By Jon Wolff – After four years of struggle to save the First Baptist Church of Venice, the Venice activist group Save Venice won a major victory in L.A. City Hall on September 29, 2021. This historical African-American church in the heart of Venice has been at the center of the Save Venice group’s efforts to push back against the forces of gentrification since 2017, when it was sold fraudulently to billionaire media mogul Jay Penske. Penske had planned to repurpose the church into his own private mega-mansion but the community of Venice organized and resisted.

Save Venice applied to the City Planning Department’s Office of Historic Resources for historical-cultural monument (HCM) designation for the church in 2018 but that application was denied. An HCM application was resubmitted by L.A. City Councilmember Mike Bonin in 2020 with assistance from Save Venice, and was then recommended for designation by the Cultural Heritage Commission and the Planning and Land Use Management committee. On Wednesday, September 29, 2021, the full L.A. City Council unanimously approved the designation.

This victory is a significant step in reclaiming the church for the community. The First Baptist Church of Venice has stood for generations as a symbol of Black History in Venice. Councilmember Mike Bonin expressed this accurately when he said, “Not only do Black Lives Matter but Black History Matters too.”
Save Venice faced powerful opposition, but they persevered against the odds and prevailed. In a celebratory gathering in front of the church after the City Council vote, they declared, “Venice Lives!”

Save Venice recognizes the hard work and dedication of all the volunteers who have fought for the church: Jataun Valentine, Laddie Williams, Dr. Naomi Nightingale, Margaret Molloy, Lydia Ponce, Ingrid Mueller, Eileen Archibald, Ed Ferrer, Jay Jolliffe, Pam Anderson, Sara Mahir, Carmen Fanali, Carol Powell, David Johnson, Rev. Oscar Rhone, Wil Stern, Jake Greene, Kim Ford, Ivy Beach, Adolfo Alzuphar, Soni Lloyd, Keli Arslancan, Esteban Pulido, Andi Anderegg, Beth Allyn, Loly Garcia, Ian the People of California, and Jon Wolff.


May 2, 2019

       Sign the Petition to: Grant Historical Status to the First Baptist Church of Venice!


Historic Venice First Baptist Church

The First Baptist Church of Venice located at 685-687 Westminster Avenues in what is known as known as E.L Holmes Square is 109 years old. Established 45 years after slavery was abolished, it was the first and premier social and spiritual refuge for African Americans fleeing extreme racism dynamics in the South. This historical community landmark was fraudulently sold and is now under the danger of being reduced to a private home for a single multi-millionaire family.

Venice, CA is in a state of “hyper-gentrification.” The once vastly racially and economically diverse community is quickly becoming a homogeneous playground for the rich. Gentrification is not a force of nature. It is not the result of the natural ebb & flow of social migration. It is the result of coordinated policies and ingrained procedure. From restrictive covenants, redlining, gang injunctions, the crack epidemic of the 80s/90s, to selectively enforced broke windows policies, the Black and Brown community of Venice has endured many agressions since it was founded in the early 1900s.

We need YOUR help.  Please sign the petition and make a donation.

We are working to have First Baptist Church property restored to its original function as a community serving space. We are asking and for Los Angeles CD 11 Councilman Mike Bonin to keep his word to save the church, and to also continue on to the second phase of the path set by former Councilwoman Ruth Galanter to designate the First Baptist Church of Venice/E.L. Holmes with historical status.

Some Quick Facts

  • The First Baptist Church of Venice space has been a community spiritual space, refuge, and institution for over 109 years.
  • In 2000 the intersection of Westminster Ave & 7th Ave in Venice was designated as a permanent ceremonial location and named Bishop E.L. Holmes Square after the longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church of Venice.
  • The church property was illegally sold by former pastor Horace Allen. The unscrupulous pastor then sold it to Jay Penske, son of automotive billionaire Roger Penske, and his wife.
  • The congregation filed a lawsuit against pastor Horace Allen for the illegal sale of the First Baptist Church. The lawsuit is still pending.
  • In August 2017 Councilman Mike Bonin promised to help save the First Baptist Church of Venice. To date he has been silent and a no-show in keeping his word to help us.

Historical Designation Status for 685-687 Westminster Ave.

Respect Black History in Venice!

Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character (VCPUCC)

August 10, 2016



On Saturday August 6th, 2016 Venice residents of all cultural and economic backgrounds protested the most recent case of unscrupulous development in their neighborhood— 742, 744, 748, and 748 Brooks Ave headed by Lighthouse Investments/ Lighthouse Brooks LLC (a large donor to Mike Bonin’s 2017 reelection campaign).

The general background is that a 5 unit apartment building (2 affordable units) was demolished to install prefabricated condos. While the shenanigans to get this development project cleared is sadly nothing new it has been exuding more negativity than the average gentrification project of recent. Not only did residents have their street closed for four days, have their street’s infrastructure damaged, water use cut off, it also led to the tragic murder of a Lighthouse Development contracted employee.

The 20+ resident protest was an effective demonstration garnering attention and literature exchange from passersby on Brooks Ave. as well as Lincoln Blvd. The only instances of negativity was when a silver sedan of  young white men yelled “Build the wall” to an African American and Chicano man who were a part of the demonstration, and the other instance was when the security guard watching the property called police blatantly lying about our protest activity.

Aside from the brief negativity it was a great display of neighborhood unity for a common just cause.

Infrastructure Busted and Water Outage


Aug 2nd, 2016— While bringing in the pre-fab houses, one of the trucks cracked the street and broke a sewage pipe. This led to residents’ water being out for the whole day if not longer. This unfortunately is yet another example of Venice’s failing infrastructure due to overdevelopment. This Brooks Ave situation being the 4th water main infrastructure failure in the past few weeks within the same area. A resident spoke to the crane representatives and determined that crane was at 150 feet but had the ability to extend to 400 ft. and weighed about 350,000 pounds. The crane representative said DWP was absorbing all the costs of the repair because the project had pre-approval from the city for the crane to be there. So it seems the urgency for DWP to make the street ready after the the infrastructure fiasco was for the crane the following day, not for the neighborhood residents to have access to their homes again.


Contracted Employee Marvin Ponce Killed at Corner of 7th/Brooks Ave.

August 3rd, 2016— at approximately 3:45 pm, contracted crossguard Marvin Ponce of San Fernando was killed by an unknown assailant. Witness described the shooter as a 5-foot-8 inch, 25- to 30-year-old black man in a black, hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses and black jeans. Some speculated the shooting was linked to local tensions over development in the area or that it was local gang related situation but none of those notions have come close to being substantiated. The shooter has not been caught and no suspects have been found. There seems to be more questions than answers at this point. Prayers up that his spirit, family, our community, and all associated parties find justice and clarity on  this terrible murder. There is a donation fund set up for Marvin’s funeral expenses and hope that you can contribute: 

Lighthouse Brooks LLC Project Violates the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan in Many Ways

This project violates the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan in many ways, as indicated in the notes on the attached 4 VSO’s.

Also, this project is required to be processed using the Specific Plan Project Permit Compliance Review (SPP) and not the VSO exemption processing procedure. This should have been done at the same time as the CDP was done. They waited until AFTER the CDP was issued and just before the building permit was issued because they processed one VSO for each of the four single-family dwellings; whereas they should have processed the “demo and 4-lot small-lot subdivision” construction project using a SPP, along with the CDP.

This 4-lot small-lot subdivision project was not processed according to correct City or Specific Plan procedures. Thus, it is illegally permitted and un-permitted. Four VSO’s are erroneous and MUST be revoked immediately:

Who’s Responsible?

Based on all of the official documents, below outlines the owner and people involved:

Lighthouse Brooks, LLC (We’re guessing that there are several members of the LLC, possibly including the two below, David Breslin and Ramin Kolahi) ℅ (in care of) Lighthouse Investments

1180 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 508
L.A., CA 90035
Ph: 310-556-1600


David Breslin (he signed the Applicant’s Affidavit)
742 Brooks Ave, Unit 5
Venice, CA 90291
Ph: 310-367-6570


Ramin Kolah (Owner per CDP and PMLA determinations)

Note: Ramin Kolahi–slightly different spelling of the last name–is also indicated as Applicant on only the two Building Permit Applications for the demos (garage and 5-unit apartment building)

1180 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 508
L.A., CA 90035
Ph: (310) 556-1600

APPLICANT (as per the Venice Sign Off’s): 

Lighthouse Brooks, LLC (owner) , Kelly Kaine (applicant)
11150 Olympic Blvd, #700
L.A., CA 90064
Ph: 310-614-6599

APPLICANT (as per the CEQA Mitigated Negative Declaration): 

DHS & Associates, Inc
275 Centennial Way #205
Tustin, CA 92780
Ph: 714-665-6569

APPLICANT’S REPRESENTATIVE (as per the CDP & PMLA determinations): 

Steven Nazemi
275 Centennial Way, Suite 205
Tustin, CA 92780

Note: Also listed on Building Permit for Grading and Compacting the Soil of the 4 lots as:

Hassan Steve Nazemi
45 Solstice,
Irvine, CA 92602
License # C44100

See also Steve Nazemi for next item.


DHS & Associates, Inc.
Civil Engineering, Land Surveying
Steve Nazemi, P.E., MSCE.
275 Centennial Way, Suite 205
Tustin, CA 92780
Ph: 714-665-6569


Tim Lefevre
Ph: 323-778-6988


Lighthouse Investments, LLC
1180 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 508
L.A., CA 90035
Ph: 310-556-160


David O’Malley, AIA
Community Research and Development
www.communityresearchanddevelopment.comPreview Changes
Ph: 310-945-6300


2910 Lincoln Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Ph: 310-581-8500

It should NOT be complicated and would not be complicated if the proper process and approval controls were in place, but there are essentially no controls for the land use/development process and the process is spread out among many people, this is done on purpose!

Please understand that Venice is being given away as you read these lines. We need to stop Mayor Garcetti , CD11 Mike Bonin, LADBS,  and LA City Planning now! Attorney General Mike Feuer office is also in the thick of it all, from not pursuing Criminal Forgeries, to delaying the appeals process, the City’s Strategy is to be as convoluted as possible to try and keep us from connecting the dots.

Please join us in raising funds to support our lawsuit and Save Venice from those who seek to exploit her. Thank You!



March 9, 2016

Venice Coalition Fed Up … Tells City Hall ‘Enough is Enough!’


SEE YOU IN COURT – Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Character (VC-PUCC) filed a lawsuit last week against the City of Los Angeles, which the coalition website charges is complicit in development that is “destroying Venice’s quaint, historic neighborhoods and affordable housing at an alarming rate.” The coalition charges that the city’s actions violate the California Constitution, Coastal Act, as well as local land use protections.

Residents and activists have mobilized to fight for neighborhood preservation in the coastal community, citing that over the past two years, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission has approved hundreds of mega-developments in the Venice Coastal Zone, ignoring planning and zoning laws.According to the suit, the City has been greenlighting massive projects through the “Venice Sign Off” (VSO) procedure, which allows developers to fast track construction without neighborhood notification or public hearings about potential projects.

Developments approved through the VSO process do not need to comply with the Venice Land Use Plan requirements respecting mass, scale, character, and landscaping of existing neighborhoods.    More



March 2, 2016


Venice Coalition Tells L.A. City Planning: Enough is Enough

Sues L.A. City Planning for violating the California Constitution, the California Coastal Act and local Land Use protections.

Venice, CA March 2, 2016 – Developers are destroying Venice’s quaint, historic neighborhoods and affordable housing at an alarming rate, and the City of Los Angeles is complicit. Aided by the City Planning Department, developers are pushing low and middle-income residents and communities of color out of Venice.

Local residents have joined together to fight back against the destruction of their homes and communities. The City of Los Angeles Planning Department, real estate speculators, and developers are irreparably altering the neighborhoods and communities that make Venice unique.

Now, the Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) has filed a lawsuit* against the City of Los Angeles to stop this egregious and unlawful pattern and practice.

In the last two years, the Los Angeles City Planning Department approved hundreds of colossal developments in the Venice Coastal Zone in violation of laws that protect residents’ constitutional rights and Venice’s special community character.

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.






Sabrina Venskus, Esq.


Laddie Williams

VCPUCC Press Release 030216-1


March 21, 2015

Sign the petition

We the undersigned call for the following:

– an immediate moratorium on Small Lot Subdivisions (SLS) in VENICE, CA

– a denial of all Small Lot Subdivisions currently pending for VENICE, CA

– an immediate moratorium on the “Big Box” mansionization of VENICE, CA

– a certified Local Coastal Plan (LCP) for VENICE, CA

– no building permits to be issued for Small Lot Subdivisions prior to recordation of final map In VENICE, CA

– FULL public notification and participation, as set forth by Federal, State, and Local Law, in any and all proposed developments in VENICE, CA.

Additionally, we the undersigned call for full enforcement of  the California Coastal Act,  the Mello Act, and the Venice Specific Plan, because the cumulative effect of recent development in VENICE, CA is diminishing the quality of life for it’s residents, and negating the purpose of said protections put in place to preserve the Coastal Zone.

The below examples are pending approval by the L.A. City Planning Department:

1)  Proposed 3-lot Small Lot Subdivision in violation of Venice Specific Plan.
Owned by 664 Sunset Avenue LLC 
664 Sunset Avenue Venice CA  90291 /
AA-2013-767-PMLA-SL ZA-2013-768-CDP-MEL**ENV-2013-769-MND

2)  Proposed 3-lot Small Lot Subdivision in violation of Venice Specific Plan.
Claims to be owner/occupy – owned by 664 Sunset Avenue LLC
758 Sunset Avenue Venice CA  90291
AA-2013-1086-PMLA-SL**ENV-2013-1084-MND-REC1 ZA 2013-1085(CDP)(MEL)(ZAA)

Community members are alarmed their phone calls and emails expressing concern and asking questions to City Planning are not being returned.

Here are 3 consistent and repeated ways that the City is ignoring and violating Venice Specific Plan (VSP):

1. City Planning is interpreting the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance (SLSO) to trump the Specific Plan, although the law says that specific plans always trump ordinances. The City is interpreting the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance to allow more units on lots than the Specific Plan allows, and is not requiring any guest parking at all, and is allowing tandem parking that people often don’t use, rather than side-by-side parking.

2. Allowing buildings to be constructed to the maximum possible size even when the proposed building is totally out of scale with the neighborhood i.e. three story buildings that block all of the neighbors’ sunlight in a one-story or two-story neighborhood. The Specific Plan requires an evaluation of the compatibility of the mass and scale of the proposed building with the other buildings in the neighborhood. The Planning Department does not do this, and they have set up a process where there is no appeal.

If the Planning Department continues to get away with this, soon Venice will be all 3-story compounds with very little sun or air between the buildings.

3. The Planning Department is issuing illegal DIRs that blatantly violate the Specific Plan. Then the City says that there’s no appeal because the 14-day deadline has passed. The community has no real notice and no opportunity to respond. The City refuses to send us a .pdf of the DIRs as they are issued, only a mailed copy.

Whereas per The CA Coastal Act.
Section 30116 Sensitive Coastal Resource Areas – Venice has the following characteristics:
b.  areas possessing significant recreational value.
c. Special communities or neighborhoods which are significant visitor designation areas.
Areas that provide existing coastal housing or recreational opportunities for low- and moderate income-persons.
The public has a right to fully participate in decisions affecting coastal planning, conservation and development.

From Section 30250 Location; existing developed area:
“In addition, land divisions, other than leases for agricultural uses, outside existing developed areas shall be permitted only where 50 percent of the usable parcels in the area have been developed and the created parcels would be no smaller than the average size of surrounding parcels.”

Section 30251 Scenic and visual qualities:
“Permitted development shall be sited and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas.

Section 30252 (e) and enhancement of public access:
Where appropriate, protect special communities and neighborhoods that, because of their unique characteristics, are popular visitor destination points for recreational uses.”

Sign the petition


June 21, 2014

Gentrification In Venice


June 13, 2014

Very creative video to be presented at the CA Coastal Commission TODAY – Friday June 13 – thank you to the Venice Coalition to Preserve Community Character (VCPUCC) and film maker Xaime Casillas for speaking out about Hyper-Gentrification in Venice Beach (stay tuned) –


March 20, 2014


Venice is being over-developed at an alarming rate, changing the unique character and culture of this historic city. The Venice CPUCC group is dedicated to protecting and conserving our Venice Beach community from over-development and the onslaught of gentrification, by sharing and caring about our community, with a focus on planning and development according to the Venice Specific Plan, the Coastal Act (1976) and the Mello Act.


Celia Williams       310-908-7174
Venice Neighborhood Action Coalition

Contact VCPUCC

For immediate release: 
Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character
Hits Home with the California Coastal Commission

Long Beach CA, March 12, 2014 — The Venice Coalition to Preserve the Unique Community Character  (VCPUCC) rallied the Venice community to the Coastal Commission meeting in Long Beach, for testimony and complaints regarding the practice of allowing demolitions based on waivers.

Small bungalow homes are fast being demolished and McMansions for the wealthy built with no community input, not to mention notice to the people who live next door.

These “de minimis” waivers are for development projects the City of Los Angeles has never held a public hearing. The City Planning Department interprets the Venice Specific Plan and does a VSO (Venice Sign Off), which is a developer’s dream fast track straight to the Coastal Commission for a “de minimis” waiver approval. No neighbors notified. No community input.

The developer or owner is trusted to post a letter size paper notice somewhere on the property ten days prior to the monthly meeting of the California Coastal Commission, which meets at a different place in the state each month. The posting of these notices have been spotty to be polite, but this time one of the waivers became an enforcement issue for the Coastal Commission.

A waiver asking the Coastal Commission for a demolition, which had already been demolished in January. And the City approved it. That one even skipped the Coastal Commission’s authority. Oops.

The Commissioners and Staff discussed the options and denied the Venice waivers in front of them for March. Those projects now have to go through the process required for developments in the Venice Coastal Zone, including hearings. No Venice demolitions were approved this round. That one decision by the Coastal Commission gave the community more of a fighting chance to stop the demolition of Venice.

Coastal Commission Staff, at the request of Commissioners, will be notifying the City of Los Angeles regarding the future of, or the lack there of, any more demolition waivers in Venice.


Video Excerpts from the meeting:

Public Comment by Venice Community Member David Ewing re Venice Coastal waivers

Agenda Item #14, Comments by VCPUCC/Commissioners turn back the waivers
CCC Dep Dir report for LA 12March2014 (continuous)
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:

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