Monday, February 1, 2016

Venice Stakeholders Funds Trimming of 21 Pines around Post Office to Protect Them from El Nino Storms


With storms blowing down trees elsewhere in Venice, the VSA has initiated a tree trimming and thinning project to protect the 21 Italian Stone Pines around the Venice Post Office.

 
“These pines are in dire need of care,” said Darin Morris, a Grand Boulevard resident and landscape architect.  “All the canopies are quite dense and severely top heavy, which puts them at extreme risk of blowing over in El NiƱo storms.”


Morris added, “Italian Stone Pines need proper pruning to grow to the 
majestic beauties that they can become, which will create a grand, inspiring 
streetscape.”   


 
Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA, said, “Jim Murez, Ed Barger and I led about 200 volunteers to plant these trees about 20 years ago.  I remember that we named all the trees and that the one I helped plant is named after my great-aunt Lucy.  I feel a personal sense of stewardship.”

 
Campos Green View Tree Service trims trees.
Ryavec, Morris and Erin Sullivan have raised $4,500 of the $5,000 needed to pay for a licensed landscaping firm to perform the trimming.  The VSA is seeking donors to contribute the remaining $500.  All donations are tax deductible.




“Many have asked why the Post Office or the City is not paying for the trimming,” Ryavec said.  “We’ve checked with both and neither have the funds for the trimming now, while there is urgency so we don’t lose any of these trees in the coming storms.”

Sullivan, Morris and Ryavec initially proposed to the Postal Service and the City to widen all the tree wells to better accommodate the tree roots, to install decomposed granite in wider tree wells to allow more precipitation to reach the roots, and to replace sidewalk sections where they have cracked.  The Postal Service pled budget shortfalls and the City’s Division of Urban Forestry pointed out that before the tree wells are widened and the sidewalks repaired, the trees should be pruned first – and the Division was unsure of when it could fund this.


First completed tree on Grand and Riviera
The Venice Neighborhood Council’s Neighborhood Committee reviewed and approved the VSA application for the $5,000 but the VNC Board ignored their own committee's recommendation, electing instead to fund projects that appeared to be personal favorites.  Morris said, “It was sad, as they missed the long-term value of the trees as a community asset.  If they receive proper care these trees have the potential to outlive all of us.” 


Donors to the trimming project include Erin Sullivan, Russ Cletta, Darin Morris, Janne and Jack Kindberg, David Hertz, Scott Spector and Ralph Ziman.




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Support the Venice Historical Society's Proposal to Re-Purpose the Westminster Senior Center as the Venice Historical Museum

Please send a message to Mike Bonin <mike.bonin@lacity.org> and <mikebonin@gmail.com> asking him to support the use of the Westminster Senior Center for the Venice Historical Museum and Visitor Center.

Jill Prestup, president of the Venice Historical Society (VHS), has sent out a call for Venetians to help VHS obtain the use of the Department of Recreation and Parks building at Westminster and Pacific, commonly called the “Senior Center.”
Prestup has been through this before with Recreation and Parks and has waited by the phone to hear that the papers were signed, only to be disappointed when the phone didn’t ring. 

Recently, the Department issued a request for a proposals to re-use the building. Once again Prestup (and others) submitted proposals. 

As previously mentioned on this site, The Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) submitted a proposal to use the building to house the belongings of transients, to offer unspecified services to the homeless and to use the parking lot, now used at night by residents, as a parking area for those living in cars, trucks and campers. 

There is a petition circulating by members of the community opposing the VCHC from obtaining the use of the property. 

Prestup has been looking for the right place to house the Venice History Museum and she and VHS members feel this is the proper place to serve the community and provide a place for all the Venice artifacts the Society has collected over the years. She has plans to bring the building up to code and make it a showplace for the community.

“As most of you know, VHS has been trying to secure the Westminster Senior Center as a Resource/Museum/Preservation/Visitor Center with extensive programs, displays, learning workshops and events to be shared by everyone – ages 5 to 105,” said Prestup.

“The building will house a first-of-its-kind research center & library; 10,000 rare artifacts will be displayed; educational workshops provided for ALL ages; special youth & student preservation programs; an official Venice visitor center; a museum; a place for historic lectures & events; space for area non-profits to hold meetings; and headquarters for the Venice Historical Society. 

“On a historic note, the building can be seen in Charlie Chaplin’s Kid Auto Races, released in 1914. That’s how long this building has been a part of the community,” Prestup said.

Prestup asks Venetians to lend their support by emailing Councilman Mike Bonin, mike.bonin@lacity.org; Recreation and Parks at rap.partnership@lacity.org; Prestup at info@veniceofamerica.org; and send a copy also to Debbie Dyner Harris at debbie.dynerharris@lacity.org.

Prestup feels this is a win-win situation for the community. “Many individuals - visitors, residents, students, youth, journalists, seniors and all others will benefit from this,” she said. 

“This will be an incredible Visitor Center for Venice as well as being a resource and preservation facility place for Venice artifacts.”

(Thanks to Reta Moser of Venice Update for the information above.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Yo Venice Column: Seniors at Safran Center Surrounded by Transient Encampment/ Abandoned by City and Police

From Yo! Venice:

http://www.yovenice.com/2016/01/22/city-abandons-venice-seniors-to-live-in-dreadful-conditions/


Encampment on Ozone Avenue

City Abandons Venice Seniors to Live in Dreadful Conditions


By Mark Ryavec

This has been a difficult column to write.  For many years I have supported the LAPD and its mission to make our community safer.  So, it is with reluctance that I address the LAPD’s shameful abandonment of the residents of the Paul and Ada Safran Assisted Living Center to the depredations of the homeless encampment next to the Center.  The LAPD is joined in this deplorable story by the malfeasance of City Attorney Mike Feuer and the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Center is located on the north end of Ocean Front Walk and houses 63 vulnerable, low income seniors, some of whom suffer from dementia and limited mobility.  They have been held hostage for years by the conditions around their building, afraid to venture onto the Boardwalk due to the large number of homeless campers who have occupied the narrow dirt lane that runs on the west side of the Boardwalk from Rose Avenue to Navy Street.  The seniors also face a danger posed by transients who sneak into the Center when the garage door is opened for vehicles to drive into the subterranean parking area.

Almost all of the senior residents avoid walking in front of their own building due to fear of being yelled at or accosted by the denizens of the adjacent homeless encampment.  They – and other residents on nearby walk streets – are also frequently kept awake at night by the loud raging of these drug and alcohol-fueled campers.  And napping during the day is impossible due to loud amplified music, exceeding the Municipal Code sound limits, coming from bands which illegally store their equipment along that stretch of the Boardwalk.

At several meetings I have attended at the Center over the last four years, residents of the Center have shared their fear and discomfort with the dire situation facing them every day.  At the same time they asked that their names not be used because they are fearful of retaliation by the transients who have already vandalized the Center on several occasions.

These troubling conditions have notably deteriorated in the last two years under Mayor Garcetti, City Attorney Feuer, Councilman Bonin and LAPD Pacific Division Commander Nicole Alberca.
The underlying problem is the failure of the Department of Recreation and Parks to enforce Municipal Code 63.44, which states that “No person shall Camp or engage in Camping on a Beach, except in locations designated for such purposes, or erect, maintain, use or occupy any Tent…”
The Code defines camping very broadly:  “using a Park for living accommodation purposes, as evidenced by: (a) remaining for prolonged or repetitious periods of time, not associated with ordinary recreational use of a Park, with one’s personal possessions or belongings….and (b) engaging in one or more of the following: sleeping, storing personal possessions or belongings, making a fire, cooking or consuming meals….”

“Tent” is also broadly defined as “any shelter or structure, made of any material that is not open on all sides and lacks an unobstructed view on all sides into the Tent, shelter or structure.”

The ordinance’s preamble notes that “unregulated camping and tents in City parks and beaches create unnecessary, excessive and blighted activity which is detrimental to public health, welfare and safety, and contrary to public interest, and harms nearby residents and diminishes the public’s enjoyment and use of City parks and beaches for recreational purposes.

So, given these broad definitions, none of the current camping and storage of assorted items seen along the Boardwalk is legal.

The failure to enforce 63.44 is exacerbated by the LAPD’s urging the campers to violate the City’s ban on sleeping on streets and its failure to enforce minimum federal and City protections for the disabled (which includes some of the Safran seniors).

At a recent meeting of residents at the Center I listened in disbelief as the head of the LAPD Venice Beach Detail told the residents that Beach Detail officers regularly direct the homeless to camp at night on the actual tarmac of Ozone Avenue, instead of the narrow sidewalk adjacent to the Center and residents’ windows (camping on sidewalks, not streets, is temporarily allowed from 9 PM to 6 AM under the Jones Settlement).  This includes allowing transients to occupy parking spaces on the street.  The LAPD Sergeant said camping in the street is preferable to the sidewalk because it puts the campers a few more feet away from the seniors.

It also creates a much larger area for camping, thus attracting more homeless, which results in more noise, mischief and vandalism (not to mention a loss of parking for residents).

If Councilman Bonin and City Attorney Mike Feuer would just advise the LAPD to enforce the ban on camping on the street itself and the requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act that passage be maintained on the nearby sidewalk for anyone using a wheelchair or walker, very few campers could congregate in this location.

(Since all the walk streets are streets under City code and must remain clear for fire and emergency vehicle access, the LAPD can also legally keep campers from occupying the walk streets.)
Similarly, if Recreation and Parks staff, with LAPD’s help and proper advice from the City Attorney’s Office, would stop the camping along the Boardwalk, the encampment opposite the Safran Center would largely dissolve.  Certainly this could be accomplished over a number of weeks, allowing time for the LAPD’s Homeless Task Force, the Teen Project, St. Joseph Center and LAHSA outreach staff to counsel the campers and help those who want to move to shelters and transitional housing or accept transportation to their hometowns out of state.

Maybe then the seniors – and walk street residents – could enjoy the Boardwalk and beach that lies just outside their front doors – and finally get a good night’s sleep.

Mark Ryavec is president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.  In 1987 he served as a consultant to Tom Safran, the developer of the Safran Center, which is named after Tom’s parents.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Volunteer at Venice Community Housing Corp Threatens to Kill Venice Resident's Family over Her Posting of Petition Request

The family of Venice resident Celeste Chada has been threatened online by a volunteer with the Venice Community Housing Corporation for Chada's posting of a petition request on the Venice Community FaceBook forum.

Chada’s post asked Venice residents to sign a petition opposing a Motion submitted by former VNC president Linda Lucks to convert the Westminster Senior Citizens Center across the street from Westminster Elementary School to a homeless services/storage facility and parking lot for campers and vehicle dwellers. 

On January 15, 2016, a woman identifying herself as VCHC volunteer Ruth Lorio wrote a message on the same thread threatening the life of Chada’s family.  Lorio wrote:

'you are a vile human being. I would like to take everything you own, give you major health problems, kill off your family and throw you on the street and then document it for a reality TV show the profits of which go to a homeless charity. Leave Venice. You don't belong here.'

Lorio later deleted her post, though Chada saved a screen shot of it.

Chada passed on the threat to LAPD Captain Nicole Alberca who assigned it to Detective Witzer.  Witzer told Chada that because she did not know Lorio and since this was the first instance of a threat, he did not think that the City could prosecute Lorio.

When Chada sent it to Facebook as an objectionable post, Facebook responded that it didn’t violate their “community standards.”

When someone posted an online threat several years ago to firebomb this writer’s house, LAPD Captain Jon Peters said it was a prosecutable offense but the investigation found that the computer from which it originated was in a community room at the Hollywood Gay and Lesbian Service Center and thus it was not possible to identity the culprit.

The VSA joins Ms. Chada in opposing the placement of even more transient-gathering spots in Venice, next to residences and in this instance an elementary school.  With all the public land in Los Angeles there is no reason to place homeless serving facilities right next to homes or a school.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

ALERT: Please Oppose Storage Facitily at Westminster Senior Center

Venice Neighborhood Council to Consider Converting Senior Center to Homeless Storage/Services Facility

Please send an email opposing the use of the Westminster Senior Center on Pacific Avenue as a homeless storage and services facility.

The message should be sent to:

 Board@VeniceNC.org 

with copies to:

debbie.dynerharris@lacity.org and jesus.d.orozco@lacity.org

Suggested message:

I oppose the use of the Westminster Senior Center as a storage facility and homeless services center.

The Center is across the street from an elementary school, increasing the danger to school children from transients, and right near many residences.  The park area surrounding the Center has already been a serious nuisance and crime generator for nearby residents when camping was allowed there.  The provision of storage and services to the homeless will just attract more transients to the area and to Venice and enable them to more easily live in our community.  Any storage facilities, which are of questionable value in getting homeless persons off the street, should be located away from residential areas and should draw transients away from our community, not to it.

I urge you to vote NO on this proposal.





Friday, January 8, 2016

LA Times: What L.A. leaders are saying about the city's new homeless plan

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-homeless-plan-reaction-20160107-story.html

A new report from city budget analysts, released late Thursday, says the city of Los Angeles should spend at least $1.85 billion over the next decade to combat homelessness, including expanded spending on permanent housing.

It marks L.A.’s first comprehensive plan to tackle the crisis in years, announced at the same time that the county unveiled its own strategies.

To drum up money for the plan, the report suggests dozens of options, including seeking state or federal grants, as well as asking voters to approve a bond or tax increase. Here is what elected officials, community activists and others are saying about the plan:

City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice and other parts of the Westside: "The thing I think works best about this package -- it does not put all its eggs in one basket. There has to be multiple strategies because there's multiple different kinds of homelessness. ... And we've got to get serious about funding it." Bonin added that if a bond or tax is needed, "I'm willing to go to the voters to ask for this. This is the No. 1  issue I hear about from all over my district."
Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Assn.: "I see nothing in the report in the way of immediate relief for the 1,000 or so transients along Venice Beach and at Third and Rose or for the nearby residents who are victimized by the presence of encampments next to their homes."

City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents parts of South Los Angeles and co-chairs the Homelessness and Poverty Committee: "I think the strategy is a sound one." However, he added, "I do not think we were as thorough about the total cost in dollars, about actually solving the problem, as we could have been." The $1.85 billion would "pull us back from the crisis ... but I wouldn’t want people to support an investment and then expect that they will never see a homeless prson. That’s not what's before us at this moment."

Mayor Eric Garcetti: "The Homelessness Strategy Report gives us the blueprint we need to take swift action, and its recommendations will help us allocate funding to solve this critical issue over the next decade. It incorporates the three pillars of my homelessness strategy: scaling up the Coordinated Entry System; preventing people at risk for homelessness from landing on the streets; and balancing health and safety concerns with the rights and needs of people who are living in unacceptable conditions."

Gary Blasi, attorney with Public Counsel Law Center's Opportunity Under Law project: "I respect the people who put this plan together. But this is not a plan to end homelessness, but rather a plan to continue to manage how we tolerate it. It demonstrates the gap between rhetoric and reality and the long-term failure of political will in the city to do more than manage perceptions of mass homelessness. What is potentially real in this plan might make life a little less miserable for those on the streets. ... The estimate of $1.85 billion over 10 years will produce sticker shock, but $185 million per year is a tiny fraction of the L.A. city budget, equal to about 13 cents per city resident per day."

Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles: "Housing our homeless neighbors saves lives and money, but we need to invest in new and dedicated sources of funding to help accelerate and maximize the solutions that are working. We hope our elected officials will continue to look at the larger calls to action that the strategies propose and not end with short-term, one-time fixes. We need the political and public will to assess permanent solutions and make the necessary investments."