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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

SaveVenice

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.

SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES CASE NO.:
BC 611549 – COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF FOR VIOLATIONS
OF PLAINTIFFS’ CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS UNDER THE CALIFORNIA
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.

HELP US SAVE VENICE – DONATE TO THE SAVE VENICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND –

save-venice

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE SAVE VENICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND – THANK YOU!

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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.

HELP US SAVE VENICE – DONATE TO THE SAVE VENICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND –

save-venice

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE SAVE VENICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND – THANK YOU!

ORGANIZATIONS COMMEMORATE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
BY HOLDING WEST COAST DAYS OF ACTION
FOR HOMELESS BILL OF RIGHTS

Los Angeles Action to be Held in Venice Beach


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Stay in touch with the Spirit of Venice — spiritofvenice.net

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Bill Rosendahl

From Councilman Rosendahl:

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, we have a crisis of homelessness in this nation, and it is particularly acute in Los Angeles and in Venice. In recent weeks, with encampments in Venice growing, the community dialogue has become heated. Some people have spread distorted or false information, and then demanded action based upon such misinformation, complicating the City’s efforts to find solutions to our shared problems.

In order to clear the air, share accurate information, and shed some light, my staff has compiled a FAQ (frequently asked questions) about the situation:

What is going on with the encampments in Venice?

Over the past year, encampments of people in bedrolls, tents, or cardboard boxes began to proliferate in Venice, mostly along Ocean Front Walk. Many of the people were down on their luck, and homeless. Fortunately, many of them availed themselves of the Emergency Winter Shelter program and connected with social service programs. Others were younger transients, living “off the grid” and on the streets. Still others suffered from alcoholism, addiction, or mental illness; many refused social services that provide housing and treatment.

In February, when the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of Recreation & Parks began enforcing a curfew at Venice Beach, a number of encampments began springing up on or around Third Avenue in Venice, mostly between Sunset and Rose Avenues. A few encampments have recently emerged on the median of Venice Boulevard, near the Abbot Kinney Memorial Library.

The City has sought to strike a balanced approach: provide help to those who need and want it – and to enforce all applicable laws to protect quality of life.

What is the City doing about the encampments?

Despite the claims of certain activists, the City has taken consistent, strong and multiple measures to deal with the encampments. We have stepped up law enforcement with the LAPD. We have increased street cleanings with the Bureau of Street Services and other agencies. We have increased social services through People Assisting the Homeless and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).

What has LAPD done?

Under the supervision of Captain Jon Peters and his staff, the LAPD’s approach has been tough but measured, aggressive yet fair. Since February, officers have made more than 100 arrests for a variety of offenses, from outstanding warrants to drug charges to violent crime. LAPD is working closely with city prosecutors to ensure cases are as strong as possible to stand up in court.

What sort of clean-ups have been conducted?

The City has directed multiple and repeated clean-ups of the Third Avenue area, removing trash and abandoned materials, disposing of and cleaning up after human waste, and removing bulky item materials. The most recent large-scale clean-up was conducted Friday, April 27. Further clean-ups will happen, and on a regular basis.

So, why are so many people still sleeping on Third Avenue, and why is it such a mess?

Due to two court cases, the Jones case and the Lavan case, the City’s ability to enforce its laws has been significantly restricted:

On October 15, 2007, the City entered into a legally binding settlement, agreeing not to enforce the law prohibiting sleeping on the streets, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. until it builds 1,250 units of permanent supportive housing. The City entered this agreement after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Lawyers Guild (Jones v. City of Los Angeles), found that the law against sleeping on the streets amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the 8th Amendment, noting there were thousands more homeless people in L.A. County than there were shelter beds. This applies citywide, meaning it is currently lawful for people to sleep on the sidewalks at night.

In a separate case, Lavan v. City of Los Angeles, last year, ACLU attorney Carol Sobel, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, and the Los Angeles Catholic Worker obtained a restraining order, prohibiting the City from seizing or destroying property from homeless camps in downtown’s Skid Row. This means the City can only remove abandoned property. If someone claims that items in the streets are their personal belongings, the City cannot remove those items without risk of legal repercussions. The City is currently appealing this decision.

I heard the City has built enough beds to satisfy the Jones settlement and you can make it illegal to sleep on the streets again. True or false?

That is not true — yet. The settlement says the City “will keep this policy in effect and operate according to this policy until an additional 1250 units of permanent supportive housing are constructed within the City of Los Angeles, at least 50 per cent of which are located in Skid Row and/or greater downtown Los Angeles.” According to the Los Angeles Housing Department, the City needs to construct several hundred more units before it meets the requirements of the settlement.

The Lavan case does not apply in Venice, so why are the streets not cleaned up?

Many of the same people who won the Lavan injunction downtown are seeking to make it apply citywide, and are preparing legal action against the City to accomplish that. Overly aggressive action could backfire, and make it harder to clean up encampments. The City Attorney’s office is strongly cautioning Bureau of Street Services to proceed carefully, and has crafted guidelines and a protocol to make sure clean-ups in Venice and other areas of the City do not have unforeseen legal complications, including a citywide injunction against removing encampments.

So, what CAN the City do?

The LAPD can and will continue to enforce existing laws. Sleeping on the sidewalks is not permitted during the day. Blocking the sidewalks and impeding the public right of way is not permitted.

The City will also conduct periodic clean-ups of the encampment areas, using a protocol being devised by the City Attorney’s office. We will have more flexibility in removing materials from or near encampments if those sleeping on the streets have a safe and secure place to store their belongings.

I am also pleased to report that County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky has agreed to help assign teams of personnel from the Department of Mental Health to work with local social service providers to assist those living in encampments. A similar outreach program in Westchester Park a few weeks ago was very successful.

Why is the City allowing people to operate feeding programs on Venice Beach?

The Ninth Circuit Court has ruled that people or organizations have a First Amendment right to distribute free food. During litigation over the assignment and regulation of public space on Venice Beach’s Ocean Front Walk, the court insisted that the City set aside two spaces on Ocean Front Walk for food distribution. We are legally required to do that, and I support programs that feed hungry people during one of the worst economic recessions in our nation’s history.

What has the Councilman done about homelessness?

Since taking office in 2005, finding solutions to homelessness has been my passion. Some of my specific actions include:

* Securing funds to hire PATH, which has found permanent housing for more than 30 individuals who were living in their cars or RVs in Venice.
* Securing funding last year for the only early emergency winter shelter program in the county. Expanded the number of beds, setting some aside especially for homeless youth.
* Providing $400,000 in federal block grant monies so Upward Bound House could convert a motel on the Culver City/Mar Vista border into housing for homeless families.
* Supporting New Directions, Inc. in converting a house in Del Rey into a home for returning veterans of Iraq and Aghanistan.
* Joining Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver in repeatedly lobbying the VA and the federal government to step up efforts to house homeless vets on the VA’s West LA campus.
* Supporting and securing nearly $1 million in federal block grant funds for the 1736 Family Crisis Center, which operates a youth shelter project for at-risk, runaway, and homeless adolescents.
* Supporting an affordable senior housing project in Del Rey, being built by developer Tom Safran.
* Supporting, allocating funds to, and finding a location for Stand up for Kids, which provides food, clothing and support to runaway and homeless young people.
* Securing $750,000 for Venice Community Housing Corporation’s permanent supportive housing facility at 15 Horizon.

What else do you plan on doing about homelessness?

I am currently working with LAHSA and civic-minded local residents to identify a location and funding for an emergency transitional housing facility on the Westside. I am also encouraging proposals from private and non-profit developers to build permanent supportive or affordable housing in the 11th District.

I keep hearing that the LAPD feels there is much more they can do to make our neighborhoods cleaner and safer and crack down on the encampments – but that you are forbidding them from doing so.

This is absolutely, patently false – and has been refuted, repeatedly, by Chief Charlie Beck and Captain Peters. My office and I vigorously support and encourage the LAPD to enforce the law. Captain Peters and I are in contact almost daily (and sometimes several times per day). We consider each other to be partners. I support him, his team, and his smart, measured enforcement of the law. Since February, LAPD has made more than 100 arrests or citations on Third Avenue. I’ve fought for more resources and flexibility for Captain Peters and his team, and he and Chief Beck will confirm that.

Is there anything else the public can do to help the LAPD?

Yes. Promptly reporting all crime to the LAPD is paramount. Property owners near encampments can also work with LAPD and install security cameras with recording devices. LAPD is also strongly encouraging residents to leave the enforcement to the LAPD and not take vigilante action.

What can you say about the angry feelings between Venetians over this issue?

We need less finger-pointing, less anger, and more of a cooperative spirit of good will. We cannot shout or accuse our way out of a problem; we need to work together, thoughtfully, as neighbors with a desire for a better community.

Addressing this problem requires a balanced approach. Some people insist we need more law enforcement. Others demand social services. We need both. We must secure public safety and preserve neighborhood quality of life – while respecting the law and the rights of people who do not have homes. We must help homeless people who need and want help – without enabling homelessness itself.

The question should not be: should we allow people to sleep on the streets? The question must be: how do we provide people housing, services, and shelter so no one has cause to sleep on the street?

Regards,

Bill

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Stay in touch with the Spirit of Venice — spiritofvenice.net

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An interview on KPFK’s “Uprising” with Sonali Kolhatkar

Residents and activists in Venice beach say police are harassing community members and the homeless as a new wave of gentrification hits the city, best known for its eclectic beach-loving population. Last Wednesday dozens of homeless people lost their personal belongings when the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, in cooperation with the LA Police Department, raided a homeless encampment at Third Street between Rose and Sunset Avenues in Venice Beach. Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the city was conducting a “sanitation action” that was only meant to sweep up abandoned property.

The homeless disagree, and say their personal items, including prescription medications, wallets, and clothing, were indiscriminately collected and immediately dumped into garbage trucks. Adding to the outrage of the community is a feeling of betrayal, because police began directing the homeless to the Third Street encampment when the city began enforcing a no camping ordinance on the boardwalk, which displaced many homeless individuals. Venice residents from the Oakwood neighborhood and others also report an increase in community members being ticketed by police for small infractions, such as not having the fence around a home properly painted.

GUESTS: David Busch, an activist with the Spirit of Venice Coalition, Maria Fitzsimmons, and organizer with People Organized for Westside Renewal, or POWER, and Kendra Moore, a POWER leader and president of the Holiday Venice Tenant Action Committee Visit http://www.power-la.org for more information.

There will a direct action training in relation to the Venice area activism on April 14-15, 2012. For more information, visit http://www.99spring.com.

Capt. Peters Comforts RV Dweller Darlene Knoll

While LAPD officers hassle, harass and harangue the homeless on Venice beach, stealing their meager possessions and tossing them into sanitation trucks, as they did at 3:00 am on the morning of Friday, May 13, 2011 –LAPD Captain Peters appears to have a soft spot for Darlene Knoll, a long-time Venice resident RV dweller.

A disabled paraplegic artist of color was ordered to get up and leave the area. As he struggled to climb into his wheelchair, his lifeless legs dragging on the ground, the LAPD officer told him that if he didn’t move faster he would confiscate all his possessions. The artist continued to struggle but was unable to comply with the officer’s demands quickly enough. He watched in despair as the officer STOLE his bag of painting materials (his very livelihood) and threw them into the waiting sanitation truck. 

While Peters leads the charge against people living in their vehicles and sleeping on the beach, he shows what appears to be a rare moment of sympathy and comfort to Darlene –who was threatened repeatedly with arrest by LAPD officers –for documenting the arrests of poor people and the towing of their vehicles during the police sweep of RVs in Venice over the 2010 Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.

Abbott Kinney, Founder of Venice of America, July 4, 1905

More often than not, though, Capt. Peters dances to the tune of an elite group of Venice residents who call themselves “Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA)”; whose prime motive appears to be the gentrification of Venice and the destruction of the time-honored free “Spirit of Venice” that has drawn millions of visitors to Venice Beach, California, over the decades, since Abbott Kinney first created his visionary “Venice of America” city out of coastland marshes.

Back in the day, Venice was a place where people came from all over America and the world –to have fun, let off steam and express themselves, as in the case of prominent civil rights leader, feminist Susan B. Anthony; who is reported to have expressed her political views from the west side of Venice beach boardwalk in the area now known as the “Free Speech Zone”.   This tradition has continued to the present time, peaking in the 1990s when artists, entertainers, performers, religious, ideological and political “expressionists” proliferated in the Free Speech Zone.  In recent years the City of Los Angeles has succeeded in turning this once expressive Free Speech Zone into more of a swap meet ambiance by condoning vending of mass-produced trinkets and bric-a-brac that carry little or no intrinsic “free speech” message.

Venice Canals During the 1930s Oil Boom

The community’s tie to the story of the free speech zone continued into the 1930s; Venice property values depreciated dramatically when the oil boom hit the coastal area, continuing into the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

In the late 1950s and 1960s beats and hippies moved to Venice, congregating in coffee shops and low-cost housing. Another history was made, now firmly establishing a tradition of free expression that has carried over to present times.  Young travelers hitch hiked from all over America drawn to the creative freedom of Venice beach; Houseless people found a home on the beach; alternative lifestyle denizens, dubbed “rubber tramps”, parked their RVs and vans on public streets; displaying their artistic creations in the Free Speech Zone.  Long-time residents of Venice, originally drawn by the 1930’s oil boom and the subsequent low property values, learned to live side by side with their eclectic new mobile neighbors, establishing a relationship built upon tolerance and goodwill; further promoting the ambiance of expressive freedom that has historically made Venice what it is.

Venice thereby accommodated low-income and poor people for decades, while neighboring cities like Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey pushed development. Then, in 1976 the California Coastal Act was created –to protect over-development of California coastal areas, subsequently restricting rapid development in Venice, which had lagged behind its more affluent neighbors.  Consequently, Venice continued, through the 1970s and 1980s, to offer affordable accommodation to residents and travelers alike.

Moving forward into the 1990s, Venice continued to attract low-income residents and travelers, thanks to the California Coastal Commission that had created the Coastal Act — and this, together with the Mello Act, a California State Law that requires all development within the coastal zone (1 mile from the coast) to include affordable housing. In 1998, POWER member group Venice Community Housing Corporation, along with other neighborhood associations, sued the City of Los Angeles for not enforcing the Mello Act. In 2001, this group won a settlement –forcing local developers to either set aside 20% of their units as low-income housing or 10% of their units as very low-income housing.

Throuhout, the Venice tradition of serving low-income and poor people was sustained until approximately the year 2000; when the last oil well in Venice (1965-2000) was removed from the beach at Windward Avenue, and its monstrous decoy, the Venice pavilion, was demolished, opening the door to rapid development and gentrification of what had, until then, become a haven for low-income and poor people.

Fast forward now to the present time –as eager developers and corporate entities prepare for the final takeover of what many consider to be the last bastion of freedom on the west coast of California, and possibly the whole of the USA, Venice Beach.  The “people’s beach” — a place where visitors and residents alike enjoy an ambiance of freedom, fun and expression.  Recent attempts by Los Angeles city and Venice gentrifiers to curtail these freedoms, aided by increased police numbers, activity and enforcement, are, today, threatening the very ambiance that makes Venice “Venice”.

Unsubstantiated claims of increased criminal activity in Venice, promoted by mainstream media –and those with a vested interest in gentrifying Venice –have unfairly portrayed the houseless community, young travelers, and people of color as the primary cause.  These houseless, young travelers and people of color, both resident and visitor alike, are now daily targeted by LAPD officers for selective enforcement scrutiny, resulting in an overflowing congestion of the Los Angeles courts and jails.  These houseless and vehicle dwellers are under constant threat of criminal prosecution as the City of Los Angeles continues its heartless persecution of the poor.

Go here to sign our petition:

LAPD: STOP YOUR NEWEST CAMPAIGN AGAINST L.A.’s HOMELESS – ILLEGALLY SEIZING THEIR POSSESSIONS

Many say, however, that Venice will always now be Venice.  And many of those are seen, today, to be taking new actions in that direction.

Their call –against the gentrifiers: Keep Venice Venice!

Diverse, Open and Free!!!

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Stay in touch with the Spirit of Venice — spiritofvenice.net

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Stay in touch with the Spirit of Venice — spiritofvenice.net

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CPRA To Office of City Attorney Concerning Take Over of Vera Davis Center

Vera Davis McClendon Youth and Family Center in Venice at 6th and California Ave.

To::  Mike Dundas, Deputy City Attorney
cc:   Kevin Regan, Assistant General Manager Parks and RECS
Herb Wesson, Janice Hahn -City Council members
Charlie Beck, LA Chief of Police
Olga Garay, Executive Director LA Cultural Affairs
Cliff Weiss, Spokesperson CDE

From: Rick Selan, Educational Advocate

Re:  Hahn -Wesson Motion Concerning Vera Davis Center ( March 18, 2011)

Dear Mr. Dundas,

The office of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich advised me today that CPRA’s are to be filed with you.I am concerned about the Hahn-Wesson Motion of 3-18-11 concerning the takeover of the Vera Davis McClendon Center by LA Cultural Affairs as CDD can no longer afford to support it.

Below, I will include History so your office may follow the dots.

Under a Public Records Request, please provide me:

On April 12, 2011, this advocate and a member of VNC were told by Executive Director of Cultural Affairs Olga Garry that she decided to assist Council Member Rosendahl to allow the Vera Davis Center to become an additional Family Source Center to be included with the 14 sites already selected funded by Cultural Affairs as Family Source Centers. Apparently the funds to cover Vera Davis will come from the sum already allotted for the 14 sites that were previously selected. A meeting was set up with Ms. Garay, her Assistant Executive Director Saul Romo, and Bill Rosendahl Deputy Arturo Pina.

According to Ms. Garay, at this meeting, Deputy Pina stated:  “The goal was to permit  Venice Arts  to take over the management of the Vera Davis Center”. [This conversation is on tape]

On Tuesday, April 26,2011, at a VNC meeting, which was recorded, upon being questioned, Mr. Pina denied ever making that statement that Ms. Garay made very clear to both myself and the VNC Board member. Mr. Romo stated, “He could not recall any discussion.”

To create more chaos, outside the VNC Meeting, VNC Member and former VNC President Mike Newhouse, who may or may not be the attorney for
VNC and/or Venice Arts, informed  a group outside during the meeting that it was not CD11 that chose the Venice Arts group to take over the Vera Davis Center but it was your office, the Office of the City Attorney, that chose the Venice Arts Group under Lynn Warshavsky, Executive Director.

1. Which department or city office chose the Venice Arts to take over the Vera Davis Center in Venice ?

2. What were the qualifications this department used to make this determination and please mail, e-mail, or fax a copy of the blank form?

3. While CD11, CDD, and Cultural Affairs continue to state no RFP has been selected, why does Cultural Affairs and Attorney Newhouse make statements about the RFP already being chosen?

4. If in fact a RFP was not chosen, where might one obtain an application to apply for the RFP for the Vera Davis Center ?

Please provide clarity to a “less than clear” community.

In unity for accountability,
Rick Selan

History on this topic can be found at:  https://spiritofvenice.wordpress.com/oakwood/