By William Hawkins
The Venice Median project (that area between North and South Venice Blvd from Pacific to Dell Ave) continues to be a big issue in the upcoming election. I agree that we need housing for the homeless but I’m not convinced that this lot is the most efficient and appropriate location for it.
We deserve better than this. We should not allow the city to squander this opportunity. We need to do something innovative, ground-breaking and design something that elevates Venice, as well that will continue to serve the entire community for generations to come.
What’s been presented so far is an incomplete, short-sighted, and underwhelming plan that benefits and enriches the wrong people. We need to make sure that those millions of dollars being spent are creating the most beds as possible. We can’t allow career politicians to set the bar so low for the rest of us. We can do better and we need a better plan that maximizes the most valuable piece of property available in Venice. This land belongs to all the people of Venice and we should have a say on how it’s going to being used.
System not set to reduce Venice homeless
Based on presentations given by Venice Community Housing I have real doubts that their development concept would create that promised reduction in unhoused people in Venice, especially given that enrollment would legally need to be open to the homeless across the entire city. I don’t believe that preferences will be made to those already living here, at least as an ongoing policy, it’s just not how the system works. And even if it did work that way, the 100+ units would not likely make a noticeable dent in the thousands of people living on Venice Streets. And that’s not enough to force our community to make that trade-off to give up the biggest and most valuable piece of land west of the 405.
I’m not saying that Venice doesn’t need this kind of housing and I’m not saying that VCH doesn’t provide our community with a much-needed service. I like the people who work at VCH and respect all the good work they do in our community. I just think that this project fails to answer the needs of our community and specifically isn’t feasible for the Venice Median lot. In order to move the needle enough to make a real difference we need to build a much bigger facility that serves many more people. And we can still build that facility in Venice, but somewhere east of Lincoln, out of the Coastal Commission authority and that yields more beds. Another location could likely create at least 50% more housing for the same cost and that’s reason enough to deny this project as it’s been proposed.
Would exacerbate the present overwhelming traffic congestion
Second, the amount of traffic that 100+ units would create heading west on Venice Blvd towards would exacerbate an already overwhelming congestion issue residents face each year between April and October. Parking is another big issue that has yet to be properly addressed. The water table down by the beach prohibits the kind of depth needed for underground parking that could serve this already overwhelming demand. How are we to provide parking for another 200+ residents this project would bring to the area? And what about all that lost parking during construction? What are we planning to do about that? There are many issue for a project that already costs too much and creates more problems and fails to solve any of the issues we already face.
Need something to serve entire community
I think we need to think out-of-the-box and create something that serves the entire community of Venice. A housing development that not only includes the homeless, but also the elderly and those municipal workers who have become the backbone of our community. We need affordable housing to be able to maintain this community we need to provide housing for those neighbors who are being pushed out of the neighborhood as more and more luxury development replaces the much-needed multi-family housing. We need to make sure that municipal workers like teachers, police, fire, sanitation, artists, musicians and writers and other vital parts of our everyday Venice life stay in the community. The best way to do that is to build “work force housing” along with affordable rental units and senior housing, homeless housing built alongside valuable beachside commercial retail that generate millions of dollars in revenue that could be used to maintain the property and fund construction of more homeless housing in the area.
I saw a similar program executed successfully in a town called Rye Brook, NY where my younger brother was a policeman. He and his wife were able to buy a three-bedroom townhouse in their community through a lottery system devised by the town that provided affordable housing for their municipal workers in a portion of luxury homes being built there. Once purchased, the occupants had to live there five years before they could resell and could only resell that property for 5% above of what they bought the townhouse for. That insured that these homes remained affordable for the next group of municipal workers that were on the list. We should be thinking about doing something similar here by selling 10 to 15 homes to local municipal employees and sell another 25 or so luxury units at market value. Then we create additional affordable rental units for other municipal workers, seniors, artists and the homeless.
Need a community center and open space
I think it’s essential that there’s also a community center, a state-of-the-art performance/event space for community use and a lot of open green space that utilizes the north end of the canal in the way it is a public garden and useful for the entire community and the guests that come from all over the world to enjoy the uniqueness that Venice is known and celebrated for. We could also generate additional revenue by building commercial retail space along Pacific. All that revenue generated from residential sales, rents and commercial leases would go directly into a special fund specifically used for construction of homeless housing in other areas of Venice and throughout the city as well as much needed detox centers and shelters for victims of domestic abuse.
We cannot allow the city to steamroll over us and fast-track something that isn’t right for our community. We need to take the time to design and build the right project that can ultimately be the game changer that we all desperately need and that truly serves the whole of Venice.
Stoicism teaches us that we must plan to the very end. Otherwise, we don’t know when we’ve lost our way. We can’t keep thinking short term and be reactionary with the issues we face. We need to think long term and create solutions that don’t create more problems. And we cannot allow the city to steamroll over us and fast-track something that isn’t right for our community. We need to take the time to design and build the right project that can ultimately be the game changer that we all desperately need. And we need a project that truly serves the whole of Venice of right now as well as the Venice of the future. I believe we have just as much of an obligation to the future generations of Venetians as we do those of us who live here now. So, let’s be sure to build something that not only innovates, inspires and elevates what Venice is now, but also for it one day can be.