By: Roxanne Brown – Member of Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset
Once again, we see the receding shoreline of democracy and the rising tide of special interests. Coastal Commissioners are supposedly public servants. Yet despite the majority of the public protesting several commissioners’ desire to fire the California Coastal Commission’s Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester, the commissioners did just that. With a majority vote, they fired Lester. Commissioners were then escorted out of the building by security. Our public servants, the coastal commissioners, ignored the public’s demands to retain Lester.
COASTAL COMMISSION HEARINGS
Here’s what Venetians have been observing:
Tattle Tale: The Coastal Commission received a letter from a group of fifty people calling themselves Venice Community Members (VCM), with Tami Pardee, owner of Pardee Real Estate as lead signature. The letter dated October 7, 2015, states that Robin Rudisill, LUPC (Land Use and Planning Committee) Chair’s “…sole mission is to thwart any development whatsoever in Venice.”
Mike Newhouse, President of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) confirmed that in fact, more than 80% of developments have gone through under Rudisill’s leadership. Rudisill’s batting average in solely thwarting any development is less than 20%.
Based on Forbes magazine’s February 5, 2015 article, “L.A.’s top-selling female realtor closed 150 deals in 2014” one could argue that Pardee’s sole purpose is to turn bungalows into Mega Mansions. The article states that Jim Quandt’s company Thomas James Capital listed 20 houses with Pardee, wanting to spruce up aging bungalows and flip them for a modest profit.
Forbes goes on: “Pardee suggested that Quandt …build something bigger and modern. [Quandt says] ‘She believed it would create a whole new market in this neighborhood and she was confident that we could exit this at $2 million.’ Sure enough, it sold immediately for well over list.” Forbes says Pardee’s firm “increased sales from $330 million in 2013 to $417 million in 2014.”
Pardee’s batting average (in solely promoting development of Venice bungalows into Mega Mansions) appears to be more than 80%.
Reprimand: After receiving VCM’s letter and apparently speaking with Pardee, Commissioner Wendy Mitchell reprimanded Venice activists at a coastal commission meeting for “wasting” the commissions time with illegitimate cases.
Turns out activists seem to have brought legitimate cases of wrongdoing before the commission:
DEVELOPERS DO WRONG- COMMISSIONERS SUPPORT THEM
On July 9, 2015, Fran Camaj’s Black Beast restaurant at 1305 Abbott Kinney came before a Coastal Commission hearing. The commission had required thirteen parking spaces at this site. Camaj and architect, Stephen Vitalich, had agreed part of that would be accommodated by building 3 single car lifts.
1305 got built with no lifts. Greg Shoop at City Planning granted Camaj a permit allowing removal of (never built) car lifts to be replaced with bike racks. The City is not allowed to override the California Coastal Commission. At the hearing, commissioners voted 6-5 for the need to install car lifts.
Commissioner Roberto Uranga said he felt the whole thing was disingenuous – the applicant seemed to have no intention to comply with the condition of car lifts. Bochco and Vargas complimented Camaj on encouraging alternative transport. Vargas chatted with Camaj and Vitalich before the hearing and praised Camaj’s food during the hearing.
Commissioners Dayna Bochco, Greg Cox, Martha McClure, Wendy Mitchell, and Mark Vargas voted against the need to comply and build car lifts.
At a November 5th Coastal hearing, Venice landlord Carl Lambert admitted to turning his 31 unit apartment building at 2 Breeze into 30 Short Term Rentals plus one apartment. Lambert admitted to running a de facto hotel. And was now “after the fact” getting a permit for conversion to a hotel. Lambert also admitted to doing the same at other apartment buildings he owns.
Commissioners could vote on a fee of $37,264 or charge five times that amount for an “after the fact” permit. The vote was 7 -4 for the higher fee. Mitchell was not in attendance.
Dayna Bochco, Greg Cox, Martha McClure, and Mark Vargas voted, “No” to the higher fee.
Lambert is the President of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. Is that a good example for the business community? A person not adhering to rules and regulations is President of the Venice Chamber of Commerce?
Clearly some business owners are disregarding rules, regulations, codes, compliance and laws. And, some commissioners seem to support this “property gangster” behavior.
COMMISSIONERS BOTCHED IT – MUST GO
Many Californians believe Charles Lester needs to be reinstated. Many Californians want to see the four commissioners Brown appointed gone. All four voted YES to firing Lester:
Wendy Mitchell: Steve Lopez in the LA Times called her out on her Face book photo with the Edge from U2, where she apologized for the delay in approving his compound on a Malibu hilltop.
Mitchell worked as a VP at Cadiz Inc, a company that acquires and develops raw land. She has consulted for Combined Properties, a California real estate firm and has lobbied for PG&E.
Martha McClure: Often at hearings, McClure says that the City gets so many things wrong when it comes to Venice that she can’t possibly disapprove of the developer’s project.
Erik Howell: Steve Lopez reported in the LA Times that Erik Howell has been seen dining with Susan McCabe (a consultant representing businesses going before the coastal commission) and developers.
Effie Turnbull Sanders SF Gate’s February 6, 2016 article reported “In his memo, Lester did not bring up accusations by several conservation organizations that the most development –friendly commissioners – Wendy Mitchell, Martha McClure, Effie Turnbull-Sanders and Erik Howell – are behind the effort because they want to seize control of the coast for the governor.”
These commissioners who voted YES to firing Lester also need to go:
Mark Vargas: Steve Lopez reported in the LA Times that McCabe set up a meeting between Mark Vargas, Evans (The Edge) and his wife in Ireland. At Lester’s hearing, Vargas reminded everyone that he couldn’t accept a $10 sandwich.
Vargas is President of Mission Infrastructure, a project management and development-consulting firm based in Los Angeles.
Gregory Cox: Cox was not in attendance, his alternate Olga Diaz voted YES to firing Lester.
Roberto Uranga seemed to represent the public in the past. Yet, he voted YES to firing Lester. Some Venetians say that as of late, when looking at how he votes, Uranga seems to have gone to the other side. The jury is out. To be determined…
BOCHCO – DOES NO MEAN YES?
On November 18, 2015 Dayna Bochco and Susan McCabe co-hosted a reception and fundraiser for Anthony Rendon, who has since been elected to a position that will have the power to appoint as many as four coastal commissioners.
Bochco appears to have her eyes on a future political career – is that why she voted NO on Lester’s firing? It seems she knew her YES vote wasn’t needed to fire Lester.
SUSAN MCCABE CONSULTANT
Way back on April 11, 2012, New Times reported in an article “Morro Cayucos JPA to Vote on Consultant Contract:” At that time, McCabe was a lobbyist. JPA paid her $12,500 a month and estimated her cost would be $155,000 to make it through the Coastal Commission.
Readers can find her list of clients, seemingly a who’s who of California power at http://www.mccabeandcompany.net/home.html
GOTCHA – GOTTA GO
Many coastal commissioners seem not to be representing the public’s best interests, nor the coast’s best interests. They are not acting professionally.
Lopez LA Time’s article states that at Lester’s hearing, Mitchell and Bochco “gabbed like school kids on the dais, and they cast seventh-grade smirks at the press row…”
The majority of Californians do not want to be represented by commissioners who seem to clearly have conflicts of interest and act in such an immature and unprofessional manner.
If you’re “mad, cuz we been had” please donate $5 now to fight property gangsters. Do it now, or you won’t do it. https://www.gofundme.com/helpsavevenice