Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ALERT - Please Tell the City Planning Commission to Oppose 718-20 Rose Avenue


Please send the following message to the Los Angeles Planning Commission opposing Venice Community Housing Corp's proposal to build the first four-story building in the Oakwood neighborhood.  As is readily evident from the previous meeting notice, the project will dwarf everything else in Oakwood and set a dangerous predecent for future development.

The VCHC is soliciting non-Venice residents to deluge the Commission with emails.  We need to fight back to protect Venice from over-development. 

Dear President Millman and Members of the Los Angeles Planning Commission, 

Please oppose the VCHC's 718-20 Rose Avenue project.  It is too tall, too dense, has too little parking, and is way out of character with Venice.  It is extremely out of step with both the Venice Specific Plan and the desires of residents for Venice to remain a low-rise community.  Approving its 45-foot height and almost no parking will set a dangerous precedent. Send it back to the drawing board!

Send to: Samantha Millman <cpc@lacity.org>
               Oliver Netburn <Oliver.Netburn@lacity.org>

Please send your message of opposition today; the hearing is this Thursday!

Monday, January 14, 2019

VSA Sues City and Coastal Commission to Require Venice Homeless Shelter to Comply with Environmental Laws and Coastal Act

Today the Venice Stakeholders Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission, 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.” 

The VSA is still collecting funds to support this lawsuit.  Donations may be made on this site to the right by credit card.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Last Call to Stop Bridge Housing in Residential Neighborhood of Venice

We have now raised $100,000 toward our legal effort to stop the 154-bed homeless shelter on the former MTA lot on Main Street.

Our goal is to raise $130,000.  

I am writing to ask for one more donation. 

My sincere thanks to those who have been so generous - some gave $100, some $500, some $1,000 and several gave $5,000.  

All the residents - some who  look out at the bus lot from their homes - are concerned about noise from the outdoor kennel and outdoor dining area, some are concerned that there is no street parking around the site now and the city is not providing enough on-site parking, some are concerned about new encampments springing up around the site, and some are concerned about the real potential for crime and assaults, which have accompanied the St. Joseph facilities on Lincoln and Hampton and the large encampments on Third Street and Park Avenue on OFW and elsewhere in Venice.

All are concerned that this project will be yet another magnet for even more homeless to come from around the nation to "try" to secure free housing.  That word - try - is the danger.  The site will only hold 154 people, while the city acknowledges that there are about 1,000 people living on the streets of Venice.  Where will the hundreds more that come to sign up for a bed go after all the beds are full?  Onto the sidewalk, into the alleys, on the Boardwalk, on private property.

None of our supporters oppose Bridge Housing or other efforts to house the homeless.

They object to this project being rammed down their throats and to it being located in residential neighborhood, to the lack of any protections for residents - for example, no 24-hour security outside the facility and no sound wall to dampen the noise from a kennel and exterior HVAC equipment - and the complete failure of the city to conduct an environmental impact report for the project.   

So, please, if you have not already contributed, please contribute $500 today.  If you gave in 2018 please contribute again in 2019.

If you want to see our legal "causes of action" just send us an email at venicestakeholders@ca.rr.com and we will send you our attorney's brief, which the city ignored.

Our deadline is January 14th, ten days from tomorrow.

All donations are tax deductible.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Please Donate to the Legal Effort to Stop the Homeless "Magnet" on the MTA Lot

Funds are urgently needed to support our attorney's effort to stop the city's plans for a huge homeless shelter on the MTA Lot that will be just another magnet for homeless to come to Venice from all around the nation, yet will not solve the problem.
Think of the St. Joseph walk-in center on Lincoln at Sunset, which is a plague to nearby residents - last year a homeless woman camping there started a fire in a dumpster behind St. Joseph and it jumped to the house next door and forced a family out of their home for weeks.  That is what the city is putting in our residential neighborhood - on steroids - while the Neighborhood Council has identified better, existing facilities elsewhere that are not a threat to families.

Working with residents living around the MTA lot, the VSA has already filed two legal briefs challenging the illegal environmental exemptions the City and Coastal Commission granted to the "Bridge Housing" project.

With 154 homeless campers taking beds in temporary structures and at least 50 counseling staff, security and food service staff and custodial workers, the facility will have only 20 parking spaces.  Despite an outdoor kennel for residents' dogs and an open-air dining area, all within 50 feet of residents' homes, there are no measures to control noise.  And with the LAPD constantly short of officers, there will be no added security of any kind for the neighborhood and the beach walk streets.

Since the city and Commission ignored our demands that the project receive a full environmental impact report addressing noise, parking, traffic, water quality (human waste from yet more encampments), and public safety, we are now raising funds to file lawsuits against the city and Commission and a writ for a preliminary injunction to stop the project from being installed until we have our day in court.

Litigation is expensive. Fortunately many residents have already been very generous. We have now raised over half the funds needed to cover the lawsuit.

If the shelter goes ahead, it could easily lower property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars, as new encampments mushroom on Main, Hampton, Pacific, Sunset, Paloma, Thornton and other nearby streets.  It also will add a tremendous amount of noise and parking demand and traffic and bring even more drug addicted, mentally ill and criminal transients to the neighborhood.

Please contribute $500 or more today. Tax deductible contributions may be made at Venicestakeholdersassociation.org.

We face a deadline to file the suit, so your contribution is needed by January 1st.  Please email Travis Binen at <travis.binen@delphix.com> for more information or venicestakeholders@ca.rr.com.

Friday, December 14, 2018

VSA Joins with Venice Historical Society to Return Gondola to Windward Circle

After a long absence, the Venice Gondola is now back in Venice.

Some time ago the Venice Historical Society had to pull the gondola off the Windward Circle due to the extensive damage it was suffering from vandalism.

It had been sitting in storage near LAX until the beautification of the Venice Post Office environment by the VSA and Neighbors of Grand suggested a new home for the gondola.

As part of beautification project, the VSA raised the funds to remove the over-grown foliage from the small garden at the west end of the Post Office parking lot and then welded steel plates atop the old I-beams that once held up a huge Safeway sign at that location.  The steel plates provide a secure pedestal for the gondola.

Then the VSA and Historical Society retained a fencing firm to install a wider gate from the parking lot to the garden to accommodate the gondola (seen below on the right).

Stewart Oscars, who is restoring the gondola, Historical Society president Jill Prestup and VSA president Mark Ryavec. 

Critical to the project was the support of Post Mistress Brittani Cephas and the financial assistance of Hama Sushi owner Esther Chiang and resident Grant van Every.

Today carpenter (and former VNC Board Member) Stewart Oscars finished the repairs and painting of the bottom and it was moved into an upright position.  Next, Oscars will replicate and install several deck fixtures that were lost over the years and re-paint the remainder of the hull.  Current plans are to re-paint the gondola in traditional black with gold trim.  Other plans include landscaping and possibly Italianate fencing.

Many thanks to all those who have supported this project.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Coastal Commission Director Ainsworth Bases Waiver for Bridge Housing Project on Bogus Parking Number

The Director of the California Coastal Commission has based his recommendation to grant the Bridge Housing project on the MTA bus lot a waiver from applying for a Coastal Development Permit and an environmental review on a completely bogus parking number.

In his report to the Commission, Jack Ainsworth writes: 

"The project includes the provision of 79 vehicle parking spaces and additional bicycle parking spaces to be provided on-site for approximately 15 service providers, which leaves ample parking for visitors to the site."

However, the site layout provided by Councilman Bonin's Office shows only nine (9) parking spaces, in the upper left corner of the plan.

Both the city's Bureau of Engineering report on the project and Ainsworth's report fails to account for parking for security personnel, kennel staff, custodial staff, kitchen staff to prepare and serve 154 meals a day, and various teachers and instructors for the many programs the city intends to conduct at the facility.  Of course, since the city cannot limit applicants to just those who do not own vehicles, it is likely that some residents of the Bridge Housing project will arrive with cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, campers and RVs, which will have to be parked in street parking spaces, taking these from beach visitors and residents alike.
The Commission should proceed with a full environmental review of the project under a Coastal Development Permit application, focusing on the adequacy of parking, the impact of noise from the outdoor dining area, outside dog kennel and the numerous exterior HVAC systems on residents living less than 50 fifty away.  A separate study of the historical contamination on the site is also required along with its potential to harm residents, staff and visitors to the site through accumulation of vapors in enclosed living quarters and offices.

Residents may attend the Commission's hearing on Wednesday, December 12 in Newport Beach to protest the lack of a full environmental review.  One must arrive before 9:00 am and submit a speakers request form to address the Commission.  

You may also write to: Jack Ainsworth <jainsworth@coastal.ca.gov> and Chuck Posner <cposner@coastal.ca.gov> and demand that the Commission require a full environmental review of the project.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Post Your Opinions on the Future Development on the MTA Lot

Whatever occurs with the temporary - and misguided - Bridge Housing proposal for the former MTA bus lot on Main Street at Sunset, the MTA will eventually collaborate on a joint development of the site with a for-profit developer; i.e., on a bricks-and-mortar housing complex.

I encourage you to let your views be known to the MTA.  This project will have a tremendous impact on the surrounding area, and will either fit in and complement the current housing patterns or be, as Prince Charles said of an overly large and modern development in London, a "carbuncle" on the face of Venice.

The MTA is soliciting residents' views at:  metro.net/division6

I recently learned Councilman Bonin and homeless advocates are soliciting people outside of Venice to participate in the survey and ask that the future project be 100% permanent, supportive housing; i.e., populated entirely with people recently homeless.  This is counter to the MTA guidelines which call for not more than one-third affordable units in these projects and which is counter to "best planning practices," which encourage a mix of market rate, work force and affordable units, only some of which would usually be permanent, supportive housing.

Here are some of the other points that I made:

1.  Comply with the height and density limits of the Venice Specific Plan, at least on the perimeter where the project faces existing two and three story residences.
2. Consider replicating the historic Venice Craftsman architecture, such as the two story apartment buildings on Horizon.
3.  Do not close off the project from the surrounding area, but instead continue a walk street from Pacific to Main Street.   
4.  Comply with the parking requirements under the Venice Specific Plan and add additional parking for visitors and for residents, preferably in a subterranean, automated parking structure.
5.  Include some artists lofts as part of the affordable units to re-establish Venice's art colony, and limit affordable units to one-third of the project.

Of course, these are my preferences; let the MTA know yours.
The survey closes this week, so do it as soon as possible.