Venice Community Files Lawsuit Against L.A. City Planning for Destroying Community Character

venice community lawsuit los angeles against city planning

BREAKING NEWS- Venice,CA March 2, 2016

Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) Tells Los Angeles City Planning: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”

Press Release (Download)

Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character (VC-PUCC) files lawsuit to stop the City of Los Angeles from destroying our community, violating the California Constitution, the California Coastal Act, and local land use protections— Developers are destroying Venice’s quaint, historic neighborhoods and affordable housing at an alarming rate, and the City of Los Angeles is complicit. Local residents have come 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.

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. Aided by the City Planning Department, developers are pushing low and middle-income residents and communities of color out of Venice.

Now, the Venice Coalition to Preserve our Unique Community Character has filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles to stop this egregious and unlawful pattern and practice.

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.

Laddie Williams: [email protected]
Sabrina Venskus, Esq.: (213) 482-4200

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8 Responses
  1. Matti Asgarian

    About time! LOL. ‘What’ took y’all so long? (teasing). You know Save Venice, Charles Lester + Jack Ainsworth of California Coastal Commission, didn’t think Venice has a ‘unique community character’ like Carmel?!? Here was a response in LA Times ahead of the meeting where Lester was canned

    And they’re right: Venice has an ‘Internationally Recognized Community Character’ where overbuilding in a dual-risk tsunami/high tide flooding zone has increased taxpayer FEMA liability for disaster relief. On behalf of taxpayers, THANK YOU Save Venice. Much love from Central Coast. (Go get’m)

      1. Matti Asgarian

        Miss you too, dude! All’s beautiful up here with 400 year-old Oak and Sycamores outside my door. California Coast minutes away – Forrest within easy reach. Wine + craft brew on tap. Y’all will need to visit. Tell the crew you have a vacation spot on Central Coast. Front door’s open when you arrive 🙂

  2. colonelkilgore

    Community Character? Like rampant homelessness? Crime? Drunks and addicts sleeping in doorways? Lowlifes living in campers and pissing in the streets? If that’s what your trying to preserve, bring on gentrification!

  3. L.A.

    This is awful. And, because of this new development ALL over LA city, the Mom & Pop apartment buildings/owners are losing…
    In other words, new apartment building don’t offer apartments for low-income families and the Mom & Pop are struggling to pay their mortgages or fix up their property because most are stuck with rent control and yearly fees that include headaches from the LA Housing Department. This must stop and we must get rid of LAHD while we’re at it. How dare a Mom & Pop have to pay fees and ask permission to do anything in their own property. LAHD only exists because of ALL the fees the landlords pay. And, to top it off, the LAHD protects the tenant. What the!?

  4. anonymous

    Neighborly Partners for the Cause – more neighborly outreach. (S.M.) (halted 89,000 sq foot development, developed e-petition, the LUVE initiative, has established their own legal eagle teams to protect their beach town and land and more … next, and open land and ecological conservancy would be tops!) (PV) (a present trend of establishing Open Land Conservancies in each
    locale and neighborhood) (successful organization to protect Rights from smart grid and cell tower pollution – letting and empowering the Citizens and Residences decide their health and property rights) (H.B.) (RB) (PDR) (MDR) (nullifying and overturning unlegal and un-residential,unconst’l acts
    that violate property rights and more)

    (please check their “fb” page for news updates and for community!)

    please join hands and caring minds with Neighborhoods and Resident Organizations to protect,

    preserve, conserve and re-establish Residential Governance. (the major legal eagle lawsuit action – what “Development and ‘false sustainability’ is really about” and how to release the alphabet development agencies/agenda 21/3030 agencies from your town IN ORDER to take back and re-establish public and residential governance as the first priority of things in the new cycle on our planet earth. small and big miracles can happen.

    (please check their “fb” page for news updates and for community!)

    please join hands and caring minds with Neighborhoods and Resident Organizations to protect,

    preserve, conserve and re-establish our neighborhoods Residential Governance as the
    bigger picture for liberation.


    Rob Reiner Group Proposes Initiative to Curb Chain Stores in Malibu (protect the quaint magic
    and charm of Malibu … and all preservation of towns everywhere as ballot or iniatiative/etc blueprints)

    “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” would require approval of Malibu residents for any development over 20,000 square feet, place tight regulations on chain stores.

    Courtesy of Exceptional Properties online
    Malibu Country Mart

    The Malibu Country Mart is one of several shopping centers in the Civic Center.

    Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 7:00 am

    By Melissa Caskey / [email protected] | 21 comments

    Reviving the battle over commercial development in Malibu, a group headed by film director and activist Rob Reiner and his wife Michele submitted a draft ballot initiative to the city proposing stringent citywide regulations on chain stores. They are also seeking a law requiring voter approval of new shopping centers more than 20,000 square feet in size.

    The Reiners and their group, Save Malibu, want the initiative put on the November ballot this year. Malibu residents Carol Moss and Dru Ann Jacobson also attached their name to the proposal.

    “We filed the ‘Your Malibu, Your Decision Act’ because that [small-town] character stands to be destroyed by massive new commercial developments – developments that we think the voters of Malibu should have the power to approve or reject,” Michele Reiner said in a statement to The Malibu Times.

    The “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” contains two components. Under the first, all major shopping center development and commercial or mixed use construction over 20,000 square feet would require a citywide vote. The second component would place a 30 percent limit on the number of chain stores permitted to operate in Malibu shopping centers.

    Requests for comment to several Civic Center landholders and developments were not returned as The Malibu Times went to press on Tuesday evening.

    A team of attorneys in Northern California and political campaign strategists in Los Angeles spent three months drafting the initiative for the Reiners, who are no strangers to political activism. For this latest effort, they enlisted strategist Felix Schein of the Griffin-Schein political firm.

    Chain store restrictions

    The draft initiative defines a chain or “formula retail” store as having 10 or more global locations. In order to open a new chain in Malibu, the business would have to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) from the Planning Commission and occupy no more than 2,500 square feet. Current chain stores would be grandfathered in if the initiative passes.

    “Already-existing chain stores would not be required to obtain a conditional use permit. However, if they wanted to expand, for example, or move to a new location, then the new rule would apply to them,” said James Harrison, an attorney who represents the Reiners.

    Additionally, no more than 30 percent of overall square footage and leasable spaces of a shopping center could be occupied by a chain. Grocery stores, banks, real estate offices, gas stations, movie theaters, post offices, drug stores, medical offices and low-cost overnight hotels and motels would be exempt from the law.

    The chain store restrictions bear a striking resemblance to an ordinance that was considered by the City Council last year that would have only applied to the Civic Center. Despite pressure from the grassroots group Preserve Malibu and many slow-growth proponents, the council eventually ruled against the ordinance and instead opted to begin drafting a Civic Center Specific Plan and Design Guidelines. Later this month, city officials will consider implementing a temporary 45% cap on chains in the Civic Center for one year until the specific plan and design guidelines are drafted by a consultant.

    Fate of new shopping centers would be up to voters

    The other “Your Malibu, Your Decision Act” initiative component—putting development decisions in the hands of voters—was not an idea considered at the council level last year. Any proposed commercial/shopping center measuring 20,000 square feet or more that does not yet have building permits would be put to a citywide vote. If the initiative is passed and enacted this year, the law could affect some projects already in the pipeline such as Whole Foods in the Park and the La Paz project, according to Harrison.

    “If they don’t have their building permits, then the new law would apply to them,” he said.

    The City of Del Mar in San Diego County passed a similar voter-empowering law in the 1980s.

    “Right now, decisions about the construction of massive new developments can be made without voter approval…We hope developers will embrace this idea,” Michele Reiner said.

    City Clerk Lisa Pope said the Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin’s office is looking over the draft initiative and must prepare a ballot title and summary before Reiner’s camp can begin gathering signatures to have the initiative officially placed on the November ballot. Pope said that in order for a special election to be held in November, the petitioners would need to gather 15 percent of signatures from local voters. She said it was too early to know if the initiative would require 50-plus-1 percent approval or two-thirds voter approval.


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