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.