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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Pardue Comments on Town Hall, Westminster Senior Center

By Kevin “Kip” Pardue

Just wanted to send out a quick recap of last night’s meeting with Bonin for those of you who were not able to attend…

Bonin opened with a report on general homelessness in LA and the county. It was the usual evidence that permanent supportive housing works, needs to be built, and is the focus for the future. He talked about things to do today – what he calls “street services.” These include things like 24-hour bathroom access, mobile showers, and the Westminster Senior Center storage program. It was informative and insightful. Homelessness is truly awful and ever expanding – thanks in large part to politicians like Bonin who have done nothing to try and get people OFF the streets.

Now that the focus has shifted to a “housing first” model, the city is looking at “every city owned property” in LA. No one has ever made clear why that means on 8 lots are being analyzed (anyone who says there are 12 lots is being super slippery and should not be trusted – there are 12 on the “master” list but the first four are contiguous lots just east of downtown). No one has ever explained why only 3 of LA’s 15 districts have been included in this – with HALF of the lots in Bonin’s CD 11.

What I have said before, and what was evident again last night, is that Bonin SIMPLY WANTS it here. Period. He has a canned “reason” why it can’t be at Dockweiler (“That is county operated,” even though he had been applauding the new partnership between the County and the City during the presentation). A canned “reason” for why it can’t all be somewhere less residential (“Homelessness is everywhere and the solution must be everywhere.”).

When it came time for comments, the tenor of the room changed dramatically. Virtually everyone there was vehemently opposed to the Westminster Storage Center plan. Bonin said it was not the greatest plan but in five years they had not come up with a better solution. The ad hoc committee on homelessness in Venice came up with a better, cheaper, more thorough plan in 45 days. Many residents spoke about Thatcher Yard and how building housing for the homeless there is a terrible idea. There was zero discussion about the Venice median lot until I spoke briefly and again encouraged Mike to sell and build MORE HOUSING IN A BETTER AREA helping MORE PEOPLE in LESS TIME.

As yet, no details have been released about these projects – the deadline for submissions from developers is the 15th of September.

It was so painfully obvious that pretty much the only people in that room who supported building housing on these lots were those that stand to make money on the development. VCH trotted out several employees. The mobile shower company (which has been contracted and will start in Venice by the end of the year) was happy. Anyone who is pro building fewer units and jumping the myriad hurdles Venice possesses is only interested in one thing – money – not in actually helping the most people. Their ideology shows their goals. Their endgame is not ending homelessness by housing everyone. It is doing it IN VENICE. While nearly all of the speakers made comments suggesting that reasonable percentages of low-income and PSH would be lauded, that simply wasn’t good enough for Bonin. His tone was EXACTLY the same as it was when we met a few months ago…He is “listening,” but he doesn’t seem to be changing his behavior in any fashion.

I thank all of you who came and stood up for our neighborhood. If Bonin were more willing to work with us – rather than talk at us – I think we could actually make everyone happy. But watching him move unilaterally on the Westminster Storage Center project is frightening to say the least. Bonin is acting like a tzar – taking over properties, allocating resources to his projects, and plugging his ears to block the voices of residents. Maybe the hundreds of people who spoke made a dent this time. We have to hope so.

I will continue to keep you posted on things as I learn more. Thank you again.

 

Pardue Feels LA Times Reporter Holland Pushes Own and LA Times Agenda

By Kevin “Kip” Pardue

Note: Gale Holland is the LA Times reporter who covers homelessness and poverty.

I recently spoke with Gale Holland, the LA Times homeless reporter, about the possible implementation of a Business Improvement District and Mike Bonin’s housing proposals. We spoke off the record – for a few reasons, some of which are personal and others which I will get to – for about an hour. It was my second lengthy conversation with Ms. Holland about Venice and Councilman Bonin’s plans. I put Ms. Holland in touch with two other neighbors who were willing to speak on the record as well.

All three of us came away with the same feeling – that Ms. Holland was pushing her own (and the LA Times’) agenda. While I respect the opinions of Ms. Holland and the paper itself, I feel it is important to have facts correct before making judgement.

There is VERY MUCH a story to be told in Venice. Several, in fact. I assure you, however, that one story on the BID and it’s possible future will not tell it effectively.

Ms. Holland wanted very much to tie homelessness in Venice to the rising real estate of Venice. While these things might be related on the broadest of spectrums, that is not the reality we see in Venice. In the past 5 years, Venice has become a magnet for “traveler” homeless from out-of-state or even out-of-country – usually 20-somethings – who sleep in their cars and openly desecrate our neighborhood. They get “passes” from LAPD and the City under well-intended homeless laws. This new type of “homeless” has actually driven out most of the older, more traditional homeless in Venice. They are aggressive, drug-fueled, and often commit crimes (petty theft is up tremendously in Venice). Their arrival does coincide with rising real estate in Venice but the two are largely unrelated.

One of the reasons Councilman Bonin was a vocal proponent of the BID was to protect the “traditional” homeless in Venice from these “travelers.” But even without Bonin’s support, the BID would still have passed – business owners voted with a 77% approval.

The BID is very much in it’s infancy – there are zero hard facts about its goals or how it will accomplish them. Time will tell. The organizers of the BID – most of whom are reluctant to speak with the LA Times on the record because of this exact scenario, a reporter pushing her own agenda rather than reporting the facts – would love nothing more than for the BID to be a model of how successful cities can be run. Outreach, beautification, safety, and community will be tenets of the BID. Certainly BID’s throughout LA and the country have checkered pasts…Venice will hopefully become a model for future BID’s to follow to avoid these pitfalls.

The housing proposed by Councilman Bonin – which Ms. Holland purported to know about – is also in it’s infancy. Ms. Holland had not done basic research to better understand the current situation. Here are the FACTS as of now:

The feasibility studies were conducted nearly two weeks ago on all 8 city lots. These studies will tell us which lots are recommended for sale (and use of surplus to build housing in other locations) and which are recommended for development of housing.

The lot Ms. Holland was initially interested in is between Dell Ave and Pacific Ave – that is about the only concrete fact we have heard. The proposed building will be on that lot. I found Ms. Holland far to the east of that location. Clearly, Ms. Holland had not done the most basic of research and has little understanding of Venice. The other lot in Venice is Thatcher Yard, a location Ms. Holland also knew little of.

Once the feasibility studies are returned, a bidding process will begin. This bidding process will be very broad strokes and will only include Homeless Service Providers. These HSP’s will determine what could be built, who will be housed, and what services will be provided.

After that, more detailed plans will be presented to the public with time for public comment and input. This entire process will take at least 3 years for construction to begin. Coastal Commission and Venice Specific Plan will also be in play (limiting height and density).

My feeling – and the feeling of many of my neighbors – is that the most compassionate, reasonable thing to do is to sell both Venice lots in order to build more housing faster. Ideally, those transitioning from homelessness to housed would be spread throughout the city in equal proportion. Waiting three years, and only accommodating a small number, seems like a relatively poor plan. Passing up the tremendous value of Venice real estate (estimates put the lots at about $100 million together – not to mention the potential property tax revenues for years to come) seems folly. If the goal of the city is to help as many people as possible as quickly as possible, the plan to build housing in Venice is poor.

Venice real estate IS climbing. The working poor and even the middle class are being driven out. That is VERY MUCH a problem. Building low-income and work force housing in the lots would be a wonderful compromise most of Venice would cheer. I am not a NIMBY screamer – but if the lots are to be developed, we as a community deserve some say. Entirely free housing at the beach seems utterly unacceptable and incredibly narrow in scope. Low-income housing for the working poor mixed with some housing for the homeless and some market rate and a commercial component seems beneficial for all. Using the profits of the sale to build mid-rise housing on Lincoln Blvd or even further east and to convert existing building to housing also seems like a smarter use of limited funds.

The city of Los Angeles has a horrible homeless problem that needs to be solved. Venice feels those effects in an almost unique way. We are crushed by tourists and beach-goers. The blend of commercial and residential is seamless. Most Angelenos encounter the homeless at intersections and off-ramps, see encampments from their cars. Almost all over the city, homelessness is felt and seen. But very few neighborhoods in LA deal with the daily interactions most Venitians do. Skid Row is a mostly commercial district. The homeless in Hollywood are mostly kept away from homes. Encampments in Venice are IN front yards and on sidewalks directly in front of homes. Vans and RV’s are parked just outside windows. Noise, garbage, drug paraphernalia, human waste, and unpredictable behavior are daily facts in Venice. This needs to change for everyone – the homeless and residents alike.

I encourage the LA Times to dig further into the reality of today’s Venice. I look forward to helping you tell that story. In the future, I trust it will be done with more thorough reporting.