Here are a few of the “serial violators” that sit on the new VNC Board.
1. Robert Thibodeau – he is probably the most prolific architect/developer in Venice and yet he doesn’t have one single Mello Act replacement affordable unit. How could this be, given that the state Mello Act law’s main purpose is to preserve and protect Affordable Housing in the Coastal Zone and thus demolition of affordable housing must be replaced by the developer? He has had more projects successfully appealed by the community for mass, scale & character issues, aka over development, than any other architect/developer in Venice. Thibodeau’s projects are believed to have originally coined the phrase “Big Ugly Boxes” – B.U.B.’s, which is based on maxing out a project’s square footage in order to maximize sales proceeds, no matter the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Good neighbor? Neighborhood Council Board member?
2. John Reed – it is heard time and time again that parking deficiencies for Reed’s projects are never mitigated or go unchecked. He’s dominating Rose Ave development, even though His projects are generally not compatible or in keeping with the character of the existing Venice neighborhoods where they are located, as is required by State law. He’s known to be a Mello Act violator, with such stunts as representing a multi affordable unit building is an owner-occupied single-family dwelling Mello exemption, or by simply not mentioning certain Mello Act violations and hoping to skate by unnoticed. Many locals are very concerned that the projects he handles as coastal exemptions under the Coastal Act and as improvements for property tax assessor rules, are in fact demolition and new construction. Above all, he skillfully maneuvers to avoid CEQA, General Plan and certified Land Use Plan protections that Venice needs in order to remain a special coastal community. In his new role on the VNC Board, his job is to represent the community in making recommendations on land use projects in the neighborhoods……..is this some kind of a very bad joke?
3. Jim Murez – his residence and (alleged) party house at 800, 802, 804 Main Street has a three-lot tie and is 35 feet tall vs. the 30 foot height limit. Why? How? His project was initially denied at the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission but then he appealed and the project and its numerous significant exceptions was approved by the L.A. City Council, in 2003. (The Coastal Act doesn’t allow a three lot consolidation in the North Venice Subarea.) Artist in residence? What kind of an artist is he?
During Jim’s previous multi-term involvement with the VNC as a member of its Land Use & Planning Committee, Murez personally processed all Venice land use projects using a self-operated and controlled land use project tracking system (Cityhood.org), in violation of City of L.A. regulations. This was determined by Carmen Hawkins, Deputy City Attorney, to be a significant conflict of interest, as she stated in a 2014 VNC Board meeting. Also in his prior VNC role, Murez refused and had to be forced to follow conflict of interest rules (more than once). When he was processing the LUPC projects, if a pending project never turned up on a LUPC Agenda you can bet that it was one of the ones Jim himself deemed de minimis and not in need of transparency.
Should one assume that this new member of the VNC Board, was elected to represent the community based on his desire to work for the betterment of quality of life in the Venice neighborhoods?
4. Matthew Royce – this guy is believed to manipulate projects to avoid Mello Act affordable unit requirements, and for at least one project he also allegedly has unpermited development (demo and construction). There are inconsistent facts in his City CDP Mello determination and confusion over his owner occupancy Mello Act exemptions……which begs the question: does Matthew Royce live in Venice? His listed address is a construction site. Matthew Royce sits as the newly elected LUPC Chair in the highly contested VNC election, and he plans to preside over, and represent the community in, the VNC’s review of all Venice Coastal Zone development projects, including many belonging to his fellow running mates, the new Board members.
Are our community’s land use project standards of review about to significantly change? And who will be the beneficiary of these representatives being the ones to influence development projects in Venice?
Knowing the great lengths these four and many others on their slate went to in order to win the election, it ought to be very obvious by now how valuable these city government community land use, volunteer roles are to them. Based on their past actions in land use matters, we have a very big hint as to why.