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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Lincoln Apartments LUPC Meeting Results in Continuation for More Outreach

Note: Please note that the note inside the story has been added since the story was published.

By Angela McGregor

On February 20,The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) gathered for a special meeting at Westminster Elementary School to hear the application from Venice Community Housing and Safe Place for Youth for their joint, 40 unit residential project at the site of SPY’s current facility near the corner of Garfield and Lincoln.

The auditorium was full of both supporters (many wearing matching black and white t-shirts indicating their enthusiasm for affordable and permanent supportive housing) and detractors, many of whom live nearby.

The project as presented (seen here: https://www.vchcorp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Lincoln-Apts-Overview-2.3.2020.pdf) requires several exemptions and waivers, including a 100 percent density bonus, a height increase of 22 feet over that allowed in the Venice Coastal Specific Plan (for a flat-roofed building), a waiver of the commercial loading space requirement and a waiver of any parking requirements (the project features six spaces for 40 residential units and about 20 employees as well as an unspecified number of on-site volunteers. Fifty percent of the development would be reserved for the chronically homeless and the remainder would be affordable housing for those earning between 30 and 60 percent of the median area income.

Public commentary in favor of the project cited the need for such housing, in particular for SPY’s clients who have aged out of foster care and have been left with few housing options. As part of her presentation, VCH Executive Director Becky Dennison stated that less that 1 percent(42) of the permanent supportive housing units in Los Angeles are located in Venice, with another 173 units funded and planned, totaling about 2% of all of the PSH units in Los Angeles, implying that Venice “is not doing it’s share.” As of 2008, according to Wikipedia, Venice has a population of 40,885 persons, or roughly 1.2% of L.A.’s overall population of 4 million people. According to Dennison’s presentation, 173 of the 544 supportive housing units being built in CD11 — 31% — are planned for Venice (CD11 has a population of about 267,000 people, of which Venice represents about 15%). These figures include the 185 units being planned for the VA Campus in Brentwood.

Note: According to the Venice Update, all CD11 PSH/affordable units with exception of the TSA 72-unit project on animal shelter are in Venice. One cannot count the VA campus as CD11. It is not part of CD11; it is federal land. Venice Update would like to know more about the 185 units planned for VA campus. Venice Update is aware of only 58 units, Building 207.

The overall theme of the comments in favor of the project stated that it would make the neighborhood safer by housing currently desperate youth and reflect the area’s inclusivity, diversity and generosity. Many of those in favor were board members and volunteers at either SPY or VCH and cited those organizations’ stellar track record with both empowering homeless youth and creating well-maintained projects. The project’s location on a major thoroughfare featuring a lot of public transportation was also cited in its favor.These figures include the 185 units being planned for the VA Campus in Brentwood.According to some speakers in opposition, as well as a handout provided by neighborhood activists opposed to the project, between January 2017 and February 2020 there were 30 crime-related incidents at Safe Place for Youth, including a recent episode involving someone carrying a weapon which resulted in the schools nearby — St. Marks and Coeur de Alene — being placed on lockdown. Further, complaints to SPY regarding the encampments that had sprung up in the alleyway behind their facility had been met with the contention that they were not SPY’s problem since the occupants did not meet SPY’s age criteria.

A number of parishioners of, parents of students at, as well as the pastor of, St. Marks School, asked for additional time to meet with the developers of the project in order to have their questions answered. Concern was expressed regarding the fact that, the four-story building would feature apartments looking down directly on the school’s playground. Other nearby residents were deeply concerned with the lack of parking, and pointed out that SPY’s staff were already using nearby residential streets in which to park.

The Board expressed general support for the concept of dense, affordable housing at that location. But they also had a number of questions, primarily regarding VCH’s outreach to the community. Dennison stated that outreach had begun in May of 2019 with an initial public meeting with over 100 residents, and that a few “small changes” were made as a result of input from the surrounding community after a number of subsequent meetings of various sizes. In response to a board member’s concerns with the cost of the project, she said that VCH was considering using modular housing to bring the per-unit cost of the development down — to $470K per unit from the city average for such projects of about $530K per unit.

Board members pointed out that there was a lot of concern (and some confusion) over the source of funding for the project. Dennison initially stated that the only secured source of funding were Proposition HHH funds. However LUPC Chair Alix Glucovsky pointed out that there is a record that VCH had applied for Proposition 2 funding (see: https://ballotpedia.org/California_Proposition_2,_Use_Millionaire%27s_Tax_Revenue_for_Homelessness_Prevention_Housing_Bonds_Measure_(2018)) which, if approved, would mandate that the development provide housing for persons with severe mental illness (generally defined as psychosis or crippling depression). It has been published that Measure HHH funds are gone. Dennison stated that VCH houses mentally ill people “all the time” and that not abiding by the funding mandate of devoting a significant number of units to persons experiencing severe mental illness would constitute a “Fair Housing” violation.

Finally, Board members addressed the project’s lack of parking. It was established that residents cannot be restricted from purchasing vehicles, Coastal Commission approval of permit parking is unlikely, and that roughly 20 staff members currently work at that SPY location and will likely continue to do so once the residences are built. If, the project, as presented, features a small cafe, it would make the development’s lack of a loading zone problematic.

At the end of a long evening — the meeting took about three and half hours — the Board continued its decision to a future meeting and requested that representatives of Venice Community Housing meet with concerned project neighbors and St. Marks parents to answer questions and respond to the list of concerns brought up in public commentary as well as listed in the staff report for the project. Since City Planning is hearing the project on April 22nd, and the VNC’s next Board Meeting is March 17th, Alix Glucovsky stated that LUPC’s next meeting on the project will likely be on or around March 12th.

Comments (4)

  1. Nick Antonicello

    The fundamental question that cannot be answered is how does 40 units at $500,000 per unit solve a problem of housing some 1,000 people on the streets of Venice? It does not. How do you spend this kind of money for studio apartments and expect the residents to believe this is a prudent and effective way to solve the problem? That means you need $50,000,000 just to house the Venice homeless population! If there are 35,000 in LA, that means you to expend $1,750,000,000! This is not doable or even remotely possible and this is why they try to sell you on emotion because that’s the only argument they have. The encampments are not going anywhere. The problem will continue to get worse until federal and military intervention takes place and this epidemic is out of the hands of not for profit bureaucrats, Newsom, Garcetti and Bonin!

    • Sea

      I agree Nick, On my property I pay insurance and my insurance company estimateds
      (who would know better)
      my replacement cost that is ONLY $190 per square foot vs $1450 per square foot that VCHC proposes to build these tiny units!
      So I have ask, how are we helping the homeless and who is truly benefiting from this?
      It’s the VCHC, taking advantage of a manufactured crisis, using emotion and and their mantra that it is a housing affordability issue
      (like the republicans),
      rather than what it is…
      A MENTAL HEALTH AND DRUG ADDICTION CRISIS

  2. P.Heal

    During the LUPC meeting, Becky Dennison of Venice Community Housing said that they don’t need to include parking at these new Lincoln Boulevard apartments, because there is so much empty unused parking at all of the VCH properties right now.

    Question, then. Why is VCH not utilizing their own parking immediately for the Safe Parking Program for Homeless?

  3. Karina C.

    The Lincoln Ave. project DOES NOT feature six spaces for 40 residential units and about 20 employees.

    Venice Community Housing and Safe Place for Youth paid designers to create drawings of what their apartments will look like, and they tucked images of a parking lot into all the plans they gave the city. But it’s not their parking lot, it’s the parking lot of the elementary school behind them.

    Look at the architectural plans carefully, they have ZERO PARKING SPOTS.

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