(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Westside Current on September 13 and is reprinted with permission. CTN thought readers should know how some nonprofits are profiting from pushing developments that largely benefit the nonprofit, rather than the people they are supposed to be helping. )
Venice & Dell Project Supporters Hold Rally at City Hall
By ANGELA MCGREGOR
Venice Community Housing Executive Director Becky Dennison rallied a group of advocates in front of City Hall to support the Venice and Dell development project which would generate millions of dollars in fees for her organization on September 13.
Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) is a nonprofit and Dennison’s 2021 annual salary according to ProPublica is $104,967.
According to Everyone In, “The LA City Attorney is trying to stall a critically needed affordable housing project in Venice, and our friends at Venice Community Housing need our help.” Another progressive organization, L.A. Forward, has begun a letter writing campaign addressed to Mayor Bass, in which they ask her to “ensure that the project has full access to all of your streamlining efforts.”
These latest efforts appear to be part of an ongoing PR push by Venice Community Housing (VCH) to fast-track the massive and problematic project, which is currently being considered by the Coastal Commission and is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by the Coalition for Safe Coastal Development.
In a July 30 L.A.Times editorial, Dennison stated that city officials had stopped responding to her emails, and complained that the City Attorney had refused to assist VCHC in immediately evicting the long-term tenants in an apartment building on the project, despite the fact that the development is far from approval.
In that editorial (as previously reported by the Westside Current), the Times article failed to mention the project’s numerous, self-induced setbacks during the approval process.
It has been rejected by the Venice Neighborhood Council three times, and — as of September 1 — has received four notices of incomplete application from the Coastal Commission. In the commission’s latest notice, the project’s developers (which includes both VCH and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation) were chastised for not including a plan for groundwater drainage control and for having no plans for retaining access to the boat launch at the Venice Canals.
Furthermore, there is (in the words of the latest notice) as yet no “Evidence of the applicants’ ability to feasibly provide at least 196 public parking spaces on the project site (via a lift system or additional levels)” which is mandated by the Venice Coastal Specific Plan in order for the project to move forward.
In addition, the project would require an amendment to the certified Venice Land Use Plan to create a new subarea. In August of 2022, the time limit for the Coastal Commission to act on the city’s application for this new area was extended to November of 2023. On August 25, 2023, the City withdrew its application and resubmitted it at the recommendation of the Coastal Commission, further extending the deadline, possibly for as long as another year.
It is unclear why the developers and their supporters are castigating the City Attorney for “stalling” this project and calling upon the Mayor to “streamline it” when in fact the delays in the approval process are entirely due to their own administrative missteps, as well as the complexity and scale of the project.
(The following facts about VCH were reported in earlier stories on CTN)
More Venice Community Housing Corporation Background:
Between August 5, 2022, and Dec. 28, 2022, former CD11 Councilman Mike Bonin emptied the CD11 discretionary fund and made $127,474.14 in expenditures to a variety of recipients, mostly to nonprofits.
The largest single donation Bonin made, $27,500, during that period was to nonprofit developer Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) on November 17, 2022.
Rose Avenue Project:
The Rose Apartments, across from Whole Foods on Lincoln Boulevard, cost a total of $20.2 million, or $577,142 per unit, with $6.8 million funded by Proposition HHH.
The facility has four one-bedroom and 30 studio apartments. Seventeen units will be for youth ages 18-24 and 17 units for those over the age of 25. According to City documents, rents range between $548 to $913 per month. The building was designed by noted local architects, Brook + Scarpa.
In addition to housing, it is now the site of Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC), a nonprofit, which has $42,481,367 in assets according to a 2020 audit on its website ($34,224,624 is in property). The Rose apartments serve as the VCH Administrative offices.
Even though the land and building were developed through taxpayer money, it was given to that nonprofit, which now owns the property and building. It is no longer City property. There is no accountability.
Although Venice residents gave input at hearings, they were told that since it was affordable housing there were no discussions, because anything they might object to was NIMBYism.
How many of the 34 rooms are filled? CTN had repeatedly called VHC, but no one responded with an answer. The website says there’s a weight list (but no number is given). Westside Current had also reached out to find out how many homeless had been housed, but no one returned the call.
The area around Whole Foods, across from the VCH offices, is surrounded by people living on the streets in tents.
On its website VCH states, “We believe that affordable, healthy and stable housing is a human right and that racism, particularly anti-black racism, is a root cause of homelessness and housing injustice.”