Frustrated by the most recent delay in the approvals processes for the Venice Dell Community project, 140+ Venetians and neighbors rallied at City Hall at 9 a.m. on September 13. We came to prod Mayor Bass into removing recently created roadblocks apparently thrown up by the City Attorney, the Department of Transportation, and District 11 Councilmember Park. The urgent need to get the project back before the Coastal Commission inspired us to get there early on a Wednesday morning for a rally and press conference.
The rally was called by the CD 11 Coalition for Human Rights and supported by Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing, the two non-profits who will develop the Venice Dell project under a development agreement with the city, approved by City Council in 2022.
The Venice Dell project’s plans for140 affordable and supportive units have been approved by all city agencies after extensive consultation and revisions over 6 years. Only one last hurdle remains for the land use approvals: approval by the Coastal Commission, because the site is in the dual jurisdiction zone and includes a land use plan amendment. The Coastal Commission hearing was scheduled to take place in early October, but the Department of Transportation apparently withdrew its commitment to operate the new parking garage without any formal notice or decision making process. Since its inception, the project includes a replacement public parking commitment to be owned and operated by the City, so it is imperative to make sure that the DOT formally recommits before a Coastal Commission hearing can be held.
If not, the project’s badly needed housing –for low-income families, for low-income local artists, and for our currently unhoused neighbors–will go on hold AGAIN.
Protest signs urged Mayor Bass to live up to her commitment to build affordable housing. The press conference, which was led by Becky Dennison, Director of VCH, offered facts, figures, and personal experiences.
Dennison reminded us that this most recent roadblock is one among many delay tactics that the project has experienced since the Mayor, Councilmember Park, and the City Attorney took office. She called on the mayor to act now to move the project forward as previously approved. She asked, “If they are able to undo one Council approved affordable housing development behind closed doors – what happens to all the other affordable housing that we need across our City?”
Tanisha Saunders, property manager of Rose Apartments, supportive housing built by VCH, spoke of the impacts of supportive housing on people’s lives and how such housing contributes to an inclusive community.
Anne Marie Otey, representing the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, stressed a strong housing/labor alliance for projects like Venice Dell Community.
Venice artist Francisco Letilier highlighted the cultural components of the Venice Dell Community project, especially artist housing, and spoke of the traditional importance of the arts to the Venice community.
David Levitus of LA Forward and Scarlett de Leon of ACT-LA spoke of their respective organizations’ commitment to fair housing and to putting common needs above special interests. They drew attention to both westside and citywide support for Venice Dell.
Faizah Malik of Public Counsel raised questions about the legality of the City’s current actions and whether they are in compliance with the development agreement and/or in violation of fair housing laws.
There was a general belief in the crowd of protestors that this project is being specifically targeted because it is close to Venice beach and canals. A small group of mostly wealthy, mostly white residents have opposed it since the beginning. We were raising our voices so that Mayor Karen Bass would instead hear and act on the voices of the majority.