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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Dennison Clarifies Misconceptions, Answers Questions About Venice Median Project

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Side view of Venice Median project that is proposed for the area between North and South Venice Blvd, Pacific and Dell.

By Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing

Venice Community Housing, Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and Eric Owen Moss Architects look forward to helping alleviate the City’s housing and homelessness crisis, as well as promoting the arts and adding other benefits to the Venice community, through a well-designed and well-managed affordable and permanent supportive housing community on the parking lots at Venice-Dell-Pacific.

We are working to incorporate community feedback into the preliminary design proposals, moving closer to final designs, and preparing other documents for the City’s approval process. There are no large community engagement events scheduled for August and September, however, we are attending smaller events upon invitation.  Please reach out any time to venicedellpacific@vchcorp.org to invite representatives of our team to discuss the project, timeline, or other related issues.

If you are new to this list, please visit VCH’s website at www.vchcorp.org for background information on this site and proposed project, as well as previous Q&A.

Correcting Errors and Clarifying Plans

The Venice-Dell-Pacific team recommends that people join this email list and/or visit www.vchcorp.org to access up to date and accurate information about our plans for the site.  All information distributed by our team will have our names and contact information on it.  In response to many people inquiring about recent information being distributed via flyers and websites without contact information, one purpose of this email is to respond to some misinformation about the site and our plans.   Please reach out to us anytime for updated information, or to clarify other information received.

Zoning/Height Misinformation: A height of 45 feet will be allowed due to planned commercial uses.

Clarification:  It is likely that we will be applying for RAS3 zoning to accommodate for non-residential uses such as community arts space and micro-enterprise/small scale retail.    However, height limits specified in the Venice Specific Plan apply regardless of zoning designation, and are limited to a maximum of 35 feet for this site.

Setbacks and Density Misinformation:  The property is being designed without setbacks from the sidewalk and to maximize density.

Clarification:  The current design approach provides a range of setbacks, with a minimum of a five foot setback provided around the perimeter of the site.   A 15 foot setback is proposed along the canal and a number of areas on the ground level are intermittently deepened to be up to 30 feet from the property line.   The current design approach also includes a varied roofline, with heights ranging from 25 to 35 feet.   This approach meets or exceeds all setback requirements and height limits in the Venice Specific Plan, and therefore does not maximize density.

Design/Final Renderings Misinformation:  The designs/visuals presented at prior public meetings are final, and represent what the project will look like.

Clarification:  We do not yet have a final design or final renderings.  Early-stage project massings, which show a general shape and size of a building without details, were shared for conversational and community input purposes at a workshop in July.   Photos of those preliminary drawings have been shared by others as if they are actual project designs or renderings, and they are not.   More detailed designs will be included in the application for City approvals, and the designs may continue to evolve throughout the approval process.

Number of Units and People Misinformation:  The proposed project will house 500 people.

Clarification:  The current proposal includes 140 units, a combination of studios (including artist lofts), one bedrooms and two bedrooms.   The exact combination of unit sizes has yet to be finalized, but using best estimates and VCH’s current occupancy rates, including the reality that most formerly homeless individuals live alone, the estimated number of people that will likely be housed at the site is about 250 – 275.   Even if every unit, as currently configured, had the maximum number of occupants, the maximum total residents would be 420.   Neither HCHC nor VCH has experienced any building maximizing its occupancy, and don’t expect that at Venice-Dell-Pacific.

Project Cost Misinformation:  The cost per unit will be $700,000, including land costs.

Current Status:  The City is retaining ownership of this land, preserving the current parking use, and adding value to the land by including other uses including the urgent Citywide need for affordable housing.   Therefore, estimates being circulated of “$700,000 including land value” are inaccurate, as there is no transfer or sale of the land.  In our application to the City, we estimated total development costs (including construction, permits and fees, necessary consultants, required building reserves, and other costs) at $340,000.   We will release updated estimates as plans and financing are closer to finalized.   The average cost of building permanent supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles is between $350,000 and $400,000 per unit, but the savings in public funds associated with providing long-term housing to homeless people far outweighs the upfront cost.

Non-Profit Affordable Housing Development Misinformation:   The development team includes corporations that stand to profit from the project and/or can sell the buildings at market rate.

Clarification:  Both Venice Community Housing Corporation and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation are non-profit affordable housing developers, and in accordance with our respective articles of incorporation, we are obligated to irrevocably dedicate this property, and all of our properties and funds, to charitable and public purposes.   The buildings on this site will be required to be used as affordable housing for at least 55 years.

Environmental and Traffic Analysis Current Status:  An Environmental Impact Report, including traffic analysis, will be completed for this project.   It is not complete now, because it is related to the final project proposal and will take about 12 months to complete both the study and the public approvals of the report.   The reports are public documents, and require public hearings and City approval.   Updates on the progress and public input opportunities will be announced on this email list.

Recently Submitted Q&A

Questions and other input can be submitted to venicedellpacific@vchcorp.org. Will units for people with disabilities be included at this site?

Yes.  At a minimum, we will provide a specific number of units that are fully accessible, along with accessible common areas, as required by law.  We are also likely to use funding for development and/or rental subsidies that further target and/or prioritize people with disabilities, such as the new No Place Like Home state funds, the County’s Housing for Health program, and others.  However, we are not yet at the point of financing the project, so the specifics of the populations to be served aren’t yet known.  We will keep people updated as we go through the process, but it is certain that people with disabilities will be served by this project.

Will the City have public hearings to discuss what goes into the Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA)? 

In our experience, the City generally does not hold public hearings to inform the content of a DDA in advance of drafting.  However, there is a public approval process for any DDA, which includes public testimony.

Your website states that an application to develop the site will be submitted to the City in September.  Does this mean all public input on design and other related work is over?  Does this mean that at this time we will know what the project is going to look like, number of units, square footage, etc.? Does it make sense to apply to develop the site now if the development agreement has not been approved yet? 

The project approvals will likely take 12 – 14 months, and there are a lot of public hearings and other interactions during that time so public input on design and other related work does not end when the application is submitted.   The application will include our proposal details, and is a public document and will be made available.  Lastly, it does make sense to start the process prior to approval of a development agreement, as the development agreement is just one part of the overall approval process.  We need to go through the development process concurrently – not all of the steps happen sequentially.

Becky Dennison Answers Some of the Questions Asked at Venice Median Meet

Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCH), answered some of the questions Friday that people were seeking at the Thursday meet regarding the Venice Median. She said she would continue to update information.

What Exactly Has Been Approved by the City?
In December 2016, the City approved the Venice-Dell-Pacific site to be included in its Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites Program, and has approved Venice Community Housing (VCH) and Hollywood Community Housing Corp. (HCHC) to pursue an affordable and permanent supportive housing development on the site. The City’s program also requires that any development proposal include all existing public parking spaces. In January 2017, the City, VCH and HCHC entered into an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) for the site.

What Has Not Been Approved by the City?
The City has not approved any final project proposal. Once a final project proposal is prepared by the development team, it will have to be approved through all of the regular public approval processes with the City, including the Planning Commission and City Council, as well as the State’s Coastal Commission.

What Exactly Is Being Proposed for the Site?
We are in the process of soliciting community input to prepare a draft project proposal for an affordable and permanent supportive housing development. As of today, there are two main things known about what will definitely be included in the project: 1) Affordable and permanent supportive housing, and 2) All current public parking spots.

Who Is Housed in Affordable and Permanent Supportive Housing?
Permanent supportive housing tenants must be homeless at the time of lease up, and can include families or individuals, people with a variety of disabilities, people with chronic health conditions, people who are chronically homeless (for more than one year and a disability), or other target groups. Affordable housing generally serves people earning between 30% and 60% of the area median income, and can target individuals or families, seniors, lower wage workers, artists, and others. All residents in affordable and permanent supportive housing are tenants, with legal tenant rights and responsibilities.

What Is Not Known about the Development Proposal Yet?
The number of housing units, the affordability levels of the units, and the specific groups to be housed (i.e. Veterans, people with disabilities, families, etc) has not yet been decided. Other amenities to include in the development (i.e. arts spaces, green spaces, community-serving retail, etc.) have not yet been decided. No design decisions have yet been made. Based on this initial phase of community engagement in early 2017, the development team plans to have draft proposal(s) for review and comment in February or March. There will be additional community input gathered on the draft proposal, and then a final proposal

Will the Site be Developed as a Homeless Shelter?
No. The City’s program requires the development of affordable housing. Also, the development team’s missions are to develop permanent, affordable housing. This means that the people who live in the housing planned for this site will be long-term tenants and pay rent.

How Does the County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES) Work?
The CES system created centralized wait lists for permanent supportive housing throughout LA County. Although the CES system is Countywide, the wait lists are regional. This site is in Service Planning Area 5 (SPA 5), and therefore would receive referrals for permanent supportive housing tenants from the SPA 5 wait list, which includes people who are currently without housing and living in Westside communities. CES is not one Countywide wait/referral list.

Why Should We Build Affordable and Permanent Supportive Housing in Venice and Not Other Communities?
Affordable and permanent supportive housing are primarily being built in other communities. There are more than 8,000 permanent supportive housing units (PSH) operating Countywide, and only 42 of them are in Venice. In other Westside communities, Santa Monica has more than 350 PSH units and Del Rey has at least 85 PSH units. The large majority of PSH units have been produced in communities in Downtown Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, and the Valley. There hasn’t been significant affordable housing production in Venice since the 1990s.

Developers/Architects Meet with Venetians to Discuss the Venice Median Project

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Comments By Angela McGregor

There was a large turnout for this meeting, and residents arrived expecting to be able to ask questions and give feedback to the developers, as well as be given some idea of what was to be built. However, the developers — VCHC, HCH, Eric Moss — all insisted there is no plan, even though the documents soliciting proposals for this development (as presented to the crowd by Darryl Dufay) clearly stated that, in order to enter into their agreement to develop the project, they needed to submit at least some idea of what they were proposing to do.

Public discourse was effectively shut down by the way the meeting was organized: Tables were set up around the room labeled “public safety”, “density”, “parking” and so forth and attendees were advised to go to them and scribble their concerns/suggestions on swaths of butcher paper. No one was notified in advance that it would be done this way and so no one came prepared to offer this type of input. I asked two questions of one of the table monitors:

1) You say the comments given on these sheets will be taken into consideration in the planning of this development. If that’s the case, how will they be weighted? What if someone simply doesn’t want another homeless housing development in Venice? Will they be given equal consideration?

2) Why wasn’t the concept of this project first brought before the VNC’s LUPC committee and the VNC, the way any other project being developed in Venice is?

He had no answers for either, but did scribble my questions onto the butcher paper.

Linda Lucks (VCHC representative/former VNC President) later approached me and let me know that there would be “many meetings like this” at which the community would “come together” to design an acceptable project based upon community input. After this, the proposal would go before the LUPC, the VNC, get an EIR, and a Coastal Development Permit. She said this would take “years”.

She also confirmed that all residents of this development will come through the Coordinated Entry System. This means that Venice’s Homeless will not be given priority in being housed in this building, and in fact, we may actually be “importing” chronically homeless and disabled individuals from all over Los Angeles to reside in it.

Cartoon Man Delivers His Cartoons and Comments at Venice Median Meet

Cartoon Man handed out his cartoons and fact sheets on the Venice Homeless Projects Thursday at the Venice Median meet.

Cartoon Man wanted to clarify his position in that he wants people to realize the imbalance of the homeless project placements throughout Bonin’s CD11 district.

Just to clarify, I strongly believe Venice has a important role to play in addressing homelessness. I just think the burden should be distributed evenly across Bonin’s district and other parts of the city. Bonin has 9 initiatives planned for Venice, but none for the Palisades, Brentwood, Mar Vista or Westchester. And he is ramming his plans down our throats without proper communication or process. The interests of Venice renters and homeowners need to be taken into consideration. Bonin is not doing that.

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Venice Median Building Group Meet the Venetians

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Venice Community Housing, Hollywood Community Housing, Eric Owen Moss Architects, and Yasmin Tong Consultant meet with Venetians to get their input regarding the project that will go in the Venice median between North and South Venice Blvd and between Dell and Pacific.

Darryl DuFay, the first chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee for the Venice Neighborhood Council, seemed to sum it up for many by calling it all a “sham.” “You cannot provide input for something that you know nothing about,” he said.

The one thing that is known about the project is that the project must provide for the existing parking which is 177 spaces. Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing, said the project would consist of affordable and permanent supportive housing. It has been said the project would follow the Venice Specific Plan.

The meet was held 12 January at the Westminster Elementary School and had probably more than 200 people. Tables were set up throughout the gym for people to address certain issues such as safety and number of units. The crowd was for the most part against the project because they said there was nothing known about it other than it was required to provide for the existing parking.

Some participated in providing what they wanted the building to do and to look like.

See Angela McGregor’s story and comments.

See Cartoon Man’s cartoons and comments.

Venice Median Homeless Development Workshop 12 January

The Venice Median homeless development meet was originally designated as a Townhall to be held 12 January. Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing, has changed the format to be a “visionary workshop” with an interactive process and discussion. See previous story.

The meet will be Thursday, 12 January 6 to 8:30 pm at Westminster Elementary School.

Dennison of VCH Starts Development Process for Venice Median with Townhall 12 January

Venice Parking

The Venice Median is that area between North and South Venice Blvd and Pacific and Dell Ave.

 

Venice Community Housing Corporation Director Becky Dennison will start the development program for the Venice Median with a Townhall meeting 12 January 6 to 8:30 pm at the Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd.  Dennison has also listed the January thru March development schedule.

The City Council approved the development team of Venice Community Housing (VCH), Hollywood Community Housing Corporation (HCHC), and Eric Owen Moss Architects 14 December to start “a community engagement process to form an affordable and permanent supportive housing development on the parking lots bounded by North and South Venice, and Dell and Pacific Avenues.”

“The City’s program requires housing with appropriate services on the site, as well as the continued inclusion of all current public parking,” according to Becky Dennison.

“It is now up to the community and the development team to explore what exactly this site could or should contribute to Venice! Our goal is to develop a project proposal that makes a substantial impact on the neighborhood’s housing and homelessness crisis and contributes positively to surrounding neighborhoods and Venice as a whole.

To receive future updates on community engagement activities and results, sign up here.

Our initial community engagement process will focus on January through March 2017.  The schedule is as follows:

Townhall meeting, with breakout groups
Thursday, January 12th
6:00 pm – 8:30 pm at Westminster Elementary, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, CA

Westside Coalition Meeting
Thursday, January 19th
9:00 am – 10:30 am at Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 1343 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, CA

Venice Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee
Monday, January 23rd
6:30 PM
Venice Community Housing, YouthBuild classroom, 720 Rose Avenue, Venice, CA

Please note we are working within the standard Venice Neighborhood Council process to ensure full participation within the Council and its Committees.   All VNC agendas are publicly posted, and the format of the meetings are established by the Council and Committees.  Please keep looking for updates on other Neighborhood Council meetings.

Door-knocking and flyering in adjacent neighborhoods
Friday, January 20th from 9 am to 12 pm
Friday, January 27th from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm

Flyering and Input Gathering at Venice Farmer’s Market
Friday, January 6th and 27th, 8 am – 11 am, 500 Venice Blvd (in approved area near entrance/exit)

Building Tours and Discussions
Visit existing developments of all three project partners, and engage in follow up discussions about what could be included or avoided at the Venice-Dell-Pacific site. Please note that RSVPs are required. If more dates are needed, we will add them.

Venice Community Housing developments
Wednesday, January 18th
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
OR
Saturday, January 28th
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
For both VCH tours, meet at 720 Rose Avenue, Venice, CA and send required RSVP to Iisha Jones at ijones@vchcorp.org.

Hollywood Community Housing Corporation developments
Friday, January 20th
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
OR
Saturday, January 21st
10:00 am to 12:00 pm
For both HCHC dates, meet at Views at 270, 1516 N. Western Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90027 and send required RSVP to Malen Rodriguez at mrodriguez@hollywoodhousing.org.

Eric Owen Moss Architects studio and buildings
Thursday, January 26th
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Meet at EOMA Studio, 8557 Higuera St, Culver City, CA and send required RSVP to Joshua Herman at herman@ericowenmoss.com.

Dedicated Email Address (valid through at least March 31, 2016 and possibly ongoing)
Email venicedellpacific@vchcorp.org with comments, ideas, concerns, or questions about the project. Emails will not be responded to individually, but summaries of input and Q&A’s will be shared regularly with those that register their emails for responses.

Please note this list of activities is a work in progress. We are open to suggestions for other opportunities, and will post additional dates and venues as they are confirmed throughout January and February. Also please share invitations to meetings or other events at the dedicated email address and we will try and confirm representatives to attend. Lastly, we have been invited to present and discuss at meetings not open to the general public. In our community engagement results, we will be transparent in including all sites and venues where the site/development was discussed and input was gathered.

VCH Happy to be Designated for Venice Median

Venice Median Site

Venice Median Site

Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCH) along with Hollywood Community Housing Corporation will be partnering to build housing on the Venice Median — that area between North and South Venice Blvd on Pacific and west of Dell.

“We don’t have more details at this point, because it is not yet approved,” according to Director Beck Dennison, “but once it is approved, “we will be doing community engagement to finalize the details of the project.”

The VCH e-newsletter read:  “With the passage of Proposition HHH and with overwhelming voter support, VCH looks forward to developing more permanent supportive housing in our Westside communities and working with our development partners to ensure 10,000 units are built throughout all neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles!

“As a next step in building housing and reducing homelessness, VCH is proud and excited to share that we, with our partners at Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and Eric Owen Moss Architects, have been recommended for approval to build affordable and permanent supportive housing on the city-owned parking lots at Venice and Pacific Boulevards. The recommendation has to be approved by City Council before it is finalized, and the recommendation is based on a preliminary project concept. If Council approves, we will immediately announce opportunities for community input, engagement, and feedback to inform and create the final project proposal. Please feel free to reach out to us at any time with any questions – your support for VCH and this project is much appreciated!”