Saturday, April 23, 2016

Funds Sought for Legal Challenge to Storage Use at Westminster Center

Venice Stakeholders is looking to raise $5,000 to retain legal counsel to oppose the conversion of the Westminister Center to storage and keep alive the prospect of other uses such as a Venice Historical Museum and/or an office for park rangers for the Venice Beach Recreation Area and policing other parks in Venice. Contributions, which are tax deductible, can be made by PayPal to venicestakerholders@ca.rr.com or sent to VSA c/o 1615 Andalusia Avenue, Venice, CA. All donations will be used for legal research, and opposing the storage use, such as challenging the facility's change of use from recreation to a non-recreation use and application for a project permit under the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan.

UPDATE:  We have now raised $750 towards the $5,000 needed to retain legal counsel.  In  the meantime our attorneys are reviewing legal challenges as a courtesy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

KPPC AirTalk Discussion of Venice Homeless Proposals

http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2016/04/19/48089/city-councilman-venice-residents-discuss-plan-for/

Sunday, April 17, 2016

ALERT: Oppose Westminster Storage, Homeless Housing on Venice Blvd. and 24 Hour Beach Restrooms

 BONIN SLAPS VENICE IN THE FACE AGAIN

As you will read in the article below, Mike Bonin is proceeding with his plans to turn the Westminster Senior Center into Public Storage for the homeless, convert the parking lot on the Venice Blvd. median at Pacific Avenue to subsidized homeless housing and to roll back the Beach Curfew and open the Venice Beach restrooms 24 hours a day.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-homeless-bathrooms-venice-20160415-story.html

He is moving on these projects without public hearings in the community on each of these proposals; indeed, he has already set them in motion by introducing Motions in City Council.  Usually these proposals would have been the subject of hearings in our neighborhoods before Motions would be sent to the Council.

Below is an excerpt from my recent Yo!Venice column outlining the problems with his proposals, and in the instance of storage, recommending that any of the industrial buildings on Del Rey Avenue south of Washington Blvd. would be a much better site - they are not close to residences.

Please send an email to Mike's Chief Deputy Chad Molnar (chad.molnar@lacity.org) opposing each of these proposals:

I oppose:

1. The use the Westminster Center for storage of transients' possessions.  This will bring hundreds of campers back to this park and with them break-ins, late-night noise, trash, public inebriation, defecation and urination, and assaults.  Del Rey Avenue, an industrial strip, is a much better site for a storage facility.

2.  The use of the Venice Blvd. median parking lot  for homeless housing.  This site should be redeveloped with a parking structure to double or triple the parking for residents and beach visitors.  This neighborhood has already struggled with crime associated with homeless campers on these parking lots and the Canal boat landing; please do not congregate even more homeless here in the future.

3.  The relaxation of the Beach Curfew.  The curfew is one of the few laws that limit criminal activity along the beach front.  Relaxing the 12-5 am curfew to accommodate use of the beach restrooms will remove this proactive crime fighter, bring back drug dealing and use, prostitution and assaults to the restrooms, and only encourage more transients to live along the Boardwalk and walk streets.

Please copy and forward this entire message to your friends and neighbors in Venice.

From Yo!Venice (4/15/16)


The most poorly thought out proposal is to turn the Westminster Senior Center into a storage facility for homeless possessions.  This location has previously been used as a campground by transients and some of them have relentlessly preyed upon the nearby residents.  The LAPD has only in the last year kept the park relatively clear and addressed the crime in the area.  Drawing transients to this site on a daily basis will certainly result in renewed camping around the center and in nearby alleys and more opportunistic crime directed at the residents.  It makes far more sense to rent warehouse/office space in the industrial strip along Del Rey Avenue between Washington Boulevard and Maxella for use as an intake center for the County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES), with storage – both voluntary and involuntary - as an ancillary element.  This location is removed from residences, would draw transients away from the impacted areas on Venice Beach, and offers a site for case workers to enroll homeless into the CES, which tracks and coordinates all governmental contacts with homeless individuals.  It also allows social workers to develop and carry-out tailored placements into services, secure benefits and housing.  Storage without engagement just leaves folks on the street.



Similarly, Mike’s proposal to re-purpose the Venice median parking lot between Pacific and Dell as subsidized housing for the homeless misses the stated target in several ways. 


While Venice is indeed losing affordable housing due to rising rents, the proposed subsidized housing on the median lot will be for those at the very bottom of the economic ladder, not the college students, cashiers, teachers, nurses, security guards, artists, etc., who cannot afford an apartment in Venice.  Adding more subsidized housing for the homeless will not address the loss of this type of work force housing in the least.

When asked if Mike had identified any other city parking lots or land in CD 11 for similar homeless housing, Mike’s chief deputy Chad Molnar said Mike “started in Venice because the homeless population is greatest there and (Venice) is losing more affordable housing at a faster clip there.”  But Venice already has twice as much subsidized housing per capita as any other community in Council District 11*.  It is long overdue for other communities in CD 11 to step up and offer their parking lots for homeless housing to match Venice’s track record.
  
Venice has a large transient population not because of higher rents in recent years; I bet Bonin’s staff could not find more than ten people living on Venice Beach who were forced out of apartments in Venice by rent increases, which are limited by rent control to 3% per year.  Venice has this large population due to the beach, sun, drugs, fast food outlets, and most importantly, lack of enforcement and failure to stop the storage of tons of personal possessions along the Boardwalk, which is not allowed, for example, in the park next to City Hall. 

The amount of housing required to house Los Angeles’ homeless population is staggering to contemplate and even more bewildering when one considers the time it will take to fund, design, acquire sites and construct it.  Whatever units could be built on the Venice median site would be a drop in the bucket compared to the vast number of units that are required.  They also would not be available for many years, while the encampments in Venice fester and continue to ruin the quality of life of nearby residents and business owners.

It makes far more sense to take the funds available for that project and master rent apartment buildings in less expensive areas of LA County (as OPCC in Santa Monica does) and operate them as shared housing with four beds in each two bedroom apartment and a case worker on site.  This would truly implement the “Housing First” concept and allow the social service agencies in Venice to quickly move some of our campers into housing.

The other nonsensical aspect of using the median site for subsidized housing is that it runs counter to Venice’s need for parking.  The one message I heard continuously from the Coastal Commission in our years-long battle to garner overnight restricted parking was that Venice desperately needs an over-arching plan to develop far more visitor serving parking spaces.  An automated parking structure on that median lot, with one subterranean floor and two above ground would start to address the Commission’s concern.

Finally, as I pointed out in an earlier column, affordable housing, even for those initially homeless, cannot be built without its own dedicated parking without inevitably robbing parking from Venice residents who now use it.  As former homeless tenants improve their lives they acquire jobs, mates, occasionally children.  And cars.  So, on this site a significant amount of tenant parking will be required, which will cut into either the number of units that can be built or the number of parking spaces left for visitors and current residents.  The City can finance far more units on less expensive land inland.
 

Here's the full article:  http://www.yovenice.com/forum/this-forum-is-moderated-read-the-rules/seeing-my-brother-on-the-boardwalk/#p70107






Wednesday, March 23, 2016

VNC Misses in Opposing Continued Operation of Historic "Biltmore by the Sea" as a Hotel

Historic “Biltmore by the Sea” Hotel 

a Plus for Venice

By Mark Ryavec

What does the name “Biltmore by the Sea” conjure up in your mind? A hotel, right? All the Biltmores I’ve seen are hotels.

This reality was lost on a majority of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC). By a 10-6 vote the Council recently opposed the continued hotel use of Venice Suites, which was constructed on the Boardwalk in 1922 as the “Biltmore by the Sea.”

This vote came in a misguided effort to force the owner to operate Venice Suites as an apartment building with affordable rents, which neither the VNC nor the City has any ability to enforce in this case. The VNC also ignored the 76 Venetians who turned out to speak in favor of the hotel use, which was three times as many as those who spoke in opposition.

I suppose we could credit the VNC’s confusion because the original City of Venice zoning code did not differentiate between hotels and apartments, and the Venice municipal code taxed them identically. State law at the time defined the Biltmore as a “lodging house,” i.e., “a hotel that does not serve food,” with no minimum length of stay.

When Venice residents voted in 1925 to be annexed to the City of Los Angeles its zoning code was carried over…and the hotel use continued for decades. More recent City records (including a building permit from 1952) also show the building as a hotel.

The application before the VNC was for“Transient Occupancy Use,” which would continue Venice Suites’ historic use, allowing stays of one night, one week, one month or more. The building would remain under Los Angeles’ rent control law for any stays of more than a month, so anyone renting long-term would enjoy the City limit on rent increases and the bar on arbitrary eviction.

Inevitably, Venice Suites/Biltmore by the Sea lies at the knotty intersection between visitor demand for short term rentals (STRs) and Venice’s lack of hotels to address that demand. This demand for STRs is a historical fact. Long before anyone dreamed of Disneyland or Las Vegas, Venice was the West Coast’s convention destination, amuse- ment park and tourist resort. Indeed, Harrah’s Hotel was born at Venice Beach before relocating to Reno, Nevada. In the early part of the 20th century most of the residential units in Venice were built for vacationers and short-term occupancy because there were few jobs to support a large full- time, resident population. Biltmore by the Sea, now Venice Suites, was one of these buildings.

Our lack of visitor serving rooms can easily be seen in comparison with our neighbor to the north. While Santa Monica has over 3,800 hotel rooms and 8 million visitors per year in a city of about 93,000 residents, our town has only 450 hotel rooms and 16 million visitors per year with a population of about 40,000. By Santa Monica’s standard, we should have at least 1,900 hotel rooms. This scarcity of hotel rooms in Venice drives the strong demand for AirBnB uses in apartments and residences, which some residents find objectionable. With 32 rooms, Venice Suites relieves a portion of that demand.

A majority of the VNC mistakenly concluded that by opposing the continued hotel use that Venice Suites would be required to lower rents to an affordable level for long-term renters. They ignored the City Housing Department’s earlier determination under the Mello Act that there were no affordable units in the building and there had not been any for several years, so the City has no legal authority to impose a rent rollback. If short stays are prohibited at Venice Suites, the rooms can legally be rented as luxury, furnished apartments with studios at $3,000 per month and one bedrooms at $6,000 per month. That would leave hundreds of visitors each month who want to stay less than 30 days in Venice chasing AirBnB rentals. The City would lose approximately $300,000 in hotel taxes each year, since stays longer the 30 days are not taxed.

This will also be in defiance of the Coastal Act’s requirement that the City provide more, not less, “visitor serving” facilities so more of the public can enjoy the beach and ocean – like we do on a daily basis.

The VNC also ignored the fact that overnight visitors have a strong, positive impact on employment. They bring with them disposable income that fuels retail and restaurant sales which in turn supports local jobs – both at Venice Suites (14 full time jobs) and in local restaurants and shops – and generates sales and transient occupancy taxes that support city services. A hotel unit also has one half the parking impact of an apartment unit, which is significant in parking-starved Venice. The increasing popularity of Uber and Lyft suggest that the parking impact of hotels will drop even more as vis- itors forgo car rentals, especially in walkable and bike-friendly areas such as Venice.

Venice Suite’s almost century-long use as a hotel, its positive impact on the local economy, and the tremendous visitor demand for hotel rooms all argue for the City to ignore the VNC’s advisory vote and approve its continued hotel use.

(This article was reprinted from Yo!Venice.)

Friday, February 12, 2016

VSA Opposes New "Right to Rest" Bill



 
February 12, 2016

 The Honorable Senator Carol Liu
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 5097
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE:  SB 876 (Liu) Right to Rest Bill/Enforcement of Local Ordinances/ Notice of OPPOSITION

Dear Senator Liu:

I am writing on behalf of our organization to indicate our strong opposition to Senate Bill 876.

Venice Stakeholders Association represents residents concerned about public safety and quality of life in our town.  Venice is the reluctant host to roughly 1,000 transients who permanently camp right next to our residences in several locations in Venice.  With them come extreme and dangerous conditions including trespass, burglary, assaults, home invasions, car break-ins, drug dealing, loud late night noise, harassment, and inebriation, defecation and urination on both public and private property.

Your measure would exacerbate the current “Lord of the Flies” conditions we face by further tying the hands of local authorities, while not helping one homeless person get off of the street.

As I am sure you have noted, the City and County of Los Angeles are poised to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars to programs and housing to address the homeless crisis.  They may well be joined by the State in this effort with a billion or two in bond funds to construct housing for the homeless.

Removing the few remaining enforcement tools available to local police to protect residents from the deleterious effects of transient encampments will have the opposite effect of that which you intend; there will be little incentive or reason for transients to leave their encampments, friends and drugs to accept housing and services.   We know this because outreach staff from reputable homeless-serving agencies have repeatedly offered shelter beds, shared housing, and/or transportation to welcoming and safe family members out-of-state only to be rebuffed by those camping on our sidewalks and parks.  Even during the recent torrential rains there were many empty beds in local shelters.

I invite you to visit Venice and talk to residents and homeless serving organizations. We believe you would conclude that expanding further the rights of the homeless to occupy public space will only compound the problem.

Please find attached my op-ed article from the Los Angeles Times opposing your earlier version of the Right to Rest bill, SB 608, which cites just a few of the egregious crimes which have been committed by transients in our community.  At www.venicestakeholdersassociation.org you can see the numerous assaults and home invasions perpetrated on Venice residents since deranged transient Nathan Campbell, living in his car in Venice, mowed down 17 pedestrians on the Venice Boardwalk with his car and killed a young Italian woman in a rage over being ripped off in a drug deal gone bad.

Sincerely,

Mark Ryavec
President

Enclosure:  When the homeless problem is next door, Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2015


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.)