HOW I ENVISION THE DIRECTION OF LUPC AND WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY IF RE-ELECTED
Transparency & Outreach
First, I want to point out that the current Land Use & Planning Committee (LUPC) is a fantastic, talented, and first-rate group of Venetians. I value each member tremendously. We have varying opinions, backgrounds and available time, but every member has made a very significant contribution. The amount we have accomplished in less than two years is amazing. Together we managed to hear and make meaningful recommendations on nearly every Venice case going through the City Hearing process.
We uncovered the mishandling of Mello Act Determinations, which was causing our affordable housing to disappear; we got the City to change its procedure and follow the law. We brought focus to the Coastal Development Permit process and the need for adequate Findings for “access” to the coast and for protecting the unique character of Venice. Our community was designated by the Coastal Commission in its 2001 Land Use Plan certification as a Special Coastal Community, which is something to be protected at all costs. The Commission had largely lost sight of this until we brought it back into focus by attending Coastal Commission meetings every month, no matter where in the State they were held, and consistently delivering our message. We also made significant progress on exposing and fixing the exception and exemption processes – VSOs and Coastal Exemptions (CEXs) – which have been seriously misused and abused to allow overdevelopment and removal of affordable housing, especially in Oakwood. Also, from the beginning of my term I made it my policy to record every meeting, prepare timely minutes, be transparent with all cases and case documents, and give more time and respect to those coming to the LUPC hearings to express their issues and concerns. Breaking with previous LUPC practice, I decided the committee should take the trouble to transparently review “de minimis” cases, as defined in our VNC Standing Rules. These policies will continue.
In my second term I will work more closely with the Neighborhood Committee in order to improve community outreach and empower them early in the process by providing land use information important to the neighborhoods at the time when it is first received. I have found that with both our project case work and on important land use issues, the earlier and more proactive our communications the better.
One of my goals is to empower more Venetians, and one of the key ways of doing that is to assure that we are all trained in how to research potential issues that we may see. Our eyes and ears are the first line of defense, and many times an issue can be caught early on and nipped in the bud before it goes too far. Even something as simple as a confusing Project Description on a Public Notice can and should be questioned and researched. Also, what one Stakeholder might see that they believe is a violation could be properly approved. When a Stakeholder sees a potential violation, I want them to know how to use the tools available to be able to research the issue and know exactly what their options are in terms of action–whether it’s something they think was erroneously approved by the City, or whether it’s a possible violation.
The Public Trust in the land use process is critical.
Other ideas for the upcoming term include creating a LUPC ethics early warning system where stakeholders can anonymously (or not) submit concerns for Chair awareness/action, proposing VNC ByLaw amendments and LUPC case review policies that will ensure an ethical and effective land use process for Venice.
Developing a Culture of Ethics
It’s vital to make a culture of ethics a priority. To accomplish this, strong leadership, education and awareness are needed.
I recently came across the December 9, 2013 issue of the Venice Update, which included four letters blasting the city for its non-responsiveness to the serious land use-related concerns being raised by the community over time. Reading it reminded me that we cannot tolerate inaction by our government officials. According to the City’s ethics code, they have an obligation to take action or report on improper governmental activities within their knowledge. Only if we make a culture of ethics a priority can we eliminate the implied complicity resulting from this obligation being ignored. With ethics made a priority, the integrity of land use decisions will significantly improve. It must be a priority for our public officials and city employees to follow and honor the City of L.A. Code of Ethics.
When I was running for LUPC Chair two years ago, I made a commitment to restore the Public Trust. This commitment included assuring that LUPC members carry out their responsibilities in an impartial manner, reducing LUPC/VNC “errors” to an immaterial level and stopping the confiscation and obfuscation, assuring that the VNC recommendation letters got to the correct City Planning decision maker, more stakeholder involvement in analyzing cases, review of LUPC conflicts of interest, and working to assure all decisions and actions are transparent, including recording all LUPC meetings and making them available to the Public.
Focus on Improving Processes, Efficiencies and Controls, as well as Major Planning Initiatives
We’ve laid much groundwork in getting our arms around the processes and issues and identifying the problems. As we move forward, this allows us to increase our focus on improving processes and gaining the resulting efficiencies, adding reliable internal controls and necessary checks and balances, and being involved in major planning initiatives. Regarding process improvement, I know that processing time for land use permits can be significantly shortened and I will make it one of my highest priorities to work with city and state to make that happen. Also, now that there is a wider and more cohesive understanding of the State and local laws, policies and processes for development in the Venice Coastal Zone, we are having more and more success in working out issues between concerned neighbors and applicants early in the process rather than later in the process using appeals. This helps everyone and is something I will continue to our focus on more and more.
In addition, over the past two years we, the LUPC/VNC, have proposed numerous excellent non project-related recommendations to our Council Office, City Planning and the Coastal Commission Staff. These recommendations serve to improve processes and proposed regulations and/or add important checks and balances. I will stay on top of these recommendations and work with Council Office, City and State to bring them to fruition.
I’m anxious to find a LUPC member for this next term who is willing, able and motivated to be even more involved in Venice land use and planning, with whom I can share some of the administrative but important work, such as allocating cases to committee members, coordinating with applicants, researching and resolving issues, recommending proposed VNC de minimis projects, submitting reports to the VNC Board and City, and attending City public hearings.
Sharing much of this work will allow me to not only increase the empowerment of the committee but it will allow me to focus more on the things mentioned above, such as improving processes and controls and sorting out applicant issues early in the process. It will also give the LUPC some breathing room to focus on major planning initiatives in the pipeline. In addition, Venice needs to have a strong, knowledgeable voice at the table for the implementation of the new Mello Act Ordinance, for protection of our coastal housing, especially affordable housing, and also for tightening up the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance for Venice east of Lincoln. The biggest land use issue of all will be the development of the Venice LCP (Local Coastal Program), which will implement the Coastal Act at the local level. It’s essential that someone with a deep understanding of city and coastal laws, who has the Public’s Trust, is involved on behalf of the community to make sure we build in strong protections for our unique coastal community.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and plans for a second term as Land Use & Planning Committee Chair of the most special coastal community in California, if not the world!
For the love of Venice…