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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Fight Back Venice Analyzes Reese-Davidson (Venice Median) Housing Project

By Fight Back Venice

The Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (“HCHC”), the Venice Community Housing Corporation (“VCHC”) and architects Eric Owen Moss and Eric McNevin last month filed an application with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning for the so-called “Reese Davidson Community” (a.k.a. the “Monster on the Median”). Not a mere housing project – an entire “community.”

The application was filed over the holidays to avoid attention and does not include any signatures of support from surrounding neighbors or any review by the Venice Neighborhood Council, even though the application calls for both.

The Reese Davidson Community is five times larger than the typical supportive housing development and will consume approximately 40 lots on nearly three acres (commonly referred to as the Venice Median) on one of the most heavily trafficked corridors in Venice, immediately adjacent to the historic Venice Canals and just a block off the sand at the very gateway to Venice Beach and the Venice Boardwalk.

True to form, VCHC has only posted a handful of documents on its website, but we collected the plans and the application in their entirety, and the proposed project is even more gruesome (and more profoundly disrespectful to our community) than we feared.

As described in the application, the Community will straddle the Grand Canal, range from 3-5 stories with setbacks of 5 feet (or less), and include:

140 residential units (68 permanent supportive housing (“PSH”) units / 34 general affordable housing units / 34 affordable “live/work lofts” for artists / 4 manager units)

a 4-story parking structure on the lot to the west of the Grand Canal and a 5-story parking structure on the lot to the east of Grand canal (395 – 436 spaces total), with roof top parking that will extend the effective height of the parking structures to 42’

a 67-foot “cantilevered architectural campanile” at the northwest corner of the property (facing the iconic mural of Abbot Kinney)

685 sq. ft. of social services office space

8,220 sq. ft. of retail/restaurant/art studio/community space

According to the application, the total number of occupants and the extent to which “special events” will be hosted on site are “TBD.” There are no clean living, job counseling requirements and, as a matter of law, units cannot be reserved for residents of Venice encampments.

Financial details have not yet been disclosed, but VCHC’s less complex project on Rose Avenue is projected to cost $430,000 per unit not including land, and the Venice Median is conservatively valued at $90 million so the per unit price tag – including land and construction costs – could well be $1 million or more per unit!

In keeping with Eric Owen Moss’s style, the buildings are essentially oversized concrete boxes, and the developers are seeking numerous concessions, including:

exemption from all requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) as to “aesthetic character, shade and shadow, light and glare, and scenic vistas or any other aesthetic impact”

amendments to the Venice Community Plan and the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan converting the Venice Median from “open space” to “commercial” and stripping all references to “open space” on the Venice Median from the Venice Community Plan

an increase of applicable height limits from 22’ to 35’ on the south side of the Project facing the Venice Canals

an increase of applicable height limits to 67’ – and complete elimination of any setback – for the “cantilevered architectural campanile” and corresponding roof access

elimination of the varied roofline requirement

elimination of incremental setback requirements for roofs in excess of 30’

further reduction of substandard sidewalks and roadways on Dell Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Venice Boulevard

It appears HCHC and VCHC are working hand-in-glove with the City to move the project forward as quickly – and surreptitiously – as possible.

The Reese Davidson Community is one of six major homeless projects currently in the pipeline for Venice, and the fourth housing project for which plans were released in 2018.

Fight Back Venice Has This to Say About Town Hall

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The email link is: https://www.fightbackvenice.org/be-heard-venice-inclusion-demand-oct-17/

Ryavec Says City’s Homeless Housing Math Will Short-Change Residents and Homeless

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association and local activist, has written an article claiming that the City’s math of building large apartments for homeless plus the cost of building will short-change both the voter for Measure HHH and the homeless on the streets of Los Angeles.

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By Mark Ryavec

Despite the heartfelt support of Los Angeles residents to house the homeless through their votes for Proposition HHH and Measure H, the math and housing model underpinning the city’s plans will leave over 20,000 people on Los Angeles’ streets for the next 10 years.

Even though there are roughly 25,000 people on the street every night in the city of Los Angeles, Proposition HHH never purported to produce more than 10,000 units of permanent supportive units (i.e., with services) and affordable housing over 10 years, at a cost of $1.9 billion, counting the interest. On its face, HHH alone would have left 15,000 people on the street for 10 years. And this does not account for the thousands already in temporary shelters or living in vehicles who also need permanent housing.

Since its passage, HHH’s purchasing power has been reduced dramatically by increases in construction costs and other factors. Reports show that the $247 million in HHH funds allocated so far will produce about 1,466 permanent supportive units. Extrapolating this data over the life of Prop. HHH shows the city can only produce about 5,686 units from HHH, not 10,000.

This assumes, however, that tax credits, which account for 20% to 70% of each project’s budget, will be bought by corporate investors. As reported in the LA Times several months ago, corporate investors are walking away from tax credits due to their much lower tax burden under the recent $1.5 trillion federal tax reduction act. They simply don’t need the credits to improve their bottom line. If tax credit underwriting diminishes or disappears as expected, the city will see even those 1,466 approved units at risk of not being built, which is already starting to happen in other states.

To the extent that affordable housing developers and city leaders have to double tap the only local source available, Prop. HHH, the total build out would drop below 5,686 units. For example, using 50% as the average percentage of project funding derived from tax credits, the loss of half of the previously anticipated tax credit funds would lower the total units that could be built by HHH to 4,264.

There are two alternatives to address these gaps. The first is for the state of California to ride to the rescue and provide the funds to cover increased construction costs and to replace all lost tax credit funds. While there is talk in Sacramento of directing some of the state’s current budget surplus to fund homeless housing, it is highly unlikely that these funds, after being spread statewide, will allow Los Angeles to build the full complement of 10,000 units.

The second option is previewed in a recent report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. It assumes thousands more permanent placements in market-rate housing using local and federal rent subsidies and an expansion of rapid re-housing — i.e., quickly identifying newly homeless individuals through the Coordinated Entry System and marshalling their own resources along with any needed temporary vouchers or rent subsidies to get them off the street as soon as possible. This approach faces two obstacles: a dearth of market-rate housing and the fact that Los Angeles’ attractive weather and now very public commitment to house the homeless has produced an in-flow from other parts of the state and the nation. (For example, the former director of the Teen Project in Venice told me that over 70% of the young people his agency counseled were from out-of-state.)

In any event, if the city continues to largely pursue efficiency units with kitchens and bathrooms (56% of funded units to date under HHH) or 500- to 600-square-foot one-bedroom apartments (32% of funded units), I expect that roughly 20,000 people will be left on the street for the next 10 years. This is not what the voters thought they were getting.

At one time there were 15,000 single room occupancy (SRO) units in hotels in downtown Los Angeles. These were 80- to 120-square-foot apartments that did not have attached bathrooms — shared toilets and showers were down the hall. These SROs were built between 1890 and 1930 to house railroad employees and itinerant workers, only later in the last century becoming the housing of last resort for the indigent. The SRO Housing Corp., a nonprofit set up years ago to restore and operate these buildings, estimates there are 5,500 SRO units left today in and around Skid Row. (The rest were lost years ago when owners decided to demolish them instead of laying out the funds to meet then-new city structural, safety and health codes.)

Another model that is successful in generating far more beds than the model favored by traditional housing providers is the collaborative housing developed by SHARE!, a nonprofit that typically houses four former homeless people at a time in two-bedroom apartments, dormitory-style.

While some city council members engage in surreal proposals to shelter all the homeless by December of this year, I believe the city should redirect the bulk of HHH funds to replace the roughly 10,000 SRO that have been lost. It is clear that the city can house many thousands more in SROs than with the traditional one-bedroom, 600-square-foot model or even 350-square-foot efficiency apartments.

The city should also set a limit on what it will pay for land so that the most efficient use is made of every HHH dollar. For example, city officials should abandon plans to put 136 apartments — of which more than half would be 600 square feet or larger — on city-owned land one block from Venice Beach, some of the priciest land in Los Angeles. This land at Venice and Pacific avenues, currently an expansive city parking lot for beach visitors, could fetch maybe $50 million to $90 million if sold, depending on the building entitlements the city allowed a developer. Nonprofits granted these funds could build six times as many SRO units on less-expensive land elsewhere in the city, which would house 816 people instead of just 136.

To honor both those who are languishing on the street and homeowners who voted in good faith to tax themselves in order to house the homeless, city leaders should make an immediate course correction and downsize the footprints of affordable housing units in order to increase the number of homeless who can be housed.

 

 

 

 

“Fair Share” for CD11 Supportive Housing is Not Dumping It All in Venice — Fight Back Venice — How About Geographic Equity?

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To join the FBV Team send email to volunteer@fightbackvenice.org.  The link above does not work.

Fight Back Venice Lists Events That Affect Venetians

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If you want to donate to Fight Back Venice; if you want to join the FBV team, email “volunteer@fightbackvenice.org.

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Fight Back Venice Addresses the Week of Activities

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Planning Commission’s Staff Report on PSH Ordinance Debunks VCHC Falsehoods

By Fight Back Venice (FBV)

For months, the Venice Community Housing Corporation has been leading Venice residents to believe that the PSH Ordinance does not apply to the Venice Median Project; that space will be reserved in the Venice Median Project for “local” artists and homeless; and that, at 140 units, the size of the Venice Median Projects is appropriate. As set forth below, the Recommendation Report prepared by the Planning Department Staff in connection with the PSH Ordinance proves none of that is true.

• The PSH Ordinance Does Apply to the Venice Median Project: As set forth on A-8 of the Staff Report and in the Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration for the PSH Ordinance, the PSH Ordinance affects “all parcels in the City of Los Angeles zoned for multifamily residential use and located within High Quality Transit Areas (HQTA).” As unbelievable as it may seem, virtually all of Venice falls in an HQTA (see Staff Report at A-8) and the Venice Community Housing Corporation has already indicated that it intends to rezone the Venice Median from “open space” to RAS3, a high-density, mixed-used designation that allows for “multifamily residential use.” Thus, the PSH Ordinance does apply to the Venice Median Project. Indeed, page A-11 of the Staff Report admits as much, stating disingenuously that “[i]t is not clear the extent to which the proposed ordinance may apply to any projects proposed for [the Venice Median or Thatcher Yard] sites,” without denying that, depending on the parameters of each project, the PSH Ordinance could very well apply to both. Indeed, the one and only reason provided in the Staff Report as to why the PSH Ordinance would not apply to the Venice Median Project is that the Venice Median’s current “open space” zoning does not allow for residential development, but as noted above, that zoning is going to be changed.

• By Law, No Space in the Venice Median Project Can Be Reserved for Venice “Locals”—Homeless, Artists or Otherwise: The Venice Community Housing Corporation talks about setting “POSH” lofts aside for “local artists” and reserving (smaller and less hip) apartments for members of the local homeless community, but page P-6 of the Staff Report expressly states that space cannot lawfully be reserved for Venice residents to the exclusion of people who reside elsewhere and that supportive housing developments, like the Venice Median Project, that receive “funding from local government will be required to utilize the Coordinated Entry System” to ensure “centralized intake” from “all service providers and outreach teams in the County.”

• Even in New York City, the Median Size of PSH Projects Is Just 48 Units: The only evidence cited in the Staff Report to show that permanent supportive housing does not adversely affect property values is a 2008 study of housing projects in New York City. As set forth in that study, however, the average size of the 123 supportive housing projects that opened in ultra-high-density New York City between 1985 and 2003 is just 48 units—slightly larger than public housing projects in Santa Monica (35 units) but just one third the size of the Venice Median Project (140 units), the Thatcher Yard Project (150 units), and, most likely, the MTA Lot Project (which will sit on 3.5 acres and is likely to be 100% affordable/PSH Housing). Needless to say, the study provides no meaningful information at all as to Venice property values, but it shows, yet again, that despite assurances from the Venice Community Housing Corporation, all of the projects planned for Venice are way, way too big.

FBV calls on the Venice Community Housing Corporation to come clean on all three of these crucial issues so the free people of Venice can make informed decisions about the future of their community.

THE FBV “BE HEARD” EMAIL PLATFORM IS WORKING…BUT WE ARE OUTNUMBERED AT HEARINGS

According to the Staff Report, the Planning Department “received more than 670 public comment letters” in connection with the PSH Ordinance—80% of which were opposed to the ordinance and the “vast majority” of which pertained specifically to the Venice Median and Thatcher Yard Projects.

So the good news is that our “Be Heard” email platform—through which more than 250 emails in opposition to the PSH Ordinance were delivered to the City—is working. Our friends at the Oxford Triangle Association submitted a similar number of emails through their platform, bringing the Venice total to more than 500 emails in opposition to the PSH Ordinance. Thank you, again, to all who participated in this important effort.

The bad news, though, is that opponents of the PSH Ordinance have apparently been outnumbered by supporters—largely paid activists with lots of free time during the day— at hearings by more than 2 to 1.

We can’t let paid activists dictate the future of our communities! Please join us on December 14!

THEN WHY IS VIRTUALLY ALL OF THE PSH HOUSING IN DISTRICT 11 IN VENICE?

“It is important that all areas of the City provide a fair share of PSH.”

Department of City Planning, Recommendation Report, Case No. CPC-2017-3136-CA, page A-9.

Fight Back Venice Starts “Did You Know”

Fight Back Venice, a group of Venetians who represent the Venice Median project, has started a “Did You Know” of interesting facts concerning the homeless, publicly funded projects and more.

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Here are the links to the articles

View Article
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-friedersdorf-venice-homeless-bathroom-20171120-story.html

View Statement

The Atlantic
https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/05/affordable-housing-for-white-people/483444/

New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/05/opinion/who-gets-the-subsidized-apartments.html

Englander
http://www.dailynews.com/2017/11/27/the-response-to-homelessness-is-criminal/

Members of FBV Hand Out Literature about Venice Median

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Darryl DuFay and Chris Wrede of Fight Back Venice (FBV) pass out literature at the Venice Farmer’s Market regarding the proposed 140-unit Venice Median project that will be both affordable and permanent supportive housing.