Parking Lots or Affordable Housing?

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A rendition of the 140 units affordable housing complex proposed on the canals. Photo: Venice Community Housing.

Venice median project sparks debate.

By Cailley Chella

It’s no secret that parking in Venice is in low supply. That’s why the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) is concerned about a new affordable housing project where LADOT parking lot #731 is now

“They say homeless people don’t have cars,” said Ira Koslow, President of the VNC, “So is there really 188 extra parking spots or are they going ‘Well, we really need 400, but we’re only putting in 188 because they don’t drive?’”

LADOT Parking Lot #731 is located by the canals on Venice Boulevard, between North and South Venice Boulevard, between Pacific Avenue and Dell Avenue. That lot is where Venice Community Housing (VCH) has proposed a new, 140-unit affordable housing project that they’re calling the Reese Davidson Community. The project would designate 70 units for formerly homeless people, 35 units for low-income artists and 35 units for other low-income families. The site would also have a community arts center and retail stores as well as at least 188 parking spaces for residents and the public. Parkme.com lists the lot as currently having 177 public parking spaces.

According to an L.A. City Council motion submitted by Councilmember Mike Bonin, back in 2014 Council District 11 submitted a Request for Information (RFI) concerning potential development of current city-owned parking lots in Venice. The RFI discussed increasing the city’s parking capacity with automated lots as well as developing affordable housing on the lots. The motion says that the RFI supported the idea that lot #731 was the best option for the development of public parking in conjunction with affordable housing. Bonin’s Deputy Chief of Staff, David Graham-Caso also said, “A parking study was conducted by the Department of City Planning for the Local Coastal Program update in Venice.” Caso said this study is still in draft form, but that it will serve as a starting point for LADOT. The results of that study have not yet become available for the public.

Councilmember Bonin is asking for more information about the project, but the VNC remains concerned. On Monday, Feb. 25 they submitted a community impact statement detailing the expansive efforts they’ve taken to increase parking in Venice, not decrease.

In January of this year, Bonin again submitted a motion to study the location in conjunction with the need for additional public parking, alternatives to relocating the parking lot and evaluate the costs, benefits and funding sources of a potential new public parking structure. On Monday night, the VNC held a special meeting to approve and submit their community impact statement (CIS) to be attached to Bonin’s motion, which they say, he violated City Charter Section 907 in never requesting it from them in the first place.

The community impact statement details the work the VNC has been doing over the past few decades in trying to study and improve parking in the city. In it, they refer to a number of studies to show that the council is already aware of the parking shortage and they have funds to build more. A “Venice Traffic and Parking Plan” from the 1990s reported the city had a shortage of about 1200 parking spaces. And the 2012 Westside Mobility Plan “Venice In-Lieu Fee Report” says the City has been collecting fees from the Venice Parking Trust Fund, established in 1988, that could be used to finance new parking structures.

The statement also details a request made by the council in 2017 to get an inventory of parking spaces in the city. They say their request was approved and that a study of parking in Venice would be included in an upcoming Venice Coastal Zone Land Use Plan, but that they still haven’t received this information.

Becky Dennison, the Executive Director of Venice Community Housing says the project will actually increase parking options, “We also hope to increase public parking and create additional options for through traffic at the Reese Davidson site, as recommended in the CIS.”