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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Fight Back Venice Loses Case; City Wins Their Case; The People Lose Their Protection of the Law

If you can’t win in court, pass a law and make it retroactive. That appears to be the way to beat Fight Back Venice.

Fight Back Venice sued over two ordinances that exempted LA from complying with CEQA stating that compliance was a state requirement. The State passed AB1197 that exempts “qualifying homeless” projects from CEQA. The judge in essence said AB1197 was retroactive, which is not constitutional.

The judge did leave it open for Fight Back Venice to elaborate on one of its arguments about the legality of AB1197 ahead of a January hearing.

Christian Wrede, a member of Venice Neighborhood Council and Fight Back Fence, according to LA Times, said “all Californians who value the rule of law should be alarmed by what transpired in connection with this fundamentally meritorious case.

“City officials knew full well that they were going to lose this lawsuit, so they got their friends in Sacramento to rewrite the law after the fact.

“It doesn’t get much shadier-o- or much stinkier– than that.”

LA Times article.

Governor Newsom Signs Bills to Exempt “Homeless” Projects from CEQA

By Eva Greene

Governor Gavin Newsom signs bills to exempt “homeless” type projects from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

CEQA was passed in 1970 to protect neighborhoods from the environmental impacts of proposed projects; CEQA has also been said to be the means to delay and kill a project.

Councilman Bonin Wednesday (2 October) put forth a motion asking for a report on the impacts created by AB 1197, SB 450 and SB 744 and directing the Chief Legislative Analyst and City Attorney to report on any ordinance revisions or citywide process changes necessary to comply with the authority granted to them by the new laws.

These are the CEQA exempt bills signed by the Governor:

AB 1197 (Santiago) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and shelters in the City of Los Angeles. This bill can be applied immediately upon the governor’s signature.
“An act to add and repeal Section 21080.27 of the Public Resources Code, relating to environmental quality, and declaring the urgency thereof, to take effect immediately.”
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB1197

SB 744 (Caballero) – This bill provides a CEQA exemption for supportive housing and No Place Like Home projects. This is the Prop 2 funding for the severely mentally ill which the VCHC is using for funding their PSH. This bill would provide that a policy to approve as a use by right a development with a limit higher than 50 units, as described above, is not a project for purposes of CEQA.
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB744

SB 450 – This bill would, until January 1, 2025, exempt from CEQA projects related to the conversion of a structure with a certificate of occupancy as a motel, hotel, residential hotel, or hostel to supportive or transitional housing, as defined, that meet certain conditions. Because the lead agency would be required to determine the applicability of this exemption, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB450

Link to homeless bills signed by gov. 9 26 19

Building Off Historic Investment & Action to Help Cities and Counties Tackle Homelessness, Governor Newsom Signs Series of Bills Addressing Homelessness 

LA Dispute Resolution Program Gets the Axe — Amy AlKon Says “No”

(17 June 2019) Note:  The LA Dispute Resolution program that has been around for 30 years, since Avis Ridley-Thomas founded it in 1989, and has proven itself to be  a workable mediation solution for LA residents program, has been discontinued by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer.  Colorful, but serious Amy Alkon, who happens to be one of the mediators on staff, is upset.  She feels it is unjust.

Venice’s own Amy, who is a syndicated columnist and has written several books, was a mediator.  This writer adds the word “colorful” for Amy because even though she is dead serious about what she takes on, she has been known to wear an evening gown to interviews and other non formal events because …  Who knows?

“We also have 55 letters going out to the Police Commission, the Chief of Police, the City Council, the Mayor and aides, and the Board of Supervisors,” she wrote.  “We want this program unkilled and expanded. We’re volunteers working for free to bring resolution to LA residents! I mean, how much more cost-effective does it get?

“We want LA residents to speak out in favor of keeping the program, which, by the way, could be funded entirely by charitable donations from corporations! No tax dollars! If program was allowed to apply for them instead of being slowly starved over the years, which it has been.”

By Amy Alkon

There’s little that LA’s politicians are as good at as shoveling millions of tax dollars into projects with little or no value for the residents of this city (save for those employed as lobbyists). For example, this past August, the Los Angeles City Council pledged to fork over $600 million to build and run a streetcar on a four-mile loop in downtown Los Angeles — a route already covered by the city’s DASH buses.

When LA bureaucrats aren’t wasting our money on useless programs, they’re starving and/or killing programs that actually serve our community.

The latest victim of the bureaucratic ax of idiocy is the Dispute Resolution Program, which, for 30 years — since Avis Ridley-Thomas founded it in 1989 — has been providing free mediation for Los Angeles residents. Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process in which a neutral third party, the mediator, de-escalates conflict and facilitates communication between people to help them resolve their disputes.

In the Los Angeles program, after getting participants to hear and understand each other, mediators help them collaborate to write an agreement for how they’ll go forward — peacefully and often even amicably, sometimes after years of doing battle. This makes for fewer cases clogging the courts and it can even prevent crime, through proactively addressing conflicts before they escalate into violence.

The LA Dispute Resolution Program is grant-funded and has only a skeleton full time staff (just three staffers and a clerical support person on the payroll). The rest of the staff is unpaid volunteers — dozens and dozens of committed volunteer mediators including me: writers, lawyers, retired law enforcement personnel, and successful businesspeople, all looking to make a difference in our community.

We volunteer mediators help resolve seemingly intractable problems between neighbors, landlords and tenants, bosses and employees, consumers and businesses, and quarreling family members, among others.

And through our helping individuals, we help our community at large be safer. We stop a serious and needless drain on LAPD crime-fighting resources: patrol officers being sent out to handle nuisance-type calls to LAPD Dispatch. (These include complaints about noisy neighbors’ loud music, loud parties, or loud walking in an upstairs apartment, as well as screaming fights over trash bin placement or migrating tree leaves and/or pot smoke.) Often, a single person will make hundreds of calls to Dispatch a year.

There had been around 350 calls a year to LAPD Dispatch from a Pico-Union apartment complex, from 37 tenants who had exhausted all measures in trying to get their landlord to take action. Issues included much-needed repairs, heated conflicts between tenants, and gang members loitering in the hallways and intimidating residents.

My Spanish-speaking volunteer mediator colleagues did a series of mediations between the tenants group and the building’s owners. These sessions led to an agreement between the parties for new, more effective ways for tenants to communicate with the landlord and for the landlord to deal more expediently and effectively with problems. This, in turn, eliminated a substantial diversion of LAPD manpower in a neighborhood with a high rate of both property crime and violent crime.

The Dispute Resolution Program is also a vital resource for the most vulnerable members of our community — the poor, the elderly, recent immigrants, and the homeless. City agencies and aid organizations are besieged with calls now, due in large part to the housing crisis in Los Angeles. Community members who call in to the Dispute Resolution Program hotline frequently tell us that they first called city agencies or aid organizations for help, but did not hear back or were turned away. The Dispute Resolution Program is sometimes the only available resource for preventing homelessness through the many landlord-tenant mediations we do.

Budget Cut
So why is the Dispute Resolution Program being killed? As a City Hall outsider, I can only speculate. You’ll have to ask the bureaucrat killing it, City Attorney Mike Feuer, who is running for Mayor. The program is a unit of his office.

Not surprisingly, the reason given for cutting the program is “budget cuts.” Of course, this is the tired bureaucratic version of disgraced politicians resigning “to spend more time with family.” The budgetary excuse provides respectable cover for the real (surely non-monetary) reason for killing the Program, in light of how there are easy hundreds of millions for an unnecessary trolley and so many other wasteful programs and initiatives.

Reason for the Cut
The City Attorney’s spin on the loss of this vital free service for the poor and underserved populations of Los Angeles is that agencies and small aid organizations around the city will now mediate community disputes. The reality is, the combined power of these organizations is inadequate to take over the Dispute Resolution Program’s case load. Additionally, citizens who would be afraid to entrust their dispute to some aid organization’s side program feel confident when relying on a program under the auspices of the City Attorney’s office, marked with the seal of the City of Los Angeles.

To be fair, the Dispute Resolution Program does have its shortcomings: It lacks a lobbyist. There are no big developers whispering in local officials’ ears about it. And the community members who are singing its praises don’t have PR flacks to ring the media; they’re often just little old ladies who clasp your hand after a mediation and say, “Bless you, my dear.”

Mediation is the wave of the future in conflict resolution — the fastest, most inexpensive, and least psychologically costly way to resolve disputes. The Dispute Resolution Program should be preserved — but not only preserved; expanded.

Best of all, this expansion wouldn’t even require taxpayer dollars — if Mr. Feuer would allow the program (which has 501c3 non-profit status) to apply for charitable grants from corporations. What big company — Target, Uber, or maybe Eli Broad’s — wouldn’t see the merits of funneling their charitable dollars toward making peace in our communities?

Venice Beach Suites to Return to Being Long Term Rentals

LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has secured a settlement with Venice Beach Suites, LLC and its owner, William Layman, to resolve allegations that each illegally advertised and operated a rent-stabilized apartment building located at 1305 South Ocean Front Walk as a hotel.

“My office will do everything we can to protect L.A.’s scarce stock of affordable housing,” said Feuer.

The settlement requires Venice Beach Suites, LLC and William Layman to pay $200,000 in civil penalties, to offer all 25 units that are not occupied by long-term tenants at 2012 market rates, and to desist from operating or advertising units at 1305 South Ocean Front Walk for short-term rentals.  The settlement will ensure that units that were taken off of the rental market will be available at the rates that they could have been rented at if they previously had not been converted to short term use.  Pursuant to the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO), rents for all tenants cannot be raised more than a certain percentage annually for tenants residing at this property.

The settlement directly follows the recent adoption of the City’s new Home-Sharing Ordinance, which, among other things, continues to prohibit short-term rentals in properties subject to the RSO throughout the City of Los Angeles.

The settlement also follows a favorable judgment secured last year by the City Attorney in a separate civil case against property owners George Panoussis and the Novap Corporation, who were found to have illegally operated and advertised their rent-stabilized building at 830 North Van Ness Avenue as a hotel. Defendants in that case have appealed the judgment, which the City Attorney’s Office will vigorously defend.

Supervising Deputy City Attorney Christina Tusan and Deputy City Attorneys Will Jay Pirkey, Rebecca Morse, and William Pletcher, all of the Consumer and Workplace Protection Unit, litigated this matter.

Ordinance to Define New Density Bonuses to Go Before City Council 13 December

The ordinance that will define the latest density bonuses for affordable housing will go before the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday, 13 December.  The proposed ordinance  will change LAMC Sections 12.24  and 14.00.

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VNC to Hold Public Safety Townhall & Forum, 27 April

The Venice Neighborhood Committee will hold a Townhall and Formum Thursday, 27 April from 6:30 to 9 pm at the Animo Venice Charter High School, 820 Broadway, Venice. Present for the forum will be representatives from LAPD, City Attorney’s office, Bureau of Sanitation, LAPD investigators, Department of Transportation, Emergency Communications systems, Homeless Outreach and Proactive Engagement (HOPE) unit.

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City Homeless Committee Hears and Approves Thatcher Yard, Venice Median

By Kip Pardue

Note:  Pardue has reference to the LA City Committee on Homelessness and Poverty that met 7 December in LA to discuss the contractors for the surplus properties, such as Thatcher Yard and Venice Median.

Just got back from the meeting at City Hall and wanted to  pass on some notes to you all…

I walked in at 9:09 and there was already a line of speakers and no more speaker cards.  I did not get a chance to speak but many spoke against the Venice plans — usually bringing up the obvious economic folly of this entire thing (help at most 250 homeless in 5 years time at a cost of $100m OR raise $100m now and help thousands TODAY).  Several people spoke in favor as well – these people were mostly affiliated (read: make money – Linda Lucks was there speaking, Becky Dennison, etc) with Venice Community Housing (VCH).  The few others who spoke in favor lived in a Safran development (pretty unlikely that they just “showed up”).  Many others wanted to speak but the comment segment of the meeting was cut short due to “time constraints.” Incidentally, that is exactly the same reason the Business Improvement District (BID) was brought up for a revote….

So Far CAO Has Made All Decisions

What happened today is the City Homeless and Poverty committee agreed in principle to an ENA (exclusive negotiating agreement) with the selected developers for the 5 city lots (8 total lots, 2 are to be sold, 1 has been pushed – more on that later, and 5 to be developed).  Bonin made a point of saying that he has not seen ANY plans – he has no idea what has been proposed for each lot by each developer.  The only people that have seen these proposals are the City Administrative Officer (CAO) “board” which ultimately made the decisions to develop or sell.  They ostensibly used the developers previous experience as a determiner as well.

If this is true, it means that a completely anonymous board of unelected officials whom we have zero contact with is making decisions about our neighborhood that affect us tremendously.  A group that has zero accountability, zero responsibility to our neighborhood, zero involvement with the public is setting the course for our lives.  They are doing so without input or ideas from the communities most affected and without recourse from the elected officials (in our case, Bonin).

If this is true, it also means that a body completely unconnected to Bonin and without Bonin’s approval, has given the go-ahead to two of Bonin’s biggest donors to develop.  They made this “choice” from 49 proposals.  They chose a company that has zero experience developing a property like the Venice median lot, has only developed one building in its history (and that was accomplished with a partnership), and has a horrible track record of maintaining properties (Venice Community Housing VCH).  At the very least, Thomas Safran Associates has SOME experience developing these types of projects…but I still find it incredibly coincidental that Safran would get 2 projects of 5.  The collusion is blatant.

Bonin reiterated some points:

No plans have been submitted and there will not be plans without community outreach.  Since VCH has never done this type of project, who knows what their community outreach will be.  I can guarantee that Becky Dennison doesn’t really care what we think – she has already said that “there is no neighborhood there (Venice medial lot area, ie: MY NEIGHBORHOOD).

All plans will be subject to approval – just like any other development.  He also said they will be subject to EIR and Coastal Commission approval.  Yet another factor that the CAO board conveniently “forgot” when looking at feasibility for the Venice lots.

Bonin wanted to know if the ENA could last longer than a year (“because nothing gets built in a year in Venice”) and also wanted to know what would happen “if it became clear that nothing was going to work on that property.”  He was basically asking if the City has an “out” and could one day rethink this entire plan.  The answer is yes, that could happen.  That was Bonin’s way of tossing us a bone…and we should continue to guide this process as much as we can along the way.  There will be meetings and it will be hard, but we have to show up and voice our concerns as we learn more.

Bonin Says All Units Must be for Homeless

Bonin was very concerned about the rumors of some of these projects having “market-rate housing” built on them.  He will not stand by that.  He feels the entire purpose of these lots being developed is for low-income/housing for the homeless.  A mixed-use with market rate housing is out of the question for Bonin.  There was also some question about permanent supportive housing being mixed with low income housing – something that to my knowledge (and to Bonin’s) does not exist – but apparently PSH can be labeled as such if 50% of the units are PSH and the other 50% are something else.  But regardless, if Bonin gets his way, there will be no market rate housing on these lots.

Bonin also asked the board to readdress the lot in Manchester that is being recommended for auction.  He felt like it would be a good site for a Habitat for Humanity project.  He had no details, no plan, no idea what that actually meant….but he had been at en event and someone brought it up and now it is going to be explored.  THAT IS HOW THIS MAN THINKS ABOUT OR NEIGHBORHOOD.  He has an idea…and he waves his hand and some committee with no accountability or authority, goes off to make it so…just like that.  A complete 180 degree turn on a property all because Bonin thinks it might be a good site for something from Habitat.

Finally, the portion of the meeting about housing came to an end with the Councilman from the 8th district (Marqueece Harris-Dawson) saying that his community already deals with homeless enough and thinks “wealthy” communities should start to do their part and not kick the problem around.

Note:  Venice is second only to Santa Cruz in state as far as having a high homeless ratio to resident.  It is 1 homeless person to 40 residents.

With that, every single person associated with VCH and homelessness in general left the room.  The meeting, however, was still VERY MUCH about homelessness and in particular about vehicular dwelling.  Difficult questions about where (industrial v residential areas, number of spots – the committee felt 25 per district was enough, Bonin pushed for 50 and reassessing after 6 months), about who, and about how vans and RV’s would be dealt with…but not one person there from VCH actually cared about those people or those solutions.  They only care about the money they stand to make on building housing.  They are only interested in their tired old model that has gotten us into the mess we are in today.  They strutted out of the room — happy that they will profit while people sleep on the streets and in their cars for YEARS until this housing is built.  It’s sickening and vile. I have never seen such a smug group of self-righteous people in my life.  They truly think they are doing the “right” thing and will not listen to anyone who questions them.  They hide behind being “good,” but they showed how little they care when they cleared out that room while important decisions were still being made.

 

City Council Passes New Live/Sleep LAMC 85.02; Enforcement

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Motorhome now parked next to Westminster Elementary School and close to preschool will be prohibited from parking within 500 feet of either with new LAMC 85.02.

 

The highly controversial LAMC 85.02 defining live/sleep vehicles parking on city streets has been totally replaced with an ordinance that prohibits live/sleep vehicles in residential areas during the hours of 9 pm to 6 am and at no time within 500 feet of  a park, licensed school, pre-school or daycare facility.  Posted city parking restrictions will remain in force.

This law will sunset 1 July 2018.  The mayor has yet to sign.  It also says nothing about commercial/industrial areas.

The new code is as follows:

SEC. 85.02. REGULATING THE USE OF VEHICLES FOR DWELLING.

A. Use of Vehicles for Dwelling Restricted on City Streets. No person
shall use a Vehicle for Dwelling as follows:

1. Between the hours of 9:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. on any Residential
Street; or
2. At any time within a one Block radius of any edge of a lot containing
a park or a licensed school, pre-school or daycare facility.

Nothing herein precludes the enforcement of any other laws such as parking restrictions, including, but not limited to, prohibitions on overnight parking.

B. Definitions: As used in this section:

1. Block is defined as 500 feet.
2. Dwelling means more than one of the following activities and when
it reasonably appears, in light of all the circumstances, that a person is using a vehicle as a place of residence or accommodation:

Possessing inside or on a vehicle items that are not associated with ordinary vehicle use, such as a sleeping   bag, bedroll, blanket, sheet, pillow, kitchen utensils, cookware, cooking equipment, bodily fluids. Obscuring some or all of the vehicle’s windows. Preparing or cooking meals inside or on a vehicle. Sleeping inside a   vehicle.

3. Residential Street means any street which adjoins one or more
single family or multi-family residentially zoned parcel.
4. Vehicle means any motor vehicle, trailer, house car or trailer coach
as defined by the California Vehicle Code.

C. Penalty. A first violation of this section shall be punishable as an infraction not to exceed $25. A second violation of this section shall be punishable as an infraction not to exceed $50 and all subsequent violations of this section shall punishable as an infraction not to exceed $75. Violators may be eligible for referral to a prosecutorial-Ied diversion program such as the Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART).

D. Sunset Provisions. The provisions of this section shall expire and bedeemed to have been repealed on July 1, 2018, unless extended by ordinance.

E. Severability. If any portion, subsection, sentence, clause or phrase of this section is for any reason held by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such a decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this section. The City Council hereby declares that it would have passed this ordinance and each portion or subsection, sentence, clause and phrase herein, irrespective of the fact that anyone or more portions, subsections, sentences, clauses or phrases be declared invalid.

Enforcement
The City Attorney’s letter dealt with the enforcement situation and wrote to the City Council members the following:

City Council sought to enforce the draft ordinance through the City’s Administrative Citation Enforcement (ACE) program. However, the ACE program relies on the violator having a current and valid mailing address. Based on information provided by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and others, people who use their vehicles to dwell often do not have reliable mailing addresses. Therefore, the ACE program is not suitable as a tool to enforce the draft ordinance.

In order to establish enforcement that meets the goals of City Council, the draft ordinance provides for the issuance of infraction citations with a penalty structure requested by City Council: $25 for first violation, $50 for the second violation and $75 for third and subsequent violations. A violator can pay the fine or appear in court to challenge the issuance of the citation. Alternatively, a violator may seek eligibility for dismissal of the citation through participation in the Homeless Engagement and Response Team (HEART) program or similar prosecutorial led diversion program.

The City will provide public outreach concerning information about where people can vehicle dwell on City streets. Public outreach will be coordinated with LAHSA and homeless service providers through the creation and distribution of maps developed by the City denoting the streets on which vehicle dwelling is allowed. The maps will be made available on the City’s website and updated regularly.

The adoption of this draft ordinance will allow the City to collect data for an environmental analysis of permanent regulation of vehicles used for dwelling on public streets.

Code to be Revised to Allow Vehicle Sleeping Only in Commercial/Industrial

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Motorhome in front of school. Legal?

Can one sleep/live in a parked vehicle in Los Angeles? Answer: Yes and No.

Question is in reference to Los Angeles Municipal Code 85.02 that used to prohibit people from sleeping/living in their vehicles but was ruled unconstitutional by the court and thus unenforceable.

Councilman Mike Bonin has been plagued by this code from those who want to sleep/live in vehicles and residents who do not want them in front of their homes, their schools. He has come up with what he hopes to be an equitable solution satisfying both the homeless and the residents.

Industrial and Commercial Areas Allowed
Last week the City Council voted 10 to 1 to have the City Attorney draft an ordinance that would allow people who live/sleep in their vehicles to park in areas zoned industrial or commercial. And they would be prohibited from living/sleeping in vehicles parked near homes and schools.

4000 living in vehicles
The designation of areas where it is permissible has allowed the City Council to prohibit living/sleeping in vehicles in residential areas and around schools. City estimates there are 4000 people living in their vehicles.

After the ordinance is drafted, the ordinance will be voted on by the Councilmembers.

Safe Parking Forthcoming
The revised 85.02 will be the forerunner to the Department of City Planning’s and the City Attorney Office’s joint plan to create a structure of “Safe Parking” places in Los Angeles similar to program in Santa Barbara.

This program would allow people to live and sleep in their vehicles in parking areas such as designated for churches, government, and miscellaneous businesses provided vehicle owners enroll in social service programs that would enable them to get off the streets.

AirBnb Sues San Francisco

AirBnb has sued San Francisco in federal court to block the City’s plan to fine AirBnB for unregistered rentals.