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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

VSA Counters Both Westminster and Venice Median for Homeless Use

Governor Jerry Brown backed a 2-billion bond plan for homeless housing. According to LA Times, the 2-billion bond would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with funds provided under Proposition 63, “the millionaires tax” for mental health that voters approved in 2004.

The money from the bond together with federal and local funding would finance 10- to 14,000 new housing units for the 116,000 homeless people. All that money, and yet it is incapable of more than 10-percent decrease in homelessness. Will this solution of permanent housing keep up with the increase in homelessness?

Meanwhile in Venice
Meanwhile in Venice, two issues are foremost in the minds of Venetians–the use of the Westminster Senior Center for storage and the building of affordable units on the median between north and south Venice Blvds. Councilman Mike Bonin has asked for a request for proposal (RFP) for 90 units on the median between north and south Venice Blvds.

Westminster Senior Center

Venice Parking
Venice parking lot on Pacific between North and South Venice Blvd.

The only group, organization so far visible showing any opposition to either project has been the Venice Stakeholders Association, headed by Mark Ryavec. Kip Pardue, as an individual, is gathering momentum with his campaign. (See Comments for Kip Pardue.)

Venice Stakeholders attorneys have filed a legal challenge to conversion of Westminster Center to storage use and Mark Ryavec claims the proposing of units for the median between north and south Venice Blvds brings several concerns that have not been addressed. Below is the letter from the VSA attorneys for the Westminster project and the letter by Mark Ryavec concerning Venice Blvd media, now used as a parking lot.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell
Chair, Arts, Parks and River Committee
Los Angeles City Council
City Hall
200 North Spring Street, #480
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: CF 15-1138-S8/Change of Use of Westminster Senior Center at 1234 Pacific Avenue to Storage Use

Dear Councilman O’Farrell and Members of the Committee,

Our firm represents the Venice Stakeholders Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of the Venice community. The Association is opposed to the proposed conversion of the Westminster Senior Center at 1234 Pacific Avenue, in Venice, for use as a storage facility for private individuals (“Project”), which the City is attempting to accomplish by the mere modification of an existing contract between it and Chryalis, a non-profit organization, which will operate the Project.

The City’s proposed actions to approve the Project do not conform to State and City laws, including due process.

1. The Project Requires a Project Permit pursuant to the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan and a Coastal Development Permit

Pursuant to the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan, no certificate of occupancy may be issued for any Venice Coastal Development Project unless the project has received a Venice Coastal Specific Plan Exemption or a Project Permit pursuant to Los Angeles Municipal Code (“LAMC”) §11.5.7 [Section 6]. Here, the Project does not fall into any of the enumerated projects eligible for a Venice Coastal Specific Plan Exemption [Section 8.A], and therefore must receive a Project Permit pursuant to LAMC §11.5.7 [Sections 8.B, 8.C] prior to being issued a certificate of occupancy for the proposed change of use.

Similarly, both the State Coastal Act and LAMC §12.20.2 require a Coastal Development Permit (“CDP”) to be obtained for an intensification of a nonresidential use (intensification includes increase in parking need, increased impact to potential traffic generation, noise, smoke, glare, odors, hazardous materials, water use, sewage generation, etc.). Over the last five years, the Westminster Senior Center has been only used sporadically for public meetings. Accordingly, the attraction of hundreds of people on a daily basis during the winter when the Winter Shelter program is operating constitutes an intensification of use requiring a CDP.

2. The Project Must Comply with the California Environmental Quality Act

Under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), environmental review is required for all “projects,” i.e. activities which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment undertaken, supported, or approved by a public agency. California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (2013) 218 Cal.App.4th 1171. The definition of “project” is given a broad interpretation to maximize protection of the environment. Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation v. County of El Dorado (2012) 202 Cal.App.4th 1156.

Under the definition provided by CEQA, the Project, which will change the use of the Westminster Senior Center, requires environmental review prior to approval. Such environmental review must include the impacts on noise (a storage use will undoubtedly attract scores of transients to camp adjacent to the facility, both on city park property and adjacent sidewalks and alleys, causing late night noise to the surrounding residential community).

3. The Recreation and Parks Department Must Hold a Public Hearing

The Ralph M. Brown Act serves to facilitate public participation in all phases of local government decisionmaking and curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation of public bodies. Epstein v. Hollywood Entertainment Dist. II Business Improvement Dist. (2001) 87 Cal.App.4th 862, 868. It requires that proceedings of public agencies, and the conduct of the public’s business, take place at open meetings, and the deliberative process by which decisions related to the public’s business are made be conducted in full view of the public. To this end, the Brown Act requires, subject to narrow exceptions, that most meetings of a local agency’s legislative body1 be open to the public for attendance by all. Wolfe v. City of Fremont (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 533; Epstein, supra, (the Brown Act must be construed liberally as to accomplish its purpose).

Similarly, due process principles require reasonable notice and opportunity to be heard before governmental deprivation of a significant property interest. Horn v. County of Ventura (1979) 24 Cal.3d 605, 612. Land use decisions which “substantially affect” the property rights of owners of adjacent parcels constitute “deprivations” of property within the context of procedural due process. Id. at 615.

The Project has not been vetted with the community or the Venice Neighborhood Council even though approval thereof will undoubtedly substantially affect the owners of the adjacent residential neighborhood. As such its secret approval would constitute both a violation of the Brown Act and general due process.

In the interests of transparency, the City Council must demand that the Project be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council and that the City’s Recreation and Parks Department hold a hearing regarding the Project at which the affected neighbors can voice their concerns.

If the City fails to abide by law, the Venice Stakeholders Association will pursue all administrative and legal avenues to require such compliance.

The following letter, along with Mr. Ryavec’s testimony, was delivered to Mr. Bonin before the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

May 11, 2016

Councilman Mike Bonin, Chair, Transportation Committee
Members of the Transportation Committee
City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Re: CF 15-1138-S9/Opposition to Release of Request for Proposal (RFP) to provide Housing for 90 Chronic Homeless Individuals on Beach Parking Lot in Advance of Public Hearings

Dear Councilmember Bonin and Members of the Committee,

Venice Stakeholders Association is a non-profit public benefit organization dedicated to civic improvement and public safety.

We are opposed to the release of a Request for Proposal to provide housing for 90 chronic homeless individuals on beach parking lot #731 in Venice for several reasons:

1. There have been no hearings in the community on this concept; it has not been submitted to either the Venice Neighborhood Council or the Venice Canals Association.
2. Additional resident and visitor parking is sorely needed at this location. The highest and best use for this site is as an automated parking facility which would triple parking capacity at this location and advance the California Coastal Commission’s objective of greater public access to the beach and ocean.
3. Other homeless serving facilities in Venice have a long history of being an extreme burden to nearby residents. For example, this past Sunday a client of the St. Joseph Service Center on Lincoln Boulevard started a fire which damaged part of a nearby residence and forced the pregnant owner to evacuate her home due to lingering fumes. Residents living adjacent to the subject parking lot on Venice Boulevard are already burdened by break-ins, assaults, sidewalk blockage, harassment, and late night noise caused by transients living in the area. There is no requirement in State or City law for the operator of the proposed housing to provide 24/7 security in perpetuity to protect nearby residents from similar noxious activities by the occupants of the proposed facility, so we conclude that this project will place an unacceptable burden on residents and thus should be sited elsewhere.
4. There are many other less utilized and more isolated city parking lots in other areas of Council District 11 and, indeed, elsewhere in the City that would be better suited for the proposed project.
5. The release of an RFP puts “the cart before the house.” The California Environmental Quality Act requires that the concept of housing on this site – a significant change of use – receive an environmental review in advance of the City starting down the path to construction of a structure by releasing an RFP.

I have attached for your consideration a recent article from The Argonaut that speaks to these concerns in more detail. I would ask that the City Clerk make this letter and attachment a part of the council file. Thank you.

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