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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Marathon VNC Board Meeting: From Contentiousness to Consensus

Westminster Elementary School was filled with members of the community that surrounds Kim’s Market at 600 Mildred, Tesuque’s proposed project. At one time President Ira Koslow asked residents in the audience who planned to speak to stand.  Shown are those who planned to speak for the motion which was against the  project at the corner of Mildred, Ocean, and almost Venice Blvd. There were 56 comment cards filled out. Many could not stay. Each person had one minute to speak. All comments were for the motion. The comment period started at 10:20 pm and ended at just after 11 pm. The board then voted. So past 11:20, the vote for the motion, which was against the project, was 13 to 1.

By Angela McGregor

Tuesday’s five-hour Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board meeting had something for everyone, with the exception of the usual, live-stream on Facebook, which wasn’t functioning due to technical problems. 

It began with a request to pull from the agenda its most contentious item — the motion to deny a conditional use permit and require a traffic study for the proposed restaurant at 600 Mildred.  This request came from Boardmember Robert Thibodeau, the project’s architect, on the grounds that the motion constituted an illegal “reconsideration” of the project.  However, as previously reported in the Update, members of the community had successfully petitioned the Board to vote on the motion, so it remained the last item on the very long agenda.

When the time came for public comment, dozens of Silver Triangle and Canal residents voiced their opinions on the project’s inappropriateness for the neighborhood based upon its very close proximity to residences and lack of noise abatement, the dangerous traffic conditions at the corner of Mildred and Ocean, and the narrowness of Mildred, which has a sidewalk on just one side.  At the end of evening, the Board voted nearly unanimously in favor of passing the motion, which meant a “no” for the project.

Board President Ira Koslow announced, at the start of the meeting, that he had chosen co-chairs for the newly formed, ad-hoc homeless committee.  They are long-time Venice resident and developer Frank Murphy and VNC Boardmember Charles Rials.  Boardmember Matt Fisher, who had first proposed the new committee, said he would appeal the decision, stating that the appointment of co-chairs violates Roberts Rules of Order and was meant to deny him his rightful place as chairman.  President Koslow said there was not anything appealable.

General comments focused on the need for more transparency in Board decisions, centering around the decision to pull item 13B off of the agenda, which would have issued a VNC recommendation to re-zone various properties to commercial use along Ocean Front Walk.  This item was pulled because a member of LUPC who voted on the motion should have recused himself.

There were two motions on the agenda regarding the proposed Enhanced Infrastructure Finance District (EIFD) for Venice.  This proposal, first made by Councilman Bonin in 2015, would allow a portion of city property tax revenue to be used for projects in Venice.  Just which projects would be funded would be determined by a five-person “Public Financing Authority” — three mayor-appointed City Council members and two members of the public appointed by the City Council.  The combined motion from both LUPC and Parking and Transportation, which was ultimately approved, would issue a Community Impact Statement mandating that the governing body be instead a majority comprised of Venice stakeholders chosen by the VNC.

An ad-hoc committee to oversee the dog park at Westminster Park as well as “assess the current needs of dog owners in Venice” was created.  It will be chaired by Boardmember Jamie Paige.  There will also be an ad hoc “Verdant Venice” committee to oversee the preservation of Venice’s biodiversity and tree canopy.  This committee will be co-chaired by local landscape architect Isabelle Duvivier and  Noel Johnston, who is a certified arborist.

There were two motions on the agenda regarding the issue of parkways and planters.  The first, which failed by one vote, would have urged the Bureau of Engineering to support any applications allowing for the removal of concrete over parkways in order to facilitate the planting of these parkways for “the purpose of beautification, rain infiltration and containment”.  The second motion, which encourages similar concrete removal for purposes of planter boxes, was passed despite public comment which called these actions “defensive architecture” designed to prevent the formation of encampments and a comment from Boardmember Matt Fisher calling it “illegal” and a violation of the ADA.

The meeting concluded at approximately 11:30 pm after the vote on 600 Mildred.  The VNC Board will next meet on September 17th at 7 pm.

VNC Will Hear Kim’s Market, Tesuque

(16 August 2019) Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) will hear the Tesuque Project at their 20 August meet.

Members of VNC Administrative Committee voted down sending the new Tesuque project to the Venice Neighborhood Council Board because it had previously been disapproved by the VNC.

Members of the community wanted it heard, so they got a petition with double the required number of signatures to require VNC to hear this project again.

LUPC Sends 600 Mildred Back to VNC

Kim’s Market, Tesuque Market …  Both markets, both proposals all most read the same.
Kim’s market proposal for a restaurant, bar was voted down by the Land Use and Planning Committee and the Venice Neighborhood Committee in 2014.  The project galvanized a normally quiet neighborhood to one filling every hearing.    The project never made it to LA City Planning.  Now it is back with a different architect and a few minor changes.

By Angela McGregor

The property (600 Mildred) at the corner of Mildred and Ocean formerly known as Kim’s Market — will be facing a Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board vote for the third time after Thursday night’s vote on the project.

The applicant on the project (Tezuke LLC) wants to turn the 900 square foot former neighborhood market, surrounded by residences, into an indoor/outdoor cafe featuring a full line of alcoholic beverages. They argued that the motion to require both a conditional use permit for alcohol consumption and a CEQA exemption to examine neighborhood impact had already been voted on previously as part of LUPC’s decision to green light the project, with conditions, in October, 2018 (the project was also previously denied by LUPC in 2014), which constituted a violation of neighborhood council bylaws.

However LUPC Chair Alix Gucovsky, who presented the new motion, said that she had discussed the legality of the motion with the VNC President, a representative from DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) and City Planning (who have left the project’s file open pending further review by the VNC) and all of them told her that, since LUPC’s 2018 decision did not specifically include the CUB permit or the CEQA exemption, a new vote on those specific issues was legal. The vote on the motion passed, 3-2 with one abstention. It will now be taken up by the VNC Board at their meeting on August 20th.

A motion regarding the new Venice-Mar Vista “Arts District” also passed, which would require the City to remove the “Arts District” designation from any drafts of both neighborhoods’ community plans and for the City to first get approval and input from both Venice and Mar Vista’s Neighborhood Councils before the creation of such a district, as required by the City Charter. This motion passed unanimously.

Crime and LUPC Selection Main Focus for VNC Meet

By Angela McGregor

(17 July 2019) Venice Neighborhood Council board meeting Tuesday consisted of a crime report for the area, approving the neighborhood committee members and the selection of eight members for the Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC).

Senior Lead Officer Jennifer Muther gave the statistics for the Venice Beach/Marina and the Venice/Oakwood areas.  She announced a 4 percent year over year increase in violent crimes and a 27 percent increase in property crimes, with a 21 percent increase in part one (major) crimes , in particular aggravated assaults, 50 percent of which involved transients.

Officer Muther also announced that Los Angeles Municipal Code 85.02, which limited vehicle dwelling to certain areas, has been suspended. This will allow motor homes and campers to park overnight anywhere, including in residential areas and near schools “until further notice.”

On the agenda for the July Administrative Committee (AdCom) meeting was a motion to create a Public Safety Committee to “prevent and reduce crime;” however, this did not pass the AdCom meeting and was therefore not on the final Agenda for the July Meeting.

The Board elected members to both the Neighborhood and Land Use and Planning Committees. In the case of the former, all of those who submitted applications were elected (for applicants, see: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1VtUrD87CEzaBGTHvcQ-GMrFHb8tZb0l4.

In the case of LUPC, there were 18 applicants for 8 open seats, and the final list of LUPC members is as follows:

Tim Bonefield, a designer and architect who has been serving on LUPC for the past three years.

Barry Cassilly, a licensed real estate agent and general contractor with extensive experience in land use issues in Los Angeles, Chicago and Santa Monica.

Carlos Zubieta, a local architect who has been serving on LUPC since March, 2019.
Matt Royce, an architect who served as the head of LUPC on the prior VNC Board, from 2016-2019.

Daffodil Tyminski, an attorney on land use matters who very narrowly lost the election for current LUPC Chair and served on the 2016-2019 VNC LUPC.

Michael Jensen, a cannabis attorney who was both a member of the ad hoc cannabis committee and LUPC between 2016-2019.

Jerome Williams, former Chief of Staff to City Councilman Bob Farrell and Assistant Chief of Staff to Councilman Nate Holden.

Shepard Stern, a 32 year resident of Venice, composer, music producer and math tutor.

For a complete list of all candidates for LUPC, see: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1ViY6h7XG0tNYpvQAWFNz7q7WfZOTN6AX.

The meeting adjourned at approximately 10 pm. The next meeting of the VNC Board will be Tuesday, August 20th at 7pm.

New VNC Board Sworn In; Committees Established at VNC Meet

Two former VNC Presidents, DeDe Audit and Linda Lucks, swore in the new board members.

By Angela McGregor

(19 June 2019) New members of the board for the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) were sworn in Tuesday night by past Board presidents Linda Lucks and DeDe Audet, and serenaded with a song entitled “Everything’s Normal in Venice” (advertised in the evening’s agenda as Venice’s “new anthem”) by local chanteuse Suzy Williams with piano accompaniment by Brad Kaye.

The VNC has an online survey for stakeholders about issues they feel the new Board should focus on over the next two-year term. It can be found at venicenc.org/survey.

Suzy Williams sings “Everything’s Normal in Venice.”

Members of AdCom (Administrative Committee) were voted on from the nine Community Interest members who placed their names in contention. CJ Cole, Mark Ryavec, Jim Murez and Charles Rials will join Ira Koslow, George Francisco, Melissa Diner and Hugh Harrison in setting the Board meeting agenda each month.

Applications are currently being accepted for both the Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) and the Neighborhood Committee. To apply for LUPC, visit: https://www.venicenc.org/user_docs/LUPC_Application_2019-21.pdf. To apply to represent your neighborhood in Venice, visit: https://www.venicenc.org/neighborhood-committee.php. The deadline for submitting an application and having it posted on the VNC’s website is 8 July 2019.

During the course of the meeting, new LUPC chair Alix Gucovsky stated that she and outgoing chair, Matt Royce, are continuing to conduct LUPC meetings in lieu of new committee members.

The Board then moved on to the renewal of Ad Hoc committees, including Discussion Forum, Resiliency (aka emergency preparedness), and Parking and Transportation. Local photographer (and frequent VNC critic) Margaret Molloy stated that she and a number of fellow activists had filed a grievance with EmpowerLA requesting the dissolution of the Parking & Transportation. She did not state the grounds for the complaint, but did mention that it was “over 100 pages long” and asked that the Board postpone the renewal until EmpowerLA had resolved her issues.

Ira Koslow replied that he had not had a chance to review the complaint, and that “anyone can file a complaint,” and that he would wait until “something comes from EmpowerLA.” The vote proceeded, with Board comments focused on the necessity of having such a committee regardless of who was in charge, and the committee was renewed.

The Board considered a motion to create an Ad Hoc Homeless Committee. The specter of the last Homeless Committee, which ultimately resulted in its dissolution and the resignation of its leader after its embrace of a number of unpopular and contentious positions, hung over both the public and the Board discussions of their new committee mission statement, which was approved at AdCom. Mark Ryavec spoke about his previous service ten years ago, serving as the co-chair of a similar committee with a much more limited mission statement that mandated the participation of both homeless advocates and resident representatives. It was more limited in scope, albeit successful in putting forth motions that ultimately benefitted the homeless population. He urged the Board to postpone the vote and, at a future meeting, put forth a similar motion but with a more focused mission statement. Matt Fisher responded that the mission statement was “intentionally vague” because “we are going to be covering a lot of issues” and stated that Ryavec should “not be allowed to even be talking about this with all [his] lawsuits against the city, so [his] opinion is illegal; I really don’t care about it, and he will be reported.”

President Ira Koslow stated he would speak to the City Attorney to verify Fisher’s contention. Jim Murez asked for a motion to postpone the motion for a month, in order to explore Ryavec’s objections. Alex Neiman, speaking against postponement, said it was clear that the VNC needs such a committee, and that the mission statement need not “contain the agenda.”

Ira Koslow also felt that the mission statement “should be vague.” George Francisco offered a history of the previous committee, which in 17 months passed 17 motions ranging from opposition to homeless storage at Westminster Park to support for Bridge Housing at the Metro Yard. He described the list of motions they passed as “balanced,” and pointed out that “not one of those motions had any impact at all,” implying that the formation of such a committee could, as did the last committee, result in nothing but contentiousness and arguments. The motion to postpone failed 7-8-2. The original motion, to form the Committee with the mission statement on the agenda, narrowly passed, 8-7, with 3 abstentions.

Two motions to regulate motorized devices in Venice, which came out of the Ocean Front Walk Committee, finished up the evening. One would limit the number of such devices (both scooters and bikes) to 550, or 50 per company of those currently operating here; the other forbade film permits to companies filming motorized devices on the bike path and boardwalk, where they are now forbidden, and where built-in geo-fencing makes them unable to be operated.

The meeting ended with a reminder from President Ira Koslow to his fellow board members that they had all taken an oath to be civil with one another.

The next meeting of the VNC Board will be held July 16th, 2019.

The new board is shown below.  Missing are Sima Kostevetsky, outreach officer, and Hugh Harrison, treasurer.

Left to right are: Matt Fisher, Brian Averill, Bradley Avery, Charles Rials, and Bruno Hernandez.

Chris Wrede; Alix Gucovsky, chair of Land Use and Planning Committee; George Francisco, vice-president, and Ira Koslow, president.

Melissa Diner, secretary, and Teresa White, communications officer.


Jim Murez, Jamie Paige, and Robert Thibodeau.

Left to right: C.J. Cole, Mark Ryavec, Nisa Kove, and Jim Robb.

Binen Cedes At-Large Community Officer Position to Reed

(12 June 2019) Travis Binen ceded his at-large community officer position tie to John Reed.  They were tied at the general election and the number did not change after the provisional ballots were counted yesterday.

“I’m giving my spot to John Reed,” wrote Binen.   “He’s more qualified than me and has more time.”


Final Results of 2019 VNC Election Vote Count, Including Provisional

The 25 provisional ballots for the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) have been counted and the count changed some of the numbers but the results did not change.

Alix Gucovsky won by 4 votes, instead of 6 votes,  to be chairman of the Land Use and Planning Committee over Daffodil Tyminski.  John Reed and Travis Binen continue to be tied for At-Large Community Officer. This tie will be decided by the handbook later this week.

The following are the final results that include all the provisional ballots.

VNC Election Results

The unofficial results of the Venice Neighborhood Council election held 2 June are below. The votes do not include provisional votes The official results will be out 12 June.

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. 


At-Large Candidates Answer Questions at Their Forum

Left to right are Angela McGregor, Bradley Avery, Travis Binen, CJ Cole, Nisa Kove, Michael Greco, and Matt Fisher

Left to right are: John Reed, Bradley Avery, Jim Robb, James Murez, Robert Thibodeau, Mark Ryavec, Jamie Paige, Chris Wrede, and Chris Zonnas

Two groups of candidates for at-large community officer lined up to answer questions posed by election committee member Ivan Spiegel at the Westminster Elementary School, Thursday before the Sunday election.

Voters can cast only one vote for an at-large community officer. There were only 16 of the 36 candidates on the ballot available.

The questions ranged from when were you last in the ocean to what about the Mitchell case which was just recently settled and revealed in the LA Times. Each person had one or two minutes to answer the same question so the audience had an opportunity to compare the responses to help determine where the one vote would go.

Here are some of the responses to the same questions.

This question was in regard to increasing the height maximum when the Venice specific plan is redone.

Should the VNC be more involved with the merchants of Venice.

This was the introduction for this group and revealed  many of the positions  each would  take on certain subjects.

This is the question regarding the Mitchell decision that was in the LA Times that morning.