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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Pardue Analyzes Eight Properties to be Built On/Sold for Homeless

By Kip Pardue

This is an update about the proposed developments in Venice (and beyond). I hope this helps all Venetians understand this process a bit better…

The city has sent out a sort of “bulk” request for proposal in the name of expedition. They combined all 8 of the city properties they want to develop into housing for the homeless. This RFP is open ONLY to pre-approved developers – they are pre-approved based on past work they have done for the city or for private affordable housing projects.

These developers will then look at the list of properties and will make proposals on one or even all the lots. The proposals are due in mid-September sometime. These will not be detailed drawings or include things like EIR’s or mock-ups or models…it sounds like they will be a bit broader in spectrum. The city will then look at these bids and select the ones they like best or the ones they feel are the most feasible (the public info has zero explanation on this process). After that, the public process SHOULD begin – more detailed information will start to come to us on what the city has determined (things like number of units, type of person living there, if there is a commercial element, etc).

Bits I took away from the RFP that I find interesting:

There are 8 lots on this list. They continue to say they might be used to build on or they might be sold depending on feasibility.

Here is a breakdown of the list:

The first property is actually 5 contiguous lots east of the 5 freeway in Lincoln Heights. It’s a commercial district – lots of retail and close to transportation hubs, employment opportunities, and services. To my eyes, this is a perfect place for a large mixed-use development that includes housing for the homeless.

The second is an undeveloped plot of land in Sylmar, north of LA. It’s in a lightly populated area – somewhat close to a few apartment complexes – that borders the 210 and the Angeles National Forest beyond that. Pictures show it as a hill next to a highway…Tough to say how close it is to transportation or services but a large development there would seemingly have very little impact on current residents of Sylmar.

The third is a smaller lot near the 110 freeway. It currently sits as an empty lot in a commercial district with no residents in shouting distance. The highway is just to it’s west. Because it is small, the city is recommending stacked housing or even micro-units on this site. This lot has seemingly zero value as of now but could be a great place for this type of development.

The fourth through the eighth are comprised of the four CD11 lots and one in CD15. These five lots represent a VASTLY different perspective from the first three.

The Thatcher Yard is obviously in a 100% residential district, surrounded almost entirely by single family homes.

The Venice Blvd Median lot is in a 100% residential district, surrounded almost entirely by single family homes in the heart of Venice’s tourist district. The area is congested as is – crushed by tourists, residents, and an already-huge homeless population.

Neither of the Venice locations are close to transportation hubs or commercial areas that might better provide employment opportunities, shopping alternatives, and easy assimilation for a transitioning formerly homeless individual. The Venice properties also have the California Coastal Commission to contend with (and the Venice Specific Plan). The Venice properties also happen to have real estate values that dwarf any of these other properties – almost comically so. These two properties are easily worth a combined $100 million (more depending on rezoning potential) that, if sold, could be used towards housing the homeless (in fact, the city’s well-publicized $138 million budget to combat homelessness INCLUDES the sale of properties – thought none have been sold as of yet).

The sixth property is a parcel in WLA – just off Bundy near Olympic Blvd. The area is a mix of commercial and residential, quite near single family homes. The lot is currently occupied by a former animal shelter. It is close to the new Expo Line station and does have access to commercial spaces. The land is certainly valuable from a financial prospect, but not anywhere near the Venice lots. This location – if handled delicately – could be a nice location for a mixed development – one that serves the current residents and provides a combination of low-income and housing for the homeless.

The seventh property is an abandoned fire station in Westchester that has been vacant for over 10 years (??!!). This property is also in a residential district – surrounded by single family homes. It is somewhat close to the more commercial Sepulveda Blvd, which provides some transportation and employment opportunities, but is by no means “part” of that area. The property is in a quiet neighborhood that would certainly be impacted by a development for housing homeless.

The final property is another abandoned fire station (??) in San Pedro. This lot is also in a very residential area and surrounded by single family homes and multi-unit structures. It has relatively zero options for employment, transportation, or commercial opportunities.

What will happen now:

According to the RFP and per Mike Bonin, the city will conduct feasibility studies of ALL the properties in August. I hate to assume anything, but it sure seems to me like the first three properties have far fewer hurdles than the final 5 and also happen to be far less valuable if sold. Hopefully the feasibility study will agree. I will do some research to try and learn more about this study but do not have high hopes for it being a “transparent” process.

The “scoring” for the returned RFP’s will be on a 100 point scale – with 60 points awarded to the developer based on PREVIOUS projects and 40 from their idea for the lot (or lots) on this list – which seems utterly shocking to me given the obvious hurdles ALL of these project will face.

Every private developer, architect, engineer, and real estate person I have spoken with is quick to say just how difficult it would be develop the two Venice lots. Both are so large and so detailed they would far surpass the abilities of most “not-for-profit” developers.

This process is certainly moving forward per the city…but I just cannot imagine how the feasibility of the these 8 lots – when compared to each other – could put the solution in Venice. The money, the CCC, the size, the already huge and terrifying homeless population, the growing population of families with children in Venice, the lack of transportation access, lack of employment opportunities, the lack of reasonable shopping alternatives, the tourists, the parking…all of it HAS to be taken into account. The first three are more ideal in EVERY CONCEIVABLE WAY.

This is, of course, my opinion…but as a resident who will potentially be affected in myriad ways, I hope it holds some weight.