By Kip Pardue, whose house abuts the project
I, too, am tired of being made to feel immoral or somehow “wrong” for not embracing this project as it currently stands. The powers-that-be regarding the median project continually surround themselves with blind ideologues who wrap the discussion in gentrification, rich vs. poor, and diversity. Their stories all align to scratch their own itches – spinning stories of homeless families and the “good” they are spreading. While doing this, that group tends to lose the forest for the trees – or possibly the other way around depending on your viewpoint.
I am not against the idea of a development behind my home – I have been clear about this from the beginning (which can be seen from my post many months ago about my meeting with Bonin – and if you do go back and read that, please notice how many things he said 9 months ago – BEFORE developers were chosen, BEFORE the feasibility study was completed, BEFORE HHH passed – have come to pass). I am not against PSH and/or low income units sharing a wall with my property. What I am NOT FOR is supporting the type of thinking that this is somehow about “solving homelessness.” Anything that is being built on this site for the associated costs is about ego, handouts, and greed. It is clear by any metric that this is not the best use of funds to solely combat homelessness. That being said, I do feel there is a place for this type of development here and my list of desires should not be seen as “anti-homeless” or “gentrification.”
I have been part of several meetings with Becky Dennison and EOMA. I find them to be smart and available and positive. What surprised me most about the presentation as it now stands is that not much has seemed to change from Becky’s initial proposal laid out by the RFP. While I have not seen a hard copy of that proposal (it is not public), she spelt out her initial ideas to me in December of 2016. The idea was between 90 and 140 units with interior parking structures on both the east and west of the site using the canal as a divider. This was BEFORE any work with Eric Owen Moss Architects yet the proposal we see now is EXACTLY that. This type of rigid thought is concerning. I am afraid that the process is being run not by creative and skilled professionals or by the desires of the community but by VCH’s few hand-picked proxies. While there were certainly nice nods to some of the ideas I personally have suggested, I feel they were cursory and almost limited.
As things get more detailed and specific, I will have more desires and hopefully will be pleased with new ideas presented. But for now, I have a few thoughts on the presentation that I would like to list publicly.
First of all, can someone please make the PDF of the presentation viewable on a website? I think we have that technology. Please don’t make everyone download it. It should be easy to access for everyone. Awareness of this project is SHOCKINGLY LOW. The younger people of Venice – who most of the VCH supporters see with disdain despite their repeated cries of how they love diversity and are super super tolerant – are just not engaged. THAT HAS TO CHANGE. I blame myself as well. I will continue to activate the Venice that I see on a daily basis (far different than the Venice that shows up to these meetings).
The next immediate gripe is the density. This has nothing to do with WHO is living here – 140 units (which may or may not mean multi-bedrooms for the non-PSH units) is just too much. N Venice Blvd gets crushed with traffic nearly every sunny day in the summer, especially the weekends. When you add in these new people, it will be devastating for traffic – vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian. I have asked that the lights at N Venice and S Venice be addressed – scramble lights like what is going in at Washington and Pacific, but this is only a first step in mitigation. Becky continues to say that one bus running down Pacific is enough for access to public transit, but I think it is ridiculous to call this area “accessible” by public transit. I have taken the bus to LAX and it took me over 1.5 hours. These are the EXACT arguments that nearly every single person in the room on Thursday night would make against this project if it were not labelled “homeless housing.” The people who have fought (and won) against development in Venice – the same people who created much of the housing crisis in Venice – are now supporting a project they have sued and opposed and shut down countless times. Their cries usually sound like this: “Too big!” “Too ugly!” “Too out of scale!” “Too much traffic!!” I am not sure why they are all embracing a project that – regardless of who lives there – will impact the neighborhood in exactly the same way.
Another problem I have – and have had for several months and brought up to Becky and EOMA – is the tremendous burden the parking is on this project. I have not gotten exact numbers, but the footprint of the two parking structures seems to be 70% of the site. Underground parking is a MUST for this project. The parking lots for the public must be privately financed. HHH funds cannot legally be used to build them. Therefore, funding should be secured to build underground parking. Why not sell, say, 10 luxury units to finance underground parking? The added space created will leave more than enough room for units of this type and also possibly open up more green space and opportunity for more retail. It IS possible to go underground here, it’s just expensive. But it MUST be done.
The retail component is also a concern for me. There was a lot of talk of Homeboy Industries and the like. While these are great ideas for the Boardwalk, this are IS NOT the Boardwalk. I do not want the Boardwalk extended into the more residential stretch along Venice Blvd. While I do not think we should have incredibly high end retail, I do think it makes sense to create foot traffic that is bustling and positive and elevating. We don’t need more t-shirts or sunglasses. I have always had a desire for a Grand Central Market type atmosphere along the canal with a permanent farmers’ market and food stalls. I think we must be VERY careful with what retail goes in. With the right kind of attractions, the development will feel alive and beneficial. We cannot let a select few dictate the fate of this street’s future.
Which brings me to my final (initial) concern. Security and the surrounding area. I have told Becky this countless times as well and she simply will not oblige: Please acknowledge that we have a problem in Venice – specifically by this development – that is NOT one of homelessness but one of “travelers” and “crusties.” They commit crimes and create meth camps of unimaginable filth. They hassle residents and tourists and break into cars and homes regularly (including my own). We have RV’s and vans from all over the country taking over our streets. These are different from the homeless who will be helped by this development. They are a problem and one that will not be tolerated any longer. This development team should go the extra mile and guarantee that all of this behavior will be stamped out. The meth camp that is Mildred will be gone. The vans and RV’s along S Venice will be gone. The tents at It’Sugar will be permanently removed. I really don’t think it’s too much to ask of a multi-million dollar development.
As we get further along in this process, I will certainly have more thoughts -both broad and for me and my immediate neighbors, and I hope that they will continue to be addressed.
I will also be starting a legal fund with some neighbors to raise resources to make sure our voices are heard. The bubble that the VCH/Mike Bonin/ crew lives in needs to be popped and legal means will almost certainly be necessary to achieve that. I will provide more information in due time.
I still believe that this project could truly be great and beneficial for Venice. I just want to make sure that ALL of Venice is engaged and we are not steamrolled by a select few who spew hate while claiming to be altruistic.