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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Jose Huizar Ousted As Chair of PLUM

By Coalition to Preserve LA

Under intense scrutiny by the FBI,  City Councilmember Jose Huizar has been stripped of his chairmanship of the city’s controversial “PLUM” Committee, whose members supposedly take large donations from developers and then grant those same developers large financial favors.

The inappropriate backroom deals enrich developers and substantially fatten their bottom lines by granting developers exemptions from land-use rules to build far bigger and taler buildings than the zoning allows.

“We’re glad to see Huizar placed on the sidelines while the authorities pore over thousands of pages of documents seized at his home and various city offices,” said Jill Stewart, executive director of Coalition to Preserve LA. “We hope the FBI takes a close look at pay-to-play within the PLUM Committee and on the entire City Council. Luxury housing developers today use LA as a giant playground of massive profits, displacing people and ruining the environment.”

The Coalition issued a March 2017 study of the “pay-to-play” system and found developers are showering City Council members with cash, and then get to “play” a closed-door game with city officials, manipulating the land use rules. Read the report here, at the Coalition to Preserve LA website.

In private meetings, the study found, City Council members help developers find ways to get around zoning rules to erect massive buildings — mostly luxury housing — even while accepting cash from the same developers, for their political campaigns.

The study is titled, “Pay to Play in the City of Los Angeles: Money Goes in, Favors Go Out, We all Pay the Price: Who do L.A. City Leaders Work For?” It found that closed meetings go on for months between developers, City Council members, their own personal staffs, and Department of City Planning staff. Then, a “news” story is released to the public and Neighborhood Councils, announcing a “new development” proposal.

“In fact, the public is informed when the development deal is all but done,” said Stewart. “Communities are forced into an adversarial role by this non-transparent, money-driven, sleight-of-hand by the City Council. And the PLUM Committee plays a key role.”

First Bridge Home — El Pueblo — to Open Monday

5
(All photos are courtesy of the Office of the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.)
Nestled between the freeway and on ramps, five trailers are set to provide Los Angeles with its first “Bridge Home” project. Three trailers will be for residents, one for services, and one for a combination laundry, restroom, and shower facility.

Los Angeles’s first “Bridge Home” will officially open Monday, 10 September, and provide a home for 45 homeless individuals until they secure permanent housing. Dignitaries gathered this week to showcase El Pueblo as the first of its kind.

Located near the El Pueblo Historical Monument, the housing located at 711 N. Alameda St. is the first of a series of projects planned for construction across Los Angeles to bring homeless people indoors. To date, dozens of sites across the city are being explored by the City Council.

beds

Bathroom, shower, laundry room.

Bathroom, shower, laundry room.

Bridge Home sites are intended to offer immediate beds, showers, mental health services, restrooms, storage facilities, and pet accommodations until permanent housing can be obtained. Supportive services will be part of the package at each site.

“We are here to help people in desperate need get themselves on a bridge that goes in one direction — toward housing and healing,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Angelenos have freed up more resources than ever before to help our homeless neighbors recover from the trauma and poverty that forces them onto the streets. Today, we have one message for the men and women who will soon move into this facility: Welcome home.”

Workers prepare tables and chairs for the common area under the awning where people will eat and gather.

Workers prepare tables and chairs for the common area under the awning where people will eat and gather.

This site will be occupied by people from existing, high-density encampments in the immediate surrounding area. New residents of the site were identified through unprecedented outreach efforts by specialized teams who walked the streets of the El Pueblo neighborhood every day for the previous three months in order to identify homeless Angelenos already living in the community, and prepare them to move indoors.

“In Council District 14, we have and will continue to work with our partners on creative solutions to end the despair of homelessness,” said Councilmember Jose Huizar, co-author of Measure HHH, and a leading voice on the City Council in addressing homelessness. “Given that we are blocks from Skid Row, the largest homeless encampment in the nation, it is fitting that the City’s first Bridge Home site be located in Downtown. Let hopelessness end here for these residents, and let’s open our City’s collective arms and share that hope with the thousands more who will follow.”

The site at El Pueblo is run by The People Concern, a social services agency that has operated in and around the Downtown LA area for more than 50 years. The facility is furnished with on-site mental healthcare, substance abuse support, connections to permanent housing, career services, and 24/7 security, and staffed by case managers from The People Concern at all times. It will stand for three years — enough time for the City to build permanent housing.

“A Bridge Home is the community working together to bring services to those who need it most and empower individuals to rebuild their lives,” said John Maceri, CEO of The People Concern.

After the new bridge housing opens its doors and the first 45 residents move in, City Sanitation teams will work to restore spaces previously occupied by encampments into clean and accessible public passageways.

The site was designed pro bono by M. Arthur Gensler Jr. & Associates, and includes a community garden, a pet relief area, offices for meetings with case managers, and an outdoor community space where meals will be served three times a day.

“As architects it was important for us, as part of the Downtown community, to step up and help make this crucial project become a reality,” said Rob Jernigan, Co-Regional Managing Principal at Gensler. “We’re all affected by homelessness and as Angelenos we are proud to play a small role in helping our fellow citizens battling this issue.”

In total, the Mayor’s budget includes more than $450 million in supportive housing, bridge housing, services, and facilities to help homeless Angelenos find their way under a roof and off the streets. That represents a 147% increase over last year.

The Mayor also fought for — and won — funding from the State’s budget surplus to help cities across California find, build, and expand housing for their homeless populations. Thanks to that effort, Los Angeles County alone will receive $166 million from the State to bring our unhoused neighbors indoors.

In April, Mayor Garcetti and the City Council declared an emergency shelter crisis and took advantage of a new State law that enables cities to construct bridge housing — faster than ever before — on any land owned or leased by the City.

In May, Mayor Garcetti signed an Executive Directive requiring City departments to fast-track temporary shelter projects from application to construction, allowing those that meet legal and environmental standards to open their doors in as little as 32 weeks. The City will guide these projects from start to finish.

With Mayor Garcetti’s support, Councilmember Huizar is pushing forward with a plan to identify other emergency locations in Downtown LA to house approximately 2,000 unsheltered Skid Row residents in City-owned buildings or available private properties — such as the old Children’s Museum located at the Civic Center near City Hall, and a private lot on Paloma Street, in partnership with LA County.

Do not use PSH Ordinance … where are we now, coach

It is all so confusing! Understand no one is accusing anyone. People just want answers. People are all just trying to find out who is in charge so questions can be asked, answers obtained.

People want to know what the ground rules are for the Venice Median and the Thatcher Yard since now it is known that the PSH (permanent supportive housing) ordinance will not affect either project, yet everyone is acting like the PSH ordinance is or will affect both projects.

David Graham-Casio, chief of staff to Councilman Mike Bonin, said earlier in the month that the PSH Ordinance will not affect the Venice Median Project or the Thatcher Yard Project even if and when the PSH ordinance is passed. Taylor Bazley, Venice deputy for Councilman Mike Bonin, made the same statement at the Venice Neighborhood Council last Tuesday night.

PSH people are those who have a disability (alcohol, drugs, mental, physical ) and are homeless or are chronically homeless without a disability.

PSH Ordinance

PSH Ordinance says 50 percent or more of project units have to be PSH.

PSH Ordinance says PSH units do not require parking.

PSH Ordinance says Affordable units require only 1/2 parking per unit

Venice Median
Number of PSH units designated for the Venice Median is 50 percent plus two units for live-in help, 140 units. This can be changed. Now that the PSH Ordinance is not applicable, how about 2 percent PSH?

The parking requirements must be changed to reflect 1/2 for PSH and 1 for affordable.

Recently Becky Dennison, director of the Venice Community Housing, said no one has to create a new category to provide for low income artists. Yet a motion was made by councilmen Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin to create the artist category. See how confusing it is?

Thatcher Yard
Most confusing of all. Existing rules say yard should be rezoned R-1 which would create 18, (5000-sq-ft) lots. Councilman Mike Bonin says he wants the yard rezoned R1.5. Question is: Can a councilman change zoning when in conflict with City Planning rules?

But assuming he can rezone to R1.5, that would make it 62 units with two 35 percent bonuses for another 21.7 units each … 104 to 106 maximum. When this figure was printed in Venice Update 22 August 2016, Councilman Mike Bonin answered “Nuts.”

“The idea of 106 units of housing at Thatcher Yard and 260 units at the Venice Median (Dell and Pacific) … is something I would never support,” Councilman Mike Bonin wrote.

(The Oxford Triangle where the Thatcher Yard is located consists of approximately 350 residences.)

Yet, when the development crew met residents at the site, the developers mentioned rezoning to R-3, four stories, more than 150 units, 50 percent PSH. All against the Oxford Triangle Specific Plan and the LAMC for zoning.

Those on the inside monitoring the developer say that the developer is now down to around 100 units. David Graham-Caso says developer is “committed to using the existing development process.”

Dennison Takes Issue With Wrede Article; Wrede and Venice Update Answer Dennison

Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing, takes issue with the article Christian Wrede wrote for Venice Update recently, and accuses Venice Update of not checking the facts and printing misinformation.   Both Christian Wrede and the Venice Update have answered Becky Dennison.  Perhaps, all will benefit from the questions and the answers.

Note that opinion pieces are printed in the Update frequently, and they are usually by lined and explain that person’s  view.    Perhaps, we need more people expressing their views regarding the projects proposed for the Venice Median and the Thatcher Yard.

By Christian Wrede

Yesterday, the Executive Director of Venice Community Housing
Corporation (“VCHC”) – which is poised to become the largest developer
in Venice since Abbot Kinney – posted an article on Venice Update
asserting that there were “glaring factual errors” in my recent piece
stating that the “law doesn’t allow” for the use of public funds to
build affordable housing that is reserved exclusively for artists.

VCHC correctly points out that Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code
was revised in 2008 (under pressure from real estate developers) to
create a so-called “artist preference,” allowing (to use VCHC’s words)
for “preferential treatment of several groups of people, including
artists” in affordable housing financed by federal tax credits.

Such tax credits, however, have to be combined with other sources of public or private funding. In Los Angeles, the primary source of municipal funding for affordable housing projects is the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (“AHTF”), which is administered by the Housing and Community Investment Department of LosAngeles (“HCIDLA”) (see City of Los Angeles Affordable Housing Trust Fund Pipeline Regulations, Policies and Procedures, August 1, 2016), whose “Fair Housing Policy” (http://hcidla.lacity.org/fair-housing-policy-regard-disability) expressly states that “applicants for any and all units shall be considered for occupancy without prejudice in regard to race, color, religion, sex … [or] source of income,” even while expressly recognizing that protection based on “source of income” is not provided by federal law.

Thus, the City Council Motion at issue in my article, in which Councilman Huizar – and our very own Councilman Bonin – call on HCIDLA (which currently prohibits preferences based on “source of income”) to work with the City Attorney “to report back on the feasibility of an artists’ affordable housing program, and the steps and department needs required to establish such a program.” No such program currently exists.

VCHC has already admitted that the Venice Median Project will be a financial Frankenstein with more sources of funding than you can shake a stick at – Section 8, Prop HHH, private investors and so on – so it may be that they have found a way to skirt the HCIDLA “Fair Housing Policy,” but that leaves valid questions about the changes Bonin and others are making to city law in the fields of housing and development and the effect that those changes will have on small and vulnerable communities like Venice.

By Venice Update

“There are some glaring factual errors in this week’s article in Update about Venice Community Housing (VCH), ” wrote Dennison.     “I understand there is disagreement about our work and planned expansion of affordable housing in Venice, but I would hope that some basic fact-checking would be done before publishing misinformation about us and our plans.

1. ” The article published on Monday claims that the low-income artist housing that VCH is proposing at Venice-Dell-Pacific (Venice Update refers to this as the Venice Median)  “is not allowed under the law.'”  “This is not true.   No City law or program needs to be created or changed for us to move forward with our plans.   The federal tax credit program, located in Section 42 of the federal tax code and the main source of funding for affordable housing, currently allows preferential treatment for several groups of people, including artists.   H.R. 3221 specifically created the artist preference in 2008.   Therefore, there are affordable artist communities similar to the proposal at Venice-Dell-Pacific already operating in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities.   There is no “VCHC scam”.   Beyond being allowed by law, VCH heard from many community residents that they’d like to see low-income artists included and prioritized for housing at Venice-Dell-Pacific and we are looking forward to doing so.   Please see examples of other low-income artist communities here:      http://www.wavartists.com/ and https://www.bisnow.com/los-angeles/news/affordable-housing/housing-for-las-starving-artists-opens-in-san-pedro-45561.”

Answer:  Question from Venice Update.  Then why did Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mike Bonin create a motion coming before the City Council to allow artists to reside in low-cost affordable housing.  If the law is already there, isn’t the effort by Huizar and Bonin redundant?   Why?

2)  “The same article claimed that the City’s proposed Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance will “exempt Bonin’s housing projects from zoning restrictions, size and density limitations, environmental review and community input,”  wrote Dennison.  “Again, this simply isn’t true.   The implication in the article is that “Bonin’s housing projects” are the communities being proposed on city-owned land, including Venice-Dell-Pacific.   Venice-Dell-Pacific is not covered by the proposed ordinance due to its current zoning.   Therefore, none of the PSH Ordinance’s possible streamlining processes apply to the site or VCH’s project.   The Venice-Dell-Pacific development process includes a full Environmental Impact Report, the highest level of environmental review, and will follow all regular public approval process with the City and Coastal Commission.”

Answer:  Zoning restrictions, size and density have changed as a result of the PSH Ordinance.   There  is no parking  requirement for PSH (It is possible there is a PSH zoning of no car requirement in existence now.) and the ordinance says that one has to provide at least 50 percent PSH for a project.   These are just two differences.   The properties in question are now zoned Open Space for Venice Median and for the Thatcher Yard, Public Facility.  The Venice Median will be rezoned to a zoning similar to R-3 that allows for commercial also.  I believe it is RS-3.  Property will be rezoned to fit the project.

Thatcher Yard.  The PSH ordinance changes completely the rezoning restrictions for any PF property.  Prior to PSH ordinance approval, PF zoned property would be rezoned in accordance with LAMC 12.04.09.B.9 which states:  “Any joint public and private development uses permitted in the most restrictive adjoining zones if approved by the Director utilizing the procedures described in Section 16.05E to H. The phrase “adjoining zones” refers to the zones on properties abutting, across the street or alley from or having a common corner with the subject property. If there are two or more different adjoining zones, then only the uses permitted by the most restrictive zone shall be permitted.”  In this case for the Thatcher Yard, two of the sides are zoned R-1 (most restrictive) and the other side is C4-OX.  

The PSH ordinance comes along and says completely the opposite by stating:

If the joint public and private development is a Qualified Permanent Supportive Housing Project developed pursuant to Section 14.00 A.11 of this Code, the uses and standards permitted by the least restrictive zone within a 1,320 foot radius shall be permitted utilizing the procedures described therein.  The “least” restrictive would be C4-OX, which is 19 stories.

David Graham-Caso, Bonin’s Chief of Staff,  stated in an email to the Venice Update last week  that the PSH ordinance would have no bearing on the PF zoning or development of the Thatcher Yard, even if approved.  Yet, the developers during site inspection, made the statements regarding the site of upward of 3 stories, 150 units, 50 percent PSH–all qualifiers for the PSH ordinance.  There are two contracts to be considered  — the “get together with the community” and then the development contract.  Will both exclude the PSH ordinance?  Graham-Caso says yes.

Thatcher yard, if rezoned in accordance with existing LA municipal codes, would be rezoned R-1 and based on a 5000-sq foot lot, would have approximately 18 houses.

If rezoned to RD-1.5 as the RFQ/P stated and Councilman Mike Bonin stated in the Town Hall, the property would yield 62 units and two 35 percent bonuses of 21.7 each, which would be 62 to 104 or 106.   That is approximately one third the size of the total R-1 Oxford Triangle population.

If rezoned to C4-OX, it is one of the City’s densest.

Note:  Yes, Becky Dennison is concerned about the accuracy of her project and rightly so.  Venetians see the big picture of three large projects in Venice –the Thatcher Yard, the Venice Median, the MTA lot.  These are community changing plans .  The Venice Specific Plan, if followed, doesn’t allow more than two lots being combined. The Venice Median is combining many lots.  The Thatcher Yard will be rezoned what?  One of three options.

 

Huizar Blocks Housing Project in Boyle Heights & Partners with Bonin to Concentrate Development in Venice

By Christian Wrede

As reported in this article from the New York Times, Councilman Huizar blocked a modest Prop HHH housing project in a commercial district in Boyle Heights last month on the grounds that “the nonprofit group promoting th[e] project was trying to muscle through a plan over well-grounded neighborhood concerns.”

“You cannot force a project onto a community at all costs,” Mr. Huizar complained. “A majority of people who live around the project were opposed to it. The people who are in favor of it live someplace else.”

Now, Huizar (who was one of the leading proponents of Prop HHH) is bringing a City Council Motion  – seconded by none other than Mike Bonin — calling on the Housing and Community Investment Department and the City Attorney “to report back on the feasibility of an artists’ affordable housing program” and the “steps required … to establish such a program.”

motion

Why?

Why would Huizar take such an interest in affordable housing for artists so soon after spiking a puny affordable housing development — between a supermarket, a Pizza Hut and a cemetery — in his own district?

Because Venice Community Housing Corporation wants to use the promise of “artist housing” (34 units in all) as a selling point for the massive Venice Median Project (2.8 acres, 150 units, 2 parking structures and 10,500 sq. ft. of “social enterprise” space) at the gateway to Venice Beach.

The one problem with the VCHC scam? The law doesn’t allow it.

“Declaration of Crisis” Means City Can Place Homeless Shelters Anywhere City Wants Other Than Residential

Saturday’s Los Angeles Times had article stating that Councilmen Mike Bonin and Jose Huizar want to extend the recently expired declaration of winter shelter crisis to the full year in order to keep shelters open year round rather than just the winter months.  This will go to the Homeless Committee before the full City Council.  

This year all shelters stayed open an additional month because of the rain.  This motion does not just open shelters year round but the “declaration of a crisis” would:

 1)  allow shelters to be opened as a matter of right on property owned or leased by the City in any zone (not residential) without regard to the number of beds or people served.

2) identify specific zones in commercial and industrial (not residential) areas where shelters could be opened by right on non-government land

The shelter that Venice uses is in SPA 5 called First to Serve  and is located at the West LA National Guard Armory, 1300 Federal Ave.   It has a capacity for 160 beds.  Note that the chart for this shelter shows it had  an average of 71 percent occupancy during the four months from December to end of March.  There were only seven days when shelter was operated over capacity.

This year all the shelters extended their closing time to 31 March because of the rain. Normally, the winter shelters in Los Angeles are open from 1 December to 1 March, 7 days a week from 5 pm to 7 am.  Shelters are strict about the hours. There are bus pickup points throughout Los Angeles for people to go to the shelters and people may walk in but they must abide by the hours listed.  Buses also return people to the pickup point.

Occupants are allowed to take a shower and have an evening meal and a snack in the morning as well as be given hygiene and self-care kits.  They are provided with TB screening/testing,  have access to case management, resource referral and connection to other services.

The chart below is taken the LAHSA public information regarding the winter shelters.  See https://public.tableau.com/views/2016-2017WSPOccupancyDashboard/WSPOccupancy?:embed=y&:loadOrderID=0&:display_count=yes for further definition.

occupancy1

City Council Adopts Mobility Plan 2035

Note: This writer used the bike lane this week for the first time and loved it. Saw maybe five bikes on it between south part of Venice and Ocean Park. Wondered how many cars would have been allowed to move in the lane eliminated, if one was. Santa Monica congestion is relentless

In an historic City Council vote that will help reduce traffic by giving people transportation options other than their cars.

Councilmembers Mike Bonin and José Huizar led efforts to adopt a 20-year mobility plan Tuesday. The plan puts an emphasis on safety, while encouraging and supporting increased pedestrian, public transit and bicycle use in the City of Los Angeles.

As chairmen of the City’s Transportation and Planning & Land Use Management committees, Bonin and Huizar worked with the City’s Transportation and Planning departments to develop and advocate for the 193 page report, which creates a Citywide planning and transportation plan that connects neighborhoods and thoroughfares utilizing a Complete Streets approach to safety improvements.

Councilmembers Bonin and Huizar are widely considered the City’s two biggest proponents of the type of Complete Streets solutions Mobility Plan 2035 proposes.

“When it comes to transportation planning for the City of Los Angeles’ future, Mobility Plan 2035 represents a bold step forward that builds on the work we’ve been doing in recent years where we prioritize multimodal options beyond cars utilizing Complete Streets planning,” said Councilmember Huizar. “While the automobile remains a vital part of our transportation future, so too is our goal to make our roads safer, more efficient and accessible with increased public transportation, pedestrian and bike-focused options. Mobility Plan 2035 does just that.”

“This plan is about giving people safe and convenient transportation options so they aren’t forced to use their cars for every trip they take,” said Bonin. “The more options we give people beyond their cars, the less traffic we are going to have in our neighborhoods. Mobility 2035 is a forward thinking vision for our city that will make Los Angeles a better place to live and work and enjoy.”

The Plan is the first comprehensive update of Los Angeles’ transportation policies since the 1990s and in addition to providing a policy framework for how the city will build streets in the future, the plan will be used to procure grants to help pay for improvements. The Plan went through a thorough public review process, which included interactive workshops, engagement with Neighborhood Councils and online town halls. Each specific project and street enhancement will additionally have its own public participation and approval process.

According to the plan, nearly half (47%) of all trips taken in Los Angeles are less than three miles, but 84% of those trips are taken by car. The Mobility Plan 2035 proposes developing a network of bike lanes, transit lines and pedestrian-friendly streets to help encourage more people to choose to walk, bike or take public transit, taking cars off the road in LA neighborhoods.

“Mobility Plan 2035 aims to give people choices,” said Seleta Reynolds, General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “It delivers a 21st century playbook for street design, establishes safety as our highest priority, and sets in motion a thoughtful community-based process to build the healthiest, most efficient, and beautiful streets we can. At its core, this plan is about strengthening our neighborhoods and local businesses, and keeping us on track to be the most sustainable, resilient city we can be.”

“The City of Los Angeles is leading the way in providing safe and cutting edge transportation options for our citizens,” said Michael LoGrande, General Manager of the City Planning Department. “The adoption of the Mobility Plan today by the City Council is a monumental step forward for LA.”

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