Listen! This is a Really Loud Alarm Bell!
The BID is Coming
An entity called a ‘Business Improvement District’ or BID is almost here. The City Council will meet and vote on its creation in late August. What? You don’t know anything about it? You and just about everyone else in Venice. This is one very big secret.
Here’s what it is. A specific ‘district,’ run by a public-private partnership, whose boundaries have been gerrymandered to include properties owned by the pushers of this entity and large swathes of city property. Boundaries include Ocean Front Walk from North Venice to Barnard Way, includes part of Rose, touches parts of Main St., 4th, Sunset, Abbot Kinney, and Windward. It’s a large area. See the map for a better picture of its reach. The public relations put out by supporters is that they are goilng to make our world in Venice cleaner and ‘safer.’ I think we are hearing that line right now on our national political scene. Who doesn’t like ‘safe?’
This proposed BID will be run by a public-private partnership which will receive funding from the City estimated to include about $450,000 from the General Fund, to run the proposed ‘clean and safe’ services. There appears to be little accountability and oversight built into this process. The assessments on the owners (don’t call it a tax) will filter into the coffers of the partnership. We are talking about millions of dollars. Property owners who vote for the BID, will have no say in what goes on with this entity unless they somehow get on its board. Fat Chance! The gerrymandered district includes a huge amount of city-owned property. It is estimated that the assessment from city property will comprise about 25% of assessment monies collected and, in turn, the managers of city land will have 25% of the vote for or against a BID. You already know how the city will vote on this. The deck is stacked in favor of a ‘yes’ vote for a BID.
This new group will create its own quasi police force complete with batons, pepper spray and uniforms to keep ‘order.’ Call them green shirts, call them brown shirts — we all know what they are: minimally trained ‘officers’ who will attempt to assert their newly acquired authority over the residents and whomever else (think the poor and the homeless) crosses their path, get in their way or those who just don’t look like they ‘belong.’ They are the Deciders. Sounds scary, right? You should be scared. BID’s are supposed to keep the place cleaner too — now that’s not scary, right? Who doesn’t like clean? So remember the BID mantra — ‘clean and safe.’
We have not read a public statement from the council office on this BID creation. BID’s seem like an elegant way to outsource the City’s job and many of its responsibilities. Cities seem to love BID’s.
Last but not least, we should tell you that this very quietly forming BID is being pushed by some property owners who are the most interested in controlling OFW — owners who have stealthily converted many of our residential units into short-term rentals —entire buildings we should add, are pushing for a BID formation. Some of the BID pushers are now being investigated by the LA City Attorney for illegal conversions of rental units. This was announced in the LA Times.
Gentrification on OFW will be a by product of this entity as it has been in other BID’s in other cities. While there may be a lot in this BID for the big property owners, there is nothing in it for tenants who will have absolutely no say in the BID forming around them and their businesses. No vote, nada. In no way is a BID a democratic process. Tenants can expect the property owners to pass on the costs of the BID to them.
If you want this BID, stay quiet. If you don’t, say something. Make ‘big noise.’ There are many lawsuits already filed against BID’s all over the city, your big noise will be in very good company.
Tara Devine is the BID’s consultant and point person for information.
Her contact is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bulldog Realty Goes For It
Abbot Kinney Sinks Further into Parking Quicksand
In front of one of the original Craftsman homes on Abbot Kinney is Bulldog Realty’s Notice of Intent to obtain a Coastal Development Permit. The permit is to demolish and build new. This property represents one of the finer original Craftsman houses on Abbot Kinney built long ago when it was predominantly a residential street. Since it is not an historically designated property, it is likely that the city will permit its demolition. The Intent notices a new 3800 sq. foot office/retail/live/work building with only 2 parking spaces. All of the other required parking spaces are proposed to be supplied ‘virtually’ using ‘In-Lieu’ fees. What the City knows, as does the applicant, the California Coastal Commission will not approve ‘in lieu’ parking as a parking solution in Venice. Period.
Why do applicants go for a CDP when they know it is unlikely to be awarded? And why does the city take the applicant’s fees and push it on through the system when they know the CCC will deny the project? Like practically all applicants attempting to avoid the rules and build to the max, and who figure if they fight, they just might get at least some of what they want. Bulldog is no exception. And the City? We figure it must be the fees paid and the work these projects create for the Planners and the Department of Building and Safety that drives them to process this application for permit.
The real question here is why Bulldog Realty, a long-term upstanding business on the street, is going for a project completely under parked when it could construct a project including all the required parking? There is no other answer to this question other than the simple fact that there is no money in parking. All the value is in habitable spaces and money is what development is about in Venice. While Bulldog is an Abbot Kinney business living daily living with the street’s parking mess, we guess it is nothing personal – it is just another development that has no regard for our critical need for parking nor feels any obligation to try and mitigate it. They just want what they want and the neighborhood and the on-going parking chaos is of little or no concern.
So here we go again, another battle on the horizon. Again, residents will find themselves pushing another rock up the hill to stop the City from approving another project which does not comply with the parking requirements — including the rules at the CCC. Residents are forced to ‘man the barricades’ there too to make sure projects don’t slip through the system. The CCC is the last chance residents get to stop City approved projects which hurt neighborhoods by circumventing rules. The city knows the rules and they know the Coastal Commission will not agree with its ‘virtual’ in lieu parking ‘solution.’ Nevertheless, they approve in lieu parking anyway. Why?
The city uses its ‘discretion’ to approve all kinds of things not really allowed. Why don’t they use that discretionary power to stop bad projects when they know they are bad for a community? City Planning knows how bad the parking situation is in Venice. They know how insufficient the town’s infrastructure is for 21st century demands.
How can we expect any applicant to apply for a permit that is fully compliant with the rules when there are no consistent and true ‘rules of the road’ for everyone? This conflict is the root cause of the endless battles fought against so many projects which caring residents are forced to oppose.
It does not have to be this way.