By Marian Crostic And Elaine Spierer
IMAGINE VENICE-Well, that hasn’t happened yet — but it won’t be long before Venice residents really do hire a fully engaged law firm just to represent all their neighborhood concerns and interests.
Sick and tired of endless meeting hours, organizing and talking, talking, talking with city officials in one city department or another and the California Coastal Commission, residents are organizing. When all that talk falls on the deaf ears of the “deciders”’ and legitimate questions and problems blown off, the noisy annoying resident rabble will rise up — and they are doing that now.
Serious misdeeds are ignored and rules regularly broken. Our “deciders” quickly and efficiently serve constituents with “juice.” In case you don’t know what “juice” is… it’s those big landowners, developers, “Silicon Beach” powerful techies and “hot” restaurateurs who have lots of power, real influence, spend plenty of money paying for consultants and who put lots of dollars in politicians’ coffers. Voila! Parking requirements get changed secretly, bar operators get permits to take over public parking spaces for their private moneymaking use and building and safety rules get massaged with private “adjustments.” Public property deed restrictions are ignored and bogus building permits issued. Might makes right in Venice now. There are so many pissed off people around here and so many real problems, they don’t know which war to join.
Residents have engaged the services of law firms to force enforcement of the rules. Groups not yet in full combat are consulting with lawyers now. Residents want development decisions based on the rules and that’s not happening now in Venice. Lobbyists, consultants of one stripe or another are running the show. Residents don’t have those kinds of warriors on their side. Banding together and hiring lawyers to even up the playing field is mandatory in Venice now.
Don’t think for a minute that residents want to spend their own dollars, putting in endless frustrating hours of personal time exhausting themselves because they love a good fight. Every one of the “hot” issues here in Venice is all about residents’ unmet expectation that the rules on the books are for everyone and the rule of law is important to the “deciders.”
There are a half dozen neighborhood associations already formed to level the playing field. It is war.
Lax enforcement allowed a massive amount of our housing stock to be taken over by the Airbnb’s of the new economy, restauranteurs have pages of unenforced citations on the books. Zoning Administrator conditions are ignored. Citations mean nothing. Secret deals at Building and Safety and Planning are a daily occurrence. Right now there is a taking of a Deed restricted public recreation property for a homeless use. Residents’ complaints and suggested alternatives are ignored. It’s not hard to understand why this neighborhood group hired a lawyer to fight the city and protect their neighborhood from predictable future problems. Residents now believe that only a lawyer will get their voices heard.
Residents “manning the barricades” are not a bunch of crazies. They are from every neighborhood. Each of the recently formed Neighborhood Associations has its own crisis to manage. They want to assure their efforts yield real results — there is a coalescing of neighborhood groups which never occurred before. Maybe now, the “little people” will finally get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Residents just want the rules enforced. They want an end to the rules-avoiding secret deals made for the powerful. They are not asking for anything more.
The New Venice
We don’t know how many commercial buildings and how many residential apartments were converted and taken over by Snapchat this past year or two, but it is getting easier to recognize a building housing the Snapsters.
The Snapsters now have their own quasi police force. These private security people are all over our town from Abbot Kinney to Ocean Front Walk – reminding us of San Miguel de Allende where every rich person’s villa had an uzi-wearing guard outside on 24 hour patrol.
It sure looks like our new fabulous people just don’t want to mix with Venice’s un-washed. So much for all that PR: “We love Venice’s culture and we love being here.”
These are our new Venetians. We know they just love to hang out on Abbot Kinney and drink at Venice’s pubs and bars — it won’t be long before we see their security force everywhere they are — protecting our new elite.
This is what we have become. First the takeover of our neighborhoods by Airbnb and the rest of the STR Wall Street gold rush tycoons who have turned our neighborhoods into neighborhoods of strangers — and now, our new “Silicon Beach” eliterati who even have their oven private security protection to keep us away from them.
The sharing economy and the social media crowd have brought a tide of money to Venice, got their huge tax breaks from the City, and are filling the coffers of our politicians — but what have they taken?
We are concerned, longtime Venice residents who no longer want to watch what we treasure about our community melt away. Our aim is to lead the conversation clarifying, informing, and uniting us in the preservation of our unique community.
We hope you will find interesting new thoughts here as we ImagineVenice together.
(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)