Monday, January 14, 2019
VSA Sues City and Coastal Commission to Require Venice Homeless Shelter to Comply with Environmental Laws and Coastal Act
“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.