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 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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

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


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.

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 ( 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: