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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

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.


Can “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative” Stop Venice Median, Thatcher Yard?

Many Venetians have pointed to the “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative
as a stopper to the homeless projects planned for Venice. The initiative goes on the ballot in March.

The initiative is intended to stop “spot rezoning” for large projects that disrupt the “integrity” of the community, and in many cases, re-identify a community. The initiative calls for a two-year moratorium first.

Affordable Housing is Exception but not General Plan Change
One of the exceptions to the initiative is “affordable housing.” But the initiative also states that the project must be consistent with the General Plan.

Rezoning that is planned for the two Venice projects is not consistent with the General Plan, so a Plan change would be necessary. Of particular interest is Section 4.B which deals with General Plan changes and Section 4.E which deals with the affordable housing exemption.

The Venice Median is zoned “open space” and the plan is to rezone it R-3, which is a zone for apartments. The Thatcher Yard has been used as a “public utility,” since becoming part of Los Angeles. This might fit under industrial use as stated. But the intensity of going from flat land to apartment-type use is definitely addressed under 4.B.1,2,3.

Section 4 Temporary Moratorium Stops Council Approvals of Projects that Seek Spot Zoning and General Plan Amendments to Intensify Land Use

B. Notwithstanding any section of the Los Angeles Municipal Code and during the effective period of the moratorium imposed by the Act no project that seeks a General Plan amendment, a zone or height district change shall be approved by the City Council if such approval would result in:

1. changes of existing zoning to permit more intense land use (as defned by a zone change from a more restrictive to less restrictive zone according to the Los Angeles Municipal Code section 12.04A, or to a height district permitting the construction of a higher structure); or

2. an increase in floor area ratio, density or height; or

 3. a net loss of land zoned open space, agricultural or industrial.

E. Exceptions. The moratorium prohibitions specified in this Section 4 of the Act shall not apply:

1.  to any project in which 100% of the units are deed restricted Affordable Housing Units, that seeks a zone change or height district change only, but not a General Plan amendment.

An Affordable Housing Unit is defined as a unit that is affordable to households with a gross household income at or below Low Income levels (including Extremely Low Income and Very Low Income) as determined by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (or successor agency) for Los Angeles County on an annual basis, and that is rented or sold for no more than the percentage of gross household income required by Health and Safety Code section 50052.5.