Development/Gentrification

MELISSA DINER IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

MELISSA DINER IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Melissa Diner is the official Secretary for the Venice Neighborhood Council. She sits at the Council President’s left hand side. When the VNC members vote on the issues affecting Venice, it is Melissa Diner who calls the names and tallies the votes. She votes as well.

Melissa Diner has served on the VNC for a previous term. But in the 2016 election, she ran for the office of Secretary under the name, “Melissa 24/7 Diner”. She chose this awkward appellation herself. No one else has claimed authorship for assigning the title to her.

The play on the surname “Diner” is easy to spot, but what exactly does it mean? A small sit-down restaurant might sell food and coffee 24 hours a day and accommodate customers 7 days a week. Should we guess that Melissa 24/7 Diner is open for business all day and every day? Well, for what kind of business? And for whom? Again, Melissa Diner chose this unfortunate name. It was no one else’s error. No apologies are forthcoming.

We know that Mellissa 24/7 Diner worked for Carl Lambert. For a time, it was her job to respond to the issues of the tenants in his buildings. Anyone unfamiliar with Lambert would do well to learn that he is being sued by the L.A. City Attorney for an illegal conversion of a Venice apartment building into a hotel. His scheming meant more monthly rental income for him as well as traumatic displacement for Venice residents. Would Melissa 24/7 Diner have been the one to respond to such tenants’ issues?

Melissa 24/7 Diner also worked for Jim Murez who is, himself, a member of the VNC. Her responsibilities in his business included organizing commercial events at his property on 800 Main Street. Here, the questions may be asked whether the use of residential property for commercial events is even legal and how it affects the well-being of Venice residents and the Venice Community.

And what could be said for the well-being of Venice in Melissa 24/7 Diner’s role on the VNC, when hers was the only vote that would allow landlord Jason Teague to demolish 1418 Main Street? Some observers claim that her votes are almost always pro-development. She often argues that development is good for small business but, clearly, it is the big businesses that benefit from her presence on the VNC.

Another of Melissa 24/7 Diner’s positions on the Council was that of Chairperson of the VNC’s Ocean Front Walk Committee. Her efforts to build up the Boardwalk as more of a party place included a proposal to add more lights at night. Fortunately, smarter Venetians intervened in pointing out that flooding the beach with light all night long would have a negative impact on the native birds in the area. Apparently, the interests of businesses were more important to Melissa 24/7 Diner than those of the wildlife that were here first. To put it another way: the birds weren’t invited to the party.

After Melissa 24/7 Diner’s term as Chair of the Ocean Front Walk Committee expired, she continued to serve for a while on the Committee. Some, like Carl Lambert, stopped coming to the Committee meetings when she was no longer the life of the party. She made some effort to establish a means by which the Committee could know more about the money that the city receives for filmings and events on the Boardwalk. When she was denied this because of issues involving conflicts of interest, she had a frightful emotional outburst that embarrassed the Committee and those attending. She left, later came back, and accused others of kicking her out. Then she left and, as of now, has not returned. Evidently, it’s not her party but she can still cry if she wants to.

The party wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t look at the show that Melissa 24/7 Diner is best known for. In 2015, she put forward a proposal to the Venice Neighborhood Council to advocate for topless sunbathing on Venice Beach. Her argument was that, since men don’t have to wear bathing suit tops, women shouldn’t either. The Council didn’t really take a firm stand on the issue and it eventually died of neglect. But, what’s most instructive here, is that the very idea of asking a quasi-governmental body like the VNC to pass an official rule about topless sunbathing is so remarkably un-Venetian. The Venice Nude Beach of 1974 was a spontaneous event. It happened by itself without any help from government. There was no council approval, no business interests, and certainly no social media to make it happen. And nobody made money from it.

On the subject of money, let’s turn to the agenda for the April 18, 2017 meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council. Items 7D through 7H concerned budget allocations for various Council-related purchases. The Council voted unanimously to approve four of the five items on the agenda. Things such as new audio equipment and printing materials were seen as necessary expenses and were approved without discussion. One item though, Item 7E, was postponed until the May meeting. This was the motion to allocate money for translation equipment. And it was Melissa 24/7 Diner who argued vehemently for postponement. She held that, since technology is changing, why buy anything now when there will be better translation equipment later. Understand that this vote didn’t happen in a vacuum. People have been asking for a long time for a means or a system to translate the meetings for Spanish-speaking Venetians. It could be argued that there’s no need for translation services for Spanish speakers because no Spanish speakers attend the VNC meetings. But maybe Spanish-speaking Venetians could come to the meetings if they had a translator to tell them what the VNC is doing to their Community. Then maybe they’d find out about Melissa 24/7 Diner.

Melissa Diner is, for a while, the secretary of your Neighborhood Council. In a perfect world, she would do the Will of the People of Venice and not that of the Lamberts, Murezes, and Teagues. She’d be sensitive to the Community, Environment, and History that is the Land of Venice. Unfortunately, she’s just here for Business. Business before everything. Business all the time. Business 24/7.

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