By Greta Cobar
In a major victory for Venice, the California Coastal Commission passed a motion to stop the city of Los Angeles’s from allowing developments in Venice to be approved under de minimus waivers.
Following the March 12 Coastal Commission meeting, all developments in Venice will have to go through a Coastal Development Plan process to be approved.
Over the last two years the city of L.A. misleadingly approved 82 construction projects in Venice under de minimus waivers. The construction allowed by these types of waivers is supposed to be less than ten percent larger than the original dwellings; it is not supposed to change the character of the neighborhood; and is not supposed to include grading, among other restrictions. None of these restrictions were enforced by the city of L.A., and waivers were rubber-stamped left and right. As a result, big box-like construction that is not in line with the character of the neighborhood went up overnight all over Venice, especially in the Oakwood area.
Subsequent to the California Coastal Commission’s decision to pull the waivers for Venice, Gregg Shoop, who works for the city of L.A. and was in charge of evaluating the waiver requests for Venice, was transferred out of his position and replaced with Alan Bell.
On March 31 Samuel In, a retired building inspector and 37-year city employee was sentenced to two and a half years in prison resulting from a federal probe into bribe-taking at the Department of Building and Safety. Last year he plead guilty to felony bribery, and admitted accepting more than $30,000 in bribes.
Samuel In is one of five former Building and Safety employees who have faced either criminal charges or dismissal as a result of the bribery probe, and all of them are just a minor spotlighted example of the corruption taking place throughout the city of L.A. when it comes to construction.
According to the Venice Specific Plan, construction under de minimus waivers, granted under the Venice Sign-Off (VSO), is so minor that it has no impact on the neighborhood, but that was clearly not the case. In fact, taken cumulatively, the 82 construction projects approved by the city of L.A. within the last two years under such waivers have threatened to change the unique character of the Venice community by replacing turn-of-the-century California bungalows with bigger and taller, cheap, ugly, box-like construction.
Although single-family homes, these new constructions are built to the edge of the property, eliminating the traditional front/back yards, which has a negative impact on the environment and the animals that live in the area. The developers who bought out what many times were pioneer, minority families, used all of their unscrupulous tactics to benefit their deep pockets, such as allowing properties to sit for a year so that the Mello Act, which provides for low-income housing, would no longer apply.
The California Coastal Commission’s decision to cease giving the city of L.A. the power to pass de minimus waivers for Venice was a result of grass-roots community activism spear-headed by the Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character. On March 12 a group of Venice activists traveled to the Long Beach Coastal Commission meeting with documents incriminating the city of L.A.’s practice of handing out de minimus waivers.
Peggy Lee Kennedy prepared a document exposing illegal construction at 803-805 Marco Place and 2431 Wilson Ave. At Marco Place there was no notice of proposed development, and the application for the de minimus waiver (approved by the city) included grading on the property, even though no grading is allowed under such waivers. On the other hand, the developer on Wilson Ave. was scheduled to ask the Coastal Commission’s permission for a demolition that had already taken place.
Laddie Williams also traveled to Long Beach on March 12 with a document concerning the development at 720 Indiana, which is not consistent with the unique community character.
Ivonne Guzman joined Kennedy and Williams and delivered to the Coastal Commission a document concerning 660 Sunset, where a remodeling permit was used to demolish the entire property, leaving only a portion of a wall standing in order for it to pass as a remodel under a de minimus waiver.
The March edition of the Beachhead, which extensively covered proposed over-development in Venice, was handed out to each of the commissioners.
We surely do appreciate when a government entity does its job and protects us not only from greedy developers, but also from the corrupt city of L.A. Many thanks to the dozens of Venice activists who made this happen, and to the Coastal Commission for enforcing the Venice Specific Plan and the California Coastal Act in Venice.
Stay involved by attending the Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character meeting on April 12, at 4:30, First Baptist Church; and the Land Use and Planning Committee meeting on April 16, at 6:45, Oakwood Rec. Center.