VNC Fails to Represent Venice

March 1, 2014

By Eric Ahlberg

Well we are into another round of “The Death Of Venice”.  This toxic paradigm is renewed every time a craftsman bungalow is torn down and replaced with an ugly box, every time an artist is evicted and then faces a market rent of $3900.00 for a 2bdr in Lincoln Place, and every time the VNC falls for a developer’s carefully crafted response to a community’s concerns about negative impacts. Sweet talking entrepreneurs blowing mitigations in your ear, selling you doom like the Wolves of Wall Street.

Sweet puppies these VNC volunteers, willing to sacrifice the density, traffic congestion, construction noise, excavation trucking, parking.  Excavations are always good for the neighborhood, exporting the funky to dumps so that shiny new things can take their place, and removing earth to make space for cars to park. Ever hear of Love Canal, I don’t mean that porn producer on Linnie, I mean that dioxin wasteland created by the Gas Plant very similar to the one that was on the site of the Chiat-Day Building, now the Google offices. The excavation of the Chiat-Day site in Venice required trucking the dioxin laden soil out and required the site to be covered with tarps and watered down constantly to prevent the pollutant laden soil from blowing into the neighborhood. We hope the hotel developers have drilled core samples because they are only a few blocks from the Chiat-Day site. Venice was a toxic wasteland after the oil industry was done with it. Much of this hides underground, demons unleashed with each excavation.

Now you can bet some checks were written after the Hotel passed the VNC. Community approval processes are an extreme pain for developers, so they get professional help, lobbyists, behind the scenes they meet and plan out their strategy. From a Zillow perspective every lot has a $ number and a zoning and a community to overcome. They must overcome basic logic. More people = more traffic + less parking. Hand waving is required. Property is property but construction finance profit is proportional to square footage, and occupancy. Real estate development is the lifeblood of international finance, where speculative projects can change hands several times by the time anybody moves in, and the aftermath is buried in a fund. It brings more money and people into the community, but, is that what we want? Finance and Paychecks vs Provincialism. If you want your community greener, and with less traffic, prevent these projects.


758 Sunset Avenue Project: Twice Defeated – But the Fox Still Circles the Hen house

March 1, 2014

By Krista Schwimmer

The voices of Venice are many and diverse. In the recent years of gentrification, however, they have often been stifled or unheard. There are times, however, when a single voice delivers the sentiment of all those voices not being heard. At the February 5th, Land Use and Planning Committee meeting, Lydia Ponce, longtime activist, did just that.

Pointing to the seven generations of Venetians in the back corner of the room, largely of African-American and Native American descent, Ponce began by saying how the gentrification ruining Venice did not benefit these families. She called for a moratorium on the destruction in Venice. She asked why no one on LUPC was dedicating him or herself to going after more affordable housing. She claimed “it’s like putting the fox in the hen house!”

On the agenda that night was 758 Sunset Avenue, a proposed Small Lot Subdivision with three homes and six car parking. After a presentation from the applicant, and an interactive, public comment period, the chair, Jake Kaufman, made a motion to deny this project based on the following grounds: less than 7% of homes in that area are similar in size; the project would decrease the density of affordable units in the area; the lot coverage was excessive; and, there would have to be guest parking, according to the VSP.

The motion not only passed LUPC that night, but easily passed at the monthly February meeting of the VNC, where the applicant himself, arrived too late to even argue for his development.

At the end of her public comment, Lydia told LUPC that “maybe you’re not individually responsible, but know this: I’m going to be praying tonight that my ancestors meet up with yours and whisper in your ear and clean your conscience and do something for the people who were here originally from six generations back and before that – the Tongva.”

For those two nights, her prayers were answered. Let’s join the ancestors in the next round and help preserve Sunset Avenue. For more information about ongoing developments on this project, and many others, go to Venice Community Unity Coalition at www.facebook.com/groups/2VCUC/


320 Sunset Development

March 1, 2014

By Greta Cobar

Another development project approved by the Land Use and Planning Committee that does not seem to reflect the wishes of the community is headed to the Venice Neighborhood Council for a vote by the Board. It is located at 320 Sunset, right across the street from Google’s proposed development at 320 Hampton.

A restaurant seeking a permit for a full line of alcoholic beverages is proposed. Currently there are no other restaurants or bars on that street. Predominantly residential, with artist studios and a few offices, the character of the block will be changed by the proposed development. With no parking spaces provided by the proposed new restaurant, it is a matter of certainty that the surrounding residents’ parking problems will be exasperated.

Another undesirable effect of this development is that it will set the pace for change in the area. The gentrification factor will kick in, real estate prices will rise, and the surrounding artist community will be driven out. This will be a most unfortunate effect, as the studios on that block are a huge part of the artistic heartbeat of Venice. That short block is the center of the ArtBlock, Art Walk and it hosts dozens of art shows and art parties per year. Obviously the proposed development is not set to cater to the artistic community that lives and works there, nor the art lovers who visit.


Abbot Kinney Boutique Hotel: the Devil You Know

March 1, 2014

By Krista Schwimmer

During a period in America’s history, when families and individuals are still reeling from the loss of homes, when the economy has not fully recovered, and the divide between the rich and the poor is still growing, a major hotel development project along Abbot Kinney Boulevard was narrowly given the green light by the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC). After months of meetings, of fliers posted on doorways by those for and against, this block long, 67 room boutique hotel, led by developer Dan Abrams, is yet another step closer to becoming a reality. If built, however, will this hotel be good for the locals, as its proponents claim, drawing more tourist business and providing local jobs? Or will it simply be a disaster, opening the door to untold other, mega developments?

At the February monthly VNC meeting, a record crowd of about 300 people came out to address just these issues. After the chair, Linda Lucks, reclused herself, handing the reins over to Vice President, Mark Salzburg, Dan Abrams, along with the architect on the project, David Hertz, once again presented their case. Abrams stated that the inspiration for the hotel was Venice itself, promising to show case artists, to be good to employees, and to the surrounding neighbors. Hertz quickly took the crowd through the project again: the 67 rooms that could expand into 85; the 42 % of open, ground floor space that would allow people to walk through; the preservation of the current businesses there, as well as their actual facades. He said that building a hotel there would have less impact on traffic than any other kind of development. He also said they were in the process of doing a detailed pedestrian study. According to Hertz, character, mass and scale are “subjective and complex issues.” He ended by saying that the neighbors are supportive of the project.

Marta Evry then gave a fifteen minute presentation opposing the project. Evry made six major arguments against it: incomplete and misleading information on the developer’s part; violation of the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan (VCZSP); the setting of dangerous precedents; unresolved parking issues; “significant, hard, unresolved traffic problems”’: and public safety concerns for both the neighbors and the Westminster School across from the proposed hotel. Contrary to what Hertz stated earlier that evening, Marta argued that both the VCZSP and Venice Coastal Land Use Plan DOES specifically address what mass, scale, and character are. They are all “defined by measuring proposed projects against the existing neighborhoods themselves.” The AK hotel would exceed all other projects due to its 69,477 square feet and eight lot consolidation. “No one will raise a family” in these hotel rooms, she said in protest against calling this a mixed use project. In a moment of levity, Evry showed a slide of a horse painted like a zebra, saying, “Painting stripes on a horse does not make it a zebra!”

After Marta’s presentation, Mark Salzberg stated that because Marta had given a fifteen minute presentation against the proposal, he would now allow fifteen minutes of comments in favor of it. Protests rang out, causing the chair to exclaim, “everyone is not going to be heard” tonight. After the fifteen minutes, he would then alternate comments against and for the motion. In light of the fact that the developer had already given a fifteen minute presentation first, the decision to give fifteen more minutes to their side seemed hardly fair. It was a night, however, where fairness would be questioned more than once!

Robin Murez, who once had her sculpture garden on Abbot Kinney, began the arguments in favor of the motion to approve the project. Like others, she called it a tourist attraction; and, like others, she trusts the work of David Hertz. She stated that for the past twenty years, locals have not supported the businesses on Abbot Kinney – she could attest to that. So, she thought the hotel fit with the people who were coming to the Boulevard. Others also expressed that the developers have not only been listening to the community, but have made changes in response to them.

Once comments opened up to those opposed to the project, however, it was evident that much of the community is not only against the project, even revised, but vehemently so. One man said it would “overwhelm the neighborhood” and be “a disaster”. Both Tibby Rothman and Caroline Rios were concerned that consolidating eight lots would set a long term precedent. Sue Kaplan, Chair of the Mass, Scale and Character Ad Hoc Committee, stated the FAR would be a 200% increase, and that their shadow studies were not accurate.

Mark Kleiman reported on a Town Hall meeting at the Westminster School which had been attended by LUPC member, Robin Rudisill. Rudisill said that dozens of parents told her they had never heard about the proposed hotel. Kleiman called LUPC to task, saying that “the chair of LUPC has not complied with a Public Records Request” for either the hotel or for another development project, 1414 Main Street, making him question what else the the LUPC Chair could be keeping from the VNC or from the people.

The motion to approve the project passed: 9 in favor, 7 opposing, and 1 abstaining. Those that did vote against it often reflected the concerns of the community, one member saying “we could end up with a hotel corridor.”

The battle is far from over. The city has still yet to weigh in on this boutique hotel. Although the developer and the architect have worked with the community over 16 months, there are still unanswered questions. Where will employees that work there actually live, considering no one is building any affordable housing? What abut other projects in surrounding cities, such as Santa Monica, in relationship to this one? How will traffic be impacted when considered as a whole? Is this a time in our nation that we should be building boutique hotels with spas instead of providing homes for those being continually pushed out of that market?

During the public comment time, Luke Jones, a supporter of the project, said “better the devil you know.” I ask you, Venice, do you agree? Abbot Kinney was a romantic dreamer. Although much of Venice has changed since its inception, let’s continue building Venice from the seeds of vision, not of fear. Let’s all of us dig even deeper and come up with a vision of Venice that is more reflective of the spirit of Venice – a spirit that includes more than excludes; a spirit that reflects the intentions Kinney had for this community.

VNC metin


Poetry

March 1, 2014

Venice, 2014 – By Mary Getlein

Necessity – By Hillary Kaye

1 Wanda – By Pano Douvos

Remembering Amnesia – By Suzanne Verdal

You Can’t Play Music There – By Ronald McKinley

Venice Drumbeats – By Marty Liboff

Dudley Avenue Pagoda – By B. Meade

Venice Nights – By Savannah B. Nolan

My Happiness Has Wings – By James Stone

Epitaph – By Humberto Gomez Sequeira-HuGoS

——————————————————————

Venice, 2014

It’s bad enough – the air quality in California

All this construction -

gives local children asthma, dirty air

pollutants in the air, huge trucks going by,

Destroying our heritage – the funky old homes of Venice

rolled over by greedy developers

turning Venice into a series of concrete boxes -

all the boxes look the same -

no room for children, birds, air, sunsets

All that counts is money money money

relentless capitalism -

Once it’s gone, it’s gone

You are bulldozing our dreams

living in a funky little sea-town

where you can wear a slip and pajamas

and it doesn’t matter to anyone

Don’t let the homogenization happen

we are already surrounded by yuppies

who are so anxious to look alike, walk alike, talk alike

A big producer moves in,

took our post office and made it his private office,

right down the street from his empire,

a huge site is scheduled, a huge condo complex.

These guys are hand-in-hand with each other

Greedy capitalists come here to destroy, not create

Destroy our cultural heritage, our history

Destroy Abbot Kinney’s dream of a playground

for ALL, not just people with obscene amounts

of money.

Instead of a minimum wage, what about a maximum

wage? You can only earn so much and then you

have to use the rest of it to distribute income for

The rest of us?

We are not greedy developers -

We don’t know them -

We want to live here,

We were here first – before us were Beatniks:

poet-people, artists, singers, musicians,

people arrested for pornography when painting nudes

people beat up by the cops for belly-dancing

people arrested for singing after 6:00 pm in the winter

This is our home

This is an investment of time and love and memories

We love this place -

go find another place to bulldoze into a pile of dirt

we’re not having it here -

we’re sick of your “smile in our faces, stab us in the back”

Things can be changed -

it’s not over yet -

please don’t tell me it’s over

we need this place for our souls

for our children and our children’s children

don’t tell me it’s going to be a “used-to-be”

That we’ll have to show our children

pictures of how it “used-to-be”

and there is no wonderland here for them

no magic places to run for free, for fun

Don’t let this happen, Venetians!

We have to get together and fight this

We have to stand tall and fight this

We have to fight this, for our hearts and souls

for our brothers and sisters

the people still living here

and the people who used to live here

before they got evicted from their homes.

– Mary Getlein

————————————————————————

Necessity

The girl grew up by necessity.

She grew strong by necessity.

She grew wise  by  necessity.

She grew old, and no one ever

thought about what a strong, wise,

woman she had become.

So she has to go unappreciated

by necessity.

– Hillary Kaye

———————————————————-

1 Wanda

“wear desperation like a birthmark

it’s too late to die young

and too early to die in my sleep”

your writer bursts  laugh-blips

through startled lips

his cocoon status breached

W. Coleman controls the game

captain of all  just repeat

captain on land and sea

wins swift with wicked change-up

they couldn’t see em coming

get your head out

she smokes one past the bastard

leaving him “shivering and kicking

down to the ass bone”

the strongest word-hurler   Wanda

great performer immensely on target

voted MVP  Most Valuable Poet

glides erotic across the stage   while

we pick up her trophy for her

she being out of town right now

– Pano Douvos

————————————————————-

Remembering Amnesia

How words can scarce describe

Why she was left to hide.

Like pearl inside the shell

Rubbed squarely, years of Hell!

The portion large

When hopes were small,

I fought the cause

Or none at all.

My art sort a religion

Put dreams away

To boxes of forgetfulness

O Clown of God!

But then, momentous knowing

Won’t stop the tears from flowing,

While so many gathered ’round

To watch me falling to the ground.

Then melon came to holly

When Jupiter came to calley,

Dancing circles round the drumming

As Jesus, Krishna, did the humming.

Come down from your cross

You twit with gravitas,

Hurrying up to wait

Spending life for some mistake!

Oh God! Forgive the sinning

For you alone, knows where I’ve been.

The childish whims, the plunging grief.

As time does pass, bring on relief!

I told myself to lighten up

While pouring coffee in the cup.

– Suzanne Verdal

——————————————————-

You Can’t Play Music There

By Ronald K. Mc Kinley

You can’t play music there

Only in your designated square

You can’t sit there

Someone might see you think that they are free

You can’t make love there

That is obscene

Show your passion

To be seen

The Po-Po said it’s after sunset, sometimes before

You can’t play it’s a crime

Guitar and Drums weapons to be held in check

You can’t leave your backpack there

with everything you own

it might get stolen by some statute

You can’t sleep there

Or there

Or anywhere

You can’t drink there

It’s the Law

The store can sell it

There logic and reason ends

Just regulation and decree

Yes this is America

If you have the capital

Funds to have fun

You can play your music

In your studio

You can smoke at home

In your smoking jacket

Make love in your vault

Atop your dough

Make a movie anytime, anywhere

leave your discords for the poor

Once a year declare peace and love

Keeping true freedom from their door

—————————————————–

VENICE DRUMBEATS

Abraham beats his Drum

His heartbeat drumming,drumming…

A rainbow of Musicians

A sunshine of instruments drumming,drumming…

Singers singing,singing…

Guitars,flutes,tambourines

Abraham drumming,drumming…

Vibrational Echo

Through time and Space

Music drumming,drumming…

Back to our Roots

Our heartbeats beating,beating….

To remember and Feel

Even for the moment ticking,ticking…

Between the drumbeats beating,beating…

A rainbow of souls drumming,drumming…

Universal Love beating,beating…

Abraham drumming,drumming.

– Marty Liboff

———————————————-

Dudley Avenue Pagoda

Under a Morrison moon

Chemical cowboys

Voodoo gearshift

The hourglass of life

Fierce angels

Soulmining

The edge of ruin

- B. Meade

——————————————-

Venice Nights

Venice nights

Life’s sweet delights

Spinning carnival lights

Cool jaded moon

Soft golden sand

We walk hand in hand

We walk onto the promise land

Hear the drums

When the time comes

follow the sound

Watch the mystics whirl around

Light our camp fire

snuggle up beneath the moon

Flames dance from the campfire

Young nights spent on the beach

Amongst the stars and your eluding speech

The bongos play

We are birds of prey

We are youth at play

– Savannah B. Nolan

——————————————–

My Happiness Has Wings

My happiness overflows its boundaries

Silencing my ever haunting deadness

I will let myself enjoy this moment

I feel I have wings to fly

And by them I ambush evil schemes

My love as wild as the wind

Flowing from the south

Bringing the warmth of the sun

I close my eyes and travel

The compassions of grace and mercy

Surround my poor nature

I will lift my hands to praise

Oh, the joys that fill my heart

Are better than lustful gold

Spread like butter on hillsides

Song birds singing a heart’s tune

Remembered in my memory

Softly strummed on the strings

That stretch across my heart

A vast corridor of passage

Lined with art on the walls

A stone floor covered with

An ornate carpet leading

Into the horizon, white

My journey takes its course

- James Stone

—————————————–

Epitaph

By Humberto Gómez Sequeira-HuGóS

Here lie desire and frustration,

sparks generated by the same fire,

which turned into words of ire,

without senseful concatenation,

when pleasure expired on the pyre

that the wind blew into desolation.


Ballona wetlands: letter from Shelley Luce

March 1, 2014

Dear Beachhead,

Mr. Davis is confused. The Bay Foundation is a nonprofit environmental group in good standing.  Our revenue is from grants and private donations. We are audited annually by a reputable firm and the IRS posts our annual nonprofit filings, along with all other nonprofit groups in the country. We have completed every grant we have received and accounted for every dollar spent, without fail, and have produced excellent results for state agencies, the federal EPA and the communities in which we’ve worked. Many of those grant products—-from greenway plans and kelp restoration to award-winning rain garden and rain barrel projects–are available on our website, www.santamonicabay.org.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission is a small non-regulatory state agency whose job is to convene stakeholders of Santa Monica Bay so that we can work together for the good of the Bay. Restoring coastal wetlands where they have been lost or damaged, as at Ballona, is an extremely important part of repairing our coastal environment and protecting people and wildlife from development and climate change impacts. Public access to open space, with trails and educational features, is another critical element of our work along the coast.

There are a lot of problems with wetlands, but Ballona is special because we have an opportunity to do something positive now at a place that is in an unnatural state and really needs repair. A lot of wildlife has been displaced by trash, pollution and construction, and our goal is to get it back to a healthy place for all to enjoy.

The misleading and baseless statements in this editorial are obvious attempts to take the focus off an important job: undoing the damage we humans have inflicted on the Ballona Wetlands, and making it a place of beauty where people and wildlife can flourish. State agencies are creating a range of project proposals that will show what is possible at Ballona, and will present them to the public sometime this year for review. It’s a long process, but it’s a big job, and patience is warranted. It has taken us 100 years to degrade this wetlands to the point where it desperately needs our help, and it will take a few years and a lot of hard work to make it healthy again. I hope the Venice residents will work with us and all the stakeholders for a healthy, thriving Ballona Wetlands.

Shelley Luce, D.Env.

Executive Director

The Bay Foundation and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation


Ballona wetlands: Response to Shelly Luce

March 1, 2014

Response to Shelly Luce

By John Davis

Dr. Shelly Luce replied to an article written in the February Beachhead. It questioned her role as the Executive Director of a State Agency and her association with a private business that employs her.

Rather than responding to specific issues presented in the February Beachhead, Luce speaks to the subjective merits of her employer, then goes on to demonize Ballona Wetlands.

A point-by-point response is in order. First, she begins with an invalid argument form called an,“ Argumentum ad Hominem”, whereby she attacks the character or circumstances of an individual who is advancing a statement or argument instead of trying to disprove the truth of the statement or the soundness of the argument.
From (http://philosophy.lander.edu/logic/person.html).

Second, the Beachhead has no editors.

And, Luce failed to respond in regard to her financial disclosures to the State she claims to represent, as Executive Director of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, SMRBC.

Ms. Luce filed a From 700 statement for 2013 with the State Fair Political Practices Commission.

The filings help identify and prevent conflicts of interest. Financial disclosures by those who represent the public are required. Disclosures of income from investments, real property, income, loans and business positions must be made to the public.

In 2013 Luce signed a Form 700 claiming she has no reportable interests on any IRS schedule.

In 2012 she also signed an IRS Tax Form 990 for the business she works for. On page 7, this document reveals Luce was the business’s top earner at $122,000.

Luce failed to report her business position as Executive Director of a private business to the State, and income from her employer shown on the IRS Form 900.

This begs the question of a conflict of interest for Dr. Luce. If she was paid by a private business as the IRS form indicates, why wasn’t it reported to the State as well? The people have a right to know.

Then the question remains, can Dr. Luce lawfully act as Executive Director of a State Agency, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission?

State law allows the Agency to appoint an Executive Director. The records of the Agency demonstrate Ms. Luce was never appointed.

On the State Form 700 discussed above, the date she assumed office as Executive Director is left blank.

California Public Resources Code (PRC) 30988.2(a) requires the State to provide administrative services, such as that of an Executive Director. Luce works for a private business, not the State, yet claims to be the Executive Director of the SMRBC, a State Agency.

In an obvious attempt to dodge the law, in 2012 members of the SMRBC, the State Agency, with now Assemblyman Richard Bloom as its Chair, entered into an agreement with the business Luce works for. It was signed by Bloom, who was also a Board Member of the same private business at the time. That agreement does not appear to be consistent with California law.

It says the business Luce works for can also provide administrative services, to the State Commission, like an Executive Director, without citing to any legal authority to do so. That is because none exists.

There is only one legal way for the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission to authorize an Executive Director: by appointment.  Shelly Luce was never appointed to be Executive Director and the minutes of SMRBC validate that fact.

Luce believes she has unlimited powers to represent the State and to obligate it to financial agreements with the United States Army without ever disclosing her actions to the State Agency she claims to represent.

One signed agreement obligated the State to provide about two million dollars in money or in kind work to the Army for an environmental process started at Ballona in 2005. Then, in 2012, Luce signed a letter on behalf of the State Agency asking the Army to withdraw from the same environmental process. The State Agency did not know it was involved because Luce never disclosed her actions, as the minutes of the meetings show.

The people and the State itself were left in the dark on this very important matter of money and the environment at Ballona.

Then, there is the website representing the business that Luce works for. Ms. Luce employs a private email address from santamonicabay.org, where she purports to do the business of the State without a public trace. Some of those emails have been obtained from the Army in a Freedom of Information Act request and demonstrate how the dealing of public matters is occurring on a private email network without public access.

The business Luce works for was incorporated as the Santa Monica Bay Restoration FOUNDATION. That same business is using a new name on its site, The Bay Foundation (TBF). It is still the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation. If you click on the donate button the true business name can be found.

To justify bulldozing the wetlands Luce demonizes the values of Ballona, as it exists today. She says Ballona is in an “unnatural state” and that Ballona, “really needs repair”, due to “construction” and “trash”. The further claim is that we humans have inflicted the damage. Her stated dream is “to make it a place of beauty where people and wildlife can flourish”. Luce goes on, Ballona “desperately needs our help”.

Her dream is our nightmare. The proposed preferred alternative is to bulldoze all of the wetlands and change the course of Ballona Creek to deposit all of the trash and pollutants coming from upstream Los Angles into a one big man-made toilet bowl that would be dug out of our valued wetlands. And if that is not insane enough, the proposal to construct a multi-story private  dog and cat kennel with a parking lot for 250 cars on top of the ecological preserve just adds insult to injury. Another multi-story parking garage is proposed over existing habitat next to Marina del Rey. This flood control project is masquerading as a “wetlands restoration”. It proposes to raise large berms and to build view-blocking levees along Fiji Way, Lincoln and Jefferson Blvds, letting the ocean come closer to threaten homes and business. It is projected to take about ten years, which will include more construction traffic, noise, air, and water pollution and cost $100++ million dollars.

How Dr. Shelly Luce can see the destruction of a major wetland and estuary as making it, “a place of beauty where people and wildlife can flourish”?  That is simply a fallacy to obfuscate the truth.

Dr. Luce, I am asking you to respond to these issues if you can. I am sure the Beachhead would publish any response in the April edition.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers