Sunday, December 4, 2011

Donation Thanks

Friends of the Venice Post Office,

I wanted to write to everyone to let them know that our neighbors
Michael King and Diana Pollard, of the Studio of Architecture, havegraciously donated $500 towards the $2,500 legal bill the VSA incurredin filing the initial appeal of the USPS' decision to close the PostOffice.

Michael and Diana have been long-time residents on Horizon and havegenerously donated their time and professional skills on innumerable community projects over the years.

Michael has also been especially helpful in advising the VSA and theVenice Post Office Task Force on the architectural and land-use/planning issues raised by the USPS' proposals for both the Post Office and the Annex.

Many thanks Michael and Diana!

Mark Ryavec

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Enforce Ban on Camping at Venice Beach


The disorder and criminality and especially drug use and sales on OFW reverberate throughout our community, driving much of the crime we see in our neighborhoods.  And the City's tolerance of the campers on the Boardwalk and in the park area has created a magnet that brings others to Venice to engage in illicit activity.
The Message:


Subject:  Enforce the Ban on Camping at Venice Beach

Please enforce the ban on camping in the Venice Beach Recreation Area (LAMC 63.44 (D) (4)).

The park and its Ocean Front Walk have become a cesspool of drug use and sales, public drunkenness, public defecation and urination, assaults, intimidation, late night noise, off-leash dogs, and a breeding ground for criminal activity that is directed at residents, businesses and private property, including automobiles which are routinely broken into in Venice.

Residents and visitors now feel they must avoid the Boardwalk due to the dangerous conditions that exist there.  Many in the travel press now advise visitors to skip Venice Beach due to these conditions.

The campers who truly want a bed for the night can obtain a bed at one of the several shelters which have been opened early for this purpose.

Please act to restore Ocean Front Walk to its former glory as a safe, cool and friendly place for LA residents and visitors alike.


tent still up at 10 am
debris piling up around public restrooms
a magnet for drinking and drugs
Click on the links below to edit and send this message to:

Deputy Mayor
West LA Director for the Mayor
Public Safety Policy Director
City Attorney
CD11 Councilmember
Assistant to CD11 Councilmember
Police Chief
Police Captain

Monday, November 21, 2011

Janice Hahn supports VSA appeal of Venice PO closure

Re: Support for Appeal of USPS Decision to Close the Venice, CA, Main Post Office

Dear Mr. Callender,

I am Writing to support the Venice Stakeholders Association and other Venice residents in their appeals of the USPS' decision to close the Venice Main Post Office (VMPO) at 1601 Main Street in Venice, Califomia. The USPS' decision represents a 60% closure and a sale of this historic facility, and thus is an appealable action.

My constituents have informed me that the current level of USPS customer service at the VMPO does not now and has not historically met the USPS' standard of providing window services to the public within five minutes. Apparently, at this location, waits of 20 and 30 minutes are not uncommon for window service.

However, despite failure to provide services in a reasonable period, l have been informed in
meeting with Diana Alvarado of USPS' Pacific Facilities Services Office that it has decided to close three customer service windows and relocate the remaining two windows to the Venice Carrier Annex at considerable expense. This is unacceptable.

The Venice community has long been under­-served by the USPS at the VMPO, even though the physical facilities allow more personnel to be present to reduce the wait time and provide quicker customer service. Given that customers already wait an astonishing amount of time, I am concerned that loss of the three windows will lead to an even lower level of service for local residents.

I also would note that under 39 C.F.R Section 241 .4(Í) USPS has a duty to comply with local planning and zoning requirements and building codes and to provide plans and drawings of new postal installations to appropriate local government officials. I have been informed that USPS has not complied with this statute. It appears to me that the Postal Service should assure that local land-use laws can be met at the proposed new location for customer services before it proceeds any further with its plans to sell the existing facility, which currently has adequate space to provide the requisite level of customer service.

For these reasons I urge the Commission to remand the USPS’ decision back to USPS with
instructions to investigate, in consultation with the Venice community and officials ofthe City of Los Angeles, a means to keep this facility in use as a post office and to provide a higher level of customer service commensurate with maintaining a wait time of less than five minutes and with improving the USPS' relationship with its customers.

Sincerely yours,

Janice Hahn
Member of Congress

Attachment: Appeal of Venice Stakeholders Association

Monday, October 17, 2011

Appeal of Venice Post Office Closure

(Venice, CA/10-16-11)  The Venice Stakeholders Association filed an appeal Friday with the U.S. Postal Rate Commission seeking to overturn the U.S. Postal Service's decision to close and sell the Venice Post Office and relocate customer services to the Venice Postal Annex, a sorting and carrier storage facility.
The appeal claims that the Postal Service failed to follow its own rules for the closure and seeks to have the Commission revoke the closure.

The dramatic decrease in the extent of Post Office operations, simultaneous with its "relocation," means that the action is the functional equivalent of a closure - or at least a partial closure - and thus is subject to the right of an appeal to the Postal Rate Commission.

The Venice Post Office, a 1939 Works Project Administration structure, is of significant historical, architectural, and community value.  It also contains the historical mural "Story of Venice" by noted artist Edward Biberman.

John Henning, the Stakeholders' attorney, notes in a letter to David E. Williams, the Vice President of Postal Network Operations, that federal law requires the Postal Service to "comply with local planning and zoning requirements and building codes."

However, the USPS has already announced it will soon issue a contract for approximately $400,000 to install a customer service facility in the Annex.  This is before it has submitted any plans to the City of Los Angeles to review compliance with LA planning and zoning codes, in particular compliance with the current requirements for adequate employee, public and carrier truck parking, and parking lot setbacks, landscaping and re-striping.   City rules will also require up-dating the facility to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Henning suggests that Williams, in his recent denial letter stating that no appeals are permitted to his decision, is attempting to bully Venice residents into not appealing his earlier decision, when closures of main post offices are indeed appealable to the Postal Rate Commission.

Residents fear the loss of the historic structure and mural if it is sold, on one hand, and foresee increased parking congestion and a continuation of exceptionally poor maintenance of the grounds around the Annex, on the other, if customer operations move to the Annex.

"We fully understand the severe budget constraints facing the Postal Service," said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders.  "But in downsizing, the Postal Service still has to follow its own rules - and they haven't in this instance."

"Representatives of the Postal Service have told us that they do not have to comply with local land-use laws, while a clear reading of the federal law shows this is incorrect," Ryavec said.  "It also shows they have been premature in deciding to relocate customer services before they have determined, in consultation with the Los Angeles City Planning Department, if the re-configuration of the Annex building and adjoining parking lot is legally permissible; for example, can they provide the required parking."

Friday, September 16, 2011

VSA Support for SB 910 to Safeguard Cyclists

Dear Governor Brown,

I'm writing on behalf of the Venice community and cyclists throughout California to urge you to sign Senate Bill 910 so that drivers must give at least three feet of clearance when overtaking a person on a bicycle.

When a passing driver fails to give a bicyclist enough space, the slightest error by the driver or the most minor shift by the bicyclist to avoid trash, broken glass, a car door opening or rough pavement can lead to a collision. This type of collision is the leading cause of adult bicyclist fatalities in California and the U.S.

By requiring drivers to give bicyclists more space when passing, we can minimize a leading cause of deadly collisions and help more people feel comfortable about choosing to ride their bikes. And by making it possible for more people to feel confident about choosing to ride a bicycle, we can encourage more Californians to bike routinely and begin to achieve some of the state's crucial goals for less gas consumption and improved air quality.

Specifying a minimum passing distance provides a more objective and easily understood measure of what constitutes "safe" and gives law enforcement and the courts a more objective basis for enforcing a safe passing requirement. Most importantly, it helps emphasize a driver's responsibility to safeguard more vulnerable road users like bicyclists. It will save lives without imposing any costs on government.

Please sign SB 910 into law.
Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Ryavec, President

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Planning Commission Reverses Gjelina Decision

West LA Area Planning Commission Reverses Decision/Reduces Gjelina Seating and Imposes New Conditions to Protect Residents

The West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission, acting in response to the VSA’s legal challenge to its earlier decision allowing Gjelina restaurant to increase its seating from 60 to 100 seats – with no additional parking – has reversed itself.

In the reversal, the Commission found for Appellant Arminda Diaz, a Venice architect, who had argued that City code prohibited the Commission from increasing seating by more than 20%. The earlier action on April 20th had increased seating by 66%. VSA’s attorney, John Henning, had also argued that the Commission had violated the requirement to give the public notice of the proposed increase. The VSA also noted the Commission’s action would have set a dangerous precedent that restaurants could increase seating in Venice and other parking-starved areas of the City without fear of any repercussions.

In addition to re-imposing the original conditions of operation, such as the 60-seat limit, the Commission also imposed new conditions, including:

• No serving on the patio past 10 pm
• The patio to close at 11 pm
• No use of the second floor for any private dining
• No use of the garage as storage
• Outdoor seating limited to 16 out of the allowed total of 60

“This was a significant win for the residential neighbors,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA.

“The City has to stop allowing new seating capacity up and down Abbott Kinney without requiring new off-street parking to accommodate all the cars.”

“The Planning Commission and the Building and Safety Department also need to pay attention to the late night noise coming from outdoor dining facilities and from noisy patrons returning to their cars on residential streets,” Ryavec said.

“We support fine-dining restaurants and are sympathetic to the parking problems faced by neighborhood-serving commercial establishments,” the VSA leader said. “But the way to facilitate these establishments is for the Council Office to take the lead in developing neighborhood parking infrastructure, not to throw out planning and the rule of law.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

VSA Opposes Sale of Venice Post Office

I am writing on behalf of our organization to oppose the sale of the historic Venice Post Office.

This structure represents one of the few remaining Works Projects Administration projects in our community. The murals in its foyer depict notable moments in our community’s history.

We are concerned that the protection afforded by the State Historic Preservation designation, which we understand has not yet been awarded to this structure, will not ultimately prevent demolition, should a new owner wish to make another use of the site. This protection simply allows a government entity or a private party to purchase the structure to avoid demolition, which leaves the future of the structure in perpetual doubt.

Further, as pointed out by Mr. Richard Maher of the Postal Service’s Public Affairs and Communication Office in his appearance before the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Postal Service cannot assure that the historic foyer of the building would remain open to the public once the property is sold to a private party. If re-proposed as a bank, for example, it is likely that the foyer would continue to be open to the public. However, as a law office or film production office or in many other potential uses, it is not likely to be accessible to the broad public.

We believe the only course of action for the Postal Service is to maintain possession of the Post Office and move the sorting operations for Venice (or for the section of Venice near and around the Post Office) into the Post Office building, with the rest being moved inland to less expensive property.

Further, please find attached plans for the Annex site to be converted to a community and arts center and a public park. We would propose that the City and County of Los Angeles sponsor a park bond act for this and other meritorious parks projects throughout the County, as was done with Proposition A some years ago. The proceeds would be used to fund the purchase and retrofitting of the building and site to this new community use. Proposition A provided $10 million dollars for the refurbishment of the Venice Boardwalk and many other parks project in Los Angeles County and this mechanism is certainly available in this instance as well.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Ryavec, President

Adaptive Re-Use Proposal to Create
a Windward Circle Park and Community/Arts Center

Attachment 1
Attachment 2

Thursday, April 28, 2011

VSA Challenges Gjelina Seating Increase

VSA Challenges City Approval of 66% Increase in Seating for Gjelina Restaurant without Requiring Any New Parking

(Venice, CA/4-28-2011) Today the Venice Stakeholders Association issued a legal challenge to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission’s approval of a 66% increase in the allowed seating at Gjelina, a restaurant on popular Abbott Kinney Boulevard.

The challenge from VSA attorney John Henning states that the Commission’s increase in seating – from 60 to 100 seats – violated the requirement to give the public notice of the proposed increase, misused the routine Plan Approval process, and violated the City’s Planning Code, which only allows a 20% increase during the Plan Approval process. Henning’s letter also notes that the Commission’s action sets a dangerous precedent that restaurants can increase seating in Venice and other parking-starved areas of the City without fear of any repercussions.

“This is the oddest decision I have seen in many years,” said Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA. “First, the Zoning Administrator found Gjelina blatantly out of compliance with its City-imposed conditions,” Ryavec said. “Then, Gjelina’s attorney admitted to the Commission that the restaurant has had 40 more seats than it is allowed for over three years.”

“I would have expected to see the Commission revoke the restaurant’s Conditional Use Permit, at least until they are in compliance,” Ryavec said. “Instead, the Commission rewarded their bad behavior, legalizing the violation with a 66% increase in their seating.”

“That’s the insult. The injury, though, is that the Commission did not require the owner to provide any additional parking for the 40 patrons who will occupy those seats.”

Ryavec noted that when the restaurant opened it was allowed to provide only one parking space because it had been in a retail use earlier and was thus “grandfathered.” With these recent decisions, Gjelina can have 100 patrons but will still only provide one parking space.

“The adjacent neighbors are incensed that restaurant patrons are taking all their parking, forcing them to park at great distances from their homes,” he said. “The City, with the Mayor’s Office leading the charge, has put the desires of the restaurant owners way ahead of the quality of life of the people who live in the neighborhood around them.”

Richard Myers, VSA’s Treasurer, added, “We support restaurants like Gjelina and are sympathetic to the parking problems faced by neighborhood-serving commercial establishments in Venice. The way to facilitate such establishments is not to throw out planning and the rule of law, but instead to plan ahead and invest in our neighborhood parking infrastructure to encourage such places to locate here and exist within the mandates of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan.” The VSA is asking the Commission to reconsider its decision. In the event this does not happen, the VSA is considering filing a suit against the City to force it to comply with its own laws.

Attachment: John Henning Letter to Office of the City Attorney, et al

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

VSA Opposes 1305 Abbot Kinney parking plan

To: Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles City Council, District 11

I am writing on behalf of our organization to ask that you require a new public hearing for the restaurant project located at 1305 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. The current iteration of this project – approved by the Coastal Commission but not the City - will set an unwelcome precedent which will exacerbate the traffic and parking problems now afflicting neighborhoods adjacent to Abbott Kinney.

We oppose the restaurant owner’s new plan to use a rooftop parking deck with steep ramp, triple-stacked tandem parking and three mechanical parking lifts to provide the required parking. Moreover, these features of the project have never been considered in any public hearing. The parking lift technology is unproven and unsuitable for a busy restaurant with constant turnover, and it would subject the neighborhood to ugly outdoor machines and constant noise 13 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In addition, the triple-stacked tandem parking on the roof would require parking attendants to constantly back multiple cars down a steep ramp onto the narrow city alley between Electric Avenue and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and then idle them in the alley or on nearby streets, where they will increase traffic congestion.

The owner should provide all required parking in easily accessible surface or garage spaces, on the restaurant site or nearby, or, if necessary, should reduce the size of the restaurant to match the available parking.

Further, we would suggest that you consider a moratorium on new restaurants on Abbott Kinney and form a task force of property owners, City departments and your office to identify short and long term solutions, such as a City parking structure, which can address the dearth of parking in this area of Venice.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Ryavec, President
Venice Stakeholders Association

Informational Videos:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bickhart Memo

Mayor’s Deputy Transportation Director Admits to Dirty Tricks Against Venice Stakeholders

Today, in response to a lawsuit by the Venice Stakeholders Association demanding documents under the Public Records Act, the office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released a document that proves that mayoral aide Jim Bickhart was the author of inflammatory posts on the Yo Venice! website relating to VSA’s effort to stop vehicle camping on Venice streets.

In the confidential memorandum dated December 1, 2010, Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega disciplined Mr. Bickhart by placing him on unpaid administrative leave, and directed him to “not be involved in any land use issues or local policy issues related to the Community of Venice in the Office of the Mayor unless specifically directed to do so by the Chief of Staff.” The memorandum was also signed by Mr. Bickhart.

Documents previously disclosed by the Mayor’s office confirmed that Bickhart had used his high-level position in the Mayor’s office and a city email account to wage a personal vendetta against various initiatives favored by VSA, including the City’s adopted ordinance creating overnight parking districts (OPDs) in Venice. In February, the VSA filed suit against the Mayor for withholding documents relating to Mr. Bickhart’s activities. That suit is still pending.

The newly released personnel memorandum confirms that Bickhart, writing under the pseudonym of SnakePliskin, posted the following on the YoVenice! website:
“We got what we wanted on the RVs and campers. Who do we go after next? We can’t stop until this place is all cleansed. Wash away the scum. ALL of it.”

“Who cares? Villa-la-grossa is just as big a coward as Rosendahl. Maybe the Stakeholders are right – if these folks won’t leave, we should get someone to come around with a semi, load the homeless scum into it like stinking sardines and drive them out to the Mojave. Dump ‘em there in the dead of night blindfolded and drive away. Period. End of story.”

“Next time one of those wussies heckles you, just pop ‘em one. No. They protect scum, they should be treated like scum. It doesn’t matter if they make money sucking on the government tit or if there Wolfgang frigging *#!%$!. Time is running short.”
In the second paragraph above, Bickhart clearly linked the Venice Stakeholders Association to these reprehensible comments.

“VSA’s lawsuit claims that, under the Public Records Act, the public has a right to see any evidence that senior members of the Mayor’s Office staff are using City position and resources to oppose the official position of the City, and to find out what the Mayor’s Office is doing about it,” said VSA president Mark Ryavec. “Ultimately, the Mayor, by producing the Bickhart disciplinary memo, agreed.”

Attachment: Personnel Memorandum of December 1, 2010

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Oppose Rosendahl's 85.11 Ordinance

Please Oppose Rosendahl’s New Ordinance that Welcomes RVs and Campers Back to Venice Streets and Opens Venice Parking Lots to RV Encampments

Councilman Rosendahl has introduced a new ordinance that will gut the City’s ban on lodging in vehicles and will open up streets and City parking lots in Venice and throughout CD 11 for RVs and campers.

His new ordinance, LAMC 85.11, will be considered by the City Council’s Transportation Committee at 2 PM on Wednesday, March 23rd in City Hall.

The details are below.

Please take the following actions:

1. Forward an email to Bill Rosendahl telling him you oppose LAMC 85.11. Here’s a draft:

Dear Councilman Rosendahl:

Please withdraw your proposed ordinance to legalize lodging in vehicles on City streets and on City parking lots within 50 feet of residents in your Council District.

The social service agency (PATH) retained to provide services to those living in their vehicles already has plenty of housing vouchers to help these folks pay for housing, so they can segue directly from the street to apartments.

PATH has stated they do not need either street locations or parking lots in Venice for the program to be successful; they say that ten spaces at your West Los Angeles and Westchester offices will be adequate for short-term parking for program participants while they wait for paperwork to be processed.

Further, LAPD senior lead officers are opposed to legalizing any locations west of Lincoln Boulevard for the Roadmap to Homes program because it would invite a return to a beach lifestyle of partying, alcohol use, drug sales and drug use by program participants (despite any program rules to the contrary).

Please do not reverse the accomplishments of the LAPD, which has worked tirelessly to remove over 200 RVs and campers from our neighborhood and restore parking to residents.

Please place this letter in the official council file on 85.11.

Thank you for considering my views on this important matter.


Send your email to:,,,,

2. Attend the City Council Transportation Committee hearing on 85.11 on Wednesday, March 23 at 2 PM in City Hall Room 1010. (For parking, call Rosendahl’s office at: 213 473 7011.)

3. Please go to and make a contribution to the VSA to fund our attorney to develop our legal challenge to 85.11 and represent us on the 23rd.

More on 85.11:

This ordinance will blow a huge hole in 85.02, the City’s ban on living in vehicles that will potentially impact the quality of life of residents and businesses across CD 11. Here are the problems:

1. There is no reference in the ordinance to appointing authority. What official or what department makes the decision to allow vehicles to occupy a particular public parking lot or to use a street for this program? The Mayor? The Mayor’s Transportation Deputy Director Jim Bickhart, who is anti-OPDs/OVOs and pro RVs? Rosendahl? Mike Bonin, Rosendahl’s Chief of Staff, who is also pro-RVs?

2. Who does the public hold accountable when there is a problem with a site, such as increased crime, drug sales, a murder, an assault, late night noise or intimidation of residents?

3. What's the process for public comment before a street segment or lot is chosen? (Hint: There is none in the ordinance.)

4. Why has the LAPD not been given veto power in the ordinance over parking lots or streets which in their opinion will promote or increase crime, drug sales, etc.?

5. What appeal rights do citizens have to remove a lot or street segment from the program if there are problems with the overnight use or a parking lot or block becomes a public nuisance (think of the 3rd Street and Rose Avenue transient encampments growing up around the RVs which are still camping out there despite the OVO signs)?

6. This ordinance will permit the streets alongside any public facility, such as libraries, schools, parks, Rec and Parks property, and DWP and Public Works facilities, etc., to be used unless the City posts them with the OVO signs. We have no indication that Rosendahl will put the OVO signage up along these properties, so they would be open for inclusion in the program. For example, this ordinance would permit people to live in their cars or campers along the Westminster dog park, the Farmers Market lot, Broadway School, Westminster Elementary School, Electric Avenue lots, etc. It will also allow placement of vehicles overnight in residential zones and in close proximity to residences alongside such facilities. As Supervisor Yaroslavsky put it, recreational vehicles belong in proper campgrounds, not on City streets.

7. This ordinance permits vehicles to be used for overnight lodging 50 feet from a residence. We have always advocated a 300 foot setback to avoid just moving nuisance vehicles from one residential location to another. This ordinance puts in play lots throughout Venice and CD 11. Locally it would open up the median lots between North and South Venice Boulevard, the Venice Library lot, possibly the parking lots at any public school, the public lot at Rose and Main, the Electric Avenue lots, etc. We do not believe that the lots (or street segments) can be monitored all night to the point that it will prevent the vehicle dwellers from disturbing residents with generators, loud arguments, fights and noise, public inebriation, or drug sales traffic (despite program rules to the contrary). There is also a strong negative affect on property values from having an RV park sited right next to your house.

8. The City Attorney is incorrect in its advice that the City Council can avoid any CEQA compliance, such as the preparation of an EIR, because the ordinance qualifies under one or both of two “categorical exemptions” from CEQA. One of these exemptions is for the “operation . . . or minor alteration of existing public . . . facilities . . . involving negligible or no expansion of use”; the other exemption is for “minor public . . . alterations in the condition of land.” Neither of these exemptions applies because the ordinance would authorize a dramatic expansion of the use of public streets and parking lots from transitory parking of unoccupied vehicles, to permanent private residential purposes throughout Council District 11, an area that is 64 square miles in size and home to over 274,000 people. Moreover, as has been documented for years in Venice, the permanent residential use would subject areas throughout CD-11 to litter, crime, sewage dumping and other negative environmental impacts.

9. The adoption of the ordinance requires a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission, because it is a blanket approval of “development” throughout the portion of CD-11 (including Venice) that is located within the Coastal Zone, i.e., Venice and Playa del Rey. For purposes of the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction, “development” includes “on land . . . the placement or erection of any solid material or structure” and a “change in the density or intensity of use of land.” The ordinance would authorize permanent private residences on public streets and parking lots throughout the Coastal Zone, thus approving both the placement of a permanent structure (an automobile) on the public street and a significant increase in the intensity of use of the public street, from the transitory parking of unoccupied vehicles to a permanent use for residential purposes.

We have already commissioned our attorney to start laying the groundwork for a lawsuit and to represent us at the hearing on 85.11. But we have to fund it. Please go to the VSA website at and make a tax deductible contribution to the VSA legal fund.

Many thanks for your continuing support to improve the quality of life in Venice.

Mark Ryavec
President, Venice Stakeholders Association

Thursday, February 17, 2011

VSA Files Lawsuit Requesting Bickhart Records

Venice Stakeholders Files Lawsuit Against Mayor Villaraigosa to Obtain Public Records Related to Alleged Dirty Tricks by Mayoral Staffer

(Venice, CA/2-17-2011) The Venice Stakeholders Association today filed a lawsuit under the California Public Records Act to obtain records which may prove that a high-level staffer in the Mayor’s office anonymously posted hostile comments on a widely-read neighborhood website in an effort to discredit the VSA and others who support overnight restricted parking in Venice.

“The Mayor’s Office is withholding documents in violation of the Public Records Act that we believe confirm that Jim Bickhart, the Mayor’s Associate Director of Transportation, is the agent provocateur who smeared our organization on,” VSA president Mark Ryavec said. “We also believe the withheld documents will provide additional evidence that Bickhart misused City time, a City office, and a City email account to further his personal campaign against overnight restricted parking and anyone who disagreed with him.”

The suit alleges that the Mayor’s Office, in refusing to disclose certain documents, has asserted specious “privileges” such as personal privacy. In fact, says John Henning, counsel for the VSA, none of the requested records is exempt from disclosure. “Under the Public Records Act, the public has a right to see any evidence that senior members of the Mayor’s Office staff are using City position and resources to oppose the official position of the City, and to find out what the Mayor’s Office is doing about it,” Henning said.

The records request has already forced the Mayor’s office to turn over numerous documents evidencing Bickhart’s vendetta against the overnight parking districts, known as OPDs. They include numerous email messages apparently transmitted from Mr. Bickhart’s City of Los Angeles email account and using his official City email address, in which he variously requested detailed information from City departments on OPDs; scheduled meetings with City employees on City time to generate opposition to the OPDs; drafted a letter to City officials opposing the OPDs; and discussed the status of settlement negotiations between City representatives and Coastal Commission staff concerning the pending litigation between the parties. The emails also indicated that Mr. Bickhart used City time for in-person meetings and perhaps telephone calls to advance his personal objective of defeating the OPDs.

None of these activities fall within Bickhart’s job description in the Mayor’s Office, which includes transportation issues at LAX and the Los Angeles Zoo.

Ryavec said Bickhart’s activities were an abuse of his position. “Councilman Rosendahl’s staff, the City Attorney’s Office, the Bureau of Engineering and the Department of Transportation have all spent years trying to win Coastal Commission approval for the OPDs,” he said. “Meanwhile, Jim Bickhart was using City time, resources and, most importantly, his position to undermine and defeat the City’s efforts.”

“The whole situation is rather bizarre and suggests the Mayor is not properly supervising his staff,” Ryavec said. “Bickhart should be reprimanded immediately, and the Mayor’s Office should turn over all of the documents we’ve asked for.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

VSA Opposes Use of Streets for "Streets to Homes" Program

Dear OPD/OVO Supporter,

I am writing to ask you to send an email to Councilman Bill Rosendahl and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to oppose the use of streets in Venice for Mr. Rosendahl's RV "Streets to Homes" program.

After the LAPD has made great headway against the proliferation of more than 250 RVs, campers and vans camped out on Venice streets, Councilman Rosendahl said at a recent hearing that he is contemplating amending Municipal Code section 85.02 to allow the use of city parking lots and city streets for those who participate in his program for RV dwellers to transition to housing. His Chief Deputy Mike Bonin confirmed the use of "street segments" in conversation with a VSA member.

While the VSA has long supported a vehicles-to-homes program, we have opposed staging those still living in vehicles on our streets for the following reasons:

1. Any use of streets or segments of streets will become a magnet for other vehicle dwellers to camp out here, which will push the limits of LAPD and Dept. of Transportation enforcement of the ban on sleeping in vehicles (LAMC 85.02) and the 72 limit on parking in one space.

2. Enforcement efforts will be confused if it is legal to lodge in a vehicle on one street or block but not the surrounding streets.

3. It will defeat the expressed desires of those who have signed petitions with a 2/3rds majority for a ban on oversize vehicles (OVO) on their street.

4. Neither Santa Barbara, CA nor Eugene, OR allow those participating in their safe parking programs to park at night on city streets; participants park on parking lots.

At various times, some members of the Venice Neighborhood Council and some RV advocates have asked that the following streets by legalized for living in vehicles: Venice Boulevard, Hampton and 3rd Street south of Rose, Main Street by the dog park, 4th Street by the Venice Skills Center and 7th Street by the Oakwood Recreation Center.

We have firmly opposed these proposals because they would be a magnet for yet more RVs, campers and vans. Yet once again we find Mr. Rosendahl moving to open Venice streets back up to vehicle campers. This is bizarre coming after the LAPD has done a spectacular job of enforcing the ban on lodging on city streets, the 72 hour rule and the prohibition on leaking/dumping sewage on city streets.

We requested a meeting with both Mr. Rosendahl and Mr. Trutanich to discuss our concerns about Rosendahl's proposal to legalize lodging in vehicles on city streets. Mr. Trutanich readily agreed to meet with us. However, Mr. Rosendahl's Chief Deputy, Mike Bonin, writing on behalf of Rosendahl, refused to meet with us and directed Mr. Trutanich to also not meet with us.

Since Mr. Trutanich's office is drafting the amendments to LAMC 85.02 please send the following email, or one like it in your own words, to Mr. Trutanich, his Chief Deputy Jane Usher, and Mr. Rosendahl.

Please contact me at if you have any questions about this matter.

Many thanks for your continuing support to improve the quality of life in Venice, preserve parking for residents and stop sewage dumping by vehicle dwellers.

Mark Ryavec
Venice Stakeholders Association

Example Email:

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Councilman Bill Rosendahl,

I am adamantly opposed to amending LAMC 85.02 to allow the use of Venice streets for overnight parking for those who live in their vehicles. Any program to assist these individuals should utilize proper parking lots and these lots must be a least 300 feet away from any residences.

The LAPD and the City Attorney's Office have done a spectacular job of enforcing 85.02 in Venice and restoring our streets to the residents. Please do not backslide and open the door for the RVs and campers to return.

Thank you,

(your name and address)

Send to: City Attorney Carmen Trutanich
Jane Usher
Councilman Bill Rosendahl

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"No Oversize Vehicle" Signs Go Up in Venice

Today the Venice Stakeholders Association hailed the installation of the first wave of signs banning oversize vehicles from parking on City streets in Venice. The signs are being posted today at several locations in central and north Venice.

"This has been a long time in coming," said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA. "Over the holidays there was a flood of RVs and campers on our streets, many of them rental vehicles. They treat Venice like an urban "Kampgrounds of America" and take up limited resident parking. I had one in front of my house for several nights, which causes residents to have to hunt for parking if they arrive home later in the evening."

"These signs will help preserve parking for residents and should stop the incidents of sewage dumping in our town by the owners of these vehicles," Ryavec said.

The signs ban vehicles taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet from Venice streets where over 2/3rds of the residents have petitioned for the new signs.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Update on Public Records Request

Public Records Reveal Mayor’s Deputy Transportation Director Used City Time and Email Account to Pursue Personal Campaign Against Overnight Parking Districts

(Venice, CA/1-4-10) City records requested by the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) have revealed that Jim Bickhart, the Mayor’s Associate Director of Transportation, used City time and a City email account to pursue his own personal opposition to the implementation of Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs) in Venice, against the official position of the City and Councilman Bill Rosendahl in support of the districts. None of his actions were taken under his job description, which is limited to transportation issues at LAX and the zoo.

In late November the VSA sent a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calling for an investigation into claims on the website Yo!Venice! that Bickhart had repeatedly posted hostile and hateful comments on the website under a pseudonym in an effort to discredit Venice Stakeholders and those who support overnight restricted parking in Venice.

In December, the VSA followed up with a public records request concerning Bickhart, OPDs, VSA, and other topics. In reply, the Mayor’s Office released on Monday, January 3rd, several email communications between Bickhart and various City staff and members of the Venice community, including Venice Neighborhood Council president Linda Lucks, Council aides Laura Mclennan and Arturo Pina, and Department of Transportation officials Yadi Hashemi and Alan Willis. At the time, Hashemi and Willis were overseeing City negotiations with the California Coastal Commission regarding the City’s application for the Venice OPDs.

The emails date from November 12, 2008 up to May 4, 2010 and cover various requests for information from City departments, scheduling of meetings for Bickhart on City time on OPD issues with City employees, a letter of opposition to OPDs from Bickhart to City officials, and the details of negotiations between City representatives with Coastal Commission staff.

“The City has withheld other documents on the requested subjects in violation of the California Public Records Act,” said Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA. “So, we don’t know yet whether the missing documents will confirm that Bickhart is the person who posted the hostile remarks and attributed them, in part, to the VSA.”

“What we do know is that Bickhart used time paid for by taxpayers and a City email account to pursue his personal campaign to scuttle OPDs in Venice,” Ryavec said.

“This is clearly not acceptable behavior for any City employee and we call upon the Mayor to require that Bickhart repay the City for the City time he used, that he be formally reprimanded for using City resources to oppose an official City position, and put on an unpaid leave for some appropriate period of time to make it clear that such actions are not tolerated in City service,” Ryavec said.