Venice: Find Your Champions

The-Cabrillo-Monstrosity's-Ugly-Rear-Endby Krista Schwimmer
In both residential and commercial places, “Venice Proud” blue and white signs are posted. The Outreach Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) created this slogan in 2014 to attract more community involvement. As an already, active community member, I find this slogan not only strange, but actually disturbing. To understand the mental imbalance this sign causes me, let’s take a look at what has happened to Venice over the last two years.
Strolling down Brooks Avenue, just west of Lincoln Boulevard, we find the nature of this lovely area completely ruined by the proliferation of BUB’s (Big Ugly Boxes). Although BUB’s are found throughout the world now, they managed to spread like pestilence in this particular neighborhood. One BUB was renting for $12,000 a month!
Similarly, gray prison-like structures are destroying other neighborhoods. Just around the block from me, at 1217-1219 Cabrillo Avenue, is a two condominium monstrosity nearing completion. Like many of the most ghastly buildings in Venice, this one bears Pardee Properties’ pirate flags. Tami Pardee herself explains how she has contributed to the rise of these monstrosities. In February of this year, Matt McCue of Fortune magazine wrote an article on her, introducing her as Los Angeles’s top selling female realtor. In 2014 alone, she closed 150 deals. The article reveals Pardee’s influence of Thomas James Capital, an equity firm specializing in Southern California real estate. It is Pardee that first suggests that this firm not simply fix up old bungalows for a modest profit; but rather, take them down to their stubs and build larger and more modern structures for a more sizable profit. And that’s exactly what they did.
In the case of the Cabrillo condominiums, the VNC recently voted 13-1-2 to deny “the CDP and PMLA for the project as presented as it does not meet the quantitative standards of the Coastal Act and the Venice Land Use Plan.” Still, the structure is almost complete; the blue and black pirate flags are flying. Who will bring it down?
Consider next that in this year alone, Venice has had three brutal shootings of houseless people, two of them African-American men. All three shootings occurred in areas connected to development: Ocean Front Walk and Rose Avenue. We can convincingly argue that these shootings are related to the hypergentrification of Venice. Two shootings, the shootings of Brendon Glenn and of Jason Davis, were by the LAPD. In areas being gentrified, police force is often used. At last year’s Occupy Film Fest’s event on gentrification, Jataun Valentine and Laddie Williams publically testified about how the police came into the Oakwood area and used intimidation in the past and present to force longtime residents out. The third recent murder of Jascent-Jamal Lee Warren, allegedly ordered by Cadillac Hotel owner, Sris Sinnathamby, reflects a more vigilante approach. Last year, too, a pose of LAPD officers beat and arrested Samuel Calhoun Arrington — a houseless, mentally disturbed 52 year African-American man — for breaking banal municipal codes designed to harass the houseless.
Consider also that an illegal beach curfew remains in tact. Along Ocean Front Walk, sweeps have increased from monthly to weekly, wasting valuable dollars that could go towards expansion of the storage facility for the houseless. Two new ordinances, 56.11 and 63.44, make it even more difficult for the houseless to keep the few things they have. Now, the police only have to give 24 hours to a houseless person, instead of three days, before seizing possessions on the street.
Fellow Venetians, this is not a time to use the word pride. Pride suggests a sense of satisfaction in what is happening around Venice. Even if you are one of the pirates benefiting from the destruction of Old Venice, smug would be a more fitting word than pride.
The first step towards achieving a Venice we can all be proud of is to simply face the truth. The truth is that only a VERY few benefit from the kind of development occurring right now in Venice. Once more people face this truth, then we can create a different vision — a vision that not only reflects the history of Venice, but seeks to embrace all of its citizens.
Recently, the Beachhead was invited to attend a presentation, “Utah’s Houseless Approach.” Held at the Venice Community Housing Corporation, presenters Lloyd Pendleton, Matt Minkevitch, and Kerry Bate shared information on Utah’s amazing success. Utah’s stated vision is that “everyone has access to safe, decent, affordable housing with the needed resources and supports for self-sufficiency and well being.” This vision has led Utah to reduce its houseless population 91% in a decade!
In a slide presentation, Lloyd Pendleton gave three key words with explanations for Utah’s success: champions; collaboration; and compassion.
I was particularly struck by the idea of finding champions for houseless citizens. In the presentation, Lloyd Pendelton presented six characteristics of a champion. A champion has energy, beginning and finishing projects. A champion solves problems not decries them. A champion is results oriented. A champion takes personal responsibility for his/her own behavior. A champion believes in a common good, building on diversity and activating shared values. And lastly, a champion is “inclined to teams”, teams created from different not like-minded people.
Although I personally know some champions of Venice’s houseless citizens, I also know that we lack champions in the political arena. Recently Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a state of emergency with the houseless. In his September letter to City Administrative Officer, Miguel Santana, he states that “Homelessness is in a state of crisis that requires long-term strategies and investment coupled with immediate action.” Although Garcetti hopes to find $100 million each year for permanent supportive housing, rapid rehousing, and interim housing for houseless people,” his immediate action is a one-time funding of $13 million split between five different areas.
Councilman Mike Bonin, too, has shown more interest in a single, burning mattress on the streets of Venice then in finding real beds for those who need it. After Skid Row, Venice has the second largest concentration of the unhoused. Of the 2,400 houseless in Councilman Bonin’s 11th district, half of them live in Venice. Bonin also refuses to take a strong stand against development west of Lincoln Boulevard. In the case of the proliferation of AirBnB’s in Venice, his tactic is to hold more meetings, rather than ban or severely restrict them as Santa Monica recently did.
And, in our own VNC, President Mike Newhouse, a.k.a. the Dictator of Time, silences both community and VNC officers by allowing only one minute of public comment, as well as not allowing people to cede that minute to others for a more effective argument. At the September board meeting, Newhouse even refused more time to Sue Kaplan, the Chair of the Mass, Scale, and Character Ad-Hoc Committee, despite protests from Robin Rudisill, Chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee. (Luckily, Communications Officer, Jed Pauker, found a sneaky way around this dilemma.)
So, fellow Venetians, let’s take down those Venice Pride signs! Let’s get together and create a more inclusive vision. And then, let’s put out a call for real champions — before the villains escape with the rest of Venice.