Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Councilman Bonin Fails Math

At the recent Zoom meeting of the Westside Regional Alliance of Community Councils (WRAC), Councilman Bonin maintained that the $150,000,000 cut in the LAPD's 2020-21 budget represented no more than .7% of that budget, i.e., less than one percent.

I have been having trouble understanding how such a minor cut could result in such drastic personnel loses, for example, reducing the Venice Beach Detail from 42 to 26 officers, with losses of entire units in many specialty fields.

I discussed this calculation with a senior LAPD Pacific Division officer and he told me the cut was closer to 8%.  

I just did the math to be sure.  The total 2020-21 fiscal year budget was $1,860,000,000.  Divided into $150,000,000, I get .08.  Multiply that by 100 to get percentage, and I get 8%.

So, despite being Harvard-educated, Mr. Bonin does not know how to calculate percentages.  And as we have known for years, he does not care about the increasing crime and shootings and murders that have resulted from his negligence.

Addendum:  I shared this with Chief Michel Moore and he replied:

More importantly, given the inflationary aspect of collective bargaining wage agreements and their impact on total dollars spent, is the physical reduction in workforce.

For FY 2020/21 the sworn workforce is being reduced from 10,000 to 9,751.  This is in addition to the 100 officer reduction that occurred in FY 2019/20.  The civilian workforce is being reduced from 3,020 (est) to 2,850.  

The Department has completed a top-to-bottom review of its organization and functions. This has resulted in shifting of remaining personnel resources in the best manner possible for public safety while also identifying activities that will be curtailed, accomplished in an alternate manner, or eliminated.

Most concerning is following these cuts, further reductions have been sought by the City Council.  These reductions involve additional workforce reductions of 355 sworn and 273 civilian employees.  While these reductions have not been formally adopted by the City Council, the Department is currently assembling lay-off lists to meet these additional cuts.



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Historical Society and Venice Stakeholders Prepare for Return of Tourists in the New Year

Gates have been installed at the Gondola Garden on the Windward Traffic Circle to make the Venice gondola more accessible to the public.

"As we move back to normalcy in 2021, we want to give visitors an opportunity to take photos with the gondola without any obstacles in the way," said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA.

"Working with the Historical Society, we also are considering training docents who would give talks to the public about Venice's development by Abbot Kinney and the "Lost Canals" district, which was centered on the traffic circle," Ryavec said.  The circle was originally a boat basin (see below) where gondola tours were launched daily, and Windward Avenue (Lion Canal) and Grand Boulevard (Grand Canal) were two spokes of the canal system. 

The gondola exhibited here is a replica of the gondolas that once cruised our canals.

The VSA is also looking for residents who would volunteer to regularly weed the garden, wash off the gondola and trim the bougainvillea.  

The creation of the garden, the repair and refurbishment of the gondola, and installation of the flagstone plaza and the new gates were funded by residents and local businesses, including Hama Sushi, the Erwin Hotel and Russ Cletta Design Studio.  Donations to continue maintenance are tax deductible and may be made to the right by PayPal or Zelle.

This photo shows the boat basin with the roller coaster in the foreground, and Lion and Grand Canals coming in from the right.  The small building in the middle of the photo facing the water is the current site of Hama Sushi.  Today the gondola sits across Lion Canal (now Windward) from Hama Sushi at the foot of the bridge seen in the photo.  The management of the Venice Post Office has generously allowed the Venice Historical Society to exhibit the gondola on its property.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bonin Proposes Conditions on Venice Place Hotel Project on Abbot Kinney


Despite various comments on social media that Councilmember Bonin has killed the Venice Place Project, the project is alive but now freighted down with a slew of new conditions, which may or may not make the ultimate project more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood and elementary school.

Below is a link to the conditions that Councilmember Bonin has proposed to impose on the hotel/restaurants/market.  

Proposed Venice Place Conditions

Probably the most notable is that the applicant must contribute $750,000 to the city's Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing.

The list of conditions also includes a mandatory plan approval process in two to three years of the hotel becoming operational to:

review the effectiveness of, and compliance with the express terms of all conditions, including but not limited to, Conditions 15 (Parking), 16 (Valet Parking), 17 (Loading), 18 (Trash Pick-up), 22 (Alcoholic Beverage Conditions), 25 (Complaint Log), 27 (employee and patron monitoring), 28 (loitering), 32 (electronic age verification), 36 (noise levels), 39 (private events), 42-47 (entertainment/music conditions) of the permit for the project.

Unfortunately, as Venice residents have witnessed for many years with similar conditions imposed on St. Joseph's, the city rarely implements plan approval compliance or enforces conditions.

The owner will also be required to create a local hire program, for both construction and ongoing jobs, targeting the Venice Community with an emphasis on hiring from disadvantaged communities.

Following the City Attorney's advice, the project has been returned to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission for consideration of Bonin's proposed

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

VSA Opposes SB 1120, Bill That Would Allow Four Units by Right on Single Family Parcels Throughout State

From KPPC's Airtalk:

A bill moving through the California legislature would require local governments to allow for duplexes in what’s currently single family home zoning as a way to address the state’s housing crisis. 

Under SB 1120, property owners could turn their houses into duplexes, or could divide up their lots and put two duplexes on the property, creating four homes where there was once one. 

The legislation is opposed by a number of local neighborhood groups who are concerned that new housing will affect the character of their neighborhoods, decrease available parking and not provide housing that is low rent enough to address the housing shortage.

We dive into the pros and cons of the legislation. 


David Garcia, policy director at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley; he tweets @DavidGarcia209     

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council

Click here to hear interview:

VSA Opposes SB 1120

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ask Bonin and Moore to Enforce Ban on Tents and Camping at Venice Beach

In another misguided action, Councilman Bonin has directed the LAPD to stand down on enforcement of LAMC 63.44, which bars tents and camping in all city parks, including the Venice Beach Recreation Area and along the Boardwalk.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore elaborated last night:

In discussion with CM Bonin the Department has agreed to exercise its discretion and NOT enforce 63.44 on the PARK portion of Venice Beach boardwalk.  I have asked for a map of the Venice area color-coded with the enforcement criteria given the confusion stemming from various enforcement in consultation with the Councilmember.  The discretion is in direct response to the CDC guidance regarding COVID-19 and houseless individuals.

I’ve cc’d Captain Embrich who can provide further details and a copy of the map.

Mike(published here with the permission of Chief Moore)
As one senior LAPD official noted to me in a call last night, this new policy is actually in direct contradiction to CDC guidance, which states:
 Considerations for encampments
  • If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.  Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread. 

As is visible below, these campers have very recently traveled from other locations, doing exactly what the CDC advises against - dispersing through the community and breaking connections with service providers.  By stopping enforcement of the ban on camping and tents at Venice Beach, Mr. Bonin is inviting violation of CDC guidelines by encouraging campers to travel from 

 Photo: The Venice Current
wherever they are today to set up new camps on the beach, interacting with an unknown number of residents, Venice Beach visitors and other homeless people on their journey to our sandy shores - and also disconnecting with service providers. 
This is yet one more example of Mr. Bonin's tendency to create more problems, supposedly in an effort to solve them.
Please send the following message today to Mr. Bonin and Chief Moore:
Follow CDC guidance, stop the spread of Covid 19 and new homeless encampments at Venice Beach, and return our beach to its intended purpose - recreation and enjoyment by all residents and visitors.  Enforce LAMC 63.44 against tents and camping.
Send to:
Mike Bonin - mike.bonin@lacity.org>
Michel Moore - <23506@lapd.online>




Friday, July 17, 2020


By Mark Ryavec
The unfolding prosecution of councilman Jose Huizar for felony corruption is just the tip of the iceberg of scandalous behavior that is rampant in Los Angeles city hall.  
And the recent call by former city councilman Mike Woo for an independent inspector general does not come close to addressing the systemic corruption.
Start with the fact that the adoption of Woo’s ethics reforms 30 years ago gave us the ineffective regime of public financing, disclosure, and campaign spending limits that has failed us so spectacularly in the cases of Huizar, and last year, former councilman Mitchel Englander.  It was magical thinking then for Woo and others to argue that simply setting spending limits, providing some public funding, and requiring that all donations are made public would stop or hinder corruption.  
One only needs to look at an earlier development scandal to see the ineffectiveness of those rules.  Starting in 2009, developer Samuel Leung and Leung’s secretary Sofia David illegally gave tens of thousands of dollars to eight Los Angeles-area politicians who could approve the 352-unit Sea Breeze apartment project in south Los Angeles via donors who were all connected in some way to Leung.  The project was ultimately approved in 2015.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that then-city councilmembers Janice Hahn and Mitchell Englander, and current city councilmembers Jose Huizar, Joe Buscaino, and Nury Martinez received more than $600,000 in donations over a seven-year period. An independent campaign committee that supported Mayor Eric Garcetti, but supposedly was not controlled by him, also received contributions.  But there was no audio or written evidence that those donations were traded for votes, so no charges were brought against those politicians. 
But the corruption is broader and more insidious than the mere trade of city approvals for campaign cash. Those with financial interests in city hall decisions also donate to private charities either controlled by, or favored by, elected officials and little of that cash is tracked.  Only donations over $5,000 must be revealed.  
Special interests, with multi-million projects pending in city hall, also can and do funnel unlimited amounts of cash to other campaign committees not subject to the limits of the Woo reforms.  These committees are set up by councilmembers to advance their personal political causes, but also can boost the councilmember’s reputation and name recognition.  The unspoken agreement is: Special Interest A will give tens of thousands of dollars to the councilmember’s cause over here and later the councilmember will support the planning variances or “spot” zoning Special Interest A needs to increase the allowable height or density he wants for his project over there.  
In late 2016, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Mike Bonin were hell-bent on passing Proposition HHH to build 10,000 apartments for the homeless.  Atlas Capital Group was one of many developers that responded to Bonin’s request with a $25,000 donation to Bonin’s campaign committee to support HHH. 
Why would Atlas make such a generous donation?  Because they have a huge investment in pending real estate projects that will need approvals from the Planning Department, Planning Commission, City Council, and the Mayor.
For example, in 2017, Atlas purchased the old Los Angeles Times’ printing plant in Downtown for $240 million.  The property includes about 660,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution space, along with about 15 acres of developable open space.  Atlas and its partners are also developing the Row DTLA project adjacent to LA’s Art District, turning 2 million square feet of warehouse space into a complex of stores, restaurants and offices, and parking.  In 2017 and 2018, Atlas was also seeking city council approval of a 725-unit development in Chinatown, which was granted in late 2018.  
When approached for donations by councilmembers – or their fundraisers – developers like Atlas frequently feel that that they don’t have a choice.  Contributions are simply a cost of doing business.
In the late 80s I represented Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) in opposing Councilman Hal Bernson’s efforts to prematurely close Sunshine Canyon Landfill in Granada Hills.  At the same time, I was the lobbyist for No Oil, Inc. working to stop Occidental Petroleum from installing 100 oil wells along Pacific Coast Highway across from Will Rogers Beach.  I asked BFI to give $5,000 to the campaign to pass No Oil’s Proposition O to ban drilling along Los Angeles’ coast, which would kill the Oxy project.  They declined, so I gave the phone number of BFI’s vice president to Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, one of the sponsors of Prop. O, and suggested he call.  The vice president knew that some months later Yaroslavsky would be voting on whether to keep Sunshine Canyon open.  BFI made the donation.  Did Yaroslavsky vow to vote to keep Sunshine Canyon open?  I doubt it even came up.  These transactions go on all the time.
The city must curtail the ability of special interests – especially property developers – to give massive amounts of money to any committee controlled by a city elected official or even to respond to requests from politicians for donations to charitable organizations.
The existing rules for city elected officials campaign committees also must be tightened. When I ran for city council in the city’s 11th district in 2017, I limited donations to $250 (not the $700 allowed at the time), and accepted no donations from anyone living outside the 11th district or from anyone who had, or expected to have, a project or contract before the city council during my tenure in office.  
While these standards severely limited the population from which I could raise funds, and the amount per person, they also significantly reduced the potential for anyone to have actual or apparent influence with me, if elected.  The city should adopt these rules for campaign donations to cut-off the huge influence of special interest cash in our local elections. 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Venice Cityhood: VNC Already Passed a Motion to Facilitate Cityhood Vote

Recently, there have been questions asked on social media about whether anyone is working to rally Venetians to secede from Los Angeles.  And this past Sunday the Los Angeles Times ran an opinion article by Jon Wiener noting an earlier de-annexation campaign in 1969.  Another "Re-Venice" effort took place in the early 90s.

In 2018, a series of cityhood townhalls were held under the able leadership of Nick Antonicello.  These eventually led last fall to the passage of the Motion below by the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) seeking to create a level playing field for a Venice cityhood vote.

It calls upon the City of Los Angeles to initiate an effort to amend State law to remove both the city council's veto of a Venice cityhood initiative and the requirement that all of the voters of Los Angeles must approve Venice de-annexation.  The thesis is that, unlike many other districts in Los Angeles, Venice was an independent city from 1905 to 1926, and voted to join Los Angeles, and Los Angeles has a moral duty to allow it - on its own vote - to reverse that decision.

The Motion passed the VNC, though the council's president, Ira Koslow, has failed to send it to the members of the city council's Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, which would be the committee to consider introducing the requested legislation.


Whereas, Venice was an independent city when residents voted in 1926 to annex itself to the City of Los Angeles; and
Whereas, Venice residents deserve the right to consider reversing that decision free from the burden of it being rejected by other residents living in the rest of Los Angeles who have no stake in the welfare of Venice or its residents; and 
Whereas, Venice residents desire the increased responsiveness of municipal government seen in smaller units of local government, such as our neighbors Santa Monica, Culver City, Malibu and West Hollywood; and
Whereas, Venice is not well served by a city government with only 15 council members for a population of almost four million residents;
Now, therefore be it resolved that the Venice Neighborhood Council formally requests the City of Los Angeles to sponsor and support State legislation to amend the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Reorganization Act of 2000 to:
1.       Remove the City of Los Angeles’ right to cause the termination of a detachment request pending before a local area formation commission submitted by a former city* which earlier voted to join the City of Los Angeles, which now borders both another city and the Pacific Ocean, and does not contain within its borders a port; and further, to
2.      Amend that Act to remove the City of Los Angeles’ right to subject to a vote of all voters in the jurisdiction of the City of Los Angeles the detachment of a former city* now located within its borders which borders both another city and the Pacific Ocean, and does not contain within its borders a port.

Submitted by:  Mark Ryavec, Community Officer
                        Nick Antonicello, Chair, Venice Cityhood Ad Hoc Committee
C.J. Cole, Community Officer and Member, Venice Cityhood Ad Hoc Committee
                        Yolanda Gonzalez, Member, Venice Cityhood Ad Hoc Committee

*This is the legal definition of Venice for the purposes of legislation to differentiate it from other former cities, which are now incorporated in the City of Los Angeles.

The following list of viable, nearby cities, with populations comparable to or less than Venice, was provided to the VNC to address the concern that Venice would not be able to support itself financially.

Cities in Los Angeles County with Populations
Comparable to or Less than Venice, CA

Venice                   40,885 (City of Los Angeles 2008 estimate)

Agoura Hills           20,330
Artesia                  16,522
Avalon                   3,728
Bell                       35,477
Beverly Hills           34,109
Calabasas              23,058
Claremont             34,926
City of Commerce  12,823
Cudahy                 23,805
Culver City            38,883
Duarte                  21,321
El Segundo            16,654
Hawaiian Gardens  14,254
Hermosa Beach     19,506
Hidden Hills           1,856
Industry                219
Irwindale               1,422
La Canada Flintridge  20,246
La Habra Heights   5,325
La Puente              39,816
La Verne                31,063
Lawndale               32,769
Lomita                   20,256
Malibu                   12,645
Manhattan Beach   35,135
Maywood               27,395
Monrovia               36,590
Palos Verdes Estates  13,438
Rolling Hills            1,860
Rolling Hills Estates   8,067
San Dimas             33,371
San Fernando        23,645
San Gabriel            39,718
San Marino            13,147
Santa Fe Springs   16,223
Sierra Madre          10,917
Signal Hill              11,016
South El Monte      20,116
South Pasadena     25,619
Temple City           35,558
Walnut                  29,172
West Hollywood     34,399
Westlake Village    8,270

(All figures 2010 U.S. Census except Venice)

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Support LAPD Chief Michel Moore

In these troubling times, residents appreciate the leadership of Police Chief Michel Moore.  

Chief Michel Moore in the field speaking to a protester.
Chief Moore has championed the legitimate expression of public outrage at the murder of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality, while also attempting to stop looting, destruction of small businesses, and torching of our communities.  

We urge Mayor Garcetti to support the chief in these times.

Sign petition at:  https://www.change.org/p/mayor-garcetti-lacity-org-support-lapd-chief-michel-moore

Monday, May 18, 2020

Letter to the VNC Board re: Some History of Transitional Homeless Housing in Venice

Dear Members of the Board of the Venice Neighborhood Council:
I would like to share some history about the area along Lincoln that will be the focus of one of our agenda items on Thursday evening. 

I am not making a comment about that item or how I will vote on it; I am simply relating some history that may be of value in your decision making on Thursday. 

Eight or nine years ago Councilman Rosendahl approached me and asked what I thought about placing a large transitional housing facility in the building that is now occupied by Chalk Preschool at 2201 Lincoln Boulevard. 

The Councilman was being pressured by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and his deputy Flora Gil Krisiloff to permit a transitional housing facility in Venice to address our already troublesome homeless population.

At time the building was empty and available for lease. I drove the area and noticed the several churches, schools and preschools that were in close proximity to that building. 

I told a councilman that if he proposed a homeless shelter at that location that it was likely the parents of the children who were enrolled in those schools would come after him with pitchforks. 

I advised him to look in the then largely commercial, office, and even light manufacturing area just south of Cosco and just east of Lincoln, along Del Rey Avenue. 

In turn, Rosendahl asked Venice real estate broker Brad Neil to see if he could find an appropriate building for use for the  homeless shelter in the area. Brad found and negotiated the purchase of a two story office building on Beach Avenue, near Del Rey Avenue. 

The intent was to create a 40 bed transitional housing facility - a mini bridge housing facility - in that existing structure.  It could have housed 40 people in cubicles, with 20 women upstairs and 20 men downstairs. It would have been modeled on OPCC's transitional housing facility in Santa Monica at 16th and Broadway. 

Neither Rosendahl nor his chief of staff Mr. Bonin worked very hard at finding the funding to purchase it for use as transitional housing, i.e., for 90 to 120 day stays. Instead (and I was in the meeting), Mr. Bonin presented the deal that Brad had negotiated to Steve Claire, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, not for transitional housing, but for permanent supportive housing, with only 20 beds.  The existing building was bulldozed and VCHC built Gateway Apartments on the site, at an ultimate cost of $500,000 per unit.

It was a colossal missed opportunity to: 

1. Build transitional housing adjacent to Venice, and 

2. Place it at some remove from schools and residents.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Please Support Our Penmar Neighbors

As many of you have seen, in the last six months the jogging path on Rose Avenue along the Penmar Golf Course has gone from zero campers to over 65 campers and tons of tents, furniture, barbecues, and debris.  With them has come harassment, vandalism, car thefts and break-ins, burglaries, assaults, defecation and urination on public and private property, open drug sales and use, constant noise, and the usual burdens associated with this population.

The residents there have been lobbying for months to have the unimproved dirt path deeded to the Recreation and Parks Department so that the park rangers can enforce the removal of private possessions and bar camping.  They are now sponsoring the change.org petition below, with a goal of 5,000 signatures. 

Please help them.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

VSA Files Brown Act Complaint against Councilman Bonin regarding Illegal Collusion with Colleagues and Bias

VSA attorney Jeff Lewis has filed a complaint under the Brown Act, California's public meeting law, and common law, charging Councilman Mike Bonin with violations of both laws.  

"In comments proposing use of federal stimulus funds to purchase distressed properties to convert them to homeless housing, Bonin revealed both bias and that he has already rounded up support of the city council to support this plan prior to public participation, a clear Brown Act violation," said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA.

Mr. Lewis' letter is below.

Steve Houchin, Deputy City Attorney

Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney

200 N. Main St., Floor 7

Los Angeles, CA 90012

RE: Brown Act Violation

Dear Mr. Houchin, 

I am litigation and land use counsel for Venice Stakeholders Association (“VSA.”) As you may be aware, VSA, founded in 2009, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to civic improvement. The VSA supports slow growth, the limits of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan, neighborhood safety, better traffic circulation, increased parking for residents, neighborhood beautification projects, historic preservation, habitat restoration and protection of coastal waters. 

VSA has been monitoring press reports about Councilman Mike Bonin’s plan to use federal stimulus funds to buy distressed properties for homeless housing. VSA is very concerned with the City’s role in placing real properties in a distressed condition and then capitalizing on that circumstance. However, putting that policy decision aside for a moment, VSA raises two time-sensitive and important procedural issues to your attention. 

First and foremost, in one recent report*, Bonin told news reporter, Bill Melugin, that “the city council supports the proposal and is looking to fast track it….” This statement suggests that Bonin has been communicating, directly or indirectly, with other council members to build support for this policy decision without complying with the Brown Act. In the event of litigation to enforce the Brown Act, a deposition of Bill Melugin would confirm that conversation took place. VSA requests that your office investigate Bonin’s conduct and to remind him that the City remains subject to the Brown Act even during a pandemic. 

Second, Bonin’s statements to the press suggest that he has already determined how he would vote on the issue of using federal funds to purchase distressed properties. To the extent that Bonin is ever asked to vote on whether to acquire distressed properties, he has demonstrated sufficient bias as to require his recusal.**

VSA notes that when the City was proposing to amend Municipal Code section 85.02, Bonin was required to recuse himself due to his prior, vocal stance on the issue. VSA requests that the City Attorney’s office similarly advise Bonin of his obligation to recuse himself on this issue. 

VSA appreciates your attention to this important issue and we look forward to your prompt and written response.

Very truly yours, 

Jeffrey Lewis

*See 216 Sutter Bay Associates v. County of Sutter (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 860, 877 [holding that Brown Act prohibits serial meetings by majority of legislative body to engage in collective deliberation on public business]. 

**See “LA City councilman proposes using federal stimulus funds to buy distressed properties for homeless housing,” published April 23, 2020 and available at: https://www.fox5ny.com/news/lacity-councilman-proposes-using-federal-stimulus-funds-to-buy-distressed-properties-for-homelesshousing April 24, and see, e.g., Woody’s Group, Inc. v. City of Newport Beach (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 1012, 1021–1022 [holding that council member whose conduct creates probability of actual bias must recuse from land use decision].