April 12, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Venice Shorts: A Reliable Community Voice

By Nick Antonicello

An accomplished architect and neighborhood advocate, J. Robert Thibodeau is a consensus moderate who seeks solutions for those issues Venetians truly care about! 

VENICE – J. Robert Thibodeau is an eclectic Venice local who as a principal in an architectural firm located on Lincoln Boulevard offers both a sustaining vision for Venice while understanding that the nuts and bolts of community governance such as clean streets, ample parking, public safety and dealing with the challenges of homelessness are both equally critical to most stakeholders as he seeks another term as a Community Officer for this local NC. 

I have known Robert for about a decade and served with him on the Parking & Transportation Committee of the VNC where he had a commanding knowledge of our public parcels and how to best offer an institutional understanding of Venice only a handful of residents possess. 

Robert finished 13th in 2021 to win reelection in a very crowded race and finds himself again in a sea of 36 other candidates seeking one of 13 seats as a Community Officer. 

Since Venice Stakeholders can only select a single candidate, the race for these seats will be the most competitive as we head into the campaign’s final stretch. 

With the vote-by-mail option now closed, all stakeholders can vote in-person free of COVID restrictions come March 26th at the Oakwood Recreation Center, located at 727 California Avenue. 

The polls open at 10 am

I run into Robert frequently as he and his nineteen year-old son Lucas are avid runners, putting in three miles a day, three days a week. The 59-year old father, local business owner and community activist is a 34-year resident of Venice and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Originally from Northern California who attended high school back east in Massachusetts, Robert is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians, a Licensed Architect, LACMA Member, and a contributor to Venice Arts, the Venice Family Clinic and a member of the Venice Chamber of Commerce (VCC). 

Robert’s home designs have been captured on film by the late Julius Shulman, one of the most recognized architectural photographers known for his images of The Stahl House as well as the works of the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright . Regarded as one of the most important architectural photographers of the 20th century, he is the only photographer to have been assigned an honorary lifetime membership of the American Institute of Architects.

While public service is a strong sense of who Robert is, he has an engaging personality, a lover of Italian cuisine, surfer, and spends time with his family while having a keen eye for a day at the beach, the arts and of course, architecture. 

For Robert is a to-the-point individual, short on rhetoric and long on results and action. 

He is a listener, who makes pointed observations in his deliberations as a community board member that are refreshing and frank. 

I sent Robert a few questions to consider and in typical Thibodeau fashion, cuts to the chase with concise clarity, as he understands that the individual who speaks the most doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. 

Here is Robert’s view of Venice moving forward: 

  • You have served several terms on the Venice Neighborhood Council. What motivates you to continue to serve in this volunteer capacity? 

I feel that with the change in leadership at the Council Office (CD-11), we finally have leadership that will work with the VNC to improve our community. We have much needed infrastructure and community improvement projects.

  • You have also served on the Parking & Transportation Committee for some time. What are the issues currently before that body? 

We are currently working on short term and long term improvemnts to Lincoln Blvd. For the short term they include traffic safety improvements at key crosswalks and maintenence and replacement of missing plants in the tree wells. Long term would be to underground the overhead wires. We are also trying to improve the intersection at Marr and Abbott Kinney.

  • You not only live in Venice, but work here too. What do you see as issues that the board needs to address moving forward? 

The most important role of the board is to be a voice of the community. Since we have a lot of factions in Venice that don’t always agree, I think it’s important to take a moderate stance and to treat others, even those with whom you disagree, with respect. I am a moderate and a consensus builder.

  • As an architect, you bring a different perspective to the VNC. Is Venice headed in the right direction from a land use point-of-view? Where do you see real estate values headed? 

Venice has an amazing architectural history, one that I’m proud to be a part of! Whether you’re talking about the old Abbott Kinney buildings and others of that era or the newer experimental building by Frank Gehry and others, we are lucky to live in a community that has both. As far as direction, I worry that as outside forces increasingly control what happens in Venice, i.e. City Hall and the Coastal Commision, we see our freedom and creativity erode.

  • Homelessness is a universal issue that effects the entire community. What can the VNC do to assist in the process of eliminating street encampments here in Venice? 

I campaigned hard for Traci Park (LA City Council Member) because I felt we needed a change that she could provide. Along with Mayor Bass, she has shown what can be done to compassionately move people off the street. I believe the next step is to clear the city of RVs through a safe parking program and reinstatement of existing parking laws.

  • Currently there are 13 Community Officers and 37 candidates. But stakeholders can only select a single candidate. Would you support a change that allows stakeholders to select 13 officers? If not, why not? 

I’m not terribly concerned with the format of the election. Either way works for me.

  • Are you looking forward to in-person meetings again and how has virtual meetings changed the VNC during the pandemic? 

I am looking forward to in-person meetings again. I miss seeing people face to face. The virtual meetings haven’t been bad, but I am looking forward to the return of in-person. Maybe I’m just old-school that way.

  • CD-11 now has a new council member in Traci Park. How do you assess her job thus far? 

AMAZING!

  • How will you engage stakeholders in this campaign? What are three things you want voters to know about you? 

I’m a moderate, I’m pro-business, I’m pro family, I’m for public safety and the arts.

  • What is your assessment of Oceanfront Walk and the Venice Pier? What can be done to draw commerce, tourism and visitation back to Venice? 

We got a lot of bad press during covid and because of the huge encampment on OFW. I feel that we are on the rebound and I try to stay positive about just about everything. Venice is a special place, I’m at the pier most every day. I see you there!

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian who is covering the March 26th Venice Neighborhood Council Elections. While he is not a runner, He does make his way to the Venice Pier where their paths have crossed. A member of the Outreach & Oceanfront Committees of the VNC, Antonicello can be contacted via e-mail at nantoni@mindsrping.com

in Opinion
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