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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.

VCH Says Environment Assessment Submitted for RDC

Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing filed the Environment Assessment Form for the Reese Davidson Community (RDC) project this week.  This is the first step in the Environmental Impact Report process.   

The project has been renamed the Reese Davidson Community.  VCH called it the Venice-Del project.  The Venice Update called it the Venice Median project.

VCH says the Environmental Assessment should take approximately 16-months and the following are two events that are forthcoming

  1. The full application for City approvals is expected to be submitted within the next two to three weeks.   It will be shared on this email list and on the website.
  2. The first public hearing will be the Scoping Meeting for the Environmental Impact Report.  This is expected in December or January.   It will be announced on this email list, through a 500-foot radius mailing, and other outreach.   

Go to  reesedavidson@vchcorp.org  for the latest info.

VCH Names Venice Median Project Reese-Davidson Community

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 9.05.05 AM
Rendering of proposed Venice Median project to be built between North and South Venice Blvd and east of Pacific.

Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing have named the proposed Venice Median Project the Reese-Davidson Community.  They have named the Community Arts Center after artist Gregory Hines.

These are words and facts from the Venice Community Housing Monthly Newsletter.
Arthur Reese worked in multiple ways to found and build Venice in the early 1900.  He was considered the lead decorator of buildings and attractions, helping to establish Venice’s unique style. He was also the first African American homeowner in the neighborhood.

Rick Davidson was among the founders of Venice Community Housing, and was a tireless advocate, architect and artist working toward an equitable Venice, region, and world.

Venice Community Housing will honor longtime Venice resident and artist Gregory Hines by establishing the Gregory Hines Community Arts Center.

“We are thrilled to be honoring the amazing and varied contributions of these three community leaders,” read the newsletter.

Dennison Clarifies Misconceptions, Answers Questions About Venice Median Project


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.

Groups Listen/Question Architect On-Site of Venice Median Project Regarding the Project

The proposed Venice Median Project between North and South Venice Blvd and between Dell and Pacific.

Venice Community Housing (VCH) had another meeting with community members for “community input” regarding the Venice Median project.  This time it was on site and the architect or his affiliate answered questions posed by members of the groups as they walked the site.

Eric Owen Moss, architect, was asked questions regarding parking.  “Will you be able to adhere to the Venice Specific Plan as stated in the RFQ/P with all the parking requirements this project entails,” one person asked.  His answer was that if the RFQ/P said he had to adhere to the Venice Specific Plan, he would, but maybe he would have to “ask for a favor.”

Group 1.  Several groups were sxtarted and at various times.  Q&A was to go from 10 am to noon.

Group 2.

The canal that divides the property.  One person made a comment on internet regarding Kip Pardue’s story saying that all this had been cleaned up.  This photo shows property worse than Pardue’s photo.

Venice Median Project Resident Selection Criteria

Note: In order to explain the 136-unit resident selection for the Venice Median, DuFay explains the types of housing provided—Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) and Affordable Housing (AH) as well as goes into detail on median incomes.

By Darryl DuFay

Affordable Housing and Permanent Supportive Housing
Affordable housing is both the title for several types of housing and one of the categories of a type of housing. Confusion is often created when the categories are grouped together.

Basic Idea
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) is based on a demonstrated homeless condition. Affordable Housing (AH) is based on how much money you make.

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH)
PSH is for the most needy “unsheltered” homeless. They are identified as Chronically Homeless and having one disability. The person has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or having four or more episodes of homelessness within 3 years. Living on the streets or in an emergency shelter and includes living in places not meant for human habitation, such as a tent, vehicle, shed, or abandoned building. You cannot be denied PSH housing if you don’t have any money.

Affordable Housing (AH)
Affordable Housing (AH) is a separate type of housing, which affords housing based on a person’s Median Income.

Currently Proposed Units
136 units are proposed. They will be divided into 68 units of Permanent Support Housing (PSH) for individuals and families in studios and 1- or 2-bedroom units, 34 units of “Low Income” Affordable Housing (AH) units for “artists,” and 34 “AH” units for lower wage households. They did not say if these lower wage units were “Low Income or Very Low Income.” The type of units for AH were not given.

Selection Process
Each one is different. They are different. PSH requires being part of the Countywide “Coordinated Entry System” (CES). AH may use CES but also use advertising of available housing.

Median Income
Calculating the median. Make a list of incomes, lowest to highest. The number in the middle is the median. The lowest PSH half of all the incomes are used to calculate Affordable Housing eligibility as shown below.

There are three Median Income descriptors:  “Extremely Low Income,” which is an income of 0% to 30% and used for PSH. AH has two descriptors:  “Very Low Income” is a range of 31% to 50%. ” Low Income” is a range of 51% to 80%.

The geographic areas he/she is in or the geographic location of the proposed housing will determine the base dollar amount, but it is not clear how large an area is legally required.  There are dollar amounts based on the number of people involved. Below are the numbers for 1 – 3 persons.

Median Incomes for Geographic Areas
A geographic areas’ median income will determine the qualifying dollar amounts.  Below are the income dollar amounts for the categories of “Extremely Low to Low.” It is unclear which area must be selected for the project.  These estimates may vary by source and year.