In a scathing review of the state’s proliferating business improvement districts, a student project released Tuesday by the UC Berkeley law school accuses the nonprofit groups of systematically abusing homeless people.
The report by the Policy Advocacy Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law alleges that business improvement districts, or BIDs, are exacerbating the homeless problem “by excluding homeless people from public places without addressing the causes and conditions of homelessness.”
Business improvement districts are formed under state laws that allow property owners to assess fees on themselves to supplement public services. State and federal laws authorizing business improvement districts date to the 1960s in response to the decline of downtown districts.
Initially operating under city oversight, the districts gained more independence with new laws in the 1990s allowing a majority vote of property owners — weighted by assessment — to petition the city to form a district and authorizing districts to spend money on direct services such as sanitation and policing.
The report documented an increase in business improvement district formations after those laws were passed.
“During the 20 years from 1975 to 1994, 13 BIDs were established and 61 anti-homeless laws were enacted,” it said. “During the 20 years from 1995 to 2014, 60 BIDs were established and 193 anti-homeless laws were enacted.”
In Los Angeles, a consortium of business improvement districts has 38 member organizations.
The districts have long been criticized for targeting homeless people for removal.
But the new study argues that they are breaking state law by using mandatory property assessments — some from public entities — to advocate for legislation.
The report acknowledged that some business improvement districts engage with social services agencies to assist homeless people, but characterized the practice as part of their broader aim to remove homeless people.
“BID policy advocacy and policing practices are premised on the idea that laws criminalizing activities like sitting, resting, sleeping, and food sharing help homeless people,” it said. “In this view, anti-homeless laws encourage homeless people to access social services.”
Next person I see wearing a suit & tie gets strangled w/ said tie.