City Council Set to Vote on Venice Bridge Home Lease Extension

This encampment was located a block from bridge housing in Venice (white building in the background). Neighbors say the City never received a Coastal permit to install it – and now to continue to use it with an extension.

(Editor’s note: this story should be of interest to Pacific Palisades residents because of the ease that City Officials disregarded Venice residents’ concerns. The Westside needs to unite to ensure proper vetting is done, whether it be Pacific Palisades, Venice, Brentwood or Playa Vista.  This November 8 story first appeared on the Westside Current and is reprinted with permission.)

The Los Angeles City Council is set to vote on a lease for the extension of the Venice Bridge Home despite community pushback.

On Wednesday, council member will vote on whether or not to accept a recommendation by the Department of General Services (GSD) to extend a lease for the ABH located at 100 Sunset Blvd.

The Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) is asking the Council to refrain from voting on the extension until the City obtains a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission.

The ABH opened in February of 2020 and, as stated on Councilmember Mike Bonin’s council website, was only supposed to last a maximum of three years. In June, however, Bonin asked to extend the lease for the ABH.

“The ABHs were proposed because it was taking too long to bring on the HHH units,” stated Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA, a non-profit organization  committed to civic improvement in the Venice neighborhood. “The city said that the use of the MTA lot would be temporary and that tents and other temporary structures would be removed after three years.”

Bonin also asked the City Council to authorize the Department of General Services (GSD) to negotiate and execute a sublease agreement with People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), the service provider currently overseeing the ABH.

John Henning, the attorney representing the VSA, stated in a letter to the City Council president and other city officials, including the city attorney, that an extension would require a Coastal Development Permit from the City, which requires a public hearing and is appealable to the Coastal Commission.

 “Under state law, a Coastal Development Permit must be obtained for any development within the Coastal Zone. Without a doubt, the placement of a homeless shelter about two blocks from the Venice Beach Recreation Area and the coastline – even a “temporary” one – is “development” under the Coastal Act. Therefore, a Coastal Development Permit is required,” Henning stated.

Henning also stressed that the City would need to have a Local Coastal Program (LCP) certified by the Coastal Commission for all development in the zone following a duly noticed public hearing.

“The LCP process will take about six to nine months before any action would take place, and that would be passed December of this year when we get a new council person,” stated Ryavec.

Also noted in the letter is that before the bridge home was built, a De Minimis waiver was granted –which made the City exempt from the requirement to obtain a Coastal Development Permit.

“The “temporary” Bridge Housing project was not properly the subject of a de minimis waiver in the first place because there was at least some potential for some adverse effect on coastal resources. These impacts are in a host of impact categories, including parking, noise, public safety, surface water contamination, hazardous substances in soil and groundwater, traffic and aesthetics. The potential impacts of the original project were discussed at length in our December 11, 2018, correspondence to the Coastal Commission in opposition to the initial de minimis waiver.”

Henning said the first waiver was granted because the shelter was only supposed to last for three years and therefore, would have minimum impact on coastal resources.

“To issue successive waivers extending that already generous three-year time frame would make a mockery of the CDP process, which is designed to evaluate the impacts of a project for its entire lifespan. The city should not even request such a waiver; much less should the Coastal Commission grant one. ”

Ryavec also underlined that wasteful government spending alone indicates that the extension should not take place.

“The failure here is to look at the cost of building the facility and the cost to maintain it versus the minimal number that has reported to have found permanent housing. It shows a phenomenal waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Bridge Home is a Nightmare For Neighbors

Henning’s letter also noted that the ABH is the only “Bridge Housing” facility in the City that is sited in a residential neighborhood and since opening its doors has been a “nightmare” for neighbors.

“In the past three years, due to [Councilman] Bonin’s apathy and  disrespect for the residents and the City’s failure to enforce the law within a “Special  Enforcement Zone” that was created specifically to protect the neighbors, the facility has  been a nightmare for residents. It has drawn significantly more homeless people to this  area of Venice, increasing crime and recently spawning a shooting that sent two people to  the hospital.”

The letter goes on to say that “With the proposed 12-month extension of the lease (likely only the first of several  extensions to come), the purportedly “temporary” Bridge Home facility is taking on a more  permanent character, just as the residents feared it would. Yet a permanent facility is not  what the residents were promised, and it is not what the Coastal Commission authorized.  Instead, having endured a three-year long nightmare, the neighbors of the facility  reasonably expect, and deserve, to have any further use of the site rigorously reviewed by  the relevant City bodies and the Coastal Commission, as required by the Coastal Act. “

When asked about Bonin’s positioning that the community blocks every homeless project in front of them, Ryavec stated that’s not the case.

“He’s engaging in rhetoric–and acting the victim once again. We’re forcing the city to abide by the law. He [Bonin] could have applied for the coastal permit a year ago. It’s not the communities desires, it’s his desires. He’s trying to sneak this through at the end of his tenure and has ignored the coastal act. That’s what we’ve come to expect. ”

As for the vote, it will take place on Wednesday morning. The meeting is set for Wednesday, November 9 at 10 a.m.