By Mark Lipman

Who says we’re powerless?

Back during the September 16, 2008 VNC board meeting, the board of officers passed an amendment at the request of Councilmember Rosendahl’s office, to exclude 520 Venice Way from a motion that all city owned real property in Venice be open to public hearing through LUPC (Land Use and Planning Comm.) in order to determine what the best use of Venice property would be for our community. The property in question was up for sale in November. All indications were that this property would just be quietly sold off to the highest bidder, until James Murez took the initiative to request that the board reconsider its decision and got the issue placed into the agenda for October.

At this October meeting there was an unusually high community turn out, due primarily to an unrelated issue of fences and hedges. Approximately 150 people were in attendance. All of a sudden one person after another got up and argued to save the property. A swell started to grow in the room. Public opinion abounded. Calls for hearings and community gardens flowed from the microphone.

Then the board turned to discussion and damage control ensued. Stan Mohammed then asked the room, “Who opposes reconsidering the amendment?” The room was silent. It was unanimous, nobody wanted the property sold.

Councilmember Rosendahl, who happened to be attending the meeting was then asked to come up and say a few words.

It would appear that the whole thing was a big misunderstanding, that an assistant had made the recommendation to sell the property and that the councilmember had no idea how much the community wanted to save this piece of land and that “just today” he had pulled out something called “Rule 16” (sort of a ‘get out of jail free card’ that allows one to reverse their position with no questions asked), to take the property “off the chopping block.”

Applause filled the room and the board voted unanimously to save 520 Venice Way.

Whatever all that means, the bottom line is that Venice banded together to fight city hall and won. What a great day for us. That’s the power of the people.

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