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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

LUPC Chair Candidates Answer Questions on Their Positions


Candidates for chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) are Alix Gucovsky and Daffodil Tyminski. (The photo has been engineered to be lighter than it was.)

Because the Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) is so important to Venetians and such an integral part of the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Venice Update has asked the candidates running for chair of this committee to answer five more questions in addition to those already answered during the campaign.

The purpose of this is to give the voter more information about these two candidates and how they stand on issues important to the community. The questions were arbitrarily selected based on conversations with stakeholders.

The questions were what is your position on the 140-unit Venice Median project,  the Bridge Housing project on the MTA lot, the rezoning of Ocean Front Walk and Rose Avenue and your position on the Transit Oriented Community (TOC) ordinance affecting the east side of Lincoln.

Alix Gucovsky Answers

1. Rezoning OFW and Rose Avenue
The review and recommendation process for any zone changes must be done with proper outreach and full transparency. This is a complex issue that has a long history and serious implications for the community. There must be a complete staff report with a full analysis of the pros and cons of each property being considered for a zone change. Instead, the current LUPC placed the zone change motion on the agenda for its last LUPC meeting of the term. The motion was vague and there were no specifics on the properties that would be impacted by this change. In fact, there was no consensus as to the number of properties under consideration- the number of properties potentially impacted ranged from 3 to 5 to over 100, depending on who was asked. If LUPC is going to take an active role in policy decisions then it should hold itself to a higher standard for transparency, with those impacted being fully informed. The public must have due process.

Properties that are solely residential, particularly rent stabilized units, should not be a part of this zone change. City Hall cannot keep telling us that we are in a housing crisis, and then allow for additional losses of existing housing. As a community, we also have to think about the potential impact to our community and what type of Venice we want to live in. Specifically as it pertains to Ocean Front Walk, we must not open the flood gates and sell our coastline to the highest bidder ushering in big corporate business. There needs to be rigorous conversations as well as a defined process within the community.

Finally, we must not set a precedent that could make it easier to re-zone the Venice Median from Open Space to mixed use, potentially making it easier for the median project to continue.

To recap, I am not opposed to zoning changes, but if elected to LUPC chair, I will insist that the process to consider making any such recommendations be transparent, thorough, and with proper community engagement.

2. Median Project
I am firmly opposed to the Median Project, yet, remain committed to looking for innovative solutions that exist for those losing affordable housing. The proposed median project is vastly out of scale and character with the neighborhood., and it would sit in an environmentally sensitive zone. It is disingenuous for city leadership to speak of green initiatives in Los Angeles while turning a blind eye to the precious resource that is our coastline. A zone change from Open Space, particularly in a visitor serving area is fundamentally wrong.

Furthermore, this project is more aligned with institutional corporate public housing which has consistently proven to be a failure. We need to look at models like SHARE and Haaven (Heidi and John Roberts) that have a higher success rate for keeping people housed and successfully integrated into the community and that are more sustainable from a financial point of view. Finally to build with tax payer dollars in a potential flood zone is fiscally irresponsible. We need to protect existing housing and look at other alternate sites for projects of this nature.

3. Bridge Housing
I oppose the proposed location of the MTA lot for bridge housing but reluctantly support the “bridge housing” initiative from our Mayor. The MTA lot and the bridge housing planned for CD 11 is the only bridge housing site proposed among all districts that is in the middle of a residential neighborhood with close proximity to elementary schools. In an area that is already stressed for parking, inadequate consideration has been given to parking and the impact that this site would have on the coast. Furthermore, with no sober living requirements and inadequate services, there are serious safety concerns. Finally, we already have an issue with contamination from fecal matter and the potential for this to become worse is a huge issue. The community made a presentation led by Jim Murez of four alternate sites where bridge housing would be better located in Venice. The city refused to engage with the community, hear our concerns, or look at any other sites. This response is starkly contrasted to Herb Wesson, who worked with his community to find more suitable locations.

Sadly, the project has been permitted and is a done deal. In the future, I would handle analysis of such projects through a structured, transparent, and robust review by the LUPC and VNC, as this is a major land use decision that must have due process and as much community input as possible.

4. TOC (Transit Oriented Community) impacting Lincoln
While I support the need for functional transit, I have long been opposed to the TOC ordinance impacting our non coastal zone areas of Venice. Our Council Member, and Neighborhood Council, should have had our back. They should have seen this coming and proactively put in place protective measures to scale down the bonuses that will make these projects so enormous, Now, we are left fighting an uphill battle against buildings up to ten stories lining one side of Lincoln and both sides of Venice Boulevard, and even tiny Penmar Avenue, And that is supposed to reduce traffic? You could not make this up-but they did. Yes we need transit, and it makes sense for TOC to be in transit corridors, but we need reality based development and we need the data to understand how people are really using transit, rideshare, and cars in order to reach meaningful conclusions. These issues surrounding transit development will continue and we need LUPC leadership that will look ahead on how to protect the community.

Daffodil Tyminski Answers

Re-Zoning OFW and Rose (Questions 1 and 2)
This issue has been branded as a “re-zoning,” but it is, in fact, a realignment of zoning to bring certain properties back into conformity with the Specific Plan.  There has been some suggestion – mostly by folks who do not regularly attend LUPC meetings – that this issue was brought up by the LUPC in a last-minute effort to force on Venice some perverse hidden agenda regarding the Venice Specific Plan.  This is completely untrue.  This issue has been around for years, and LUPC has been working with various property owners on this issue since almost the beginning of this last term.   

By way of background, the properties at issue were originally zoned as commercial property in the Venice Specific Plan, and they were operated as such since for decades.  In about 1989, without providing notice to the property owners, the City rezoned certain blocks in Venice, including on OFW and Rose.  The entire process took less than 30 days.  Certain property owners on North Venice learned of the change, acted quickly, and had the zoning changed back to commercial.  But many of the adjacent property owners – many of whom were operating commercial business – did not know about the change and they had their zoning changed out from under them.

For those who question why certain blocks of OFW seem so derelict and seem to have so many of the same types of T-shirt stores, etc., this is why.  Rezoned as residential, the affected commercial business operators on OFW were unable to ever improve or upgrade their businesses.  Merchants were able to obtain variances to keep operating, but the City forced them to pay additional zoning variance fees (that merchants just a few properties over do not pay) and severely restricted their businesses or their ability to improve their properties or businesses.  As a result, many long-time merchants who had withstood all of the hard times in Venice were forced to watch other commercial businesses (often just a lot or two over) flourish while their own businesses dwindled. 

For years the City refused to give these property owners any guidance on what to do, and previous LUPC boards refused to deal with the issue.  Early on in our LUPC’s tenure, we recognized how unfairly some of these small business owners had been treated and we resolved to work with them to come up with a solution.  Very recently, the City said that it would address the issue, which prompted our LUPC Chair to put the issue on the agenda.  My understanding from speaking with property owners and the City regarding OFW and Rose is that the City would like to see mixed use projects such that overall housing stock may be preserved while allowing for street level commercial use and adequate parking.   

LUPC members and I have personally invited folks who have objected to the “re-zoning,” including my opponent, to educate them on this long-standing issue, and despite claims that the issue needs more study, not a single person has taken me (or any other LUPC member) up on the offer. 

I have heard comments to the effect that LUPC’s efforts this issue is part of a nefarious plan to support the Venice Median project or having hotels on OFW.  This is not true.  Zoning controls how land should be developed, i.e., residential, commercial, manufacturing, etc.   Use determined how a property that is zoned a certain way can be used.  Just because land is zoned a certain way, does not mean it can be used in any manner.   So, for example, a retail clothing store in a property zoned commercial cannot just reopen one day as a sit-down restaurant.  Both retail clothing stores and sit-down restaurants are required to be in commercial zones, but to open a restaurant, the business owners would have to apply for change in the use of the property.  Some folks have also stated that LUPC addressed this issue so that hotels could be built on OFW.  This is also not true, and as far as I am aware, the operators of hotels in these areas have largely been out of the conversation.  In the case of the “hotel” properties on OFW, even if the zoning is changed to allow these properties to be used commercially, they cannot operate as hotels unless the property is granted change of use by the City.  Finally, I have heard that LUPC addressed this issue to allow for the Venice Median Project.  Again, this is untrue.  LUPC was looking at was changing properties zoned as residential back to commercial.  The Venice Median lot is zoned as “Open Space,” which is an entirely different category of property not at issue.

I hope this clarifies the issue and I hope that folks reading this realize that this issue has had a terrible impact on many long-time Venetians and business owners.  I would ask people to stop making this a political issue and, instead work with LUPC to support these property owners.  Many of them are long-time stakeholders who have given a lot back to the community.  And, each of the projects will have to go through LUPC on an individual basis, so if there objections to a specific project, they can be heard.

Venice Median Projects and MTA “Bridge Housing”
 (Questions 3 and 4)
I am not against low income/homeless serving projects per se, and I believe they have a place in society, but I am against both of these projects, and I do not believe that these projects will solve the issues with have with homelessness in our community.   I also think that the cost of these projects to our community far outweighs whatever marginal benefit these projects purport to offer.

As for the Venice Median Project, LUPC has not yet reviewed it; I was assigned as the staff reviewer, but we have not yet received enough information from the Applicant to do a meaningful review.  What I have reviewed, I have not liked.  The project seems way too large for the space and takes away scarce open space.   The renderings we were provided do not seem to be community friendly.  Most importantly, the site sits at one of the lowest sea level points in Venice.  With legitimate concerns of climate change and sea level rise, the Venice Median just seems like a bad site for the proposed project, whether you are for it in concept or not.     

With respect to the MTA project, there has been some suggestion that I was a proponent of the MTA project because I was not publicly protesting it.  We reviewed the MTA Bridge Housing project on LUPC, and I voted against it.  (By the way, anyone who knows me knows that I am not – by nature – a public protestor.  I do not bully people in meetings, and I do not post online in forums.  It is not my style.  I work hard, try to remain open minded, and I make myself accessible to anyone wanting to talk.)  I think my voting record speaks for itself. 

I believe both projects will have detrimental impacts on the neighbors.   

For those who do not know, I happen to live right next to the MTA lot, and like most of my neighbors, we are extremely concerned about the project.  Given that we are tiny walk streets and alleys between the MTA lot and Brooks, and Main and Pacific, we already are beset with an extraordinary amount of petty crime, but we have no BID services, almost no LAPD patrols, and no street cleaning or clean-up services.  The City will not guarantee that any ongoing clean up and beautification programs will be maintained once the site is built.  And, I have seen no evidence – empirical or academic – that Bridge housing as proposed in this project can achieve what the City says it can achieve, and to the contrary, data from other short-term shelter sites suggests that these programs do, in fact, have detrimental effects on surrounding neighborhoods and lead to an increase in local crime.  In the case of the Venice Median project, the Applicant has not stated how it will mitigate the parking impact or traffic impact in the neighborhood.  These are basic, legitimate questions that deserve answers.

Second, on a more philosophical level, I am generally not supportive of using City or public land for single purpose, non-public uses.  As a society, we often designate public land for limited uses (think dog parks, skate parks, playgrounds, etc.), but we almost always require that public land remains for the public benefit.  In the case of these particular projects, however, the City is asking us to support the forfeit of scarce public space, which is also extremely valuable land in prominent and sensitive locations, for the exclusive benefit of a very small segment of our community, many of whom may not even come from our community, on an experimental basis.  I think we should not, particularly in light of the value of the land being forfeited and the unbridled costs of the projects proposed.

Similarly, it disturbs me greatly that the City will not even consider alternative uses for these sites in the face of our community’s unparalleled need for parking and other public open spaces and in light of the other viable and attractive options to create affordable housing nearby.  We addressed these issues in a LUPC meeting recently, and the entire committee voted in favor of the City exploring alternatives to these two sites.  As it does, the City ignored our request.  But, it is my view that the MTA lot and the Venice Median lot are keystone properties, both situated at key entry points to our community, and they should not be commandeered from the community.

It is worth pointing out for the sake of clarification, that because of my view of how City property should be used, I was initially against the Thatcher Yard project.  I was not the staff reviewer for that project, but prior to the LUPC meeting, I walked the site and I spoke with a number of residents who supported the project (including a few who had been dead set against the project).  That, combined with my knowledge of the site itself, its limited other uses, and the nature of the project, led me to vote for the project.  I do have my views, but I would never let my own philosophical hang-ups get in the way of a project that the nearby residents favor.    

Third, even if I were philosophically inclined to support the MTA or Median projects, the City has provided no building plans or architectural drawings for these sites and no practical plans for how these projects will work or function once built.  We have received conflicting messages from CD 11, service providers, and various City departments as to how the site will be built and how the projects will function, and it is entirely unclear how the project plans to deal with parking, traffic, food service, waste removal, noise, etc., among other things.  Given the unknowns, it would be irresponsible for anyone, particularly anyone on LUPC, to approve such a project with so many unanswered questions, and it would be unfair to any applicant for any other project.  We require every applicant (from home owners to developers to restaurant owners) to provide infinitely more information on a project than the City has been willing to share with us about the MTA lot or the Venice Median.  I do not believe that the City or its service providers should be above the rules.

Finally, I am, at heart, a pragmatist, and the projects seem impractical for the putative residents given their locations.  I have not heard a good explanation as to how Bridge Housing residents will be able to find sustainable work locally – a requirement for future housing success – and if they do, how residents will then be able to find permanent housing to reasonably commute to work they do find. 

 
TOC on East Side of Lincoln (Question 5)
The Transit Oriented Community ordinance (“TOC”) became effective in 2017 with the laudable goal of providing affordable housing stock in areas well served by public transportation.  The TOC poses a unique land use issue for Venice because Lincoln Boulevard straddles two separate land use plans, with west of Lincoln being in the coastal zone, and therefore under stricter land use rules.  This means that while properties on the west side of Lincoln properties will remain status quo, projects on the east side of Lincoln may be built higher, denser, and with less required parking.

In some areas of Los Angeles, the TOC has had positive effects.  But in Venice, which is already densely trafficked on Lincoln and is overwhelmingly underserved by public transportation (which I can attest to personally: I used to commute to downtown on the 733 – we are definitely underserved on public transportation), not all TOC projects may be appropriate. 

 

Comment (1)

  1. Rick Swinger

    On Facebook it appears that Rick Garvey, Mike Bravo and Alex Gucovsky are going after the 16 and above homeless vote using Spy,St. Joseph Center and VCH. Mark Ryavec wants volunteers observers for Sundays Venice Elections. Anyone who wants to be an observer go see Michael Lektorich (Election Supervisor) on Sunday at the Oakwood Recreation Center 767 California Ave, Venice https://www.facebook.com/illegalDumpingVeniceBeach2016/photos/pb.293478770992400.-2207520000.1559465795./883509158656022/?type=3&theater

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