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05
Tue, Jul

Misinformation Drives Venice Canal’s Housing Project and Apparent Land Grab

HOUSING CRISIS - These days, I keep being copied on some very persuasive letters, loaded with the requisite amount of well-researched technical jargon and neighborhood outrage,

challenging the wisdom of our City Council’s continued support for a massive “affordable” (ha) housing project situated at the apex of an environmentally-challenged flood zone, in the historical Venice Canals that some of us have been fighting for the past six years. 

I too have sent my share of Op-Eds about The Pacific Dell Venice Median to the Councilmembers and their staffs, all the time knowing that the chances of convincing even one of them to vote against a project in another councilmember‘s district is a hard ask given our city’s laissez-faire, political culture of quid pro quo and big bucks– especially when that councilmember is named Bonin, CD11’s intractable and dyspeptic lame duck. 

That is why every time I reached out to engage with a Councilmember (and their staffs); I would try to devise a unique method of engagement to counter the misinformation Bonin and the Developers continue to present as settled facts. 

Already this year, I asked councilmembers to abstain from voting due to the lack of information provided to them while considering how their constituents would react if a project of this magnitude was plopped down at a dubious location -- e.g., across from Dodger Stadium (Cedillo) or across from Taft High School (Blumenfeld). 

A few weeks later, I asked our elected leaders to share one good thing about the project knowing it couldn’t be its cost (priced at $1.2 million -and climbing- for each of the 141 tiny 490 sq ft units); its location, it’s threat to public safety, it’s size and scope, its degradation of a historic commitment to The Canals; it’s lack of community support, and its ineffective way of dealing with homelessness. 

We followed up by asking the Council to join with six of the eight leading candidates to replace Mike in CD11, who came together to ask to pull the Median off the agenda until after a new Council is formed in 2023. 

Of course, none of these efforts can possibly register on City Hall’s Richter Scale if none of the Councilmembers, or their staffs, actually bother to read our correspondences – as this email to Kevin De Leon’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee would sadly attest. 

“A recent conversation between a resident and a Councilmember revealed he was unaware of basic aspects of this Project and its costs – and when he became aware, he had important questions about this taxpayer expenditure which he referred to as a boondoggle and land grab.”

 

As expected, last Thursday, De Leon’s Committee voted 3-1 to forgo a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and approve a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA), with Councilmember Joe Buscaino being the only member to have a problem transferring legal control of about $70 million of beach property to a developer that has not yet secured the necessary entitlements from the city or the coastal commission.  

This Tuesday, PLUM – the Council’s Land Use Committee -- is also expected to go along with the program with a minimum of discussion, seemingly not worried about soil liquification or sea level rise. The full Council is poised to follow suit a few days later – unless we, The Coalition for Safe Coastal Development, which is suing the city and the project developers, can find six other Councilmembers willing to join Councilman Buscaino in a principled stand against government recklessness and waste.

To this end, if anyone reading this is appalled by our elected leaders lack of fiduciary responsibly and cavalier attitude toward environmental sustainability, we could use some help contacting Councilmembers by phone next week

Here’s what else we need to help bring awareness about this seriously flawed project to taxpayers and those concerned about public safety from all over the city:  and that is for the once distinguished Los Angeles Times to stop treating this as a parochial land-use issue instituted by a few disgruntled NIMBYs, and start practicing real investigative journalism again.

To this end, it's been six years since I first read this post on Next Door…

This summer I read LA Times columnist Steven Lopez's chronicles of his journey down the California Coast from the Oregon to Mexico boarders. What struck me reading this 10–15-part series is that NONE of the beach communities he visited would consider taking a large property two blocks from the beach, adjacent to its most unique neighborhood (The Canals), and turn it into a 90-bed homeless facility.  Only the city of Los Angeles, with its fundamental disregard for the social ecology of Venice would consider developing valuable municipal land two blocks from the beach for a social experiment which many experts in the field believe is doomed to failure. Moreover, if anyone has a relationship with Mr. Lopez, it's time to bring him into the equation.     

….and so, I wrote my first letter on the matter to someone I never met. 

Mr. Lopez --Knowing of your history with the homeless community of Los Angeles, and your relationship with my friends and neighbors, Gary and Lisa Foster, I would like to invite you to come to our neighborhood and weigh in on Councilman Bonin's controversial plan for a municipal parking lot that has started to embroil our corner of the world. 

As you may have guessed, Mr. Lopez never responded to my invitation, and I honestly don’t think it’s a coincidence that our hometown newspaper has never once published a comprehensive news story about the situation; instead, giving free reign to a lesser columnist, Robin Abcarin, a Venice resident, no less, to refer to those of us who oppose the Median as “segregationists”.

That was then. This is now. So, here’s my second letter to someone I’ve never met.

Steve – A lot has changed in six years – and, unfortunately, for old Angelinos like us, not for the better -- especially as it pertains to Venice, homelessness and the integrity of our civic institutions. Nonetheless, all who know and respect your work must be very proud that the prestigious Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University named you as the winner of its 2021 Nyhan Prize in Political Journalism for covering politics and social policy in the public interest.

The folks at Harvard said they were particularly impressed with your columns on housing and homelessness from 2018; and your purposeful pieces about rising homelessness in 2020. which amplified calls for government action to deal with a long-visible public crisis. 

For 2022, I bet they might like reading about a small gathering of politically disconnected neighbors who first met to try to figure out how come there was no competitive bidding; no transparency, and no public input as to how this valuable 2.8-acre parcel, with a (then) market value estimated to be $80 million was selected in the first place.

If you are interested, I know a few people who have six years of research and plenty of anecdotes to share. My hunch is a few of them might even give you some great quotes. And at the end of the day the Councilmembers will have no excuse for their indifference.” 

(Charles Rosin is a retired TV writer who lives in Venice.)