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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

First VNC Zoom Board Meeting is an All Night Effort; Says “No” to Lincoln Apartments

By Angela McGregor

Despite previous VNC Zoom meetings of the AdComm and LUPC Committees, there were still a few technical difficulties to be ironed out on May 21st as the Board and hundreds of attendees “arrived” to the Board’s first meeting since February.

It was 7:30pm before all Board members had logged in and popped up on screen, settings were adjusted, audio problems were ironed out and home computer issues were resolved (with the expert assistance of Empower LA’s Jasmine Elbarbary). 

Former VNC Board member Nisa Kove, now the Venice liaison for Councilman Bonin’s office, announced that the Councilman is well aware of the rapid growth of encampments in Venice, due in part to the lack of bulky item pickup service and CDC’s recommendation that homeless be allowed to remain in their tents during the pandemic.  Bonin has recently met with neighbors of the Rose Avenue encampments and, in Kove’s  words, “discussions are underway”.

With the removal of Matt Fisher and Nisa Kove’s departure to take the position in the Councilman’s office, there were two vacant, at-large Board seats to fill.  Nine candidates applied, and after two votes to break a tie between the two second place finishers, Vicki Halliday (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZNp3zfH_Tme9exl66U1twLMl88NAdGDs) and Soledad Ursua (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ZNp3zfH_Tme9exl66U1twLMl88NAdGDs) were elected to finish out this term.  They will be sworn in at the next meeting, once they have received the mandatory ethics training.

Jim Murez’s request to move his Parking and Transportation motions to the front of the agenda, given his required, early morning, presence at Friday’s Venice Farmer’s Market, was granted.  First up was a motion to send a letter to the City requesting a Department of Public Works “Street Vacation” of the now unimproved (and overrun with encampments) sidewalk along Rose Avenue between Frederick St. and Glen Avon, handing control of the space to Parks and Recreation to create an “official” walking and running trail.  Public commentary in favor of the proposal noted that, until recently, that path had served as the “heart of the neighborhood” which had been lost to the encampments, many of which featured criminal activity.  Opposition to the proposal came from homeless advocates who insisted the motion be amended to include a mandate that any homeless who were displaced by the project be offered housing.  Jim Murez pointed out that the proposal was to set in motion a process at the City that would take several months to complete, and so wasn’t designed to offer immediate relief from the encampments.  The motion passed, 14-3-2.

A motion to put K rails on the east side of Main Street failed, 8-8-3, and a motion to re-instate overnight parking restrictions on Main Street passed, 13-5-1.

The night’s “main event” was the consideration of LUPC’s motion to deny the VCHC’s Lincoln Apartments project at the site of Safe Place for Youth’s current facility at 2567  Lincoln Blvd presented at their meeting last week (see:  https://veniceupdate.com/2020/05/15/lupc-rejects-lincoln-place-apartments-at-special-meeting/), and public commentary did not commence until 11:30pm.  Consideration of the motion was restricted to an hour, and each commenter was granted 30 seconds to speak.  According to Ira Koslow, the Board has, to date, received about 2000 emails regarding the project, and in the interest of time management he stressed the need for stakeholders who had already expressed their opinions via email to not repeat themselves by raising their hand on Zoom.  Nevertheless, dozens did, and their observations followed a similar pattern to those given at the special LUPC meeting:  opposition cited numerous incidents of violence and harassment of the children who attend both Coeur d’Alene Elementary and St. Mark (including several lockdowns of both campuses due to threatening behavior by SPY’s clients).  Proponents of the project characterized such objections as without basis in fact and defended VCHC’s refusal to consider criminal background checks of prospective tenants to be justified by  “fair housing laws”, and their refusal to forbid drug and alcohol consumption and the retention of deadly weapons within the facility as accepted best practices.

The VNC Board agreed with LUPC that the project, as presented, should be denied, and voted to approve the motion 14-0-1 shortly before 1 am.  The project will now go before City Planning on 28 May.  (see https://planning.lacity.org/pdiscaseinfo/search/encoded/MjMyODgy0).

 

VNC Meet Scheduled for Thursday, 21 May, Not Tuesday

MAY Board Meeting is THIS THURSDAY, May 21st at 7pm via Zoom.💻
IN CONFORMITY WITH THE GOVERNORS EXECUTIVE ORDER N-29-20 (MARCH 17, 2020) AND DUE TO CONCERNS OVER COVID – 19,
THIS VENICE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL (VNC) MEETING WILL BE CONDUCTED ENTIRELY TELEPHONICALLY.💻TO JOIN THE MEETING PLEASE USE THIS LINK: https://zoom.us/j/94446299755

 

📱iPhone one-tap US: +16699006833,,94446299755# or +13462487799,,94446299755# 

☎️YOU CAN ALSO DIAL IN BY PHONE: 
+1 (669)900-6833,, 94446299755# 
+1 (346)248-7799,, 94446299755#
Webinar ID: 944 4629 9755
International numbers available at: https://zoom.us/u/aczD2Vhg6d

📃Please click for Agenda here. 

LUPC Rejects Lincoln Place Apartments at Special Meeting

By Angela McGregor

Land Use and Planning Committer (LUPC) held a special meeting Thursday (14 May) exclusively to hear input and issue a decision on the Lincoln Place Apartments project prior to the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC} 19 May Board meeting and the Planning Commission 28 May online meeting (see: https://planning.lacity.org/dcpapi/meetings/document/66666).

Over 120 persons attended the online meeting.

At its 26 February meet, last pre-pandemic meeting, LUPC sent Lincoln Apartments applicants — Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) and Safe Place for Youth (SPY) — back to the community for more input before rendering a decision on the project.

Since then, City Planning has fast tracked approval of the project, apparently using the current pandemic to bypass the Venice Neighborhood Council usual approval process, especially for such a large and controversial project.

The meeting opened with VCHC Director Becky Denison delivering a somewhat revised presentation on the project, stating that VCHC had met with representatives from St. Mark School (which is adjacent to the project), who made 26 recommendations for the project, of which VCHC incorporated just 12 (the rest they deemed “unreasonable”).

This including adding some greenery and a gate to overcome the fact that the project’s roof deck offered direct line-of-sight above the school’s playground and insisting that there had been “no firm decision” on whether or not the project would be built with Prop. 2, “No Place Like Home”, funds, which would mandate that (according to VCHC) roughly one third of the residents be suffering from severe mental illness. VCHC then offered several examples of what they said were similar projects that had either been granted the kind of density bonuses they are requesting (over 100 percent, as well as a 22-foot height increase and waiver of step back provisions).

Public commentary was overwhelmingly opposed to the project, and continued for over two and a half hours. Speakers (many of whom are active participants in the St. Mark parish programs to benefit the homeless) primarily emphasized the historic threat to public safety and the poor track record of SPY in ensuring that their clientele did not terrorize the surrounding neighborhood and the children at the two nearby schools. In neighborhood discussions with VCHC, the applicant had refused to take Prop 2 money off the table, promise to screen prospective residents in the sex offender database, or add parking.

Project has questionable safety provisions
In three years, there have been 117 calls to police and fire for incidents at SPY, which include violent crimes that resulted in school lockdowns, and the record for the SPY Bridge Housing project on Main Street is even worse — 202 police calls in two months, including one SPY client who was allowed back into the facility after vandalizing multiple cars and assaulting two women.

Lincoln Apartments would not require sobriety or treatment (several speakers mentioned SPY clients openly using drugs near SPY’s current facility). At a projected cost of $500K per studio apartment, opponents contended the project was an unconscionable waste of money in light of the nearly 60,000 homeless in Los Angeles. Finally, Venice has more current and planned PSH and affordable housing projects than all of CD11 combined: Five units of affordable housing per 100 people.

80 percent of residents within 500 feet say “no”
In all, at least 80 percent of residents who live within a 500-foot radius of the project oppose it.  There was much less public commentary in favor of the project, mainly from people who identified themselves as board members or volunteers for either SPY or VCHC. Their comments were less specific to the project and focused on the overall need in Los Angeles for this type of housing.

Longtime VCH representative and former VNC Board President Linda Lucks stated that “VCH will be managing the property, and VCH is not SPY. They have a good reputation for managing their properties, including full-time, onsite social workers.”

SPY representative Alison Hurst stated that the problems at the Bridge Housing were due to challenges posed by the pandemic and the stress it was putting on residents, “especially vulnerable youth. We need to say yes to housing of all kinds!”

Board commentary opened with questions for the applicant. LUPC member Tim Bonefeld, who was the LUPC staffer on this project, stated that he lived very close to the Bridge Housing, and that, in his estimation, “incidents are through the roof.” He asked whether onsite security guards would be hired for the new project, to which Becky Dennison responded that that was “not considered best practices” and that “people underestimate how effective social service managers are in providing security.” Alison Hurst then stated that Bridge Housing is a “very different model” from the proposed project, and does have full time security officers on site.

Both LUPC Chair Alix Gucovsky and LUPC staffer Shep Stern cited the “overwhelming and unprecedented” outpouring of opposition to the project in the form of over 800 letters, many of whom were clearly very heartfelt, from parishioners and parents torn between their sense of obligation to the less fortunate and their responsibilities as parents for the safety of their children. By contrast, the letters in support of the project, of which there were hundreds, were clearly auto-generated, many with the same name and verbiage, and over 48 percent of them came from outside of Venice.

Bonefeld suggested that, in light of the upcoming hearing at City Planning wherein the project would likely be approved, LUPC make a motion to support the project, but with a long list of recommendations that would address residents’ concerns. However, the other board members seemed to feel that the project was irredeemable, given that its primary fault was its location so close to a school and the undeniably poor public safety record of SPY. At around 10:30 pm, three and a half hours after the start of the meeting, LUPC voted to dismiss the project, 5 votes to 2.

The project will now be taken up by the VNC Board, at their online meeting on May 19th at 7 pm.

VCHC Goes Directly to Planning with Lincoln Apartments, Leaps Past Neighborhood, LUPC, and VNC Approvals

Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) leaps past Venice neighborhood critiques, and both the Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) and the VNC approvals, according to Fight Back Venice, a neighborhood group opposed to the project as presently presented.

Many times a project is already set for a planning hearing so the planning director, if they hear the project, will normally say subject to approval by the VNC. The project is on the agenda to be heard by LUPC 14 May, and normally, will be heard by the VNC at the next scheduled meet, which would be 18 May.

At the last meet of the LUPC, LUPC directed the VCHC to work with the community and do more outreach. The community showed a large amount of disapproval for the project and LUPC, instead of voting it down, asked that VCHC take the project before the neighbors and try to work out some of the problems. Now according to Fight Back Venice, the project is using the Corona Virus to secure approval from the City Planning Commission without further outreach, without approval from LUPC, without approval from VNC.

The City Planning Commission is meeting to vote on the Project in a strictly virtual meeting on May 28. Information regarding the meeting is available here: https://planning.lacity.org/dcpapi/meetings/document/66666

Fight Back Venice says “since Venice has no friendly representation whatsoever at City Hall, we need to get as many emails on file opposing the Project as we possibly can by Friday, 15 May.

“Our goal is 1,000 emails, so please, take 10 seconds to send the one-click email yourself and rally as many friends and family members as you possibly can to do the same by taking 3 more seconds to forward this email to them.”

A short video about VCHC’s Lincoln Apartments Project is available here: https://www.fightbackvenice.org/

VNC Ad-Com Meet to Use Zoom, 11 May

The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) will meet via zoom at 7 pm, Monday, May 11.

IN CONFORMITY WITH THE GOVERNORS EXECUTIVE ORDER N-29-20 (MARCH 17, 2020) AND DUE TO CONCERNS OVER COVID – 19, THIS VENICE NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL MEETING WILL BE CONDUCTED ENTIRELY TELEPHONICALLY TO JOIN THE MEETING PLEASE USE THIS LINKS PROVIDED.

Please copy and paste the link and password below to join the webinar:
https://zoom.us/j/95369000257?pwd=VkV5WkFMUnh0d3NiNWtFeWhGY3pvUT09
Password: 297659

Or iPhone one-tap :
US: +16699006833,,95369000257#,,1#,297659# or +13462487799,,95369000257#,,1#,297659#
Or Telephone:
Dial(for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location):
US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799
Webinar ID: 953 6900 0257
Password: 297659
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/u/axm4IEQyE

Please view agenda here: https://www.venicenc.org/docs/34484747-8720.pdf

We ask for your patience as we navigate this new territory amidst our new reality during the COVID-19 crisis and resume the important work of our Neighborhood Council.
Stay tuned for more information on our May VNC Board Meeting Announcement and for the individual Committee Meetings.

Stay Safe, Stay Home, Stay Healthy!

-Your VNC

LUPC Goes Zoom

The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) will hear the 77-unit apartment building at 1600 – 1614 Venice Blvd (with 43 parking spaces) and the auto repair/retail complex at 2499 Lincoln Blvd via ZOOM as well as others at the first zoom meet, 7 to 10 pm Thursday 30 April.

Dear Venice Community,

As we start to implement Virtual and Telephone meetings for The Venice Neighborhood Council Board and its Committees going forward, the VNC is proud to announce its First Virtual Meeting, via the Zoom Platform, of the Land Use and Planning Committee this Thursday, April 30th from 7pm – 10pm.

To JOIN this meeting, Please Use This Link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86033143804?pwd=M01oNFZsKzY3QTVqNGlHQnk5czZrdz09

OR ZOOM US AT – MEETING ID: 860 3314 3804
PASSWORD: 157287

YOU CAN ALSO DIAL IN BY PHONE:
+1 (669)900-6833,, 86033143804#,, #, 157287#
+1 (346)248-7799,, 86033143804#,, #,157287#

Please click on Agenda Link:
https://www.venicenc.org/docs/34484744-8700.pdf

To submit public comment please use the “Raise Hand” feature on Zoom. If you are dialing in by phone, please enter #9 to raise your hand. Public comment is limited to 2 minutes per speaker, unless extended or reduced by Chair of the meeting.

Alternatively you may submit public comment via email in advance to:
Chair-LUPC@VeniceNC.org and LUPC@venicenc.org.
For troubleshooting during the meeting please email: LUPC@venicenc.org

We ask for your patience as we navigate this new territory amidst our new reality during the COVID-19 crisis and resume the important work of our Neighborhood Council.
Stay tuned for more information on our May VNC Board Meeting Announcement and for the individual Committee Meetings.

Stay Safe, Stay Home, Stay Healthy!

-Your VNC

Venice Neighborhood Council

If you have a meeting, check before you go; It may be cancelled

LUPC, scheduled for this Thursday, was cancelled because of the coronavirus. Look for other meetings to be cancelled. The VNC is still scheduled for 17 March but the feeling is that the cancellation is forthcoming.

Many places in Los Angeles are shutting down due to the virus.

Venice Update Publicly Apologizes to the Men and Women in Blue

By Reta Moser

Even when one does opinion pieces, one should checkout both sides. I personally and publicly was discourteous to the police force for not stopping the chaos at the Venice Neighborhood Council Tuesday night. I wrote an Opinion piece for the Venice Update berating the police for standing down.

Then I questioned one of my all-time favorite LAPD Pacific Division captains, Captain Brian Morrison, about the incident. He said they were protecting both side’s rights of the First Amendment. Then I understood immediately; who would want it otherwise. The VNC should have handled it by calling a recess; setting another day; taking a break, etc.

I publicly apologize to all the men and women in blue.

Matt Fisher Removed from VNC Board at First Meeting of 2020

By Angela McGregor

Prior to the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC)February Board meeting, a large crowd gathered outside of Westminster Elementary School cheering their support for Matt Fisher and calling for Board President Ira Koslow to step down. Later, at the call to order, this group entered the auditorium, loudly yelling. As the Pledge of Allegiance commenced, a small group of self-identified “indigenous persons” at the front of the room pulled out instruments and an amplifier and began reciting what they referred to as a “prayer”, holding up the meeting for at least 20 minutes. Stakeholders who complained were told they were “immigrants” who had “no right to be in this country”. Eventually, order was restored such that those present who had filled out speaker cards could state their case, and most were supportive of Fisher. Dozens of public comments ensued, and it was not until after 9pm that the motion was finally open to Board commentary.

Ira Koslow began the board discussion by laying out the case against Fisher, who was accused of violating the Board’s Code of Civility as it appears in the most recent version of the VNC Bylaws, as follows:We collectively and individually agree to abide by the following Code of Civility to the best of our abilities.

1.I will conduct myself in a professional and civil manner at all times as a representative of the Venice Neighborhood Council,

2.I will treat each member of the board and members of the public with respect at all times, regardless of an individual’s opinion, ethnicity, race, sexuality, age, disability, or religion.

3.Even in the face of disagreement or differences of opinion, I will demonstrate esteem and deference for my colleagues and the public.

4.Under no circumstances during Neighborhood Council meetings, functions, or events will I engage in or threaten to engage in any verbal or physical attack on any other individual.

5.I will commit to communicate my ideas and points of view clearly, and allow others to do the same without interruption.

6.I will not use language that is abusive, threatening, obscene, or slanderous, including using profanities, insults, or other disparaging remarks or gestures.

7.Derogatory language about an individual’s ethnicity, race, sexuality, age, disability, or religion is not acceptable.

8.I will take responsibility for my own actions, and will work to fulfill my role and responsibilities as specified in the bylaws.

9.I will commit to learn the applicable laws that govern Neighborhood Councils, including bylaws, standing rules, the Brown Act, ethics rules, city ordinances, and the City Charter, and will not knowingly violate any of the above.

10.I will abide by the Neighborhood Council’s meeting procedures or rules in order to create a safe and effective environment for conducting business.

11.I will promote and enforce a safe meeting environment at all times. At moments when members of the public become disruptive and violate the rules of civility that we have pledged to follow. I will join my fellow board members in demanding that the persons conduct themselves in a respectful and orderly manner even if I agree with the point of view that is being expressed.

12.I will seek to present information truthfully, and will not knowingly misrepresent, mischaracterize, or misquote information received from others.

13.I pledge to truly listen to and hear other points of view.

14.I will practice the art of being able to disagree without being disagreeable.

15.If I find myself representing my personal interests before my community’s interests, I will publicly disclose the differences and recuse myself from voting on such matters.

16.I will commit to good faith efforts to resolve any grievances that come before the board as specified in the bylaws.17.I owe it to my fellow board members, the public, and the decision-makers who we are trying to influence to make the best effort to understand the issues before me. I will “do my homework.”

Koslow displayed visual evidence showing that Fisher had posted, in the comments section of a post by Mike Bonin, that video evidence would show that Board members Mark Ryavec and Jim Murez had planted bombs around the MTA lot. In a comment to a post on this website, Fisher had stated that he was “constantly offered bribes” in order to “screw over the homeless.”. He refused to attend a recent VNC Board retreat due to what he termed “funding discrepancies,” implying an illegal use of funds. In an email to Koslow, he accused fellow Board member Charles Rials, an employee of Safe Place for Youth, of being a “fake homeless person” and accused his employer of “child abuse.” The Board received a letter from Fisher’s attorney stating that they would, like Fisher’s prior employer, soon all be sued due to “whistleblower violations.”

Fisher responded that the comment on Facebook was protected free speech, and insisted the comment on Venice Update was not him, or at least could not be proven to be him since comments on this site are not validated before they are entered. He said the email from his attorney wasn’t actually from his attorney, and that his comments regarding Rials and SPY were “not public” and came after Rials was made Chair of the Homeless Committee, passing over Fisher, who had drafted the original motion to form the committee.

More public commentary ensued, all of it opposed to the motion. Among the major points made:

Fisher alone represents the dispossessed and downtrodden on the VNC Board. His opinions, therefore, may well be unpopular but in no way merit his removal.

His removal gives him grounds for a lawsuit.

The incidents presented in Koslow’s argument for his dismissal were inadequate and unconvincing. Furthermore, they were not posted on the VNC website in advance of the Board meeting, as promised at the AdComm meeting wherein the motion was place on the agenda.

Board commentary came next. Koslow stated that he had been in contact with the City Attorney’s office for weeks regarding the issue, and was told not to present his case against Fisher online in advance of the meeting. He said that, in light of the fact that he was elected to represent all of Venice and not simply the homeless, he felt he had no choice but to file the motion because the majority of the Board it should be filed, and said so at the AdComm meeting.

Charles Rials said that the evidence presented was insufficient and that Fisher should face censure and enter remediation instead. He also felt that both Mark Ryavec and Jim Murez should be forced to recuse themselves from the vote due to their involvement as the victims in Fisher’s online targeting.

Sima Kosvetsky maintained that Fisher — who had accused her via a conversation with Koslow of misappropriating funds meant for the Holiday Sign Lighting — did not have the right to “decry and bully” his fellow Board members. She also chastised the crowd for using terms such as “Hitler” and “Apartheid” to describe the views of board members who did not agree with them, calling such name-calling ignorant.

Brian Averill maintained that the Facebook post was clearly meant “as a joke” and that the evidence presented did not amount to grounds for removal.

Alex Neiman stated that many other board members were guilty of “actual” ethics violations (he listed accepting free restaurant meals and failing to recuse from voting on motions wherein they had a financial interest) and that what Fisher had done paled in comparison, in his view.

Chris Wrede refuted Averill’s claim that the Facebook post was unserious, and reminded him that Mike Bonin had perpetrated the narrative that “radical anti-homeless people” were responsible for “terrorizing the community.”

Finally, George Francisco reminded the Board that past boards had brought members up for simply doxxing stakeholders online, which at the time was viewed as totally intolerable behavior. Fisher’s actions, he stated, reflected an “unbelievable lack of civility” and a “continuous set of lies and intimidation” had been going on since June. The Facebook accusation was, in his opinion, an “aggressive, hostile act.”

The vote — which came at 9:45pm — was 12-4-1 in favor of Fisher’s removal, more than the 2/3rds vote needed to pass.

After a five minute break during which most of the crowd disbursed, Board Secretary Melissa Diner motioned to table the agenda’s remaining motions to the next meeting, but this motion failed. The meeting then continued until 11:45pm, and included the passage of a motion that had been added to the agenda by petition after its failure to pass the Homeless Committee (see: https://veniceupdate.com/2020/01/18/raucous-homeless-committee-meeting-fails-to-deliver-motion/). Also a vote of no confidence for Councilman Mike Bonin failed to pass and a motion to provide K-rails around the MTA lot was passed.

The next VNC Board meeting will be Tuesday, March 17th at 7pm.

 

LUPC to Be Held at Westminster, 20 Feb, 6:30 pm

LUPC will hear the 40-unit Lincoln Apartments complex at Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinny Blvd, Thursday, 20 February, at 6:30 pm. It was stated that it would be held at Oakwood but it is now set for Westminster Elementary School.
.LUPC Agenda February20,2020 correct