Tents tied to the building

Tents tied to the building destroyed by a fire on Ocean Front Walk (Venice Current)

The Venice Neighborhood Council( VNC) Board votes in a new Community Officer at its latest meeting. The vote was one of numerous agenda items voted on Tuesday. 

 There were nine applicants for the vacancy, and the Board voted to elect Starla Caldwell, a Venice homeowner and local arts supporter who moved here from New York City in 2016.  On her application, Ms. Caldwell stated she feels residents who have moved to Venice in the past five years have little say in local government (something she presumably wishes to change) and that she would like to see housing stock increased "in all categories" and participate in a "real give and take discussion of pressing issues". 

VNC Election Administrator Ivan Spiegel was on hand to give an update on the ongoing VNC elections.  Candidate filings have begun and will continue through April 9th; interested parties should visit the elections page on the VNC website prior to March 23rd to obtain the information they will need to run  before filling out the necessary forms at the City Clerk's website.  A candidate orientation is planned for April 13th, and candidate forums will be held May 12-13.

Other items considered included:

A motion brought by the Parking and Transportation committee requesting the city reconstruct the public right of way on Sunset Ave. between Hampton and Main Street.  Railroad tracks abandoned over 60 years ago and never paved over feature "potholes on top of potholes", according to Parking and Transportation Chair Jim Murez.  Public and Board discussion centered on whether or not the old tracks are, in fact, historic, and the motion was passed after it was amended to suggest the City "could" rather than "should" include track removal during the renovation.

A vote on a motion to support the Venice Heritage Museum Foundation's construction of a museum at Centennial Park was postponed until next month. Board Chair Ira Koslow put forth the motion for postponement stating the board needed more information since it recently voted to approve a project in the same location. Nonetheless, Kristina Von Hoffman, a member of the Board, was on hand to give a presentation about the project, which will feature a restored, 1905 original Pacific Electric Red Car trolley. 

The Board voted in favor of a motion supporting CD14 Councilmember Kevin DeLeon's "A Way Home Plan", put forward by the Homeless Committee.  The plan aims, by 2025, to create 25,000 additional housing units for those currently unhoused, through such disparate means as streamlining and standardizing the current permitting process, halting and auditing overpriced HHH-funded projects in the pipeline but not yet funded, and protecting renters from eviction.  Both the Board and Public commenters noted the plan is a very broad framework, and that the devil -- as the saying goes -- will be in the details.  Nevertheless, in the absence of effective action to address the crisis on the part of the City, "A Way Home" -- which has garnered the support of CD11 Councilman Mike Bonin -- seems (to quote the motion) "well-thought out and on target to actually get things done".

Another motion put forth by the Homeless Committee -- this one encouraging the City to construct inexpensive tiny homes in order to address the homelessness crisis -- passed unanimously.

Although it also passed unanimously, perhaps the evening's most controversial motion called for the City to enforce its existing Fire Code by requiring a 20 foot safety buffer between tents and lot lines, buildings, other tent or membrane structures, parked vehicles or internal combustion engines" as well as "banning any fires for any purpose on public property within 50 feet of any structure" in the wake of last month's massive, encampment-caused fire on Ocean Front Walk.   

Public commentary was divided almost equally between homeless advocates who felt the board was surreptitiously criminalizing encampments by calling on them to be moved or regulated without providing an alternative location and those who felt the motion was merely a common sense call for increased public safety precautions.  Board commentary was universally in favor of the motion.  Public Safety Committee Chair Soledad Ursua, who penned the motion, said that she had worked with LAFD to ensure that the motion specifically calls for enforcement of existing laws -- the city's near 100 year old fire code preventing outdoor fires on city streets. 

Board President Ira Koslow recounted how, in the weeks leading up to the Ocean Front Walk fire, he and his neighbors on a nearby side street had complained multiple times to no avail about open flames from the tent which ultimately caused the fire.  Mark Ryavec pointed out that similar encampments had also at one time been allowed to set up directly adjacent to the Safran Senior Center just a few blocks away, and if the fire had occurred there rather than in a vacant building, perhaps dozens could have lost their lives.  The motion passed unanimously.

The meeting adjourned around 11pm.  A special, joint meeting of the VNC Board and the VNC Public Safety Committee, featuring a discussion with City Controller Ron Galperin about Los Angeles's current budget challenges and their impact on Venice, will take place Thursday, February 18th at 5pm.  The next regular meeting of the VNC Board will be held on Tuesday, March 16th.