State law to improve L.A. for businesses hurts the homeless

Business Improvement District authorities in Venice, California look on as personal belongings are taken from the homeless.


LOS ANGELES, CA — In the 1960’s the federal government began passing laws to help struggling urban areas across the country. The Property and Business Improvement District Law passed in California in 1994 authorizes cities to form property and business improvement districts for the purpose of levying assessments within a business improvement area. Meant to improve business areas and increase revenues, it currently is a detriment to the homeless in areas that are experiencing a homeless crisis.

In the mid 1990’s Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) were formed in downtown Los Angeles. The BIDs hired private security guards known by the color of their shirts. These security guards carried handguns and removed homeless people from private property known as “move-alongs.” Members of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) filed a lawsuit to address the civil rights violations committed by the BIDs’ security guards and removed their ability to carry handguns or conduct “move-alongs.”

A recent study was done by University of California Berkeley Law to determine the impact of the BID on the unhoused titled Homeless Exclusion Districts. Their key findings were that BIDS exclude homeless people from public spaces in their districts through policy advocacy and policing practices. The California BIDs organize collectively through the California Downtown Association to oppose state level civil rights legislation designed to decriminalize homelessness. Their involvement in social services has resulted in the homeless experiencing additional forms of policing, surveillance and harassment.

The Berkeley study states three major findings: 1) BIDs frequently engage in local and state advocacy to enact, maintain and strengthen anti-homeless laws. 2) BIDs spend property assessment revenue on anti-homeless policy advocacy. 3) The growing number of BIDs established after 1994 correlates with a sharp rise in the number of anti-homeless laws.

The study concludes with these recommendations:

The state legislature should amend state laws that grant BIDs excessive authority by prohibiting them from spending property assessment revenue on policy advocacy, repeal their authority to spend revenue on security and restrict them from collecting revenue from publicly owned properties.

It also recommends that cities regulate and scrutinize BIDs, rejecting those that participate in policy advocacy or policing practices. Cities should also refuse to collaborate with BIDs that violate the rights of homeless people.

In recent years BIDs in Los Angeles have faced scrutiny and have been faced with a number of lawsuits from property owners who were added to the BID without their consent and maintained their claims to improve the area were exaggerated according to the Los Angeles Times.

The people of Los Angeles would be better served by not participating in Business Improvement Districts meant to harm the homeless. With the current homeless crisis that is occurring in the city, residents both housed and unhoused need to work collectively on solutions that will help those that are unhoused obtain the services and housing they need, thereby improving the neighborhood.

We encourage reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source.
Copyright © 2019 People's Tribune. Visit us at
Please donate whatever you can to the People's Tribune! We are supported
by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no
advertisements. Donate via PayPal at or send to
PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

One thought on “State law to improve L.A. for businesses hurts the homeless

  1. The Bids are for the reasons mentioned Unconstitutional. The public needs to know the programs to help the unhoused is staffed or funded, at about 1/4 of the real need. Most of the homeless are in that bind not through self choice,but by societies action or lack of help. 97 out of 100 did not choice homelessness. Only cowboys and PST Veterans Afraid to sleep inside, chooses homelessness, over a nice bed.

    Without reading the laws I cannot Positively say as an activist, that those laws are Unconstitutional in fact the system says only Lawyers and those who challenges such laws can say that. But as a third class poor American, I believe “Those who took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, Break it so more money can be made by business person. If they could pass a law to be in Store you have to buy one item, they would.” Do you want that kind of law, in your future? This kind of law will be harder to prove as Being Unconstitutional.

    As it affects other parts of the Const. then the 14th amendment which has been challenged many times, and won more then it lost.

    Back in the mid 1970’s or so, The US Justice Dept. or someone higher, demanded All homeless laws as Being Unconstitutional. Wiped off the books until the towns could prove they treated the Unhouse, and those in home Equally.

    Treating the homeless with a second brand of cops is expressly unequal.

    I have next to no idea why each bogus law giving the city too much authority, is not defeated in court, when anyone says they are illegal. The weakest among us should be able to challenge, them.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *