– by Jon Wolff
George Francisco is the Vice President of the Venice Neighborhood Council. Why is it that George Francisco doesn’t say much at the meetings?
Everyone else talks at the meetings. The Council President talks. He explains the issues and lays down the ground rules at every monthly meeting. Other Neighborhood Councilmembers express their opinions and debate each other over their microphones. Venice residents line up and speak from the podium for 60 seconds to plead their arguments before the Council and the audience. Developers and business owners put on big presentations with architects, lawyers, and young women holding large photographs of the ugly buildings they wish to dump on Venice. But Venice Neighborhood Council Vice President George Francisco is rarely heard in the meetings except to say “yes” or “no” when a vote is taken.
George Francisco has spoken in the past. He was the one quoted in a Washington Post article from August 10, 2015 about Gentrification in Venice. He said, “Progress is a train. You can be on it, or you can be under it.” Progress, in the George Francisco lexicon, means pricing Venetians out of their homes and businesses in Venice.
Before that, we read about him in the July 2014 Beachhead where he was quoted saying, “Get out of here you trespassing piece of shit” to an old man with a cane. There, George Francisco brought more than words to the conversation; he wielded a baseball bat as well. This earned him the title, Bat Man of Venice.
George Francisco has been cited in the local media as helping to organize events in Venice. He’s been photographed lighting the Venice Sign on Windward Avenue. George Francisco has even been interviewed by Yo! Venice when he ran for the office of Vice President of the VNC in the 2016 elections. In this instance, it is claimed, Yo! Venice received $200 from each candidate interviewed, in order to deliver favorable coverage for the candidate. Did George Francisco get his money’s worth and get elected Vice President?
George Francisco is now also President of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. He has stood, smiling, shoulder to shoulder with former Chamber President and Arch Villain Carl Lambert who is being sued by the City Attorney for illegal conversion of an apartment building into a hotel. As President of the Venice COC, George Francisco enjoys much influence with L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin. What would George Francisco say about his relationships with these local Principalities and Powers?
And what would George Francisco say about his close friendship with landlord Jason Teague? Jason Teague currently owns many properties in Venice and George Francisco manages some of them. These are Short Term Rental properties. If you’ve heard of Airbnb, then you know what STRs are. They’re rental units for tourists that used to be permanent homes for people. They’re, effectively, hotel rooms in buildings that were never meant to be hotels. They’re in neighborhoods that used to house families and form the foundations of communities. They now infest a large portion of the Land of Venice. And they’re illegal. What would George Francisco say about his role as an enabler of this unholy practice?
Would George Francisco tell about the properties owned by Jason Teague under the business name, Venice Local Living, LLC? Can he speak about the Short Term Rentals on 363 Rose Ave., 363 1/2 Rose Ave., 359 Rose Ave., 355 1/2 Rose Ave., 341 Rose Ave., 337 Rose Ave., 333 Rose Ave., and 333 1/2 Rose Ave. in Venice?
What could George Francisco say about Jason Teague’s property on 1414 and 1418 Main Street in Venice? You know the spot. It has the Jules Muck graffiti mural on the fence with an image of George Francisco in green saying, “I am not a crook.” This is the one where George Francisco facilitated the tenant move outs and subsequent demolitions. It was George Francisco who spoke on this occasion to tell the tenants that they had to leave. Here, he neglected to tell them that they were entitled to a year to move and substantial relocation fees as well. His words were heard by all and challenged by some. Namely, it was the English speaking tenants who were able to talk back and receive their just compensation. The Spanish speaking tenants didn’t fare so well.
At the meeting where the community came to debate this scheme, it was George Francisco who was seen slapping the signs out of the hands of women who had come to protest. Apparently, he disagreed with their words. We can be thankful that he didn’t bring his baseball bat.
George Francisco spoke fluently when he came to the aid of Jason Teague after Teague had started a confrontation with his neighbors. Teague had menaced his neighbors with his dog, a large mastiff. When the neighbors went to the police station to get a restraining order against Teague, George Francisco was there with Teague to get a restraining order against the neighbors. Perhaps George Francisco can explain himself sometime.
If George Francisco spoke at the meetings of the Venice Neighborhood Council, would the people of Venice know him better? Would they know more about him? We live in a time when a politician’s words are examined to the finest detail. Is George Francisco prudent in keeping his voice to himself? Is he just shy or is he shrewd? Will his words ultimately be his undoing? Venice is waiting. And listening.