I reported a couple of weeks ago that as late as two months ago, Mike Bonin aide Debbie Dyner Harris had refused to tell Becky Dennison of Venice Community Housing the names of the three members of the Board of Directors of the Venice Beach Property Owners Association. Dyner Harris even sent an email to shadowy BID consultant Tara Devine asking for permission to share the names, which Devine evidently didn’t give, because Dyner Harris didn’t give up the names. Well, I’ve been asking CD11 for the names as well, and after a long three weeks, for whatever reason, Debbie Dyner Harris emailed me this morning and told me that the Board of Directors presently consists of Steve Heumann, Carl Lambert, and Mark Sokol.

Steve Heumann was not a surprise, as his name appears as agent for service of process on the POA’s registration with the State.1 But the other two are of great interest indeed. I recently wrote about how Carl Lambert’s campaign contributions to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti probably violated City campaign finance laws, but that argument wouldn’t fly if he weren’t on the Board. Since he is, I’ll be reporting him to the City Ethics Commission in the next few days.

But Mark Sokol’s case is even more fascinating. Recall that the POA has been meeting with the City about the BID at least since September 2014. Well, take a look at all of Sokol’s contributions since then. They add up to $10,750. The output of the City’s database lists each contribution separately, but here are the totals:

Mark Sokol’s Campaign Contributions Since September 2014
Recipient Total contributions
Paul Krekorian $350
Mike Bonin $700
Felipe Fuentes $700
Marqueece Harris-Dawson $700
Jose Huizar $700
Nury Martinez $700
David E. Ryu $700
Curren Price $1,200
Gilbert Cedillo $1,400
Paul Koretz $1,400
Ron Galperin $2,200


It is shocking. I’m not going to reiterate the reasons that this is almost certainly illegal, but they’re worth reading. Later tonight I will publish a letter that I’ll be sending to the nine remaining Councilmembers2 who took Sokol’s money asking them to recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on the Venice Beach BID ordinance version 2.0.3 And all the money to Galperin?  Well, the Controller is meant to audit BIDs, and they have done in the past. They mostly refuse to these days,4 but how’s Sokol supposed to know that? Or maybe it’s something else nefarious.

In any case, I’ve noted before that the City Charter, at Section 470 gives the purpose of Municipal Campaign Finance laws:

The purpose of this section is to encourage a broader participation in the political process and to avoid corruption or the appearance of corruption in city decision making, and protect the integrity of the City’s procurement and contract processes by placing limits on the amount any person may contribute or otherwise cause to be available to candidates for election to the offices of Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and City Council and promote accountability to the public by requiring disclosure of campaign activities and imposing other campaign restrictions.

Carl Lambert’s contributions to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti were bad enough with respect to corruption or the appearance of corruption, but Mark Sokol’s more than $10,000 spent just since the BID formation process began is unconscionable. Stay tuned

and this…

2014 VBBID Emails Reveal, Among Other Things, That Bonin Staffer Debbie Dyner Harris Was On Venice Beach BID Steering Committee Since 2014 Despite Consistent Denials of City Involvement In Formation Process



BID Patrol

Here we go again! Another giant step in the gentrification of Venice is on it’s way — the proposed formation of a Business Improvement District (BID), initiated by Carl Lambert (currently being sued by the City Attorney for operating illegal hotels in Venice and illegally evicting tenants) and the Venice Chamber of Commerce (VCC) — gaining momentum at City Hall.

There is a City Council public hearing planned for August 23, 2016 downtown, but we can’t wait ’til then to take action. Below is a well-written document that describes why a Venice BID is not what it’s cracked up to be:

“Why We Should Vote NO to the Venice Beach Business Improvement District —

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are, by design, controlled by a very small group of commercial property owners, excluding the voice of most paying into the BID and completely excluding residential property owners, tenants, commercial operators who lease their sites, and other stakeholders in Venice.

Venice Beach has long been a center for democracy and diversity in views and a BID reduces democracy and participation in decisions that impact our community.

Go here to sign:

First and foremost, there are no “voting rights” for those that have to pay for the BID after the BID is created, or other mechanism to directly impact the decisions and actions of the BID. Instead, BIDs are controlled by a non-profit organization, with no clear mechanisms to ensure ongoing accountability to commercial property owners in the BID who are all required to pay assessments, nor to the City, which controls almost 25% of the property assessments in the BID.

The materials received with the BID petitions are misleading, and make promises to commercial property owners that cannot be upheld.

For example:

1. “The Venice Beach BID will provide services the City doesn’t, such as homeless outreach…” In fact, the City and County provide resources for outreach to homeless residents and more outreach will not help move people into housing. The City and County, as well Venice stakeholders, need to fund and advocate for more housing solutions so that people can move off of our streets and sidewalks. Until we increase housing supply, more outreach will just duplicate services, waste resources, and not produce any visible change in homelessness in our community.

2. “The Venice Beach BID will work with the City to make sure limited City services are delivered more consistently.” BIDs do not have any unique mechanism to make this happen and, in fact, watch-dogging the City is one of the key reasons neighborhood councils were formed. This purpose is duplicative and likely will not make any impact.

3. “This stability can protect your investment and attract additional investment to the neighborhood.” Venice has seen some of the greatest increases in property values and commercial investment in the region over the past decade, without a BID.

Commercial property owners in Venice have long supported the culture and character in Venice. And, in fact, have PROFITED from being a part of the largest tourist attraction in the City of Los Angeles for decades!

BIDs have completely changed the character of communities throughout Los Angeles and the state, leading to displacement of small businesses, locally-owned businesses, and residents.

The Venice Beach BID is overly reliant on City land and funds. The City owns substantial land, and is also taking on the cost of assessments for the State-owned land in the area, totaling more than 25% of the annual budget, resulting in more than $450,000 in general fund dollars each year dedicated to this BID. BIDs were intended to be mechanisms for private owners to vote to assess themselves, not to utilize public funds in an unaccountable structure.

A majority of private property owners did not submit petitions to move the BID to this final vote. At the first City hearing, only 53% of assessment values were represented in the petitions and, since the City represents 25% of that vote, only about 30% of the votes in support came from private businesses.

BID activities have led to numerous lawsuits against the BIDs and the City of Los Angeles for improper, illegal and unconstitutional activities, and the legal fees to defend against a lawsuit can add up.

Property owners’ assessments could go to pay legal fees for activities that they may not even support and over which they had little or no say!!!”



When not manning Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) election boxes, being a key player in the Venice Chamber of Commerce’s (VCC) controversial takeover of the VNC, or evicting rent stabilized tenants from their homes, former Venice Chamber President Carl Lambert may now add fighting criminal charges to his list of activities.

Read more

On April 5, 2016 the Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) Led a Walking Tour Illustrating Their Lawsuit Against the City of Los Angeles’ Flagrant Disregard for Its Own Planning Policies


Venice, CA: Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 – Acclaimed land use attorney, Sabrina Venskus, explains in detail the “Save Venice”  lawsuit to community members and media on a walking tour through Venice highlighting, not gardens, but over-sized construction that has relied on Los Angeles Planning Department’s illegal development approval procedures.

CONSTITUTION (Cal. Const., art.1, para.7), THE CALIFORNIA COASTAL ACT (Pub. Resources Code, para. 30000 et seq.), THE VENICE LAND USE PLAN (Los Angeles Planning and Zoning Law), and CALIFORNIA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE para. 526a

For years, the City of Los Angeles Planning Department has ignored planning and zoning laws regulating the Venice Coastal Zone. The City has approved huge development projects through the “Venice Sign Off” or VSO procedure, which effectively allows developers to side-step their responsibilities under the California Constitution to construct large developments without first notifying neighbors or holding public hearings regarding potential projects.

The City of Los Angeles Planning Department’s VSO procedure fails to ensure that developments comply with the Venice Land Use Plan requirements that all development respect the mass, scale, character and landscaping of existing neighborhoods. Additionally, the City of Los Angeles Planning Department has illegally issued hundreds of Coastal Exemptions, which has enabled developers to by-pass important protections imposed by the California Coastal Act.

As a result, huge construction projects have spread across Venice, substantially and irrevocably destroying the character, density, and charm of Venice neighborhoods; blocking airflow and sunlight; destroying vegetation; obstructing picturesque views; and eliminating affordable housing units in this fragile and unique coastal zone.

These projects have completely blindsided residents, who often do not realize that construction has been approved on their streets until bulldozers arrive at 7 a.m. and it’s too late to raise their voices. Today, the Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character says enough is enough. It’s time for the City to honor Venice
residents’ Constitutional rights, comply with the law, and respect the neighborhoods and communities that make Venice unique.





On April 5, 2016 the Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) Led a Walking Tour Illustrating Their Lawsuit Against the City of Los Angeles’ Flagrant Disregard for Its Own Planning Policies

Loss of community diversity, low and moderate-income families, affordable housing, quality of life, and unique Venice character cited as outcome of City’s development approval process.

On Tuesday, April 5th, starting at 635 San Juan, Venice, members of The Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) took community members and media on a walking tour through Venice highlighting, not gardens, but over-sized construction that has relied on Los Angeles Planning Department’s illegal development approval procedures.

The use of Venice Sign Off (VSO) and Coastal Exemption (CEX) permits have allowed developers to eliminate affordable housing and unique characteristics of Venice protected by the California Coastal Act and Venice Specific Plan, often without input from community members.

A lawsuit filed by the law firm Venskus and Associates on behalf of VC-PUCC asserts that 230 VSO permits and 265 CEX permits were approved in Venice in the 20 months between February 2014 and October 2015, many of them in violation of existing planning policy. Despite the history of activism in Venice, these new development projects have completely blindsided residents.

“Nobody but poor people wanted to live in Venice,” said plaintiff Laddie (Celia) Williams. “Now our Craftsmen bungalows have been turned into Lego-boxes and there are fewer and fewer low and middle-income people left in our community. But Venice is waking up to what the City has been doing.”

Huge construction projects have spread across Venice, destroying the character, density, and diversity of Venice neighborhoods; eliminating affordable housing units and pushing low and middle-income residents and communities of color out of Venice, blocking airflow and sunlight; destroying vegetation; and obstructing views in this fragile and unique coastal zone.

The tour, led by VC-PUCC members and attorney Venskus, will begin at 635 San Juan Avenue, which had 3 rent-stabilized units on it before the building was destroyed after receiving both VSO and CEX permits – and has been at the center of controversy for over a year. The tour will continue to Santa Clara Avenue, where longtime resident Alma Collins will share the story of her former home, where she was sandwiched between two big box homes – and on to a walk street where a tragic story accompanies the looming transformation of a small bungalow into two 2900 sq foot homes.

“It’s time for the City to honor Venice residents’ Constitutional rights, comply with the law, and respect the neighborhoods and communities that make Venice – and Los Angeles as a whole – unique,” stated Alma Collins.




Laddie Williams, President of VC-PUCC: ”It was invitation only meeting held at Westminster Elementary School, to have a focus group about the Venice Local Coastal Plan (LCP). The plan is to rewrite the Local Coastal Plan and to have it ratified to be used by the city of Los Angeles.

It was a list that had developers, architects, lawyers and a few community members. Of course, none of the VC-PUCC Members were on this said list. Many of us crashed this meeting at Westminster Elementary school to let Los Angeles City Planning know that this meeting is a complete disrespect to the entire city of Venice west of Lincoln. This focus group should have been open to the entire community because we have a right to be a part of the process.

Needless to say the meeting was cancelled. Apologies were given to the community and the people who were there to voice their concerns about not being invited officially to the presentation of the rewriting of the Venice Local Coastal Plan?

We received a promise that Los Angeles City Planning would do a better job of inviting community not architects, developers and real estate people. It was infuriating to see this room of ‘special interests’ who were there for the focus group.

Venice showed up to show out for our beloved community…the meeting stopped and didn’t happen, with a promise to reschedule and include everyone. “

Stay tuned…


CityWatchL.A.: VOICES OF THE PEOPLE–The big-bucks three-story duplex looks like a boxy alien spacecraft that strayed off course and crash-landed among the row of bewildered 1940’s bungalows in Venice. Standing across the street from this monstrosity, long-time Venice resident John Galbraith tells a visitor: “This kind of construction is happening all over Venice. This isn’t even the worst of it.”

Still, this duplex in the 600 block of Broadway Street has gained a certain notoriety. (Photo above.)

A recent lawsuit cited the structure as a prime example of a dysfunctional system at City Hall. The lawsuit, filed by a Venice advocacy group, alleges Los Angeles city officials have illegally permitted hundreds of properties to be built or significantly remodeled in Venice.

“The laws are on the books to deal with projects like this but no one’s enforcing them,” Venice yoga instructor and former land-use attorney Max Sloves said as he stopped riding his bike to talk to a visitor. “Venice is so far away from City Hall. We feel disconnected. These buildings go up so fast that before anyone knows it they’re built.”