Thursday, February 25, 2021

Maintain Pedestrian Safety at Windward Traffic Circle

 

Please sign the change.org petition at http://chng.it/8W6wMhyp to stop a misguided effort to install a crosswalk to the island in the middle of the Windward Traffic Circle.

Some years ago the city's Department of Transportation installed "No Pedestrians" signs all around the Windward Traffic Circle to keep the public from crossing over to the island.

This was done because the bollards placed around the circle block drivers' ability to see "around the curve" as they drive around the circle.  This inability to be able to easily see ahead imperils any pedestrian who attempts to cross to the island.  This is especially true for youngsters who are no taller than the bollards.

The "No Pedestrians" signs also help prevent graffiti to the Robert Graham sculpture and bar campers from setting up tents on the island.

A misguided group of local students is circulating a petition to have crosswalks installed directly to and from the island in an east-to-west direction.

Help us stop this unsafe proposal by signing the petition. 

_____________

One of the many supporters of this petition wrote:


I am an orthopedic surgeon and take care of motor vehicle - motor vehicle, motor vehicle - pedestrian and e-scooter related collisions and injuries. Please do not make the traffic circle area unsafe by allowing pedestrians to cross into the middle of the traffic circle. This is a terrible idea and will create a massive safety hazard.

Regards,
Dr. Lanny Rudner


Tuesday, January 19, 2021

VSA Opposes Motion to Make Sidewalk Cleanups Voluntary

 https://www.foxla.com/news/two-la-city-council-members-motion-to-replace-encampment-cleanups

Two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion to replace the city's current mandatory encampment cleanup system with a voluntary one.

The motion was filed by Nithya Raman from District 4 and Mike Bonin from District 11.

The motion would offer services including trash and bulk item pick-ups, create designated areas for trash and waste to be placed for disposal and removal, provide easy-ups or shade structures to help homeless people temporarily relocate during cleanups, provide mobile showers, bathrooms, and hire homeless people to keep areas tidy between cleanings. It would also not involve law enforcement during the cleanups.

"Here in Los Angeles, we have an absolutely broken system about how we try to maintain our streets and sidewalks and how we try to keep encampments clean until we can house everybody. Me and a couple of my colleagues have proposed different, and we think a smarter and better way of doing things.

"Instead of rolling down the street and creating conflict and controversy and seizing people's belongings and forcing them out of their tents, which is strongly against public health guidelines, particularly in the era of COVID, we're proposing a voluntary system where just like you and I or anybody who's housed, a sanitation truck comes down the street and they pick up what you want them to pick up," said Bonin.

Bonin said they've started a pilot project in the 11th district with the voluntary cleaning model.

"We started piloting in our district the past couple of months and it's really starting to work. It's not a matter of stopping cleanups. It's about doing them differently and doing them better," he said.

When asked about homeless people who might be seen as medically unfit determining whether or not to participate in what would be a voluntary program, Bonin said it's not an issue.

"That has not been a tremendous problem so far. What we have found is after trust has been built up, when people see that you're not coming to seize their belongings and we've had people who have had their medicine taken, their documents taken, we've had someone who died because of their heart medication was taken. When they see that you're coming to provide a service, people are more cooperative, and over time we have built up a cooperative relationship," said Bonin.

Bonin said they've had an "over 90 percent level of cooperation."

"I would like us to replace the current system which confiscates belongings and throws people out of their tents and takes their tents with a system that is actually cooperative," he said.

It's a controversial motion especially after a fire in Venice that started at a homeless encampment and engulfed a commercial building.  

"The surest way to make sure that we don't have fires at homeless encampments is to make sure we don't have homeless encampments and the surest way to make sure we don't have homeless encampments is to make sure we have housing and we need to stop having conversations about how do we try to magically make or legislate encampments away and how do we get people more quickly into housing which is why I'm a big advocate of purchasing, leasing even if we have to seize vacant hotels and moving people in the way the CDC says we should. I think we need my motion to go through to make sure the fires don't take place, right now we have a broken system that isn't cleaning up the encampments," he said.

Reverend Andy Bales, the CEO of Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row, said he believes the mandatory cleanings are important.

"Especially with COVID amidst the filth, we cannot leave the filth on the streets and people living in it and leave it up to their discretion, they are just trying to survive and they need all the assistance possible," said Bales.

Bales has been a victim of unclean streets while advocating for unhoused people.

"I lost my leg four years ago to staff and E.coli and flesh-eating disease and that's the danger we're leaving people in when we hesitate to clean up. I know Mike Bonin, and I know his heart and he was crying out for more shelter beds rather than slow to develop very expensive housing but you do need to make it inviting and try every way you can to offer the help but in the end, it's very important that we get in and clean up as best as possible," said Bales.

Bonin also believes police should not be involved in the cleanup process. Bales believes they should be in the area.

"The police could be stationed a couple of blocks away and not even make an appearance but ready in case there's an event that comes up like the one who killed the Pasadena outreach worker," said Bales.

Mark Ryavec, the President of Venice Stakeholders Association and a member of Venice Neighborhood Council, believes the motion is problematic. Ryavec also ran against Bonin in the past.

"The voluntary nature of it will mean that quite a few of our sidewalk campers will not accept service and these encampments will continue to grow and the human waste, food waste, rats, the diseases, just will all continue to accumulate," he said.

He mentioned the surge in COVID-19 cases the homeless population is currently seeing and does not believe mandatory cleanings will cause any harm.  

"These folks [people living in encampments] are not sheltering in place. You come out to Venice and you'll see they're all partying together. They're all moving around. They're not wearing masks. It's not as though doing an involuntary cleanup where they have to strike their camp, and move out is going to have any appreciable effect on the virus spread," he said.

Ryavec mentioned the recent Venice fire as well.

"Folks are lighting fires to keep warm and for whatever reason, they're getting out of control and it is just a matter of time before one of those fires takes down not an empty office building but takes down an apartment building. We're very lucky that no one has died yet from a fire that got out of control," he said.

Ryavec does believe it's logical to schedule the mandatory cleanups but does not believe they should be voluntary.

"Many of them [homeless] are really trying to make the best of a bad situation and are not problematic but there are some bad actors and there are some clearly mentally ill people and folks that are clearly drugged a good bit of the day. Because he [Bonin] keeps relaxing restrictions, and adding services, they [homeless] just keep coming," he said.

Ryavec said residents want Bonin to solve the homeless encampment concern like he did for the encampment on Rose Avenue, offering homeless people vouchers for places to stay.

"They [residents] want him to do the exact same thing along the Venice Boardwalk. What Bonin did on Rose for the 100 campers over there was a tremendous relief to the residents there and that's what residents here and business people who are constantly having homeless people come and steal from them and threaten them and steal their bikes and vandalize their facilities, want him to do and I don't understand why that would be so difficult because he already knows how to do it. He's already done it once and certainly, we are not looking for more services. We are not looking for this to become a permanent Kampground of America," Ryavec said.

The motion is in the hands of a city council committee.

However, a Superior Court Judge ruled Monday to deny a request from a homeless advocate group to temporarily halt the mandatory cleanups.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Please Oppose the Massive Reese-Davidson Project Slated for the Venice Boulevard Median

 From our friends at Fight Back, Venice -

 

First Hearing on Reese-Davidson Community:
Wednesday, January 13, 9:30 AM!
The access information is as follows:
Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device.
https://planning-lacity-org.zoom.us/j/85345357254
WEBINAR ID: 853 4535 7254
PASSCODE: 101696

Participants may also join by phone:
1 213 338 8477 or 1 669 900 9128
When prompted, enter the
Webinar ID: 853 4535 7254

The hearing notice is here.

We encourage you to “dial in” and make brief comment in opposition to the project. Speakers are typically allocated 90-120 seconds. Suggested talking points are provided below.

In addition, please:
  1. Send the one-click email opposing the project, if you have not already done so.
  2. Leave a voicemail opposing the project for Ira Brown, LA Planning Department, at 213-978-1453.  
  3. Organize distribution of this flyer or this flyer about the project in your neighborhood.
  4. Forward this email to your friends, family and neighbors.
  5. Donate to our legal fund!
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
The upcoming January 13 meeting is a meeting of the Deputy Advisory Agency (“DAA”) of the Los Angeles Planning Department, which comprises Planning Department staff. The DAA will make a recommendation on whether the Reese-Davidson Community qualifies for an exemption from environmental review under state law A.B. 1197. It will also make certain findings as to whether it is proper to combine the 40 or so existing lots at the proposed building site into two parcels for purposes of construction. The required findings largely involve environmental impacts and impacts on public safety.

In addition, a “hearing officer” from the Planning Commission will take preliminary public comment on whether it is appropriate to exempt the proposed zone change for the building site from environmental review under A.B. 1197 and various other issues.

Once the DAA makes its findings and recommendations with respect to environmental review and lot consolidation, there will be hearings before the Planning Commission, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee of the City Council, and then the City Council itself. We will provide information on those hearings as it becomes available and estimate the City approval process will take approximately four months in total. The project will then go before the California Coastal Commission.

All of the foregoing bodies will rubber stamp the project, applaud the developers and, in some cases, make unfounded personal attacks on those in opposition.

In our view, however, there are numerous unlawful aspects to both the project and the review process and it is, therefore, essential that Venice residents participate actively in the approval process, to build a factual record and preserve as many rights as possible for litigation.
 

Suggested Talking Points

The following talking points are tailored to the items on the January 13 agenda for the DAA Hearing. They also reflect time limits and the relatively narrow scope of the DAA’s authority. We will provide new talking points, addressing other issues, for subsequent hearings. Of course, you should also feel free to say whatever you like about the project. These are merely suggestions to assist in preparing your remarks (which, again, must be very brief).

You can also go to our website – www.fightbackvenice.org – for more information about the project.
  • This hearing should not proceed at all because:
    • The information that has been provided to the public is inaccurate and misleading. The project plans falsely show a single project with conventional parking in two parking structures. However, there are actually two projects in development: the Reese-Davidson Community, which VCHC is developing, and the East Parking Tower, which the City of Los Angeles is developing. The plan for the East Parking Tower has not yet been provided to the public. All we know is that it will likely be robotic (automated-lift) parking, which is noisy, slow and uniquely unsuited for beach traffic.
    • The City has failed to make the contents of the environmental file for the Reese-Davidson Community available to the public. Approval of the proposed lot combination requires a finding that the Reese-Davidson Community will not have adverse environmental impacts. The environmental file goes directly to that issue and must be made public before the approval process can start.
    • The City has failed to provide documents showing the impact that the Reese-Davidson Community will have on law enforcement and schools. The Reese-Davidson Community is projected to have at least 420 residents, and public records show that VCHC properties have extremely high incident rates. The LAPD and LAUSD have created documents describing impacts on law enforcement and schools. The public must see those before any hearings are held.
    • The COVID pandemic and lockdown have made it unduly difficult for the public to focus on this issue, exchange information, organize and otherwise participate in the hearing process.
  • No exemption from environmental review should be granted because:
    • VCHC publicly promised to prepare an exhaustive Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the project.
    • The Venice Neighborhood Council has demanded an exhaustive environmental review for the project.
    • The exemption from environmental review that VCHC is seeking for the Reese-Davidson Community (under A.B. 1197) applies only to supportive housing for the homeless, but less than one quarter of the project consists of supportive housing for the homeless. Plus, the Reese-Davidson community has outrageous design elements—including a 70-foot tower with observation deck—of the sort the legislature obviously did not intend to exempt from review.
    • The supportive housing exemption cannot possibly apply to the East Parking Tower, which is a separate project consisting solely of public parking that has nothing to do with supportive housing.
  • The lot combination should not be approved because:
    • The proposed building site is one of the most environmentally sensitive and environmentally risky locations in Venice:
      • It is at or below sea level, just a block off the beach. There is no place in Venice more vulnerable to sea level rise and Councilman Bonin himself predicted that it will be underwater in 50 years.
      • It sits directly on the Venice Canals, which draw from and feed into the protected Ballona Wetlands.
      • It is in a tsunami hazard zone on a tsunami escape route. A project of this scale will amplify the impact of a tsunami by deflecting waves into existing homes; impede escape; and deprive Venice of a crucial disaster relief staging area.
    • The project will destroy the staging area currently used for maintenance of the Venice Canals, which are on the National Historic Registry, without providing a replacement.
    • The project will adversely affect public safety by:
      • Further straining law enforcement, which has recently experienced severe cuts despite spiking crime rates, with 420 new residents, many of whom have special needs.
      • Permanently locking in grossly substandard streets and sidewalks and moving parking further away from the beach – on a corridor used by more than 10 million beachgoers a year.
      • Preventing the installation of protected bike lanes as called for in LA’s Mobility Plan.
    • The project eliminates the last major open space parcel in Venice and does not comply with the Venice Specific Plan, with respect to height, density, set backs or parking.
  • In general, the Reese-Davidson Community should not be approved because:
    • It is an outrageous misuse of funds that does nothing to solve homelessness in Venice or elsewhere. According to City records, the Reese-Davidson Community will cost $100 million, not counting the value of the 3-acre building site. Yet we are only going to get 68 homeless housing units.
    • It violates the City’s anti-containment policy. Venice, which measures just 3-square miles, currently has more than a dozen new or pending homeless projects, but there is nothing in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades or most other Council District 11 communities. Also, Venice accounts for less than 5% of the land in Council District 11, but 60% of the homeless. The overconcentration of homeless resources in Venice has created a magnet effect. Other communities need to start doing their fair share and the City must stop piling on Venice.
Thank you, as always, for your support.

Onward!

Support FBV
Send a One-Click Email Opposing the Monster on the Venice Canals

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Councilman Bonin Fails Math

At the recent Zoom meeting of the Westside Regional Alliance of Community Councils (WRAC), Councilman Bonin maintained that the $150,000,000 cut in the LAPD's 2020-21 budget represented no more than .7% of that budget, i.e., less than one percent.

I have been having trouble understanding how such a minor cut could result in such drastic personnel loses, for example, reducing the Venice Beach Detail from 42 to 26 officers, with losses of entire units in many specialty fields.

I discussed this calculation with a senior LAPD Pacific Division officer and he told me the cut was closer to 8%.  

I just did the math to be sure.  The total 2020-21 fiscal year budget was $1,860,000,000.  Divided into $150,000,000, I get .08.  Multiply that by 100 to get percentage, and I get 8%.

So, despite being Harvard-educated, Mr. Bonin does not know how to calculate percentages.  And as we have known for years, he does not care about the increasing crime and shootings and murders that have resulted from his negligence.

Addendum:  I shared this with Chief Michel Moore and he replied:

More importantly, given the inflationary aspect of collective bargaining wage agreements and their impact on total dollars spent, is the physical reduction in workforce.

For FY 2020/21 the sworn workforce is being reduced from 10,000 to 9,751.  This is in addition to the 100 officer reduction that occurred in FY 2019/20.  The civilian workforce is being reduced from 3,020 (est) to 2,850.  

The Department has completed a top-to-bottom review of its organization and functions. This has resulted in shifting of remaining personnel resources in the best manner possible for public safety while also identifying activities that will be curtailed, accomplished in an alternate manner, or eliminated.

Most concerning is following these cuts, further reductions have been sought by the City Council.  These reductions involve additional workforce reductions of 355 sworn and 273 civilian employees.  While these reductions have not been formally adopted by the City Council, the Department is currently assembling lay-off lists to meet these additional cuts.

 

 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Historical Society and Venice Stakeholders Prepare for Return of Tourists in the New Year

Gates have been installed at the Gondola Garden on the Windward Traffic Circle to make the Venice gondola more accessible to the public.

"As we move back to normalcy in 2021, we want to give visitors an opportunity to take photos with the gondola without any obstacles in the way," said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA.

"Working with the Historical Society, we also are considering training docents who would give talks to the public about Venice's development by Abbot Kinney and the "Lost Canals" district, which was centered on the traffic circle," Ryavec said.  The circle was originally a boat basin (see below) where gondola tours were launched daily, and Windward Avenue (Lion Canal) and Grand Boulevard (Grand Canal) were two spokes of the canal system. 

The gondola exhibited here is a replica of the gondolas that once cruised our canals.

The VSA is also looking for residents who would volunteer to regularly weed the garden, wash off the gondola and trim the bougainvillea.  

The creation of the garden, the repair and refurbishment of the gondola, and installation of the flagstone plaza and the new gates were funded by residents and local businesses, including Hama Sushi, the Erwin Hotel and Russ Cletta Design Studio.  Donations to continue maintenance are tax deductible and may be made to the right by PayPal or Zelle.

This photo shows the boat basin with the roller coaster in the foreground, and Lion and Grand Canals coming in from the right.  The small building in the middle of the photo facing the water is the current site of Hama Sushi.  Today the gondola sits across Lion Canal (now Windward) from Hama Sushi at the foot of the bridge seen in the photo.  The management of the Venice Post Office has generously allowed the Venice Historical Society to exhibit the gondola on its property.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bonin Proposes Conditions on Venice Place Hotel Project on Abbot Kinney

 

Despite various comments on social media that Councilmember Bonin has killed the Venice Place Project, the project is alive but now freighted down with a slew of new conditions, which may or may not make the ultimate project more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and elementary school.

Below is a link to the conditions that Councilmember Bonin has proposed to impose on the hotel/restaurants/market.  

Proposed Venice Place Conditions

Probably the most notable is that the applicant must contribute $750,000 to the city's Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing.

The list of conditions also includes a mandatory plan approval process in two to three years of the hotel becoming operational to:

review the effectiveness of, and compliance with the express terms of all conditions, including but not limited to, Conditions 15 (Parking), 16 (Valet Parking), 17 (Loading), 18 (Trash Pick-up), 22 (Alcoholic Beverage Conditions), 25 (Complaint Log), 27 (employee and patron monitoring), 28 (loitering), 32 (electronic age verification), 36 (noise levels), 39 (private events), 42-47 (entertainment/music conditions) of the permit for the project.

Unfortunately, as Venice residents have witnessed for many years with similar conditions imposed on St. Joseph's, the city rarely implements plan approval compliance or enforces conditions.

The owner will also be required to create a local hire program, for both construction and ongoing jobs, targeting the Venice Community with an emphasis on hiring from disadvantaged communities.

Following the City Attorney's advice, the project has been returned to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission for consideration of Bonin's proposed
conditions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

VSA Opposes SB 1120, Bill That Would Allow Four Units by Right on Single Family Parcels Throughout State

From KPPC's Airtalk:

A bill moving through the California legislature would require local governments to allow for duplexes in what’s currently single family home zoning as a way to address the state’s housing crisis. 

Under SB 1120, property owners could turn their houses into duplexes, or could divide up their lots and put two duplexes on the property, creating four homes where there was once one. 

The legislation is opposed by a number of local neighborhood groups who are concerned that new housing will affect the character of their neighborhoods, decrease available parking and not provide housing that is low rent enough to address the housing shortage.

We dive into the pros and cons of the legislation. 

Guests:

David Garcia, policy director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley; he tweets @DavidGarcia209     

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council

Click here to hear interview:

VSA Opposes SB 1120