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California is either about to right decades of inequality between rich and poor defendants by eliminating cash bail, or it’s about to turn over its justice system to robots.

 

The question of what to do about the system that decides whether people should be free while awaiting trial will be determined by Proposition 25. The stakes, as explained by each side, are either ending an unjust system or relinquishing judicial authority to a pretrial assessment tool run on an algorithm.

 

If passed, Prop. 25 would allow each of California’s 58 counties to choose its own algorithm to assess a person’s flight risk or likelihood of reoffending while awaiting trial. The algorithm makes a recommendation, but the decision falls to the judge.

 

Yet those algorithms meant to solve for human bias have come under scrutiny in recent years, with some early boosters pulling back support. Those new dissenters worry the computer programs currently available will be overly broad in interpreting risk and unnecessarily keep throngs of defendants, many of them poor and minorities, behind bars.

 

Cash bail as an industry dominated by commercial bail bondsmen only exists in the U.S. and the Philippines. Some states have begun to turn away from cash bail either relying on national algorithms or, like Virginia and Florida, created their own.

 

In 2018, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law to eliminate cash bail, replacing it with a new pretrial risk assessment similar to federal courts. But the years since SB 10 have been difficult for supporters of bail determination algorithms. First, a group of 27 academics from institutions like MIT and Harvard pulled their support, citing the danger of using inexact and overly broad definitions in predicting violence.

 

Their principle objection was the way the algorithms defined risk. “When tools conflate the likelihood of arrest for any reason with risk of violence, a large number of people will be labeled a threat to public safety without sufficient justification,” the group wrote.

 

Then this year, an even bigger setback for algorithm advocates: The Pretrial Justice Institute, long the standard-bearer for a risk-based algorithmic approach, announced it no longer supported using algorithms in determining someone’s eligibility for pretrial release.

 

“We were too focused on fighting the damaging status quo to really listen,” PRI wrote in a mea culpa in February. “We made a mistake.”

 

Supporters of Prop. 25 argue that inequities created or exacerbated by the algorithm can be worked out during the periodic reassessments of the program — Prop. 25, if passed, would get its own review by Jan. 1, 2024 — and that other such algorithms are in use in other states, with no grave consequences yet reported.

There are five popular algorithms in use today, in states from Kentucky to New Jersey, along with several California counties that have already eliminated cash bail.

 

  • One of the most popular, the Public Safety Assessment, comes from Arnold Ventures* and is the statewide algorithm for Arizona, Kentucky, New Jersey and Utah. That assessment uses a nine-factor test to determine bail eligibility, accounting for factors like age, prior failures to appear and past convictions. San Francisco County began using the PSA in 2016. Sonoma County joined in 2020.
  • Another option is the algorithm used in the federal court system, the Pretrial Risk Assessment, developed by the U.S. Office of Pretrial and Probation Services. Since its implementation in 2009, prosecutors and defense attorneys now focus on arguing whether a defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community.

 

  • Further down is an algorithm used by New York, the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions developed by Northpointe, Inc. That program has been criticized for its lack of transparency.

The bail industry, which forced the issue onto the ballot, are hoping voters will simply reject Prop. 25.

 

Sheriffs and prosecutors opposed to Prop. 25 say putting people back on the street after an arrest will allow them to commit more crimes. Meanwhile, some civil liberties organizations worry an algorithm will deepen racial and socioeconomic inequities in the justice system — or will at least fail to correct them.

“Algorithms might work for recommending songs, movies and other consumer interests but are biased and flawed when it comes to justice, bank loans and other sensitive and personal matters,” the No on 25 campaign warns on its website.

 

Forecasting bail releases is tricky. The decision ultimately lies with each judge, so it’s only really possible to forecast what the algorithms will tell them, not how each individual judge will act.

 

With that caveat, a study released this week by the California Policy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley found that in Sonoma and San Francisco counties, the implementation of an algorithm to assist with pretrial release decisions would have led to more releases and less time spent in jail for people arrested in 2017-2018, the period of the study.

 

Ultimately, proponents of an algorithm for bail decisions say the computer assist will act as a kind of scorecard. The public will be able to see which judges adhere to the algorithm’s suggestions and which judges go their own way.

 

“People are missing the fact that judges are already using their discretion,” said John Bauters of the Yes on 25 campaign, “they’re just hiding behind a cash bail schedule to do it.”

 

*Arnold Ventures is a supporter of CalMatters.

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Amid the torrent of laminated campaign ads churning through the postal system this season, the slate mailer stands out as a perennial — and many say unseemly — California political tradition that dates back to at least the 1950s.

 

Though new restrictions may be on the way.

You’ve seen these before: A group, often with an inoffensive or non-descript name, places a phalanx of candidates and proposition positions on the same glossy postcard and implores voters to support the “slate.”

 

The catch: While some of these mailers reflect the earnest political values of the organizations that put them together, many are pay-to-play money-makers that blur the line between endorsement, paid advertisement and extortion.

 

  • In San Francisco, a “Feel the Bern, Progressive Voter Guide” is urging voters to support Proposition 22, prompting the mailer’s namesake, Sen. Bernie Sanders to remind his followers on Twitter that he is absolutely not “feeling” Prop. 22 — in fact, he actively opposes the Uber and Lyft-backed measure.
  • The “Committee to Protect the Political Rights of Minorities,” a committee run by California NAACP leader Alice Huffman, received payments to tell voters to oppose rent control, a property tax increase and the end of cash bail.
  • After receiving a $300,000 payment from the “No on 20” campaign, the COPS Voter Guide — which is not managed by a police organization, but by political consultant Kelley Moran — encourages voters to oppose that proposition. That’s much to the chagrin of the law enforcement groups supporting it.
  • A group calling itself the “Voter Education Coalition” endorsed San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez for her Assembly seat, along with a “Yes” vote on Prop. 22. Careful observers of California politics will note that Gonzalez is the author of state law that Prop. 22 would punch a hole in.

There’s nothing illegal about selling endorsement space on a postcard. California law requires that mailers include a “notice to voters,” specifying that the mailer group is “NOT AN OFFICIAL POLITICAL PARTY” (yes, in all caps).

 

Another required disclosure: Candidates and causes that paid for their mailer spot must be listed with an asterisk.

 

What isn’t required: revealing the funders behind the mailer “committee.

Gonzalez wants to change that.

 

She didn’t pay to appear on the Voter Education Coalition endorsement — although an ideologically mixed bag of San Diego politicians did, including Democratic mayoral candidate Barbara Bry, city attorney candidate Cory Briggs, and San Diego County Board of Supervisors contenders state Sen. Ben Hueso (a Democrat) and Poway Mayor Steve Vaus (a Republican).

 

Over the last few months, the “coalition” has also received payments from property manager Richard Snyder earmarked in support of Bry, Dale Briggs in support of his son, and a company called La Playa LLC supporting both Hueso and Vaus.

 

According to a sparse campaign finance record filed with the state, the organization is managed by a Barrett Gonzalez in San Diego. Though no address or business was provided, a man by that name works for the San Diego Group, a political consulting firm.

 

Reached by phone, Gonzalez at the San Diego Group denied that he was the Barrett Gonzalez of San Diego involved with the slate mailer. “Must be a different one,” he said. John Wainio, the president of the San Diego Group, did not respond to an email inquiry.

 

Assemblymember Gonzalez said she was probably included in the mailer because she is “a well known progressive Democrat” whose presence on the mailer gives the rest of the endorsements “credibility.”

 

When the Legislature convenes in December, Gonzalez said she wants to introduce a bill that would require each slate mailer endorsement to come with a label describing who paid for it. She would also like to force slate mailer “committees” to list how many people belong to their organization.

 

“You have ‘Senior Citizens for a Clean Environment’ — I’m just making this up — and you look it up and it’s like, ‘that’s not an organization,’” she said. “If someone just created a group by which they’re trying to sell endorsements, we should know these things.”

The Venice Chamber of Commerce is looking for a few volunteers to help spruce up parts of Venice.

 

The VCC Chamber in Action Committee is hosting it’s third pop-up event helping clean the community.

 

This event is a part of the Chamber in Action Committee’s Pop-Up Cleaning Crew initiative in which the committee and volunteers visit different areas around Venice to pick up trash and help take care of the community, according to a press release.

This weekends cleanup is located at Main Street and Rose Ave.  Volunteers are asked to pick up trash  in small groups to remain safe and socially distant.

Clean up materials are provided. Coffee and donuts for volunteers at the end of the cleaning session

To donate materials, email info@venicechamber.net.

 

To sign up – email Brennan, CIA Chair, at brennan@genericevents.com

 

 About Chamber in Action

The Chamber in Action Committee brings chamber members and the community together to work on improving  Venice’s business and community. This committee focuses on community service and community improvement. Using an application process, the committee selects a local non-profit group, Venice business or public area in need of improvement and organizes Chamber members and volunteers to create positive change.

 

Recent projects include the LAPD Pacific Division lobby renovation, the Venice Gondola Project, and the POW-MIA mural restoration. The committee recently adopted the Venice Carousel Project and is involved with various garden improvement and beach clean-up efforts.

 

Email inquiries for submitting a project application to info@venicechamber.net.

 The hearing for the Reese Davidson project has been postponed citing improper notification to mineral rights owners.

 

At Thursday morning’s City Planning Department hearing, Ira Brown, a City Planning associate started the meeting by stating that he had received a letter from a law firm stating that mineral rights owners had not been properly notified of the meeting. 

 

Cannel Law Group, the firm that represents Venice Vision otherwise known as Fight Back, Venice! , sent the letter to the City stating that it had failed to give the constitutional required hearing notice for the Advisory Agency hearing. The letter stated that the City had not sent a notice to all persons with reserved mineral rights on the project site.

 

The City is constitutionally required to give mineral rights owners notice before taking adverse actions on their property.

 

In this case, according to Channel Law Group, numerous lots that would compose the project site have been deeded with an express reservation of mineral rights. The current land use designation of open space and use as a parking lot does not impair the prior owners’ deed reservation of mineral rights.

 

However, Channel Law Group expressed that the project proposes to build structures that would make it impossible for the mineral rights owners to obtain the benefit of their reservation of mineral extraction rights.

 

The letter goes on to say that since the record fails to show whether the applicant or the  City has determined if the people who reserved mineral rights in the deeds for  the project site have ongoing enforceable mineral rights, and therefore a constitutional right to actual notice of the Advisory Agency hearing.

 

The letter also stated that there is no basis to proceed with the Advisory Agency hearing until such time that underlying mineral rights have been determined, and all persons entitled.

 

“This is the first round of the battle to stop the Monster and Venice won,” said Christian Were, a representative of Venice Vision.  “We are going to win the war, too, by doing exactly what we did today–enforcing the rules as written.  The oversized Reese Davidson Community strips Venice of its last major piece of open space, violates every major provision in the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan, and calls for substandard streets and sidewalks in one of the busiest transportation corridors in the City.  We are going to fight tooth and nail to stop this atrocity.”

 

Reese-Davidson project

The Reese-Davidson project is a proposed project slated to be built on a 2.8-acre parcel in a residential area straddling the Grand Canal at the Venice Boulevard entrance to Venice Beach, a block from the southern edge of the Venice Boardwalk.

 

According to the Fight Back, Venice! website, the building site is the largest remaining tract of open space in Venice and overlaps the Venice Canals Historic District.

 

Project proposal

The project comprises two three-story complexes – the West Complex and the East Complex . Both complexes total 104,140 square feet of developed space, including 64,280 square feet of residential space, 2,255 square feet of retail space and 5,365 square feet of common area. It also includes a 3,155-square-foot art studio and an 810-square-foot restaurant.

A hearing for the Reese-Davidson project is slated for Thursday, Oct 22, in front of the City Planning Department. The meeting is being held virtually and starts at 10:00 a.m.

 

Sarah Letts of Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and Rebecca Dennison of Venice Community Housing are asking the City Planning Department’s Deputy Advisory Agency for an exemption from CEQA for the Reese-Davidson project. They are also asking for an amendment to the land use from open space to neighborhood commercial, a waiver of requirement to maintain consistency of community character, reduction of residential parking, elimination of varied roofline requirements and a further reduction of sidewalk space.

 

What is the Reese-Davidson project

The Reese-Davidson project is a proposed project slated to be built on a 2.8-acre parcel in a residential area straddling Grand Canal at the Venice Boulevard entrance to Venice Beach, a block from the southern edge of the Venice Boardwalk.

 

According to the Fight Back Venice website, the building site is the largest remaining tract of open space in Venice and overlaps the Venice Canals Historic District.

 

Project proposal

The project comprises two three-story complexes – the West Complex and the East Complex . Both complexes total 104,140 square feet of developed space, including 64,280 square feet of residential space, 2,255 square feet of retail space and 5,365 square feet of common area. It also includes a 3,155-square-foot art studio and an 810-square-foot restaurant.

 

Parking structures

Renderings show that each complex would also include a multi-level parking structure in the middle completely surrounded by residential units Texas Donut” style.

 

The parking structure in the West Complex is three levels and the parking structure in the East Complex is five levels.  Together, the two parking structures provide a total of 360 parking spaces, comprising 254 standard spaces and 106 spaces that can only accommodate compact cars.

 

Residential Units

According to information obtained by FBV, there are 140 residential units including 68 units of Proposition 2 “No Place Like Home” (“NPLH”) housing, 68 units of affordable housing, and 4 manager units. The average unit size – excluding the manager units – is 449 square feet.

What else

The proposed project would involve the demolition of an existing surface parking lot (LADOT Lots 701 and 731) containing 196 vehicular parking spaces (bisected by Grand Canal) and the demolition of a two-story, four-unit residential structure.

 

The project would also include the export of 9,100 cubic yards of building material and soil; the removal of 24 non-protected on-site trees and 11 non-protected street trees; and improvements to the canal access boat ramp.

 

VNC Vote

On Tuesday, Oct 20, the Venice Neighborhood Council voted unanimously, with one abstention, to approve LUPC’s motion to require a full CEQA review of the proposed  project.

 

In addition, an item on the general consent calendar put forth by the Parking and Transportation Committee (passed without objection or Board discussion) called for the VNC to send a letter to City Hall recommending denial of the project due to its impacts on parking and the Farmer’s Market.

 

How to join

You can join the virtual meeting by clicking on the below link.

https://planning-lacityorg.zoom.us/j/99148601188
Meeting ID:   991 4860 1188
Passcode:   412246

Participants may also dial by phone: (669) 900-9128 or (213) 338-8477
When prompted, enter the Meeting ID of: 991 4860 1188#

By Angela McGregor

 

The October 20 meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council Board opened and closed with a discussion of the adoption of mission statement for a new, ad hoc committee tasked with oversight of the Pacific Sunset Bridge Housing facility.

 

Authored by Vicki Halliday, who would also be the presumptive committee chair, the statement mandated that at least 5 of the committee members would live within 500 feet of the facility.  During discussion of adopting the night’s agenda, Board President Ira Koslow announced that he wanted to pull the motion after a discussion with the City Attorney, who had informed him that there was a “500 foot barrier to participation and voting” so therefore Halliday, a close neighbor to the facility, would not be able to be Chair or vote on motions.

 

Later in the evening, Board parliamentarian Ivan Spiegel clarified that, in fact, the 500 foot limitation only applied to elected officials, so any non-elected stakeholders wishing to participate would be allowed to do so.  Other Board members emphatically disagreed with the motion to take the statement off of the agenda, pointing out not only the dire need for such a committee to add transparency to Board decisions about Pacific Sunset, but also the fact that the City Attorney appeared to be “playing politics”, pointing out that  almost everyone the Ocean Front Walk committee lives within a 500 radius of the Boardwalk and yet the City has had no problem with it.

 

The mission statement stayed on the agenda, and at the end of the night it was suggested that Halliday become the Chair of the committee and simply recuse herself from voting.  She declined, and when the motion passed Koslow said that he would select a Chair for the new committee “at my convenience”.

 

CD11 Bridge Housing liaison Dexter O’Connell appeared before the Board and said that  things inside of Bridge Housing are “going well”, with intake resuming for younger residents overseen by Safe Place for Youth and four housing placements in the last month.  A community garden is being installed on the site, and four shipping containers for storage being installed.  These are meant to prevent what O’Connell called “dual residencies”, in which Bridge Home residents also maintain a presence in the encampments in order to oversee possessions that can’t be brought into Pacific Sunset.  There has been no crime reported within the facility since September 5, and there has been  “meaningful improvement” to the security enforcement zone.

 

In  response to a question from the Board regarding an online petition signed by over 1600 Venetians demanding a Town Hall to discuss the increase in crime in Venice, CD11 Venice liaison Nisa Kove stated that Councilman Bonin is in “conversations” with LAPD about their participation in the meeting.

 

She also stated that the 59 encampment residents along Penmar who were willing to accept an offer of housing from the City have been relocated, mostly to hotel rooms.  In a recent press release, Bonin’s office also stated they are working to transfer jurisdiction over the area to Recreation and Parks, and thereby ” restore the path for public recreational use once again”.  Finally, she encouraged anyone observing a new encampment to contact 311 and report it to sanitation.

 

The Board unanimously, with one abstention, approved LUPC’s motion to require a full CEQA review of the proposed Reese-Davidson project at the Venice Median.  In addition, an item on the general consent calendar put forth by the Parking and Transportation Committee (passed without objection or Board discussion) called for the VNC to send a letter to City Hall recommending denial of the project due to its impacts on parking and the Farmer’s Market.  The developers of Reese-Davidson will go before the City Planning Department’s Deputy Advisory Agency this Thursday at 10am, in an online meeting, requesting exemption from CEQA review.

 

The VNC Board has a new member.  Ten candidates submitted applications to become the VNC’s latest Community Officer (replace Charles Rials, who stepped down last month) and the winner was Tom McComas, a 20 year resident of Venice who’s application stated he wants to “make Venice a better place”.

 

At the end of the meeting, a new Public Health and Safety Committee was also formed, to be chaired by Soledad Ursua with the mission of “increasing all aspects of the personal safety and health of Venice residents and visitors.”

 

The meeting adjourned around 11pm.  The next meeting of the VNC Board will be Tuesday, November 17th at 7pm.

An area day spa owner is charged in federal court with accumulating N95 respirators in anticipation of the COVID-19 pandemic and then price gouging by selling the scarce masks at vastly inflated prices – sometimes nearly 1,100 percent over list price.

 

Niki Schwarz, 55, the owner of Tikkun Holistic Spa in Santa Monica, just across the Venice border on 4th Street,  was named in a criminal information charging her with one count of hoarding and price gouging. In a plea agreement also filed today, Schwarz agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense.

 

In the plea agreement, Schwarz admitted that in February she began accumulating N95 respirators in anticipation of a shortage that would be caused by a global pandemic resulting from the spread of the novel coronavirus. From the beginning of February until the end of June, Schwarz accumulated nearly 20,000 N95 masks that had been manufactured by 3M (list price ranging from $1.02 to $1.27) and Alpha Pro (list price of 86 cents).

 

In March, the United States government designated N95 respirators as “scarce materials” under the Defense Production Act of 1950 due to the overwhelming need of health care providers dealing with COVID-19 patients to use personal protective equipment.

 

Schwarz admitted that she obtained the N95 respirators for the purpose of reselling them at above-market rates, and that she sold the masks for up to $15 each.

 

Schwarz “accumulated and resold the masks at prices in excess of the prevailing market prices willfully, that is, with knowledge that masks had been designated as scarce materials and with knowledge that accumulation of the designated materials to resell in excess of prevailing market prices was unlawful,” according to the plea agreement.

 

On March 1, an associate informed Schwarz that the associate was going to stop selling N95 masks because she believed it was crime – and that price gouging could result in one year in prison – but Schwarz continued to sell the masks at inflated prices.

 

The hoarding and price gouging offense that Schwarz admits in the plea agreement carries a statutory maximum sentence of one year in federal prison.

 

Schwarz will receive a summons directing her to make an initial appearance in United States District Court, likely in early November.

 

This matter was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service.

 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Mitchell of the Major Frauds Section, who is a regional coordinator of the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.

One person is being transported to the hospital after a major fight on the boardwalk.

 

It happened Tuesday, Oct 20, at 9:00 p.m., on Navy Ct and Ocean Front Walk. 

 

The Los Angeles Police Department said one suspect, a 40 year old man, got into an altercation with ten other people. Police say that the victim was armed with a metal pipe. 

 

He was later cut in the neck, according to the LAPD.  The victim was transported to the hospital. His condition is unknown, according to the LAPD.

 

No further details are available at this time.

A number of concerned parents and residents say they want their day with the California Coastal Commission. 

 

 The group, which includes Tracy Carpenter and Nikki Shallenbere, both concerned parents who have kids who near live or go to school next to the proposed Lincoln Apartments, recently filed an appeal with the California Coast Commission to appeal the building project.

 

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday, September 15, on conditions of approval for the Lincoln Apartment project. 

 

The Lincoln Apartments project, located at 2469 Lincoln Boulevard, is a $20 million project that is in partnership with the Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) and Safe Place for Youth (SPY). 

 

The project will consist of 39 apartment units of affordable housing, with 19 apartments set aside for those experiencing chronic homelessness and 20 for transition-aged (18 to 24) youth. 

 

The Appeal

The appeal reads that the “Lincoln Apartments” project, (the “Project”), located at 2467-2471 S. Lincoln Blvd, has issues that include zero residential parking and reduced commercial parking, no loading dock, building height, 100 percent density bonus, land use deviations and a waiver of dedication and improvement and setbacks–and a concentration of projects in Venice and cost. 

 

Appeal Issue No. 1. Parking

 

According to the appeal, zero residential parking sets a statewide dangerous precedent of not providing adequate parking facilities in the Coastal Zone. The appeal reads that Venice Community Housing (VCHC) and a Safe Place for You (SPY) stated in public testimony that “the units operate like any other apartment project, with income qualification and at risk homeless special needs verification being the only difference.” 

 

  The appellants say that it is unreasonable to expect that once the residents obtain housing and jobs that they will not own automobiles–and that providing zero automobile parking spaces for 40 residential units (with up to 98 residents and their guests) is insufficient parking.


Appeal Issue No. 2- No loading dock



After the City Council voted on this project, the appellants say they learned that Venice Community Housing’s plan to use the public parking spaces on Lincoln Boulevard as their loading dock: “All loading and delivery activities will use the public parking spaces on Lincoln Blvd.” This, apparently is part of a legally binding Memorandum of Understanding with the LA Archdiocese. Appellants say that no loading dock will negatively affect the community, set a dangerous precedent, and merits further scrutiny by the Commission.

Appeal Issue No. 3 – Building Height

According to the appeal, the project merits closer scrutiny by the Commission in order to determine whether the height of the Project is appropriate for the neighborhood. 


The Presidents Row Neighborhood (part of the Southeast subarea), where the project is located, is comprised of a variety of one and two-story buildings situated on single lots or doublewide lots. According to the appeal, The adjacent buildings are each one story. This project seeks a height increase of 22 feet, which means it is not compatible with the scale or character of the surrounding neighborhood. Therefore, the project’s height raises a substantial issue as to conformity with the Land Use Plan ( LUP) standards that protect community character.

 

Appeal Issue No. 4 – Density

 This Project has a proposed gross building area of 32,101 square feet. The density under the Land Use Plan (LUP)  would allow for only 20 units, therefore, the proposed project with a 100 percent density bonus increase raises a substantial issue as to conformity with the LUP standards that protect community character.

 

The appellants say this merits closer scrutiny by the Commission in order to determine whether the impacts of the project’s proposed 100 percent density increase can be adequately mitigated.

 

The appellants go on to say that the City’s action prejudices future interpretations of the LUP; and the reconciliation of density bonus incentives with the Chapter 3 policies of the Coastal Act is a statewide issue.

 

This area is a tourist destination for people all over the state (and beyond), and the City’s granting of 100 percent density bonus do rise to statewide significance.
Studies also say that there is a cost to density that will affect an old sewer system, among other utilities, as well as traffic.

The stretch of Lincoln Boulevard between Venice Blvd and Washington Ave is a virtual parking lot with major traffic most of the day. The four story building will only add to the current traffic problems. The more density, the more difficult it is for the public to access the beach.

 

Appeal Issue No. 5 – Land Use Deviations

The appellants also say that the approval of a predominately residential project on a site designated for commercial use raises a substantial issue that merits closer scrutiny by the Commission in order to determine whether the density and mix of uses is appropriate for the site. With well-documented safety issues, this project is not compatible with the community character of the neighborhood.

 

Coastal Act Section 30222 states: “The use of private lands suitable for visitor-serving commercial recreational facilities designed to enhance public opportunities for coastal recreation shall have priority over private residential, general industrial, or general commercial development, but not over agriculture or coastal-dependent industry.” 

 
The current expressed safety concerns that neighbors and parents have expressed  with SPY and with VCH’s other properties could show that this will not be beneficial to the community. 

 

Appeal Issue No. 6 – Waiver of Dedication and Improvement and Setbacks

VCH is seeking a waiver of the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan step-back provisions for buildings greater than 25-feet in height (off-menu). The organization is also seeing seeking a Waiver of Dedication and Improvement – The request is for a modified right-of-way dedication of 10-feet, in lieu of the otherwise required 18-foot dedication, and waiver of widening the half roadway width.

According to the appellants,  on any given drop-in day before COVID 19 there were 50-100 SPY clients waiting to be let in, filling the driveway and the Garfield Ave sidewalk. VCH wants to move the entrance from the driveway to the front of the building on Lincoln. Carpenter says that they share concerns that about 50-100 people  will now be blocking the sidewalk on Lincoln.

 VCH has said the outdoor patio area and the café area can accommodate 60 people. Documents show that the areas will also be filled with tables, chairs, and other furniture and the capacity will be significantly less than 60. Carpenter says they are concerned there will be people spilling out on the sidewalk – especially if people now must maintain a social distance. The group is asking the CCC for a larger setback on Lincoln to accommodate the crowd. The café area is a micro-enterprise and will not be able to accommodate 100 people.

Appeal Issue No. 7 – Concentration of projects in Venice and Cost

The appeal reads that in the past, the Coastal Commission has cited there being an issue of a lack of affordable housing in Venice. Documents provided by the appellants show that Venice has supported social and economic diversity, which is why the community has more current and planned affordable housing projects than all of the other communities in Council District 11 combined.


According to Pacific Urbanism, Venice has the 8th highest rate of affordable housing in all of Los Angeles (with 1860 low income and supportive housing units), and the highest rate, by far, in Council District 11. The study does not include Thatcher Yard, which is 98 units, Rose Ave that has  34 units, Lincoln Aptartments that has 40 units, Bridge Housing with 154 beds.  Combined this is an additional 466 units. Those numbers add up to over 2300 low income and supportive housing units in Venice. Not even including the planned projects, Venice has over five units of affordable housing per 100 people. Pacific Palisades and Brentwood combined have .21 units of affordable housing per 100 people.


According to LAHSA data, along with the over concentration of affordable housing and services in Venice (3.1 square miles), the homeless population has gone up by 60% in Venice, while going down 77% in Brentwood and down 59% in Pacific Palisades, in the last few years.

 

The Venice Current reached out to SPY for comment on the story. The organization declined to comment at this time. 

By Jamie Paige

Her iconic public art is everywhere in Venice, and it engages those who pass by it in many different ways. Robin Murez has created a number of local public art installations including the Camel Snapshot Topiaries on Main Street, the Peep Hole Box on Abbot Kinney, a snapshot into the history of Venice, “Mr. Abbot Kinney Reflected,” a mural painted on the sidewalk on the corner of San Juan at Electric Avenue and the Venice Corner Ball Park, and mosaic balls located in Centennial Park and at 6th and San Juan.

 

Her sculpture installations are not only found in the 90291 zip code; she is known throughout the country for transforming blighted street corners into beautiful spaces.

 

After earning a law degree and representing elite athletes for years, Murez went back to school to study art. “When I moved back to Venice [after earning a Master of Fine Arts at Washington University in St. Louis], I thought that the Venice history is so fantastic. It’s great material to work with. That’s when I started making these sculptures.”

 

Murez’s most recent project is awe-inspiring—and downright ambitious. She is working on The Venice Flying Carousel, a bicycle-propelled, Venice-themed, full-scale merry-go-round slated to be installed in Centennial Park. And, she’s sculpting and building it all by hand.

 

As Murez describes it, The Carousel is 20 feet in diameter with eight large animals along with five kiddy swings and a chariot. All are made of wood.

 

The carousel will allow up to 15 adults and kids to ride it at the same time. Murez notes that it’s categorized as playground equipment but engineered for both adults and kids. “It’s charming. It’s an earlier style of carousel. I love that it’s bicycle-propelled because most of Venice is bikeable.” And, it’s built to last. Murez expects it will hold up for at least the next 100 years.

Adopt-an-animal

 

Murez says that every piece of the carousel represents a part of Venice history. Marrying the past and present, each animal is up for “adoption,” which is part of how the carousel is funded. This also allows for each family or person adopting an animal to be a part of the story. “They [the animals] tell great stories, and they are personal to them,” says Murez.

 

Some of the themes Murez is working on pay tribute to people who have made Venice their home. One, by artist neighbor, Barbara Mastej, is a Lizard King, carved to resemble Jim Morrison of The Doors. Another is a rocket ship that pays homage to Ray Bradbury, the author and screenwriter best known for his novel Fahrenheit 451. “She is also creating a camel as the brass ring dispenser. Camel rides were part of Venice founder Abbott Kinney’s vision for the city in 1906.

Eight-year animals in eight weeks

Murez went to Oregon to work of a group of apprentice artists who specialize in building carousels. As she tells the story, the group she was working with normally takes about eight years to create just one animal for such projects.  The first animal  Murez carved took about eight months, and the most recent animals and features each took about eight weeks.

 

“A few mentors showed me the ropes,” explains Murez in describing the condensed timeline. She has been at the project for almost two years and expects to complete it sometime in 2021 when it will be installed in the park.

 

Bureaucratic merry-go-round

 

With every project comes bureaucracy. Murez says the process she endured to get the needed permissions and permits is still just that—a process. She has met with the Los Angeles Recreations and Parks Department and added that Councilmember Mike Bonin supports project. She is also slated to go before the Venice Neighborhood Council again in November.

 

In the spirit of Venice and art, Murez is involving other artists as well. She has brought in artists to help paint the large medallions that will adorn the top of the carousel as well as help with other parts of the project. Most of the work is being donated, so costs are only needed for the materials.

 

Funding the fun

 

The approximately $200,000 project is being funded in several ways. Crowdfunding allowed everyone to pitch in.

Although the large animals have all been adopted, Murez is seeking to raise about $20,000 for the carousels chariot’s. The project is also looking for benefactors to adopt three swings, the wonderful bike machine, solar lighting and music, the Big Top tent and more.

Log onto the Venice Carousel website, veniceflyingcarousel.com, for more details on the carousel and how to donate or get involved. Donations are tax-deductible.