LUPC

I am running for Chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee (“LUPC”) after serving as a committee member since 2016. Over the last five years, I am grateful for the experience in engaging with applicants and stakeholders, while learning a great deal about the technicalities of land use policy in Venice. Relying on that experience, I am prepared to lead LUPC through its next term.

Why I Want to Lead LUPC

Venice has not avoided the polarizing environment of our politics, and I regrettably have witnessed contentious meetings that devolved from substantive discussion to personal attacks. We must restore the professionalism to public meetings that has been lacking in recent years. Creating an open, educational, and constructive forum is the responsibility of the Chair. Land use issues are very important to the Venice community, and they are becoming increasingly complex as Venice evolves. My goal is for LUPC to educate the public and analyze projects from an objective standpoint, incorporate community input, and build consensus in its advisory role to VNC Board’s land use decisions.

My promise to stakeholders is this: I support a public forum for discussion of issues, projects, and views from all sides. Cases will be vetted by staff, written staff reports with supporting documents will be posted prior to meetings, and public testimony will be received. LUPC will rely on the merits of a project to render its recommendation to the VNC. Staff reports and supporting documents will be included in agenda items sent to the VNC Board.

LUPC Experience

Over my last two terms on LUPC, I was assigned 31 cases. Of those, 26 received approval from the VNC Board (seven by unanimous consent), four were withdrawn by the applicant, and only one was denied despite LUPC recommending approval. Remarkably, only three of the 26 approved cases had more than four dissenting votes. This demonstrates my ability to build consensus among the 21-member VNC Board.

Over the last year, I have worked to formalize and modernize staff reports, incorporating comprehensive project analyses and live links to supporting documents directly in the staff reports. This is the standard that LUPC should adopt for all its cases.

Example of My Work on LUPC

At LUPC’s October 8, 2020 meeting, the current committee chair brought a draft community impact statement (“CIS”) before LUPC to address the forthcoming implementation of Senate Bill 330, a complex housing bill that enacted both protections for affordable housing and streamlining for creation of new housing stock. The draft CIS was not well-received by the committee, as it was not accompanied by a staff report or analysis. To avoid a polarizing vote, I volunteered to research the state bill and City Council motions addressing it, and to prepare a comprehensive staff report with analysis of the bill and the City Council's position on it. Despite the initial response to the CIS by LUPC, when it was brought back on October 22, it passed unanimously 6-0-0. It later was passed 13-0-2 by the VNC Board (with just two abstentions). This is the kind of leadership on issues our community deserves, and I am proud of my efforts towards making LUPC a more deliberative, consensus-achieving body.

Personal Background

I moved to this community from Philadelphia in 2007. After living in Santa Monica and Marina del Rey for several years, I moved to Venice in 2010. Since then, I’ve lived next to Ocean Front Walk. Most Fridays (at least pre-pandemic), you could find me at the old Waterfront Café, the Bistro, or Hinano’s. I surf the Breakwater and enjoy cruising on the beach path on my bike. I have grown to love this community and met many of my closest friends here.

I graduated Southwestern Law School in 2015 and am a practicing attorney. During law school, I was a member of law review, the moot court honors program, a teaching assistant for first year writing courses, and I volunteered in several legal aid clinics, including assisting applicants with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) enrollment and small claims case assistance for low-income litigants. I now advise cannabis businesses throughout the state on regulatory compliance. Over my career, I have successfully worked with many local governments to implement and modify cannabis regulatory systems. This experience is key to the VNC establishing relationships beyond our council office to city and state agencies to effect change. Although my career is not related to development or land use issues in Venice, I am nonetheless passionate about the impact these issues have on our lives, and I have the skills to improve our ability to implement changes.  

Long-Term Planning and Development

The Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan was created in 2003—nearly 20 years ago—and should be revised to suit the changing needs of our community. We now have the opportunity to impact the city’s new specific plan for Venice. This is the single most important project LUPC should take up as a committee, as it will impact density, traffic, affordable housing, and homeless housing for decades to come. Despite such importance, LUPC has not held a single meeting to develop its own recommendations to the city. We deserve better.

I propose that in its next term, the committee devote at least one entire meeting for each subarea of Venice, discuss planning goals specific to each, take public comment, and create comprehensive recommendations to submit as a Community Impact Statement on behalf of the VNC. Further, LUPC should incorporate planning goals of East Venice, the area east of Lincoln Boulevard, as part of its recommended changes to the Venice Specific Plan. Importantly, this can be achieved without obtaining approval from the Coastal Commission.

Homelessness

Homelessness is a crisis in Venice, as it is across the city and state, which has been exacerbated by failed government policies. The consequences of the COVID pandemic have yet to be fully realized, but when eviction moratoria are lifted, we will undoubtedly see this crisis get even worse. 

Venice is slated to shoulder a greater burden than our counterparts elsewhere in Council District 11, the ostensible goal of our own councilmember. But it is neither realistic nor responsible to spend $500,000+ per unit at a completion rate of hundreds of units per year when there are more than 40,000 people who need a roof over their heads. We need to look at affordable options to stem the disaster that is unfolding in our streets. The city needs to utilize cheaper, faster solutions to create units on existing city-owned land in three to five months, not three to five years after going through the Coastal Commission. 

Affordable Housing

Like the rest of Los Angeles, Venice does not have enough units to meet the demand for anything but the most expensive housing. This is a direct result of downzoning large swaths of the city over the past 40 years. ‘Down-zoning’ has replaced ‘redlining,’ meaning that communities have been using zoning to thwart the building of middle- and low-income housing stock. Federal, state, and local governments are all pushing to reverse these policies to combat the affordable housing crisis. 

We have an opportunity to influence our zoning as the city revamps its new community plan for Venice, a role in which LUPC should be integral. Otherwise, we will see a continuation of only high-end development that prices out all but the wealthy and large TOC projects that are approved, despite our opposition to them. 

We need to have an honest discussion about how single-family zoning perpetuates class and racial division in our community, and how each neighborhood in Venice is going to absorb the inevitable housing units that the city and state will require us to build. Without proactive VNC input, we risk forfeiting any input on where and how density and equity will be achieved. LUPC should be organizing our neighborhoods to create our vision, not waiting for the city to mandate its own.