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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

VNC Takes on BID, Proposition HHH, and Mass, Scale and Character at Tuesday Meet

By Angela McGregor

The latest Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) board meeting featured two information-only presentations on two matters facing Venice residents: Proposition HHH on the November Ballot (Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond), and the creation of a Business Improvement District (BID) for Venice’s Boardwalk neighborhood. Mass, Scale and Development document was up for discussion and a vote.

BID Discussion
Speaking in favor of the BID was local businessperson and longtime resident Brad Neal. Neal stated that the BID is an opportunity to “fill in the gaps” in the city’s services, not a “security force to push the homeless around” as some have characterized it. He maintained that the ultimate role of the BID is still being developed, and said that his vision for it might feature BID “ambassadors” in Hawaiian shirts handing out brochures and directions to tourists, carrying paint to cover graffiti and radios to call in crime. If it passes, he said the entire community must come together to define what their BID will be and do.

Longtime resident Sylvia Aroth spoke against the BID. She said it is a thinly-veiled attempt to gentrify the Boardwalk by harassing the homeless population on behalf of business interests. She pointed out that 70% of the BID’s budget is earmarked for security and asked, rhetorically, “how do you think that money will be spent? How will that impact the un-housed?” There is, she pointed out, no documentation as of yet to specify what role the BID will play. The city owns 25% of the properties covered by this BID, and will vote their shares in favor, and will fund this BID to the tune of $450,000 — money which Aroth feels should go to services, not private security.

Venetians who wish to get involved in the BID discussion can attend a Public Hearing on the matter at 10 am on Tuesday, November 8th at City Hall.

Proposition HHH
The argument in favor of Proposition HHH was made by Becky Dennison of Venice Community Housing Corporation, who was called in to do so at the last minute after Councilman Bonin (originally scheduled to speak) cancelled his appearance due to scheduling conflicts. Dennison pointed out that this Bond issue would raise $1.2 billion over 10 years to build up to 10,000 units of mostly permanent, supportive housing in Los Angeles. She pointed out that the city has been building such housing up to now (2000 units citywide), but very slowly and that there are only 42 such units in Venice at the present time. This new housing can be built citywide, and the specifics of where the money will be spent can be decided later, after the bond is approved.

Speaking against the measure was Jay Handel, Chair of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates. Handel first pointed out that he and other HHH opponents are not “against the homeless”. In fact, he has 28 years of experience working to house this population, in particular homeless vets. His primary objection to this measure is that there is “no plan”. The bond money cannot — by law — pay for supportive services, only housing, and another, perhaps equally expensive, countywide measure will be coming in March to pay for that. The measure, he stated, features no oversight and no new buildings for three years, a delay he stated was “inhumane”. Alternative plans which the city has rejected in favor of the bond measure would get people off the street much more quickly, and the city has the money (an additional $1 billion in this year’s tax revenues) to fund such solutions — in fact the city spent just $18 million last year on homeless services, less than it did to shelter animals.

In rebuttal, Dennison pointed out that for every dollar the city spends, they will leverage 3 dollars in Federal and State funds for services, and that there are units currently under consideration in the pipeline which could be built in less than 3 years.

Mass,Scale and Character
Sue Kaplan, of the VNC’s ad hoc Mass, Scale and Character committee presented their revised report on recommendations for restrictions on size and style for new, single-family developments in Venice. The report was quite detailed and featured an innovative approach to floor area ratio restrictions — starting from the city’s 0.45 standard and adding, on a sliding scale based upon various incentives, allowances in FAR which go beyond that number. For considerations of character, the report breaks down the architectural styles block by block (called “Blockscapes”). The presentation in its entirety can be seen here: http://www.venicenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/msc-draft-report_final_Pt-1_rev.pdf. Had this report passed, the recommendations would have had to be taken into consideration by LUPC on all new single-family builds.

Kaplan pointed out that the report has been four years in the making, and is a “living document” still open to discussion and revision. 15 members of the public spoke in favor of approving the report, with three members speaking against it (two recommended that it be forwarded to LUPC for further review, and one speaker pointed out that, since the report is dated 10/13, there had not been enough time for full public review of such an important document).

Board discussion on the matter was somewhat contentious, and focused on the need for such a document and the time and effort put into creating the report. In the end, the motion to pass the report was defeated 4-10 with 3 abstentions. A second motion, to send the document to LUPC for further review, revision, and resubmission to the VNC Board, also failed.

In additional matters, the Board recommended that Will Hawkins, Chair of the VNC’s Ad Hoc Homeless committee, act as the VNC’s homeless liaison to the Mayor’s Office and CD-8 at their bi-monthly Homelessness Advocate meetings and make regular reports back to the Board.

Comments (3)

  1. Nick Antonicello

    Jay is absolutely correct in that a comprehensive housing plan does not exist. It’s like someone saying they need money for the rent, but can’t tell you how much is required for the unit. It is an insult to ask voters for a blank check and this is why we need city hood to detach from these larger problems that cannot be corrected by LA.

  2. Anonymous

    Does this mean the Mass, Scale and Character committee is finally dead?

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