Council committee denies Venice housing appeal

By Cynthia Gibson

Contributing Writer

VENICE — The Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee unanimously voted Sept. 3 to deny an appeal that would have blocked the construction of Lincoln Apartments, a 40-unit affordable and supportive housing development for homeless youth and adults located in Venice.

The vote against the appeal, which Venice resident Tracy Carpenter brought to the committee, allows the project’s developers to proceed with construction. The Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese also filed an appeal against the project, citing safety concerns with the development’s proximity to St. Mark’s Catholic Church and school, yet announced their withdrawal of their appeal during the meeting.

Lincoln Apartments is a $20-million project developed by Venice Community Housing, a nonprofit developer specializing in affordable and supportive housing. Located at 2469 and 2471 Lincoln Blvd., the project will include studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. The project will include open space and will preserve Safe Place for Youth, a center providing supportive services for homeless young adults that currently occupies a portion of the development site.

Officials from Venice Community Housing said they held extensive outreach with neighborhood stakeholders and residents over the last year. The organization made adjustments addressing community concerns, including providing security around school hours, providing a community liaison with six-month check-ins, cleaning sidewalks, providing space to congregate off the sidewalk and limiting smoking hours on the rooftop deck.

One community concern that remained was the issue of parking. Venice Community Housing officials said that not including designated parking for Lincoln Apartment Venice Community Housing was in compliance with laws for supportive housing. State legislation prohibits cities from requiring parking for permanent supportive housing units that are located within a half-block of public transportation.

On May 28, the L.A. City Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for Lincoln Apartments. Michael Davitt, director of real estate for the archdiocese, and Carpenter, a Venice neighborhood representative, then submitted appeals against the project to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

After a meeting with Venice Community Housing and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice, to discuss safety concerns, the archdiocese announced it was rescinding its appeal at the Sept. 3 appeal hearing.

“As Catholics, the archdiocese and the parish believe in loving thy neighbor and supporting their brother and sisters in need,” said archdiocese spokesperson Bill Christopher. “All parties are pleased that an agreement has been reached which addresses the parish and school community’s concerns and provides important certain safety guarantees. … St. Mark’s parish and school will no longer be opposing the proposed project.”

“The agreement’s additional operational, access, design and screening conditions will enhance the safety and security of the surrounding residents and the school church neighbors,” said Len Nguyen, a senior deputy for Bonin, who read a written statement on his behalf.

In her appeal, Carpenter said the project had overwhelming opposition and endangered children.

“Police and fire have been called on a Safe Place for Youth 117 times in the last three years,” Carpenter said.  “Neighborhood kids, including mine, are exposed to fights, needles, threatening people from SPY who loiter in the neighborhood after getting their free meal.”

During the 45-minute public comment period, a majority of the callers were in favor of the project, with a few callers voicing their opposition.

“I’m overwhelmingly in support of this housing,” said Martin Sheer, a resident of Venice for 50 years. “I’m surrounded by encampments of homeless and I’ve seen the cause and effects of finding a home for them.

“I have experience with youth at risk and the life-changing ability of having a home is so traumatic.  They’re finally able to develop their potential as individuals and citizens.”

Janice Spear, who said she lives within 500 feet of the proposed development, said it was “irresponsible” and “put children at risk of severe harm.”

“The commission ignored hard evidence, not fear, of crime and a record of increased criminal activity wherever this developer builds and where this service provider serves,” Spear said.

At the conclusion of public comment, committee chairman Marqueece Harris-Dawson called for a vote. The appeal was denied 5-0.

The $20 million price tag for Lincoln Apartments will be paid for by funds from Proposition HHH, the $1.2 billion bond for homeless housing approved by Los Angeles voters in 2016. The goal of this measure was to build 10,000 units in 10 years. The first Proposition HHH-funded development opened in January, a 62-unit apartment complex in South Los Angeles.   

According to the City’s Proposition HHH Development Summary, as of June 30, three projects are currently available for occupancy and 76 are in development. The 76 projects are estimated to yield 7,428 total units, with 5,723 providing supportive services for previously homeless individuals.

The timeline for completing a Proposition HHH project from start to finish ranges from three to six years, according to a report from Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.