Thursday, November 14, 2019

Could You Help the VSA with a Year-End Donation?

I am writing to ask our over 300 supporters to make a donation to the VSA to continue our work to improve quality-of-life in Venice.

On this page you may make a tax deductible donation to several of our missions, including:
  • Support the VSA lawsuit to stop the Bridge Housing project slated for the MTA lot on Main Street.  After an encouraging tentative ruling by the judge, we will be back in court on December 11th.
  • Enforce the Beach Curfew and camping ban and the prohibition on storage of private possessions, including tents, overnight on the beach.
  • Maintain the beautification project around the Venice Post Office and support the restoration of the Venice Gondola and its new home next to the Windward Circle.
  • We also need sustaining funds. These are used to cover the administrative costs of the VSA: staff, office expenses, telephone, insurance, bookkeeping and accounting, as well as our current public safety collaboration with the LAPD. That category is "General support for the VSA."
You may also send a check to the VSA at 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA 90291.

Any amount from $100 to $1,000 is welcome! 

You will receive an acknowledgement of your tax deductible donation in early February.

Thank you and best wishes for the holidays to you and yours!  

Mark Ryavec

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

VSA Lawyer Challenges City Use of New Exemption for Bridge Housing

November 4, 2019 

VIA E-MAIL TO (CityClerk@lacity.org) AND WEB PORTAL SUBMISSION (https://cityclerk.lacity.org/publiccomment/)  
 

Hon. Herb J. Wesson, Jr., President
Los Angeles City Council 
c/o Holly L. Wolcott, City Clerk
City of Los Angeles 
200 N. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA  90012
 

RE: Bridge Housing Facility 100 E. Sunset Avenue (CF 18-0510) California Environmental Quality Act Notice of Exemption (NOE) November 5, 2019 Meeting, Agenda Item No. 52
 

President Wesson and Members of the City Council,
 

I am counsel for Venice Stakeholders Association (the “Association”), a non-profit organization committed to civic improvement in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

On November 5, 2019, the Council will consider amending its December 11, 2018 approval for a homeless shelter to be constructed at 100 E. Sunset Avenue (the “Project”). 

As you may be aware, there is litigation pending by the Association against the City, the MTA and the California Coastal Commission to invalidate the Project approvals. Specifically, the Association has challenged the validity of the City’s finding that the Project was exempt from CEQA. 
 

On Friday, October 25, 2019, a hearing was held in the Los Angeles Superior Court to evaluate whether the City’s December 11, 2018 Project approval complied with CEQA. The Superior Court tentatively announced that the Project approvals did not comply with CEQA. The Superior Court queried the City Attorney as to whether AB 1197 applied to the Project. The City Attorney represented to the Superior Court that AB 1197 did not apply and the City stands on the prior law in effect for the approval. Nonetheless, the Superior Court has requested supplemental briefing from the parties on the impact of AB 1197 on the Project and pending litigation and a further (and perhaps final) hearing will be held on December 11, 2019.  
 

The matter before you on November 5, 2019 is an attempt to end-run the Superior Court’s October 25, 2019 announced intended ruling. City staff has recommended that the prior Project approvals from 2018 be amended to incorporate AB 1197 as an additional justification for finding the
Project exempt from CEQA. The Association urges you to vote no on the proposed amendment for the following reasons: 
 

First, if another Notice of Exemption is filed, another lawsuit may need to be filed by the Association and that will increase the time and expenses of this litigation. From a taxpayers’ point of view, it is a waste of public funds. Further, as a matter of mitigation of damages, you should know the Association intends to seek an award of attorney’s fees at the conclusion of this litigation; the necessity of another lawsuit will drive up the fees the City ultimately will have to pay the Association. 
 

Second, the Superior Court has announced that the Project was not properly exempted from CEQA. The City would be better served by conceding this point, following the law and going through the CEQA process to serve the residents surrounding the Project location. The faster that the City initiates the CEQA process, the sooner it can begin serving the homeless should the Project be approved following a CEQA process.   

Third, I note that the City Council is not scheduled to meet in closed session with the City Attorney to discuss the October 25, 2019 hearing, the Project or the litigation. I would urge it to do so. The City Council should seek and receive legal advice on whether the City may properly apply AB 1197 retroactively to the Project and whether a point has been reached when the City should abandon, modify or relocate this Project. AB 1197 on its face does not apply retroactively and California courts do not apply new laws retroactively absent clear direction from the Legislature to do so. (See e.g., North Coast Rivers Alliance v. Westlands Water Dist. (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 832, 856.) 
 

In light of the pendency of litigation, I request that this letter be included in the administrative record for CF 18-0510.
 

The Association thanks you for your service and for considering its views on this important matter.
 

Respectfully submitted, 

Jeffrey Lewis
 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Judge Beckloff Sides with VSA on Misuse of Environmental Exemption and Lack of Attention to Noise Impacts of Venice Bridge Housing Project

This morning Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff indicated that he had drafted a tentative ruling that would throw out the City of Los Angeles' environmental review of the Bridge Housing project proposed for the former MTA bus lot in Venice.

Beckloff told the parties that under his tentative ruling, the city would be denied a categorical exemption and would have to conduct further environmental studies.  In particular, he noted that the city's review of noise impacts of the project on surrounding residents was inadequate.

The judge held up issuing his ruling to allow time for the city, MTA and the VSA to prepare briefings on the implications of recently passed AB 1197, which removed environmental review requirements in the future for projects similar to the Venice project.  AB 1197 was not retroactive, though the judge conjectured that it might have some implications for the Venice Bridge Housing project and asked for written presentations by all sides.

A new hearing is scheduled in the case on December 11th.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Venice Stakeholders Association files Amicus Brief in the matter of Boise v. Martin

Attorney Jeff Lewis has filed an Amicus Brief on behalf of Venice Stakeholders Association in the U.S. Supreme Court matter of Boise v. Martin pertaining to a “cruel and unusual punishment” challenge to the power of the government to address homeless camping on public property. 

A white paper discussion of the controversy prepared by the attorneys representing Boise is available here: https://www.gibsondunn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Martin-v.-Boise-White-Paper.pdf 

Other amicus briefs filed by various third parties may be accessed here: https://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docket/DocketFiles/html/Public/19-247.html

You can read the VSA brief here:

https://veniceupdate.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/20190925133747131_Venice-Amicus-Petition-Sep-25-2019-EFile.pdf

Friday, August 23, 2019

VNC Process Overrides Common Sense and Public Safety


I have promised to keep my supporters informed about my service as a Community Officer on the Venice Neighborhood Council and this is the first in a series of occasional reports from the front-lines.

Early on I proposed the re-establishment of the VNC's Ad-Hoc Committee on Public Safety.  

Certainly the rash of assaults, break-ins, hot prowls, transient occupation of empty residences, bike thefts and chop shops, and shootings demands a stronger coordination between the VNC, residents, and the LAPD and other departments.  I wrote up the following mission statement and it was considered by the VNC Administrative Committee on July 8th.  (The "AdCom"committee must approve the creation of any AdHoc committees and their mission statement.)

The Public Safety Committee's mission is to work with Venice stakeholders- residents, school staff, and business owners - and the Los Angeles Police Department, the Department of Sanitation, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Board of Public Works and its bureaus to prevent and reduce crime, promote clean public spaces, remove conditions that invite disease and vermin, and act as a liaison to city agencies to assure timely response to resident concerns. The committee's objective is to increase perceived and actual personal safety for residents and visitors alike.

Jim Murez opposed the wording of the statement.  He apparently thought it was too specific, so in committee I accepted some amendments to have the statement read as follows:


The Venice Neighborhood Council's Public Safety Committee's mission is to work with Venice stakeholders and city, county and state departments and agencies to reduce and prevent crime, promote clean public spaces, remove conditions that invite disease and vermin, and act as a liaison to government agencies to assure timely response to resident concerns. The committee's objective is to increase perceived and actual personal safety for residents and visitors alike.

So, then we voted on the new, amended version, which Jim had helped amend.  I and Melissa Diner and George Francisco voted yes and Hugh Harrison, Charles Rials and - oddly - Jim Murez voted against it.  (President Ira Koslow abstained and C.J. Cole was not present because the agenda mistakenly stated the start time as 7:30 and Mr. Koslow started the meeting at 7:00, which was a clear violation of the Brown Act, California's Open Public Meeting law.)

So on August 12th I brought back a slightly revised version which included "promoting fire safety," because the lack of that focus was mentioned at the meeting on July 8th as one of the shortcomings of the  original mission statement:
 

The Venice Neighborhood Council's Public Safety Committee's mission is to work with Venice stakeholders and city, county and state departments and agencies to reduce and prevent crime, promote fire safety, promote clean public spaces, remove conditions that invite disease and vermin, and act as a liaison to government agencies to assure timely response to resident concerns. The committee's objective is to increase perceived and actual personal safety for residents and visitors alike.


When the item came up on the 12th Mr. Koslow passed out a copy of the amended motion from July 8th and announced that the new version (above) was the same motion and reconsideration could only occur if it was requested in advance of the meeting by one of the members who had been on the winning side.

I pressed Mr. Koslow on his decision - since the mission statement before the committee was different than the one I had originally introduced on July 8th - and he told us that my mission statement, in either form, was "anti-homeless" and he was opposed to it.  Of course, there is no mention of the homeless in either version the committee considered.


I continue to believe that a VNC public safety committee is desperately needed in Venice.  If you agree, please send an email to president@venicenc.org and urge Mr. Koslow to establish a public safety committee of the VNC.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Support Installation of "Hardscaping" and Planter Boxes on City Parkways at VNC Meeting Tuesday Evening

Two Motions will be on the VNC Agenda this Tuesday evening that would promote the diversion of polluted rainwater away from the ocean and instead contain it on-site under city parkways.

Over the last several decades commercial property owners have paved over parkways, the space between sidewalks and curbs, to cut watering and gardening costs.  This stops the natural process of a rain's "first flush" from infiltrating the soil and instead results in rainwater running off the sidewalk and parkway, picking up pollutants and rushing to the ocean, where it contaminates the Santa Monica Bay.


These two motions would urge the City's Bureau of Engineering to quickly process applications for permits to saw-cut concrete parkways and create grade-level landscaping or install raised planter boxes, both to contain rainwater and allow it to infiltrate the ground.  (Recently the Bureau has taken literally years to process applications or refused to accept them.)


If you support this "green" retrofitting of parkways please write a note to Board@venicenc.org in support of items #13G and 13H and show up to support the Motions Tuesday evening at Westminster Elementary School at 6:30 PM.

 13G    Planting On Parkways ​(20 minutes)  MOTION:​ The Venice Neighborhood Council strongly urges the City’s Bureau of Engineering to support  and rule on all applications within 60 days for removal of concrete over parkways along city streets for  the planting of said parkways for the purpose of beautification​,​ rain infiltration and containment  Uploaded Documents: ​Download 1565065899.docx Recommended by Neighborhood Committee 8-0-1 on 7/24/19   

13H    Planter Boxes On Parkways  ​(20 minutes)   MOTION: ​The Venice Neighborhood Council strongly urges the City’s Bureau of Engineering to support  and rule on all applications within 60 days for removal of concrete over parkways along city streets for  the installation of planter boxes on parkways for the purpose of beautification, rain infiltration and  containment.  Uploaded Documents: ​Download 1565065899.docx Recommended by Neighborhood Committee 8-0-1 on 7/24/19