Archive for the ‘Oakwood’ Category

Join the Effort to Save Our Historic Landmark

The First Baptist Church of Venice, CA 

Sign Petition and Donate

The First Baptist Church of Venice at 685 Westminster Ave. in Venice has a historic legacy in the Venice Community.  According to the First Annual Report recorded January 02, 1914 African American residents came together to develop a worship at a place of their own on July 17, 1910, amere 45 years after slavery was abolished.  Although the group met in various places, the original church was built in 1927 on land donated by Arthur Reese, a black man, and seminal figure in Venice, CA history who came to California seeking refuge for himself and his family from the remnants of  slavery and in hopes of a better life. A remarkable accomplishment considering this was in an era of restrictive covenants and the Klu Klux Klan highly active in political leadership in West Los Angeles.

In the early 1960s the congregation outgrew the small Church so they gathered together to build a new church.  Through the personal commitment of funds, semi-skilled and skilled labor and other support services from the community, the current church at 685 Westminster was completed.  The congregation took occupancy of their new church in May 1968.   The church which is part of the ceremonially dedicated corner called E.L. Holmes Square was purchased by families who put up their land trust to purchase the property back in 1910.

Today the Church is in trouble.  Without the knowledge of the community the Church was fraudulently sold in 2017 and unless we can delay forces in action, it will become an 11,700 square foot, single family residence for millionaire Jay Penske.  Not only will this historic building we transformed into someone’s home, but the legacy, the contributions, the meaningfulness and the 108-year-old connectivity and significance to the community will be eradicated.

The vision for the First Baptist Church of Venice is to formally recognize it as a Historic Cultural Monument and continue to maintain it as the Historical Black Cultural Institution that functions as the central unifying core of the African American people of the Venice community. It is an institution that was built by African American people of the Venice community from the early 1900s and continues as the religious, spiritual, social, education and personal development inspirator of the African American Community now known as Oakwood.  The First Baptist Church of Venice represents the effort and essence of the hard working resilient pioneers and other hopeful and courageous African Americans coming to Venice from the south to escape Jim Crow laws and racism, only a few decades after the emancipation proclamation, and with meager means took the desolate place they were relegated to live from a swamp land to a livable, prosperous, community.

FBCV is the living symbol of this struggle, resilience, vision, and transformation. It is and has always been a spiritual beacon at the crossroads of the historic African American community in Venice and must be preserved as such.

We are currently in the process of establishing ourselves as a Community Land Trust (CLT) with the intention of retaining ownership of the Church & its land to ensure that it remains in the community’s possession in perpetuity. The purpose of this CLT is to benefit the neighborhood and the preservation of black and other marginalized cultures and histories in Venice. Through this land use model the community will steward the land and achieve equity.

Go here to learn more …. and to sign the petition and donate to this worthy cause





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!!!”


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.”



645 E Santa Clara Ave Venice CA 90291-VSO and CEX

From Laddie Williams:

Driving down Santa Clara Ave. I noticed this building that is being demolished and wondered if this came before LUPC?

I know this property was owned by the Brown Family for well over forty years, it should be protected by the Mello Act and why is it that these properties are being approved?  This property was sold in the Summer of 2015, and had an occupant who lived in the back of the property and it is a Coastal Exemption (CEX) and a Venice Sign Off (VSO). I know that he accepted money but he had resided there well over twenty years.

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The only permit on the gate was Los Angeles Building and Safety (see pictures above).  With this property being in the coastal zone I thought it needed Coastal permission before work could occur.  It appears a second story will be added to a single family unit in the coastal area?  This needs to be reported to the Coastal Commission and the Director of Planning, it violates the Coastal Act and the Venice Specific Plan and the Venice Land Use Plan.

This is one example of properties that are being demolished in Venice but there are many more.