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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Bonin Says: “Vera Davis Center Not Closing”

Note: This is a release directly from the Councilmember Mike Bonin. Also read the Update story https://veniceupdate.com/2016/05/04/vera-davis-center-not-closing/

There are a lot of rumors and tons of misinformation about the Vera Davis McClendon Family & Youth Center at California Avenue. Let me try to dispel the false information and share the facts:

First of all, the Vera Davis McClendon Center is NOT closing June 30, and I have been fighting hard to make sure it remains open as a valuable community resource.

The Vera Davis Center, as it is commonly known, has a long history, and I am proud to have been a part of it. One of my first assignments when I worked for Councilwoman Ruth Galanter in the late 1990s was to secure funding to convert the former Venice Library into a community center that would house a number of local non-profit agencies. Since then, it has been a vital part of the community, a beacon of hope to many, and a link to Venice’s rich and diverse history.

For the bulk of the past two decades, the Vera Davis Center has been funded through federal anti-poverty grant money, and was managed by the City’s Community Development Department. In recent years, however, the federal government has repeatedly cut anti-poverty dollars. And while there are many longtime Venice residents who need and rely on the Vera Davis Center and the services offered by the agencies housed there, the neighborhood unfortunately no longer meets the federal government’s strict requirements for anti-poverty dollars, which are only allocated to what the federal determines to be low-income census tracts.

For the past five years, I (and Bill Rosendahl before me) have fought repeatedly and successfully to keep the Vera Davis Center open. The City’s Community Development Department no longer exists, and the Housing and Community Investment Department has agreed for the past few years to manage the site on a shoestring budget – provided that the City find another organization (such as a nonprofit) that can operate it.

For various reasons over the years, the City did not issue a formal request for agencies to apply to run the center. Faced yet again with potential closure of the center, during last week’s budget deliberations, I directed two city agencies to report to me with projected timelines for opening up the application (formally known as a Request for Proposal, or RFP) process and awarding a contract to manage the center. We should know within the next few weeks which agency will manage the RFP and what the timeline will be. Before the City releases the RFP, there will be a public input process to ensure neighbors have an opportunity to share their hopes and ideas for how the Vera Davis Center can continue to be best used by families and children in the neighborhood.

There also has been much discussion about the potential use of the Vera Davis Center as an arts center. In 1996, City voters approved a bond measure, Proposition K, which allocated money for parks and community centers. That bond measure had a specific line item of $500,000 for a Venice Junior Arts Center at 610 California Avenue. Accordingly, the City’s RFP will ask agencies seeking to manage the center to have an arts component to its programming, so that the Proposition K funds can be used for repairs to the building and to help make the restrooms ADA compliant. There is no proposal whatsoever to turn the center into a ballet studio; that rumor is absolutely false.

Finally, a word about one of the tenants of the building and the service it provides: the Latino Resource Organization (LRO), which operates the Family Source Center (FSC) program on the Westside. The FSC program provides services for low-income families, including educational programs, employment programs, and family support services. Due to the same strict federal requirements, the federal funding for some of the City’s FSC — including this one — has been eliminated. Losing the program is unacceptable to me, and I have been fighting to have the City’s General Fund cover the expenses of this vital and needed FSC program. While we are still in the middle of our budget deliberations, I am confident that we will secure the money to keep this vital program whole and operational, serving the Westside. In the meantime, the general manager of the Housing Department has assured me LRO will not be asked to move from the building.

Once again, the center is not closing, is not being sold, and is not being demolished. I hope that clarifies matters, and dispels the wild rumors.

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