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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Two Homeless Update Meets: 8 September, Upate Plus Community Input; 15 September, Westminster Senior Center Storage Plan

September_8_Venice_Homelessness_Meeting_Flyer

Councilman Mike Bonin will hold a community input meet 8 September, 7 to 9 pm, Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. to update community on his 18-point plan to end homelessness in Venice but mainly it is to hear input from the community. RSVP to councilman.

Councilman Mike Bonin will then meet 15 September, 6 to 8 pm, Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd, to focus specifically on the proposal for the Westminster Senior Center.

“The purpose of this meeting will be for neighbors to meet directly with LAHSA and Chrysalis (which will be operating storage and enrolling people who use the storage for services and housing) to discuss ground rules (i.e. operating hours) that will help make the storage facility a better fit in the neighborhood,” according to David Graham-Caso, communications director for Councilman Mike Bonin. RSVP to councilman.

Councilman Meets with Canal Residents about Venice Median

By Darryl DuFay, editor Voice of Canals

“I’m Done With Something Not being Done,” said Councilman Mike Bonin.

I start this Informative with that statement from Councilman Mike Bonin.

On Tuesday evening, August 23rd, Councilman Mike Bonin held a public community meeting in the Venice Canals on his proposal for Homeless Housing on the public parking lot on Venice Blvd. between Pacific Ave. and Dell Ave. The meeting was with the leadership of the Venice Canals’ two community organizations, the Voice of the Canals (VOC) and Venice Canals Association (VCA). Twenty-three people attended at the home of the president of the VOC Marjorie Weitzman. Also attending, was Josie Scibetta, president of the VCA. Mike’s staff was in attendance: Taylor Bazley, Venice Field Deputy, Debbie Dyner, District Director, Ezra Gale, Senior Planner for Projects, and Chuy Orozco, Del Rey/Playa Vista Rep. Also in attendance was Will Hawkins, VNC At-Large Officer, who lives in the canals.

The hour and a half was filled with Mike’s opening presentation and wide ranging question and concerns from the audience. Here is a “brief” summary in no special order:

—Mike gave an historical background on homelessness in Venice with emphasize that homeless population has changed. It is younger and less “rooted” to the community.

—LA has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country. There has been an 87% increase in encampments in LA. Note: The 2016 Homeless Survey listed the top four reasons for homelessness in our Council District 11: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Physical Disability, and Domestic Violence. Venice, one of the 10 communities of CD11, has 35% of the CD11 homeless.

—Court decisions, especially in the “Jones” case, say that homelessness cannot be criminalized. A settlement outside of a trial to provide 1,250 units to allow the City to return to some enforcement towards sleeping on sidewalks, public land, etc. is still in flux. Attorney Carol Ann Sobel and Community Activist Mark Ryavec are at odds on this issue. The City remains “handcuffed” in enforcement options.

—There is an absolute need to provide more permanent homeless housing. The City of Los Angeles has sent out to builders, contractor, etc. a “Request for Qualifications and Proposals” RFQ/P for “Affordable Housing Opportunity Site for 12 properties. Two are in Venice. Venice Blvd parking lot and Thatcher Yard in the Oxford Triangle. The proposals are to be returned on September 15th. No one knows what they will be, nor their size. Mike has said those proposals that meet the construction specifications will be “vetted” by the communities and Venice Neighborhood Council for their practicability, location’s desirability, and type of homeless population to be served. That will be an “interesting” undertaking. There was an observation that the Venice parking lot could take up to three years to develop. This is partly because it is the “dual jurisdictional” area of the City of Los Angeles and Coastal Commission and that takes time. However, no one really knows. Some developer might have it “all together” and you could see something happen in a year or so. Time is money.

Mike discussed “intermediate” and “long range” actions. Intermediate to involved a move from 12-hour Shelters to 24-hour “Bridge Housing.” The Storage of homeless belongs such as at the Westminster Senior Center is part of this effort. Emphasis however is on “long range” permanent housing. He spoke very highly about the “HousingFirst” concept of housing with services. Also of note, a recent decision by the Federal government to terminate funds for “transitional housing” and focus on “permanent housing” is of concern. He also had photos of three projects in Venice of permanent housing.

Discussion of “housing and service resistant” homeless people. Many are afraid of their fellow comrades in close quarters, some just want to be “out and about.” Also discussed the “transient/vacation” homeless. No good statistics on this, but that is not to say it is insignificant.

The City and County are now working together on Homelessness. A multiple strategies document has been produced. It it “mammoth” in its reach. The costs over ten years is way over one billion dollars. The County is responsible for health services, the City the structures involved.

Question asked about selling the parking lot property. Such a sale has a number of number of steps. First choice on the property are other agencies within the city government for their use. If the property is sold the money will go into the long existing Venice Surplus Fund. This fund can ONLY be used for projects in Venice.

Will Hawkins asked probing questions about what can be done now, mentioning illegal drug violations on the beach as something that should be enforced. This then led to a discussion of the present atmosphere surrounding law enforcement in general and specifically their interaction with the homeless. The situations are so fluid, atmosphere often hostile with media attention overwhelming, and potential lawsuits possible. If there is some reluctance to enforcement it is understandable.

The successful work with the homeless of the Foursquare Weller Chaplains and Laura Burn’s Teen Project among others was mentioned. Also, there is a brand new program of the LAPD called “HOPE” for working with the homeless. Don’t know much about it.

The Business Improvement District (BID) program, with 74% participation, will be approved.

It was a good and informative meeting. And, use of the word complex to describe it is an understatement.

Mike announced that he will have another community-wide meeting at Westminster School on Homelessness in early September.

“Washington Square” BIG Gets Dedicated

WashSquare
(Photo courtesy of David Graham-Caso.)

Washington Square Business Improvement Group (BIG) comprises business owners in the first block of the beach at the end of Washington Blvd. Their official dedication was 17 August at 8:30 am given by Councilman Mike Bonin.

Their purpose is to promote and market the street as well as improve safety, parking, and provide community outreach.

Murez Proposes Place to Build for Homeless and Jobs for Homeless

By Jim Murez

Maybe I’m missing something in the Councilman’s plans to create homeless housing in Venice but it seems to be that all of these so called projects are transitional solutions. To me this means the general public will foot the bill to help people who are living on the street get into programs that will help them to rejoin the American work force. Once a homeless person gets shelter the next step is to help them get a job.

Well from a very simplistic point of view, it seems to me many of the homeless will be starting out at the bottom of the jobs market. And to that end, they need entry level jobs that don’t require a lot of education or training.

Back when Playa-Vista was being developed, Challis and others fought hard to get a jobs program included in all aspects of the construction phase. The program was called PV Jobs. It was a success and for all I know maybe it is still going.

Note: Challis Macpherson said before she died that PVjobs had been so successful that it had gone statewide and probably was on its way to be a national program.

But what about the Councilman proposals, where will the jobs be for the homeless in Venice? I ask this question because traffic is already bad enough so commuting should not be considered in my opinion. But even if commuting was an option, who would pay for the transportation and still the bigger question, where are the jobs goes unanswered.

The City owns 340 acres next to LAX that is slated to become a park and an office complex. The land is deed restricted by the FAA and cannot have housing built there. But nearly abutting this huge site are a bunch of LA City office buildings and an existing park on land that is NOT deed restricted. The site is at Lincoln and Manchester, also referred to as Westchester Park and gold course..

Also seems to me LAX is one of the largest employers in Southern California of entry level jobs… these are the people that sweep the floors, clean the bathrooms, handle the luggage, etc.

So I ask the question, why not move the current services that reside on unrestricted land onto the FAA restricted site. Then build all the homeless housing the City can afford and tie the transitional element of the project into LAX jobs?

Something to consider.

106 Units for Yard; 260 for Venice Median Says RFQ/P

Yard 5.02.55 PM
City Maintenance Yard on Thatcher getting new, 8-foot, blue wrought-iron fencing.

Venice Parking
Venice Median between North and South Venice Blvd at Pacific. Present parking to be maintained.

There will be 106 units on the City Maintenance Yard on Thatcher and 260 on the Venice median parking lot between north and south Venice Blvd, according to the Request for Qualifications/Proposal (RFQ/P) sent out by the City Administrative Officer (CAO) to prospective builders.

Prospective builders will be visiting the Venice median and Thatcher Yard Wednesday morning.

The “Yard” will be rezoned from public facility to RD1.5, and with 93,347 square feet and two 35-percent density bonuses, will have 106 units. The “Venice Median” will be rezoned from Open Space to R-3, and with 122,171 square feet and two 35-percent density bonuses, will get 260 units.

Bonin May Sell the Two Projects

Councilman Mike Bonin said he would check the figures for both projects as to whether one or both would be more feasible for selling, taking the money, and building elsewhere.

One would only think this would be the case since both are less than a 1000 feet from the ocean. How could one justify putting the homeless there,  when the taxpayer paying for this,  could not afford living there.

Both Projects Would Require Changes to General Plan

Both would require changes to the general plan. The general plan takes into consideration infrastructure to support such a change (sewers, roads to accommodate, traffic to bare the brunt, effects on neighborhoods as well as the total scene, and whether the other zoning was more important for the City, etc.

In the case of the Thatcher Yard, an extra hundred units increases the present neighborhood 30 percent from 350 to 450. And with only ingress/egress access via Washington for 450 dwellings plus being next to Lincoln, is a receipe for disaster. Balanced with those infrastructure problems and the fact that a facility might be more feasible for the location, may deter any rezoning.

An additional 260 units at Venice Blvd would probably deter people from coming to the beach at all. There is the Expo line in Santa Monica which makes Santa Monica more accessible. Venice can be reached by bus and by car. Access to the Venice Beach parking lot is critical for Venice Beach. Venetians all know what the beach is like in the summer. Rebuilding of the lot would contain the present number of parking spaces. But with all the activity of 260 more units would people have access to the Venice parking lot?

RFQ/P Defines Affordable Types

Bonin did say that the Venice Median would be for homeless and the Yard for affordable housing. The RFQ/P defines the housing to be built and refers to them all as affordable.

The following housing types have been identified for the Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites:

Permanent Supportive Housing

This is a type of Affordable Multifamily Housing that is directly targeted to formerly homeless individuals or others who need intensive services. Permanent Supportive Housing is targeted to people who are homeless or chronically homeless. A homeless person is typically living on the streets, in a car, or in a shelter. A chronically homeless person has been homeless for a year or more or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years and has a disabling condition. These disabling conditions include physical health conditions, mental health issues, and substance addiction. Permanent Supportive Housing is characterized by significant operating subsidies that allow residents to pay no more than 30% of their income in rent, even if their income is low or nonexistent.

Another characteristic of Permanent Supportive Housing is that each resident has a case manager who connects the resident with existing programs in the community. A third characteristic is that some services are delivered on site. On site services may include life skills training, job training, and mental health counseling. Usually Permanent Supportive Housing does not require sobriety, participation in counseling is usually voluntary, and the housing is usually intended to be permanent, not time-limited or transitional. Permanent Supportive Housing has been shown to successfully stabilize residents, and it reduces the need for high-cost crisis care.

Typical financing sources for Permanent Supportive Housing include 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit, County NOFA funds, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, HUD or County operating subsidy, and grant-funded services.

Affordable Multifamily Housing

For this type, Developers should propose housing that is affordable to households with a range of income levels. For housing that is targeted to families, at least 25% of the units should have 3 or more bedrooms. Unit sizes must be as follows:
Unit Type Minimum Size Minimum Number of Bathrooms
One Bedroom 500 s.f. One-bath minimum
Two Bedroom 750 s.f. One-bath minimum
Three Bedroom 1,000 s.f. One-bath minimum
Four Bedroom 1,200 s.f. Two-bath minimum

This housing type may also include housing for seniors, people with disabilities and/or people with special needs. Amenities must include outdoor play / recreational facilities, appropriately sized common areas and laundry facilities. See the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee’s 2016 9% Competitive Tax Credit Application for reference.

Mixed-Income Housing

Mixed-income housing developments include both market rate and subsidized affordable units. Unit sizes for the affordable units must follow the minimum size guidelines for Affordable Multifamily Housing. There is no minimum unit size for the market rate units. Amenities must include appropriately sized common areas and laundry facilities.

Affordable Homeownership

Developers should assume all subsidized units have covenants or other mechanisms to ensure that the subsidy remains with the project. There are no minimum size requirements or amenities for this building type.

Innovative Methods of Housing

Micro Housing, Stacked Modular Housing and Manufactured Housing are examples of types of innovative methods that would be considered under this RFQ/P. All innovative methods must meet City zoning code and building standards, as well as State codes where applicable.

“Safe Parking” Passes Committee, City Council Next

School1 On Main next to Westminster Elementary School.

school2Man with his mattress next to bus stop on Main and next to Westminster Elementary School.

Councilman Mike Bonin’s proposed “Safe Parking” program, which will prohibit homeless from parking in residential areas and near schools, was approved by the Homeless and Poverty Committee and will go before the City Council after the City Council summer recess, according to David Graham-Caso, communications director for Councilman Bonin.

John Betz, an activist who lives in Westminster Senior Center area, consistently is reporting the area conditions around Westminster Senior Center and Westminster Elementary School and he has a following who read his weekly reports.  The two photos are examples of what he sees daily.

The  “Safe Parking” program that Bonin proposes would be for one year to get the RV and car livers away from schools and residential areas.  Bonin is hoping to find other areas and designate them for “homeless” parking.  Other areas would be church parking lots, etc.  If that is not possible within one year, then the “Safe Parking” program would dissolve and parking would be back on the streets.

 

 

 

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.

City to Pre-qualify Builders for Affordable/Homeless Housing

Rumors and statements abound in Venice regarding the Thatcher Yard and the Venice Median parking lot between Dell and Pacific, properties that Councilman Mike Bonin identified for affordable housing and homeless housing, respectively.

The latest is that builders are being pre-qualified for these properties and there have been no public hearings. The council office was queried of such action. Debbie Dyner-Harris, district director for Councilman Mike Bonin, issued the following statement clarifying the procedure.

The City Administrative Officer (CAO) has identified eight potential development sites throughout the City (including Thatcher Yard and the Dell/Pacific parking lots). Rather than issue eight separate Request for Proposals (RFP) for those lots, the idea is to pre-qualify developers who would be qualified to do work in the City. Once we get them and see their visions for any of the sites, we’ll try to do a match up, kind of like setting up blind dates. If someone has a vision for a property that matches what we may want to do in Venice, then they would be assigned to Venice.

We’d then start the community meeting and input process, trying to match everyone’s vision for what makes sense at each site. If we can’t make a match, then we can find another blind date.

I can imagine this may not be a simple process for some, but it actually greatly simplifies it for the City. The thought of eight RFP with who knows how many bidders for each site, I think, was just too much for the CAO office.

I hope this clears it a bit.

Venice Homeless Count—DOWN 11.6 Percent; CD11 Up 7.2 Percent

Venice homelessness decreased 11.6 percent  from 2015 to 2016, according to figures supplied by Los angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).  Total number of homeless people  in Venice was 889 for 2016. For the same time period in 2015, the count was 1006.

CD11 homeless count for 2016, on the other hand,  was up 7.2 percent from 2015 at 2529.  The previous year count was 2359.

2013 - 2015 figruresjpg

Normally, LAHSA does the count every two years, but because of the significant increase in the homeless count from 2013 to 2015 in Los Angeles, it was decided to do the count in 2016.

Total number of homeless people in 2016 in City and County gets confusing because of lack of an apples-to-apples comparison. There was an  error in the original release of figures and then an apples-to-apples controversy.  The confusing numbers stories can be found in these two stories–one for City and County and the other for CD11 and Venice.

 

 

 

 

 

Bonin, Sobel, Ordundo, Shannon on Panel to Discuss Homelessness

Panel
Carol Sobel, advocate and attorney for the homeless; Councilman Mike Bonin; Alisa Ordundo, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Homelessness Policy Director; and Susan Shannon, of Department of Public Social Services.

Note: This reporter had no intention of covering the panel discussion. Just wanted to attend and listen. Ended up taking notes to pass along.

The four comprised a panel discussing homelessness and what to do about it at a local Democratic club.

Carol Sobel, advocate and attorney for the homeless, said she tried to prevent confiscation of private property and criminalization of homelessness.

Regarding funding, it was stated that the Governor did not want to declare a state of emergency, county wanted a millionaire’s tax, and the city wanted a fee on developers and a bond on the November ballot.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who was lauded as the councilman spearheading help for the homeless, mentioned that two of the eight City lots identified for sale or development were in Venice. He said the City will provide the land and the county will provide the services. The City plans to either build on the City property or sell and build elsewhere.

Susan Shannon mentioned “Brilliant Corners” which finds places for individuals and guarantees to landlords that the apartment will be in present shape when vacated, provides supportive services to tenant, and is paid for by vouchers. Another program she mentioned was the “Master Lease” which takes over a building and fills it with homeless and provides them services.

Councilman Mike Bonin mentioned the “Safe Parking” program as one of the new programs he is proposing. He wants to designate commercial, industrial properties as a safe place for motor homes amd people who live in cars to park during certain hours. This will last one year until safe parking areas are identified, such as parking lots in church lots, empty parking lots, etc. Bonin said there were 4600 in vehicles in Los Angeles. The ordinance is to be considered this week. See LA Times story http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-car-ban-20160623-snap-story.html

One of the panelists mentioned that it saves the city $25 to 35K per year when a homeless person is put in permanent supportive housing. Someone mentioned that the Veterans Administration is finally helping to reduce the number of veterans on the street.

The plan is to house people first and then give them services. This was tried as Project 50 and was successful. There is also a plan to place those with animals. Right now it is hard to find places for people with drug or alcohol problems or with an animal.

Someone brought up the situation with Manchester Square where approximately 100 motor homes will be displaced when work starts on the LAX project. All agreed this was a problem because these people had established community and finding places for them would not be easy.

All panelists agreed that every method needed to be tried, not just one.

All panelists agreed that homelessness is a situation, not an identity.

All panelists also agreed that now was the time.