to take what she says with a straight face. The article also cites a wonderful array of past and still present players in the City Planning/developer circle of stars, including Jim Waring.

ULI's San Diego board consists of several City Planning heads, such as Bill Anderson and Janice Weinrick, and Sudberry.

City of Pillagers?.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2010 @ 10:34 a.m.

Response to post #1: You raise many good points. The whole area of business improvement districts and similar constructs deserves more study. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 30, 2010 @ 10:43 a.m.

Response to post #2: Throughout San Diego government, you find the same thing: bureaucrats extremely cozy with real estate developers. You can barely tell them apart. CCDC and the development services department are good examples: they are staffed by people from the development industry. They serve developers. They do NOT serve the public. Best, Don Bauder

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patflannery April 30, 2010 @ 2:25 p.m.

City of Pillagers? I love it! Is that an "Honest Government" original? May I use it? And thanks for your insight into "Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of MADDs" (pardon the terrible paraphrase).

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HonestGovernment April 30, 2010 @ 6:59 p.m.

Please use it, Mr Flannery. Pillaging is exactly what best describes the team that was installed starting with Susan Golding and has continued through the Sanders administration. It is shameful.

I would like to emphasize: I am thrilled to pay taxes to an honest, functioning government. I would be thrilled to support a City and County government in any quest they might undertake to generate more tax revenue for the General Fund.

I want to feel proud to live in the City of San Diego, which is NOT a frigging village. I live in a neighborhood in the City of San Diego, and do not want unelected private groups collecting and wasting my taxes in false little fiefdoms.

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Don Bauder April 30, 2010 @ 9:36 p.m.

Response to post #5: Back when we were fighting the ballpark subsidy, in the late 1990s before the thing was ever built, I labeled the ballpark district "Pillage Village." But I never thought of City of Pillagers. Agreed, Pat: it's so apt. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 30, 2010 @ 9:39 p.m.

Response to post #6: You describe the San Diego situation very well. I agree that the pillaging escalated greatly under Golding. But remember: CCDC was set up by Pete Wilson. Best, Don Bauder

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HonestGovernment May 6, 2010 @ 9:10 a.m.

Just came across this entry in the September 2009 minutes for the Little Italy Association Board of Directors meeting: "Situation with Promote La Jolla and BID Council An article was provided in the board packet regarding Promote La Jolla. The article states that the President and Executive Director went out and formed a new Corporation without the Board’s consent, opened a line of credit, then defaulted on it. Consequently, they did not pass their Audit. The Executive Director of Promote La Jolla then resigned, and is now working as the President of the BID Council."

Gotta love the last sentence.

For anyone who doesn't know what the BID Council is, straight from the City of San Diego's CPCI/Economic Development website: "The BID Council, a non-profit organization primarily funded by nearly $780,000 in City of San Diego Small Business Enhancement Program funds, is an association of the BIDs in San Diego. The Council's primary charge is to disseminate information, resources and expertise to its member districts,..."

San Diego government, the place to go, when you've been caught.

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HonestGovernment May 6, 2010 @ 9:19 a.m.

Don't miss the Opinion in the LJL ("It's Time for Merchants to Speak Up," May 5, 2010; pasted here in its entirety, because their back webpages sometimes disappear): "When the debacle surrounding Promote La Jolla, the local group that had been running the business improvement district started to unfold a year ago some of the strongest voices for the local tourism industry and Village merchants decided to step away from the fray. Some resigned their seats on the organization's board and a couple of others opted to become board members with San Diego North Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meanwhile, around the holidays a few merchants raised their voices about finding a better way of marketing their businesses, beautifying the Village and hosting special events. But despite apparent dissatisfaction, no one has given a public voice to the concerns, even as some Town Council trustees are suggesting a new group be formed to accomplish those tasks.

We've said before that the needs of businesses and residents are divergent enough that the two shouldn't be lumped together and we've called for those who may have better ideas to speak up. With the topic of visiting Little Italy - or having the firm that runs their community's district visit La Jolla - expected to be on the agenda for the May 13 trustees' meeting and a budget about to go to the City Council to keep the La Jolla BID functioning next year, this is a critical moment for business owners and managers to make their opinions known.

If there is not solid support for the business improvement district, then perhaps businesses should no longer be assessed.

State law and council policy contain procedures for "disestablishment" that can be considered once a year prior to approving a budget and levying the assessments. In short, the process can be initiated by a petition of 20 percent of the eligible (read that as "paid up") businesses in the district. Once that happens, the city's staff must conduct a mail-ballot election of the businesses to determine if "at least 50 percent of the eligible businesses by assessed value support dissolution."

(Odd quirk, it seems, but the petition process can only be used once in any three-year period.)

Other ways to start the dissolution movement include a resolution by four-fifths of the directors or "special circumstances as determined by the Council."

Should the move to shut down a BID succeed, the council would "wind down" operations and if there are remaining assets return them to businesses that were current in the assessments when the council approved the move, but only if there are no impacts on existing contracts. And if the cost to return funds is greater than the assets, the city manager can decide to spend the money on "an eligible BID activity." ... [cont]

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HonestGovernment May 6, 2010 @ 9:21 a.m.

[cont] LJL, Opinion, "It's Time for Merchants to Speak Up," May 5, 2010... "What this all means is that there's still time for people who have good ideas about how to help our businesses, whether they are hotels and restaurants or small businesses, to say something. So don't be shy. Show up at the Town Council meeting at 5 p.m. May 13 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St."

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Don Bauder May 6, 2010 @ 10:40 a.m.

Response to post #9: Tiffany Sherer, who was named in the auditor's investigative report, now heads the San Diego Business Improvement District Council. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 6, 2010 @ 10:43 a.m.

Response to post #10: Before they start taking advice from Little Italy, the La Jollans should read some history about Marco Li Mandri, his private company, and the Little Italy Association. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder May 6, 2010 @ 11:13 a.m.

Response to post #11: Does La Jolla HAVE to go the BID route? Isn't there another way? Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 May 6, 2010 @ 1:20 p.m.

"The BID Council, a non-profit organization primarily funded by nearly $780,000 in City of San Diego Small Business Enhancement Program funds, is an association of the BIDs in San Diego. The Council's primary charge is to disseminate information, resources and expertise to its member districts,..."

If these entity even returned $20K in business/ROI from their;

"disseminat[ion of] information, resources and expertise to its member districts,..."

I would be doing cartwheels down Broadway and C street in my birthday suit.......who are the clowns that dream up this BS???

Only in government.

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Don Bauder May 6, 2010 @ 9:27 p.m.

Response to post #15: If you are arrested doing cartwheels at Broadway and C in your birthday suit, please don't reveal that you post regularly on this blog. Best, Don Bauder

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