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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

VSA Files Lawsuit Against City and CCC for Their Approval of MTA Site for Homeless Shelter

(Venice, CA/1-14-19) Today the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission (CCC), challenging their approval of a 154-bed homeless shelter in the Venice neighborhood, in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Coastal Act and other laws.

“The City and the Coastal Commission jammed this project through the system and bypassed the environmental laws and the Coastal Act,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA, a non-profit corporation dedicated to protecting Venice residents and their neighborhoods.  “No government or project is immune from these laws.”   

The City’s so-called “Bridge Housing” facility would be located in the middle of a residential neighborhood just one block from Venice Beach.  It includes a large semi-permanent “tent” building containing a 100-bed dormitory, an outdoor dining area, a large outdoor kennel for residents’ pets, and several other buildings.  Despite having 154 beds and dozens of staff, the project would have as little as 20 parking spaces.

According to the lawsuit, the City approved the project “at lightning speed,” in just 11 days, while the Coastal Commission approved it in just nine days.  The Venice Neighborhood Council, which is elected by Venice residents, was not even consulted.  “The neighbors and the public were ambushed,” said Ryavec.

Ryavec acknowledged the need for shelters and other facilities to address Venice’s persistent homeless problem.  However, he added, “a residential neighborhood like this one is not the right place for such a project, especially since much of the facility is essentially outdoors, and just across a narrow street from homes.”   

The VSA lawsuit says that the City refused to do any environmental review for the project under CEQA, and the Coastal Commission granted the City a waiver from the usual requirement of a Coastal Development Permit, thereby avoiding any analysis of the impacts of the project on coastal resources such as parking and water quality.

“Just because the City and the Coastal Commission think this project will benefit the public doesn’t mean they can avoid considering its impacts under the environmental laws and the Coastal Act,” said Ryavec.  He noted that other beneficial projects, such as hospitals and schools, must comply with these same laws.

“If a developer proposed a 154-bed convalescent hospital with dozens of staff people, an outdoor kennel and dining facility, just feet from residents’ living rooms, with only 20 parking spaces, the City would require an environmental impact report and mitigation before approving it,” he said.  “A homeless shelter is no different.”

City Council Homeless Committee Approves MTA for Bridge Home; Goes Before City Council 11 Dec; CCC, 12 Dec

 

 

City Council Homeless committee members supported the MTA lot on Sunset between Pacific and Main for Bridge Housing last Wednesday along with places in Wilmington, San Pedro, Watts, and South Los Angeles. A full vote of the City Council members will be Tuesday, 11 December.

Homeless Committee member Councilman Mike Bonin agreed to exempt the MTA lot from a full California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If approved by the City Council for a shelter, 11 December, the proposal will go before the California Coastal Commission (CCC), 12 December in Newport Beach, 100 Civic Center, Newport Beach, 92660

Executive Director John Ainsworth of CCC has provided exemption of the MTA lot for CEQA necessity because it is temporary. Four votes of the commissions will nullify the CEQA waiver.

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders, does not agree that CEQA should be waived for the project based on noise and parking. The VSA plan is to present their case for a full CEQA report before the CCC and sue, if necessary, to obtain a CEQA report.

The following are comments Mark Ryavec has made regarding the decision not to have a CEQA.

Comments: I am writing to ask for an ex parte meeting to personally discuss the burden that the Bridge Housing project in Venice will pose for coastal resources, visitors and residents living nearby and request a full environmental review under a Coastal Development Permit application.

This project, the equivalent of a hotel for 154 people with dozens of support staff, including social workers, housing locators, teachers, security personnel, and kitchen and custodial staff, has only nine (9) parking spaces. Already there is no place for residents and visitors to park in this neighborhood, and this project will add an incredible parking demand. The city cannot exclude any applicants because they own a vehicle, so the project will inevitably bring even more vehicles (including campers and RVs) to an area that historically has little parking.

This project will also generate unacceptable noise for residents living as little at 50 feet away, at all hours of the day and night, with no mitigation, from outdoor dining areas, an outdoor kennel (with barking dogs) and the exterior HVAC equipment to heat and cool a huge 30 foot tall building that will house 100 people, along with HVAC equipment for other manufactured housing that will house another 54 people, not mention heating and cooling of many offices. The project also raises serious concerns about coastal pollution.

Encampments in Venice already leach human waste to the storm drain outfall at Rose Avenue, which has been documented by independent test results to contain high levels of e. coli bacteria. Each time new services have been added for the homeless in Venice, the population has grown, as has the resulting coastal pollution, from 400 people four years ago to approximately 1,000 today.

Instead of reducing the population it is likely that the Bridge Housing project will attract even more homeless to Venice. When they cannot be accommodated at the new facility they will camp out nearby, as they do now, for example, at the St. Joseph service center on Lincoln Boulevard. The city of Los Angeles has made no plans to mitigate parking demand, noise or the likely increase in coastal pollution.

Mark Ryavec, president, Venice Stakeholders Association, Founding Director, Board Secretary (1989 to 1999) and State Legislative Director (1999) at American Oceans Campaign, and Member, Board of Governors, Oceana (2005 to 2015)

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VSA To Appeal Decision Regarding Intolerable Beach Conditions

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By Mark Ryaec, president of Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA)

The VSA’s lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles for intolerable conditions along the Venice Boardwalk and beach is finally moving ahead.

After waiting over a year for the trial court to assemble the formal record, our attorney Jonathan Deer, a Venice resident and veteran appellate attorney, has begun work on the VSA’s appeal brief.

Jon’s analysis is that it was inappropriate for the appellate court to initially reverse the trial court’s decision in favor of the VSA and our individual plaintiffs.  Jon maintains that there are issues in the case that must be tried by a jury and thus are not subject to the City’s and County’s  motions for summary judgment.

Jon has agreed to a fixed fee for all legal work, court appearances, etc., involved in the case.  

If you would like to support the suit, contributions from $50 to $1,000 are welcome.  Donations may be made by PayPal on the VSA’s website or by check sent to the VSA, 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA  90291.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VSA’s website or by check sent to the VSA, 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA  90291.

 

 

 

City Homeless Committee Approves Thatcher Yard, Venice Median Projects

By Angela McGregor

The Los Angeles Homeless and Poverty Committee met at 9 am, 7 December to approve entering into exclusive negotiating contracts with developers for permanent supportive housing projects on eight city-owned properties, including the Thatcher Yard and Venice Median lots.

Residents of the neighborhoods affected by this development were not officially notified by the city, and members of the Oxford Triangle Association were notified of it via an email from Mark Shockley, around 5 pm 6 December, after the Association’s attorney noticed it on the city’s website. At least a dozen opponents of these projects arrived by the announced meeting time of 9 am, only to be met with a room full of proponents of the projects who had apparently been formally notified and had arrived early enough to fill out the majority of the speaker cards prior to 9 am. Public comment was cut off at 9:15. Among the notable comments:

Dan Whalen, one of the members of the Oxford Triangle Neighborhood Study group, pointed out that the neighborhood is small, entirely zoned for single family residential housing, and already plagued with traffic problems, and pleaded with the committee to consider an alternate, more appropriate location for such high-density development.

Linda Lucks, former VNC President, said that she favored such developments because they would restore the economic diversity that had been lost in Venice due to gentrification.

Mark Ryavec, candidate for CD11 Councilmember and President of the Venice Stakeholders Association, asked that any plans for such development in Venice be held in abeyance until after the March elections, and that the concept of such developments be put before the Venice Neighborhood Council so that the community would have a chance to weigh in on them in light of what seems to him to be enormous community opposition.

Two formerly homeless, current residents of Safran projects in Del Rey spoke in favor of the project as well.

During the Committee’s discussion, mention was made that proposals had been featured in social media (possibly a reference to the Safran Group’s response to Venice Update’s questions), in particular that the projects might include a majority of market-rate housing. Councilman Bonin insisted that he had not seen any proposals and that none had been approved, nor would they be without both VNC and Coastal Commission approval. “I have instructed these developers not to come to me with proposals until they’ve worked out their plans with the community,” he stated. Furthermore, while by law such developments only have to include 15% permanent supportive housing , he said including such a large amount of market-rate housing, which “is effectively luxury housing, on the Westside” was “unacceptable” to him, and would be tantamount to a “bait and switch”. He said he would not approve any project which did not predominantly consist of housing for the formerly homeless, in line with the stated goals of the City’s plan to combat homelessness via funding available due to Proposition HHH, which passed in November.

The exclusive negotiating agreements, which would expire after one year, were approved. Councilman Bonin pointed out that it would no doubt take longer than a year to build these projects in Venice (“nothing gets built in Venice in less than a year”), and the point was made that the City can pull out of the agreements if the projects don’t “pan out.”

The meeting adjourned at 10 am.

Becky Dennison Says Never Mentioned Jones Settlement

Becky Dennison, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC), has clearly stated that she never said the Jones Settlement housing requirement had been met, and furthermore, has stated that she never even addressed the subject, as reported, at the previous Venice Neighborhood Council meet.

Becky Dennison, executive director of Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC), said “I never mentioned the Jones Settlement in my comments last week and never ‘admitted’ that the settlement has been met. I never spoke to housing production within the Jones time frame (2006 forward) and, in fact, specifically made my comments about production over the last 25 years. I never spoke to the geography of units produced, which is also critical to the specifics of meeting the Jones settlement. This should not be printed in any news source, as it literally has nothing to do with what I said and grossly misquotes me. There were plenty of other people there who can corroborate.

Get Off Sidewalk, Get Bus Ticket Home

Venice Stakeholders have succeeded in placing on the Venice Neighborhood Council board an agenda resolution to return to enforcement of the City’s “no lying, sitting or sleeping on a sidewalk” ordinance and combining that with offers of shelter beds or bus tickets home.

Next VNC meeting is 16 August, 6:30 pm, Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd.  The complete resolution can be read at venicestakeholdersassociation.org.

 

Ryavec Says May Run for Bonin’s Job

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Mark Ryavec, president of Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA), said he was thinking of running for city council seat now held by Councilman Mike Bonin. Ryavec said he would be making the final decision to run in a month or so.  Bonin is up for re-election next year.

Ryavec has established himself as a fighter for the rights of those who live and work in Venice — owners, tenants, and business owners.  While there are many groups defending the rights of the homeless,  only Ryavec has established himself as a human rights advocate for those who live in Venice and are subject to a growing presence of homelessness.

 

 

… and now the money for the homeless

Looks like County will have nothing on the ballot to alleviate homelessness in LA this year. Perhaps in March they will put the quarter cent sales tax measure on the ballot. They have until 9 August to decide for November. This is all according to an editorial in LA Times Tuesday http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-homeless-taxes-20160726-snap-story.html

July 26 LA Times had article about the City, Mike Bonin proposing a 1.5 billion housing bond or a 1.1 billion bond and a parcel tax. All of the initiatives would increase property taxes and require two-third approval by voters. Decision to be made in August.
http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-la-council-ballot-20160621-snap-story.html

See Mark Ryavec’s article stating that the County is the governing body responsible for taking care of incompetent, poor, indigent and incapacitated people. https://veniceupdate.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=12640&action=edit&message=6

City Hall Wants Property Owners to Pay for County Failures

Mark Ryavec

Note: The author is president of the Venice Stakeholders Association and the former chief deputy assessor for Los Angeles County.

When it comes to the City of Los Angeles’ proposed $1.2-billion bond for homeless housing, residents should look past the obvious question of whether this will really get the 27,000 people living on our sidewalks into housing.

Instead they should focus on more fundamental questions:

Is this the city’s responsibility?

Is a new tax really needed?

Will the tax burden be spread fairly?

Is an adequate process in place to avoid mismanagement and corruption?

The answer to all four questions: No.

Under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 17000, counties — not cities — are the government entities primarily responsible for taking care of mentally incompetent, poor, indigent and incapacitated persons.

Yet Los Angeles County provides only $221 per month in general relief (which jumps to a grant of $877 from Social Security if a person is totally disabled). As an old saying goes, the only problem with poor people is that they don’t have any money. If the county had regularly indexed the $221 figure to account for decades of inflation, a significant number of the homeless would be able to afford to live in shared apartments and houses.

In the face of the county shirking its duty, the goodhearted folks at L.A. City Hall have volunteered to help — as long as someone else pays for it.

Before residents let City Hall again put its hand into their wallet, they might consider that the City Administrative Officer is projecting the city’s budget will grow from $5.55 billion to $6.20 billion in just the next four years, with about $650 million in new revenues each year by 2020. If the city simply committed 10% of its planned budget increase over the next 20 years, it could easily pay off the $63 million needed each year to service the bond without a tax increase.

If adopted in November, the bond’s tax burden will fall unevenly, with most of the cost being covered by those who have more recently purchased property, whether houses and condos, apartments, or commercial and industrial buildings. This is due to the operation of Proposition 13, which reassesses properties to market value upon sale (or new construction).

Renters — including those who are quite wealthy — will pay nothing, and those who have owned their property since 1978, when Proposition 13 passed, will pay very little.

While city officials say the average yearly increase would be $44.31 per year for a home assessed at $327,900 (the current median in Los Angeles), the tax on the Westside and other places with more expensive real estate will be far higher.

My duplex, purchased in 1989, is assessed at about $800,000. Over the expected 28 year life of the bond, I would pay an average of about $106 a year (on top of the $1,470 I already pay each year to retire school and community college construction bonds). However, a new buyer of my property, at about a $3.5 million sales price, would pay an average of $473 per year, with a spike in the 11th year to about $800.

These effects play out much differently between apartments and commercial property. The city’s rent control ordinance does not allow apartment owners to pass on property tax increases to renters, so the apartment owners will have to absorb all the increase. But commercial property is frequently under a triple net lease, which requires the lessee to pay the property taxes — meaning lots of mom-and-pop businesses will have to pick up the bill.

With more than $1 billion at play, the potential is high for mismanagement, favoritism and corruption.

However, the oversight committee designed by the City Council has the foxes guarding the hen house.

Four are appointed by the mayor; three by the City Council. And there are no qualifications required — such as 10 years or more of multimillion-dollar construction management experience, or being a certified public accountant. There also is no funding for the committee to hire independent staff or retain experts. Nothing in the bond ordinance prevents the appointment of political cronies or individuals from the affordable housing industry who have a financial interest in which projects are funded.

This all suggests the county, with funding from Sacramento, should finally step up and assume its legal requirement to take care of the homeless. If the city still feels it wants to help, it can fund a housing bond from future revenues. Even without a new tax, strengthening the independence and qualifications of the oversight committee would be prudent.

WIC 1700 reads: Every county and every city and county (i.e.; San Francisco) shall relieve and support all incompetent, poor, indigent persons, and those incapacitated by age, disease, or accident, lawfully resident therein, when such persons are not supported and relieved by their relatives or friends, by their own means, or by state hospitals or other state or private institutions.

Bonin Responds to Westminster Deed Restriction

“We have a choice between the status quo of allowing sidewalks and streets full of encampments, or offering people a safe place to keep their personal belongings while getting them connected to the services that will get them off the street permanently,” said Councilman Mike Bonin in response to seeing the deed for the Westminster Senior Center and the letter from the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) attorneys.

“The Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) is fighting to keep clutter on neighborhood streets in a misguided attempt to deny services to the homeless.

“That is a status quo that I, and many neighbors in Venice, find intolerable. I was well aware when I initially proposed my plan to address and reduce homelessness in Venice that there was going to be controversy over some of the solutions that I offered. But controversy is better than inaction, and the only thing I am not willing to consider is allowing the status quo to continue.

“I have asked the City Attorney to assess the validity of the VSA letter. While that is happening, we will move forward with an open and transparent public process that will evaluate the variety of solutions I have offered in Venice, including expanded storage that provides a real solution to the problem of growing encampments on neighborhood streets.”