VNC Candidate for Vice President: Mark Ryavec

The following is the unedited response to the YoVenice reader questions from VNC Candidate for Vice President Mark Ryavec:

1. As you know, the forums at YoVenice.com have actively and vigorously been promoting a weekly write in campaign to city officials focused on unsafe living conditions in Venice Beach for the last six weeks. What have you, as an individual, done in the last six weeks to actively and vigorously promote the removal of criminal transients from Venice Beach?

On November 25th , the Venice Stakeholders Association, the group of which I am the president, sent a letter to Councilman Rosendahl requesting:

“an immediate meeting with the City Department Heads of the agencies listed below. We will discuss City enforcement of existing ordinances as well as propose enforcement solutions which can be implemented in the near term to relieve our streets of the current Bus/Camper/RV invasion, which has been exacerbated by the Coastal Commission’s denial of the Venice overnight parking districts.

We would ask that the meeting include the chiefs of the Department of Transportation, Department of Street Services, Parking Enforcement, Bureau of Sanitation, City Attorney and the Los Angeles Police Department, along with the appropriate enforcement level staff.”

The first meeting to discuss more aggressive enforcement was held in December and there have been two follow-up meetings. We have been encouraged by the response from City departments and see the new Transient Detail as both a response to our requests for enforcement and part of the solution to criminal transients living in Venice.

My opponent has been absent from these efforts and actively opposed enforcing the ban on lodging in vehicles. In fact, my opponent has lobbied to repeal the ban on lodging in vehicles, the only tool the LAPD has at the moment to remove RVs, large buses, and campers from our doorsteps.

I also wrote the Motion for the creation of an LAPD Homeless Liaison Patrol while serving as the co-chair of the VNC Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and Vehicular Occupation. This Motion was modeled on Santa Monica Police Department’s Homeless Liaison Officer program.

However, I have been told that the concept for the new LAPD Transient Detail came from the LAPD Senior Lead Officers who work Venice. The Transient Detail has a broader mission than just assisting the homeless; its mission is also to identify and remove dangerous transients and criminals and to enforce existing laws, including LAMC 85.02, which bans lodging in a vehicle, and the 72 ban on parking in one location.

2. Do you think transient and homeless citizens should have the same rights as Venice taxpayers, renters, and property owners in regard to voting in local VNC elections?

No. I lobbied to remove the one “factual basis stakeholder” community officer position. I think VNC elections should be run just like city, county, state and national elections – you vote only where you live. The sooner this happens the sooner we can press to have the VNC become a separate borough government with increasing self-government and certain powers – such as land-use and zoning decisions, for example – devolved from the City.

3. Have you ever worked in any capacity as or for a “developer”, or act in any capacity or as an adviser to a “development” firm or entity? Did this “developer” or “development group(s)” do business or try to do business in Venice Beach?

Yes, I have worked as a consultant for a developer.

My current client, a non-profit provider of affordable housing, is technically a developer of affordable housing in the northeast San Fernando Valley, where the need for this housing is much more acute than in Venice. However, the last project we developed, a domestic violence shelter with 38 units and a child care center, was in 2001. We have no current plans on the drawing board. If we returned to development, it would be in the northeast Valley.

In about 1988-9 I worked for Tom Safran, a developer of low-income senior housing, as a consultant to secure the return of school fees incorrectly levied on a senior housing project. (Since seniors don’t have school age kids, no school development fees should have been assessed.) Tom has developed at least one senior project in Venice, though I was not involved in that project.

I worked as consultant at about that same time for Trump-Wilshire Partners, the then- owner of the Ambassador Hotel, regarding the disposition of the hotel. Eventually the School District acquired the property under eminent domain and it is now a school. Neither Mr. Trump nor his partners showed any interest in Venice Beach.

I once worked as a consultant for Forest Lawn, the cemetery company, on a grading matter in West Covina. They are in the business of developing grave sites. They never told me of any interest in Venice.

Many years ago, in the early 90s, I worked for a couple of property owners in Venice on the permits for several small projects, such as the Venetian style building at the NE corner of Venice Boulevard and the Boardwalk and also on the patio area of the restaurant at the corner of Speedway and Washington. I also helped secure the final building permits for the Louver Art Gallery and the parking structure across from the Louver (that project is the only new parking structure built in Venice in the last 20 years).

4. Have you ever worked in any capacity as or for a “homeless rights” advocacy group or act in any capacity for or as an adviser for one? Has this group(s) actively supported the rights for people to live in their vehicles in Venice Beach?

No.

5. Do you agree that all existing laws should be actively and vigorously enforced to make Venice Beach a less attractive destination point for transients?

I think that all existing laws should be actively enforced to make Venice Beach a safer place for everyone. I also want all existing laws actively enforced to make Venice less of a magnet for those choosing to live in their vehicles as a life-style choice. I agree with Supervisor Yaroslavsky who told the VNC last year that RVs and campers properly belong in campgrounds, with water, power, and sewer hook-ups and showers nearby. They are not meant for living on the streets.

6. Are you for or against overnight parking districts and if so under what conditions?

I strongly support the right of Venice residents to implement overnight restricted parking (OPDs) where residents petition by a 2/3rds majority for these restrictions. On one hand, Venice residents should have the same right every other LA resident has to set-up this parking regime on their block. On the other, the whole permit process is a hassle and I think there should be substantial majority of a street’s residents in favor before it goes into effect.

7. Are you for or against more homeless shelters in Venice?

I support the “Housing First” model to help the homeless, as practiced in Santa Monica. The model focuses on providing housing first and then working with these individuals to provide services (employment, education, financial assistance, substance abuse counseling, etc.).

This model does not require that the housing be provided in one small geographic area, like Venice or Santa Monica, but looks regionally to secure the housing, either in scattered sites or in one or more buildings. So, the goal is not “more homeless shelters in Venice” but more supportive housing all over the Westside, with some certainly in Venice.

8. Are you for or against more affordable housing in Venice?

While serving as the co-chair of the VNC Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and Vehicular Occupation I asked the LA Housing Department for the number of affordable housing units in Council District 11, the district in which Venice is located. Those numbers show that Venice already has _twice_ as many affordable housing units per capita as any other neighborhood in CD 11.

Spending limited housing dollars in Venice is ill-advised since more low-income housing can be built where the land costs are lower; i.e., in-land from Venice.

This being said, I support the development of a particular type of affordable housing in Venice: permanent supportive housing. This is affordable housing for the chronically homeless who desperately need housing with services attached. It is this type of housing that is most desperately needed on the Westside and in Venice. Those who work with the chronically homeless told our committee that it is very difficult to motivate this audience to move any distance away from their “comfort zone” to housing. Thus, we should be creating housing for this group in general proximity to where they are homeless.

9. Are you for or against more Police Patrols in Venice Beach?

More, but I want them to get out of the car and get to know the residents, the joggers and roller-bladers, the homeless, the shopkeepers, etc.

10. What is your general assessment of quality of life at present in Venice Beach?

If I was going with just weather, amenities, the coastal ambiance and ease of living, I would say it is great. But it could be better.

11. Please list (in order) the top ten issues that you think need to be addressed / changed in Venice Beach, in order of priority. What will you actively pursue if elected and what time schedule do you think is appropriate to reach these goals.

First off, Bret, you have to accept that the VNC is just advisory and we can’t really make anything happen. I wish the VNC was a true city council, like the ones Santa Monica and Culver City have, with all their attendant power and authority, but it’s not. I think the VNC can join with like-minded neighborhood councils to conceptualize some changes in City law that would devolve real authority to neighborhood councils, but that is a multi-year effort.

1. Resident safety in our homes and on the streets and the right to the quiet enjoyment of our homes is the highest priority. This means working with, not against, the LAPD. It means supporting a more aggressive LAPD presence to identify and remove criminal transients. It means advocating for more police officers even while the City budget has limited any increase in officers.

2. Controlling development, which is particularly acute along the Abbott Kinney corridor. I have a land-use background and would expect to play a role on the VNC in assuring that recommendations coming out of the Land Use and Planning Committee are well-drawn and do not allow any development that exceeds the Venice Specific Plan, City limits on floor area ratio, and provides all Code-required parking.

3. Bringing more resources to Venice – private and public – to help those who are really down-and-out and living in our midst. While I was co-chairing the Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness I invited to Venice the key staff people from the City Housing Department, County Mental Health, DPSS, LA Homeless Services Agency, etc., to testify before our committee about their efforts in Venice (which unfortunately were minimal). I would like to make these interviews with those responsible for helping our homeless audience a regular part of the VNC meetings.

4. Freeing up parking for residents, at first at night, by removing non-residents, by implementing “no oversize vehicle” restrictions and if this does not work, allowing residents to implement restricted overnight parking – if they choose it for their block. Carefully reviewing the City DOT’s guidelines for “red-striping” curbs to see if in some places the value of a parking space is more than the value of the ease of making a right turn, for example. Re-start the dialogue with the City and Coastal Commission to allow day-time resident-only parking in the heavily congested areas near the beach.

5. Supporting the development of a “Vehicle-to-Housing” transition program that utilizes remote parking lots combined with services to help those living in the vehicles move to housing. By remote, I mean at least 250 feet from any habitable residence. The program should also have a time limit so people are not warehoused in their car or van or camper.

6. Starting a discussion about amending the Venice Specific Plan to save our historic architecture; the Craftsman and California Bungalow styles that create the ambiance that is Venice. This may mean designating some streets as “historic districts,” for example, if residents on those streets agree.

7. Addressing environmental issues locally, especially the pollution that threatens our primary resource, the ocean. In addition to removing RVs and campers that leak and/or dump sewage directly to the storm drain and the bay, we should be looking at all the other sources of non-point pollution and addressing them. A more aggressive “Don’t Trash Venice” campaign would be a start.

8. Attending to Venice’s “physical plant.” Focusing City attention on fixing the streets and sidewalks, filling the potholes, trimming the trees, etc. I am amazed that there still are alleys in Venice that are not paved. I’m worried about intersections where trees or shrubbery have blocked STOP signs. Adding bike paths and bike lanes throughout Venice. A first priority would be continuing the Main Street bike lane in Santa Monica through the heart of Venice to link up with the bike lane at Mildred and Washington Boulevard. Thousands of cyclists traverse this route every weekend without the protection of a formal bike lane.

9. Supporting the placement of more art work by Venice artists in public spaces. There is a tremendous amount of marvelous work by Venice artists hidden away in studios all over Venice. Find ways to finance installations in parks and other public places across Venice.

10. Nudging the City and School District to put solar installations on all public buildings in Venice: schools, fire department, etc.

Bret, I don’t have any time-line on these goals. When one is limited to working by persuasion, it’s impossible to set a deadline. One also has to get your colleagues and the community to go along with you, which is also time consuming.

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