Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Neighborhood Council Fails to Act on Resolution Opposing Storage and Homeless Services at Westminster Center

For the third time in two weeks the president of the Venice Neighborhood Council, Ira Koslow, has led an effort to derail resolutions properly presented for action by the VNC Board.  Unfortunately, a majority of the Board has gone along with his lead despite the urgency of all three matters.

Last night Mr. Koslow used the receipt of a letter from our attorneys, Luna and Glushon, providing a copy of the deed restriction on the Westminster/Dog Park property that limits the property's use to park and playground as the pretext to refer the stakeholders' resolution to the new Homeless Committee, chaired by Will Hawkins.  The existence of the deed restriction had been widely reported in social media and was discussed at the VNC Administrative Committee last week.  Mr. Koslow announced then that he would have the City Attorney's Office represented at last night's meeting to discuss the deed restriction and so it made sense that the Board members should have a copy of the deed restriction to review beforehand. It should not have come as a surprise nor been the cause for referral of the item to committee.  

The surprise was that so many of the new VNC members deferred to Koslow and delayed the resolution by sending it to committee.  A request for the public to comment on the removal of the item from the agenda was also opposed by Koslow.

Several members of the public, including several parents of students attending Westminster Elementary School, were prepared to wait all evening to speak in favor of the resolution out of their concern that placing storage and services right across from the school will act as a magnet and draw scores of transients to the area on a daily basis.

The urgency for VNC action is seen in the City's continued pursuit of permits to allow the storage and social services uses at the site despite the deed restriction.  

Without informing the community, in early June Councilman Bonin had the City Planning Department file an application with the Coastal Commission for an exemption for the change-of-use from senior center (which has only been used sporadically over the last five years for community meetings) to homeless storage and services.  It has also recently been reported by a nearby resident that construction work has been underway on the center to prepare for the new use.

Our attorneys will be filing a letter with Coastal Commission today calling for a complete environmental review, including traffic, noise, trash, etc.

Community Officer Will Hawkins assured this writer today that his committee will consider the opposition resolution in an expeditious manner, possibly as early as next week.

Last week at the VNC's Administrative Committee meeting Koslow derailed the Oxford Triangle residents' resolution calling for low density residential zoning, not dense, homeless housing on the Thatcher Yard site by sending it to the VNC Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC), which has not historically addressed such neighborhood-wide planning issues despite its name.  LUPC is backed up with many pending applications and it is unclear when it can consider the Oxford residents request.  In the meantime, Councilman Bonin has directed city staff to pre-qualify developers of low income, homeless housing for the Thatcher Yard project, even though there has not been a public hearing on the project.

Koslow also refused to place before the VNC Board another resolution calling for "No Oversize Vehicle 2-6 AM" signs around Westminster Elementary School, Westminster Park, and the paths of travel along Lincoln of young students attending Broadway Elementary School.  He mistakenly concluded that the Council Office had requested the signage be installed.  However, Taylor Bazley of the Council Office has confirmed to the parents who requested the signage due to verbal abuse, obscene language, harassment and bottles thrown at students by those living in RVs and campers near the schools, that the Council Office has only requested the signage for the curb side next to the school and park, not for paths of travel or the opposite sides of the street across from the school. Bazley told one parent that they would have to obtain the signatures of all the residents on the opposite sides of the street even though this is not legally required by the city ordinance.  With school starting August 16th, parents are reasonably concerned about the safety of their children.

In light of Mr. Koslow's thrice refusing to allow stakeholder matters to come before the VNC Board for public discussion and a vote, some stakeholders are preparing a recall petition to remove Mr. Koslow from his position.  If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the petition please contact me at