There is yet another delay in the desperately needed Venice Dell homeless and low-income housing project in Venice.
A few months ago, city agencies stopped working with the nonprofit developers of the 140-unit development on a city-owned parking lot under orders from the city attorney. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass reversed that decision.
Now, just before the state Coastal Commission was expected to decide whether to approve the project, which sits in the Coastal Zone, Los Angeles city officials told the commission staff they wouldn’t take responsibility for operating the replacement parking garage as it’s currently designed. (City officials did say they would consider alternatives.)
The Coastal Commission staff has already spent nearly a year working with the nonprofit developers on the project. Now, the commission and city officials have delayed the timeline for approval by months.
This is ridiculous. Venice Dell has been years in development. The project has been approved twice by the L.A. City Council. It will provide much-needed housing for homeless people and low-income individuals in a community that desperately needs housing and services for its homeless population.
The nonprofit developers, Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing Corp., will build the housing and two parking garages, which are intended to replace the existing surface parking lot — a crucial amenity for beachgoers and Venice visitors. The developers will run the housing, but there’s no reason for them to take responsibility for a city-owned parking garage when the current lot is run by the city’s Department of Transportation.
This debate over who will manage the parking is stalling vital homeless housing. So why isn’t Bass telling Department of Transportation officials to resolve their issues with the parking facility and get this project moving again?
And why isn’t the mayor — who was elected on the promise that she would treat homelessness like an emergency — championing this project instead of letting city officials fumble around with it? Yes, it’s controversial. Most homeless housing projects are until they get built and the community realizes that homeless people who live in housing are no longer homeless. Bass’ entire homelessness agenda is supposedly focused on speeding up housing projects. And even as she rents more and more hotel rooms for homeless people, she knows very well that what the city really needs is more permanent housing for homeless people and that Los Angeles is way behind in building it.
But here we have city officials balking at running these particular parking garages. (Becky Dennison, with Venice Community Housing, says that Department of Transportation officials had seen all the iterations of the parking garages and approved the designs — and she wrote as much in a recent email to Bass’ office.)
The garages involve a system of lifts and will need attendants to operate, making them more expensive. So, yes, the parking facility is more complicated than the slab of asphalt out there now. But we’re talking about a parking garage, not a spaceship. Surely, the Department of Transportation can figure it out.
Most of all, if the mayor cares about expediting housing projects and is concerned that not enough people have transitioned into permanent housing, as she has said publicly, then she needs to tell city officials to agree to take responsibility for the parking garages as they have been designed, resolve any other outstanding issues that the Coastal Commission staff has, and get this project the approval it needs. Let’s not spend another year waiting.