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#EVICTSNAPCHAT

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 15:15

On Friday October 6th, The Venice Dogz once again held a protest against Snapchat’s

by Jon Wolff

parent company Snap Inc. to raise awareness on their expansion in Venice. Snapchat has been telling the media and the community that they’re leaving when their actions clearly say the opposite. The protest was held on Abbot Kinney Boulevard just south of Brooks Avenue across the street from Westminster Elementary School, which is adjacent to two buildings where Snapchat has expanded their presence.

920 S Abbot Kinney Boulevard: They’ve taken over this entire Victorian building. It’s next to their other huge office at the corner of Abbot Kinney and Main. This building has applied for a change of use from the Coastal Commission to change it from Residential to Commercial. This means they’re already in there illegally now and it also asks the question, “Why would they care to change the zoning of the building if they plan on leaving?”

901 Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Snap only had one office in this complex and now they’ve expanded in this building by way of taking over the Microsoft Lounge. The Microsoft Lounge was used by the Venice Community because The Sundance Institute was housed within it. Movie screenings and panel discussions were held there – not any more. Snap Inc. continues to displace more people and businesses and take away local establishments. Again, if they’re moving to Santa Monica, why kick out yet another Venice business?

Big companies don’t do this by accident. Snap Inc. uses the same old excuse about growing too quickly to justify their expansion in Venice while at the same time they keep claiming that they’re going to leave next year leaving behind just a few small offices. They continue to lie to the community and the press and it seems like they lie to their own employees too!

During the protest, a senior executive from Snapchat told the Venice Dogz they plan on moving everyone to Santa Monica by the end of 2018 and even went as far to say that 500-700 employees have already moved there. Which is amazing, however that would mean many of these buildings would now be empty and they’re obviously not. Seems like they may have had so many employees crammed into offices that it’s not possible to feel any difference in scale from their reported shifting of employees from Venice to Santa Monica.

This was the same senior executive that told the Venice Dogz that the hideous Spectacles Store at Thornton Lofts on Ocean Front Walk was only a pop-up store and would only last “a few days” and it’s currently been over 7 months. That very same building is packed with so many employees that we are told there’s not enough bathrooms for everyone to use in a timely manner. Not to mention, Snap currently resides illegally there at Thornton Lofts because this space is zoned Live/Work and there’s no residential living going on there at all. It’s packed with employees as evidence in their very own employee Jobs video found on their very own website. The number of employees at Thornton Lofts also has also created trash problems where long-time neighbors of those buildings claim their trash bins are always overfilled with corporate waste because of the countless Snapchat employees that are housed in buildings that are only intended to be used for a small number of people. These same residents used to be able to park overnight there also, but now the parking lots there are only used by Snapchat employees during the day and are almost completely vacant overnight.

Their expansion in Venice and claims of departure bring up other questions too:

1) They knew way in advance that they were going public and more employees would be needed – so why wouldn’t they have a concrete plan in advance to get out of Venice to handle the employee growth? Most probably answer: Because they never planned to leave.

2) Also, six weeks ago Snap Inc. was doing construction on the former restaurant called Tlapazola Grill, that is now part of their office enclave at 606-654 Venice Blvd which is a mini-compound of Snap offices. Why would Snap Inc. be taking over a restaurant and reconstructing it into an office when they plan to leave only a few small offices left behind in Venice next year?

It simply doesn’t add up. On March 15, 2017, senior leaders of Snap Inc. told the Venice Dogz they were not taking over any more buildings in Venice, yet businesses are still being kicked out all over town and EVERY business in Venice is fearful that they will be next – retail store or otherwise. And they’re not just replacing other businesses and corporations that could be anywhere in a dog-eat-dog world – they’re displacing businesses and corporations that are local staples that were used by Venetians every day. The Teen Project on Market Street wasn’t just another non-profit company – it was a program that was needed for troubled teens right here in Venice. The Sundance Institute at the Microsoft Lounge wasn’t just another business – the locals attended movie screenings and events there all the time.

Nikki’s, Sean’s Café and Tlapazola Grill weren’t just any other restaurants – they were adored by locals and always frequented by Venetians, not to mention the many other victims like the Freak Show and the ripple effect Snapchat’s mere presence has caused. These victims and the many others were all viable and productive businesses that were in Venice for a reason, as opposed to a company like Snapchat that only needs desks and computers for their employees and could easily do business anywhere!! Even local restaurants complain that Snapchat employees use their own private commissaries more than the local eateries.

So when does it end? When do land owners, property owners, lease holders, City of LA, California Coastal Commission and our own Venice Neighborhood Council stand up to this company and say enough is enough – this is Venice and NOT Snapville? When does Snap Inc. themselves look at what they’ve done to this historic community and realize they’ve done more damage than good and STOP displacing more people and businesses, not to mention taking away beach access, resident parking and the many other problems they create? Hopefully it’s not already too late – we’ll all be waiting and watching.
To see the full story of how Snap is ruining Venice check out AllianceForVenice.org/snapchat

To join the fight against Snap go to AllianceForVenice.org


Venice-Dell-Pacific Housing Project Proposed implementation of HHH in our neighborhood

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 14:51

By Lisa Robins

The mysterious Venice-Dell-Pacific (VDP) is a controversial project which would create 136 units of affordable and permanent supportive housing on city owned land in the median currently being used as a parking lot, bordering North and South Venice Boulevards, Dell, and Pacific Avenues.

There’s been a maelstrom of competing claims by various groups around Venice, and I’m going to attempt to simplify the issues and give the basics. Over the next couple of issues, the Beachhead will dive deeper into competing concerns about the potential development.

The Process

On November 8th, 2016, Proposition HHH received 77% voter approval. HHH allows the City of LA up to 1.2 billion to finance Affordable and Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), and facilities for the homeless such as service centers, clinics, storage facilities, showers, etc. It’s not available to fund services or operations.

Permanent Supportive Housing combines permanent, affordable housing for the homeless with support services “designed to build independent living and tenancy skills, assistance with integrating into the community, and connections to community-based health care, treatment, and employment services.”

As part of a program designed to implement HHH, approximately 40 City owned parcels throughout LA have been identified as “opportunity sites”, properties which are underused or vacant. 30 of these 40 have been designated for development to provide affordable housing thus far. Council District 11 currently has 3 of these 40 city owned properties.

Mike Bonin is our current City Council Representative. District 11 covers all or a portion of the following: Brentwood, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palms, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Venice, West Los Angeles, Westchester and LAX.

Last December, the City of LA, as part of this citywide program in every council district, chose Venice Community Housing (VCH), in partnership with Hollywood Community Housing (HCH), to enter a two year, exclusive negotiating relationship to develop one of the three properties; Venice-Dell-Pacific Permanent Supportive Housing community.
Venice Community Housing (VCH) and HCH are non-profit developers who create neighborhood based housing through public/private partnerships.

The mission of VCH is “to reduce homelessness, maximize affordable housing, empower residents, provide social services, and advocate for public policy that protects and strengthens the economic, racial and cultural diversity of Venice and other neighborhoods on the Westside of Los Angeles.”

There have been several public community feedback meetings since January 2017, the last one in July, to determine elements the community is interested in including in the proposed development. Becky Dennison, Executive Director of VCH since February 2016, has been appearing regularly within the Venice community to ask for feedback and answer questions.

After plans are submitted to the City in December, about 18 months of public hearings are required before the project could receive approval.
V

CH is in the process of gathering support for the project through various methods including: small informational meetings in homes and organizations by invitation, and students knocking on doors and passing out flyers. If all goes well, the project will be approximately two years to groundbreaking.

The building itself

Venice-Dell-Pacific would consist of 140 units: housing studios and one or two bedroom apartments. The architect is Culver City based Eric Owen Moss. A shared Community Arts Space, with a flexible design for multiple use, would host events, “healthy clubs”, and community meetings. There are plans for arts focus groups to help fully employ the Arts Space.

Social enterprise small scale retail shops, arts, and housing would share the street level on the west side of Grand Canal (which intersects the property), and Pacific.
Two new parking structures would be centered in the core of each property. The east side parking structure would continue to be for public use, while the west side structure would add additional parking for VDP tenants and visitors, as required by code.
VCH will do a traffic study and an Environmental Impact Review. Venice-Dell-Pacific hopes to improve traffic by employing “smart parking technology”, instead of the current practice of “1 in and 1 out”. Venice-Dell Pacific is staying within the limits of Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.

It would be 3 or 2 levels, with varied roofs and decks. Total height of the building is 25-35 ft. VCH won’t be asking for height variances (exceptions to current height restrictions). The setback (space between the sidewalk and building) would be 5-30 ft.

Although there have been visuals shared at community meetings, these were “massings” designed to give a general idea of the shape and size of the project. There is currently no final design. The square footage of each unit is currently being worked out. Ms. Dennison told me that studios will range between 275-400 square feet.

There would be open space for tenants, and green and open space for all. The Venice library and space for the Friday Farmers Market would remain. PSH buildings are required to remain affordable for at least 55 years.

Who would get to live at Venice-Dell-Pacific? Venice-Dell-Pacific would consist of; ½ (68 units) Permanent Supportive Housing for formerly homeless individuals and families, ¼ (34 units) Low Income artist -containing a mix of studios and apartments (not yet finalized), ¼ (34 units) Low Income families (studios and apts.) Plus 4 units (apartments) for on-site resident managers. The two buildings would insure 24/7 staffing to provide onsite support and maintenance services. 4 additional full time case workers would support residents but reside elsewhere. They would meet regularly in on site offices and community spaces within the property coordinating access to services.

Additionally, partnerships will be developed with existing service providers, food pantries, and other community based organizations to support residents.
Tenants are chosen through the Co-ordinated Entry System (CES)

A street outreach team will proactively market to homeless people to be put on a centralized list. The CES employs a detailed assessment of each homeless person to attempt to utilize a “matching process” for apartments and potential residents. People with the most need move to the top. One criteria for “a good fit” is if housing is close to where one has been receiving services. Chronic conditions, and the length of time of homelessness, are other factors taken into consideration. The wait list will be regional within Westside communities, and the street outreach team will prioritize Venice homeless people within legal limits.

There are currently more than 10,000 on the wait list.County-wide measurements of income Affordable housing (cheaper housing) = 60% of area median. Individual-about $37,000, Family of 4- $50,000- $55K (currently $54K)

Source: http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ctcac/rentincome/17/income/10-income-limits-post041417.pdf

Low-income artists= must show a panel their art, and qualify financially.
Permanent Supportive Housing =for the chronically homeless. Permanent Supportive Housing provides housing for life (as opposed to Transitional Housing which has time limits) If a PSH tenant’s income becomes higher than the limit, transition out of the unit is encouraged. Where they would go in LA’s housing market is beyond me.

Why Venice?

Becky Dennison of VCH states, “Every community benefits from affordable housing and diversity, particularly Venice, which was created from artists and bohemians… its goal is to democratize the neighborhood.”

Additionally, Fair Housing Laws demand a reduction of geographical segregation of affordable housing. In other words, by law you can’t just sell prime real estate in order to fund low income housing in existing low income neighborhoods.

VCH is committed to protect affordable housing in Venice, taking the solution to where the problem is.

Of Council District 11’s 4 properties, 3 have been awarded for development. I’ve just learned that the Firehouse in Westchester will not be developed into PSH as previously stated.

1 in WLA –The animal shelter on Pico

2 in Venice- Thatcher Yard (Maintenance yard in the Oxford triangle), and Venice-Dell Pacific

The third potential development in Venice, the Metro bus depot, is separate from the City land program, and is in the community engagement process. It would be mixed income, mixed use, with 30% affordable housing.

Current PSH units

I tried to find a current list of PSH units in LA but found it difficult. Becky tells me the United Way is working on amassing the statistics. There are currently 6,000 people in supplemental housing citywide. The entire Westside hosts only 5% of LA’s Permanent Supportive Housing. Venice contains 41 existing PSH units, and less than 1,000 affordable housing units. Santa Monica has around 350 PSH units, and 3000 affordable housing units.Del Rey has 60 existing PSH units Brentwood’s VA site will contain 1800 units of PSH currently in development, however this stems from a Federal program specifically for veterans. Pacific Palisades and Malibu host zero PSH units as far as Becky knows. However there are many homeless residents camping in the hills and on the streets.
VCH currently has 216 units of affordable housing in Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey.
(http://www.vchcorp.org/housing/our-properties)

At our community meeting Linda Lucks, Community Outreach for VCH asked, “Do you know where the VCH’s 14 existing apartment buildings are located? Perhaps if you don’t know, it’s because they’re well-managed and fit into the fabric of their neighborhoods in Venice, Del Rey and Mar Vista.”
.

VCH has not built new affordable or PSH units in Venice for 20 years, though they have preserved and utilized existing units during that time. ½ of 1% of housing in Venice is permanent supportive housing. There’s been no new 100% affordable development in Venice since 1995, except senior housing project on Ocean Front Walk. Additionally, we’ve lost affordable housing from Airbnb.

Funding

The public/private partnerships would be funded through HHH, foundations, tax credits and private support. Like charitable donations, funders get tax write offs.General Obligation Bonds (GO Bonds) will be funded by a property tax levy based on its assessed value. Construction cost per unit is approximately 350,000. Ultimately, Ms. Dennison points out, “It’s more expensive to leave people living on the streets”.

Affordable housing stabilizes and increases property values in lower-income communities, but the fear is that is decreases values in high income communities like Venice. Though within Venice, property values are still extremely high for those living near existing affordable and permanent supportive housing.

Permanent supportive housing tenants receive rent subsidies through HUD (Housing Urban Development), which issues Section 8 vouchers. The County Health Department also subsidies PSH.

Neighborhood concerns and Organizations against the Venice-Dell-Pacific project.
During a meeting on my block Becky Dennison shared, “VCH asked, “How do you bring harmony to this community?” She noted that small community meetings show 90% support for the project. New Bethel Baptist Church, and Israel Levin Center have hosted meetings and are very supportive.

The 2 main organizations in opposition to the proposed development appear to be “Fight Back Venice” and “Venice Vision”. They are well organized and funded, and share anger at Councilmember Bonin, for his tactics to serve the homeless, sponsoring a “recall Bonin” campaign.

Labeling Venice-Dell-Pacific the “Monster in the Median” by both groups, their main concerns seem to be; Unfair distribution of new PSH units in Venice- They claim Venice is set to host more homeless per square mile, and Bonin is selling property in his other districts to fund building in Venice. Lack of sobriety threshold (no requirements to be clean and sober). Lack of services for potential residents. They’re concerned about the effect Venice-Dell-Pacific would have on neighboring children. They’re claiming VCH is aiming to skirt zoning laws. Currently, there is an ordinance moving through the LA City Council to streamline the approval process for PSH. This would not apply to Venice-Dell-Pacific because the ordinance does not include public property zoned as open space, and VDP is on such property. The biggest obvious question is why not sell one or both of the Venice properties to subsidize more units in a less expensive area? And they ask, why build new developments instead of refurbishing existing buildings? (In other neighborhoods) These concerns will be explored in our next Beachhead issue.

Seems to me that the nightmarish worst case scenario is that Venice-Dell-Pacific will be a huge, Soviet style block of a building a block from the beach. It will be filled to the brim with crazy, criminal, drug addicted thieves ready to rape and pillage the neighborhood. No one is watching or caring as they gleefully enjoy their free ride while the developers profit. A blight and embarrassment to us all.

The utopian best case scenario is that Venice-Dell-Pacific will be a model community of formerly homeless and low income families and artists sharing a brand new state of the art building, healing and thriving through new found security. Supported by professional case workers with services tailored to each resident to help them become contributing members of the Venice community at large. A shining example adding diversity, heart and soul to us all.

My guess is the truth lies somewhere in between. “Will this development change things?” Becky was asked. Her response? “One won’t, but four will”.

It’s a dense learning curve to understand homelessness, and understand what our City is attempting to do about it. I’ve done my best to understand and present the facts, and will continue to report as I learn. Please notify the Beachhead if I’ve misstated a fact, and we’ll continue the conversation in our next issue.

Click to view slideshow.

WHAT IS THIS BONIN RECALL ABOUT? LIES… LIES AND MORE LIES.

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 14:39

By Suzanne Thompson

At the end of a meeting I recently attended, there was a lively discussion about the proposed recall campaign against Los Angeles CD 11, City Councilman Mike Bonin. One person shared her frustration with traffic. Another passionately conveyed her support for more pedestrian and bike friendly roads and her disdain for people or campaigns that spread lies and misinformation.

A few days later, a Facebook Live press conference caught my attention. A small group gathered on the narrow sidewalk at Pacific and Paloma Court. In the video you can see a couple people standing in the street on Pacific as several cars were speeding by. I thought this was an unsafe location for people to gather near the crosswalk where Damon Eric Shear was killed by a car on October 25th.

Then I saw the Recall Bonin signs. I thought, how insensitive and disrespectful those opportunists are using the death of a pedestrian in Venice to exploit their lies about Councilman Bonin. That really did it for me. And who do I see? The same old face. Mark Ryavec. The diehard comeback loser. Big shock for some to see turncoat Robin Rudisill with this group.

Both Ryavec and Rudisill ran against Bonin in the last election held on March 7th. Real facts! Election results: Mike Bonin with 71.00% = 31,865 votes, Mark Ryavec with 15.70% = 7,047 votes and Robin Rudisill with 13.30% = 5,967 votes. Total votes cast 44,879. More people voted in Council District 11 than in any other district in the City of LA. Now, just eight months after the election, Ryavec (a paid lobbyist who represented Donald Trump in his fight to build a 125-story skyscraper on Wilshire Boulevard) and Rudisill (former Chair of Land Use and Planning Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council), have joined efforts with Alexis Edelstein, (California Democratic Party Assembly District 62 delegate, founded Berniecrats of California, is supported by the racist alt-right KFI AM radio hosts Jon and Ken and alleged to have registered to run for CD-33 against Ted Lieu), Demetrios Mavromichalis (owner of the Venice Grind coffee shop) and Alix Gucovsky to spearhead efforts to recall Bonin.

The Recall campaign’s website states that its initial reason for the recall was after Bonin’s implementation of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative which removed one lane of traffic on Venice Boulevard between Beethoven Street and Inglewood Boulevard in favor of bike lanes and parking. Other streets affected by “road diets” were Vista del Mar, Culver Blvd., Jefferson Blvd. and Pershing Blvd.

The Recall group planned to file a Notice of Intent to recall with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission to start collecting signatures for a recall petition. They must gather about 27,000 signatures from voters in Bonin’s West L.A. council district (10% of total voter registration) over a period of 120 days to trigger a recall. Their website says they’ve already raised $72,000 (Edelstein says $100,000) of the $200,000 goal and have opened a political action committee to raise more. It is estimated that a recall election would cost taxpayers at least $500,000. (www.recallbonin.com/).

I hate seeing people in my community of over 30 years, turn into little “Trumpettes” spreading fake information, telling lies and bullying people. Fake news, folks!
“As with most Big Lies it both resembles the truth enough that it might confuse people and is crazy enough that people would believe it because “hey, who would lie about something that audacious?”

Get the facts! See the rest of Damien Newton’s and Joe Linton’s article “The Big Lie: No, Bonin Did Not Steal Measure M Money for Vision Zero” in STREETSBLOGLA at:
https://la.streetsblog.org/2017/11/02/the-big-lie-no-bonin-did-not-steal-measure-m-money-for-vision-zero/

Mike Bonin, one of the most progressive members of the Los Angeles City Council has represented District 11 for the past four years. He served as Chief of Staff under the late City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. He has shown courage, intelligence and compassion and is a champion for public art.

One of Bonin’s biggest political challenges is to house homeless people here in Venice. Bonin said, “What best serves everyone is getting homeless people permanently off the streets by finding them permanent housing.”

The Venice Community Housing Venice-Dell-Pacific housing project does that here in Venice. This is an amazing opportunity to provide permanent supportive housing at the parking lot on Venice and Pacific that also preserves the existing parking and ensures a community process so that the project serves multiple community needs. Get the facts! Affordable and permanent supportive housing (PHS) are primarily being built in other communities. There are more than 8,000 PSH operating Countywide, and only 42 of them are in Venice. In other Westside communities, Santa Monica has more than 350 PSH units and Del Rey has at least 85 PSH units. The large majority of PSH units have been produced in communities in Downtown Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, and the Valley. There hasn’t been significant affordable housing production in Venice since the 1990s. See http://www.vchcorp.org/venice-dell-pacific-faqs/.

Mike Bonin is a leader and has a good track record on the issues that matter to most of you progressives reading this article. Bonin is the author of the $15 minimum wage, author of the most comprehensive clean money campaign-finance reform in the recent history of Los Angeles, author of the fracking moratorium and the effort to reach 100% clean energy. He is gay, a Courage Campaign leader, a LGBT activist and voted for Bernie Sanders.

Robin Rudisill, states on the Recall website that “…. It appears he doesn’t want to really know how we feel.”

So, what is this Recall all about? Shameful self-promotion, especially from this well-known cyber bully. Arturo Flores concludes, “Alexis is behaving like a scheming opportunist who is blatantly rallying against Bonin because he thinks it will get him some press and boost his fledgling political career.”

Arturo Flores, a Bernie Sanders supporter wrote in Medium.com, “I do not appreciate my movement being hijacked by someone who is so angry about an effort to save people from speeding cars in his neighborhood that he would call for a recall of a progressive Councilmember. Alexis’ actions distract elected officials and community activist from important matters that need to be addressed within the district. Alexis’ underhanded and misleading tactics need to be called out.”

I’m with Mr. Flores and ask you, and the true Berniecrats to join us in denouncing the recall and Alexis’ actions, (as well as the other Recall committee members), and to preserve the integrity of the progressive identity in Venice, the Westside and throughout California. We should be building coalitions to address the issues that impact CD11 residents, such as the loss of affordable housing, homelessness, traffic, the environment, and not embarking on self-adulation campaigns. It’s never been easy in Venice. Let’s get to work!


Where’s the Beachhead?

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 14:47

You may have noticed that the November Beachhead is nowhere to be found.  That’s not completely true because I am sure the DHS has found it on my computer.  The strait up deal is that we need more money, to keep giving you what we got.  We have the alternative left view about what is going on in our little burg by the sea, within the bigger picture of our community in the world, and within the heads of it’s progressive writers and their neighbors.  We are here to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  We are advocacy journalism.  This Paper Is A Poem.

Click Here Now To Donate to the Beachhead

While we have a good set of regular writer-contributors, and while we have a solid core of sustainers, it is not quite enough to meet our monthly expenses, which are primarily for printing and postage. We need someone to do the fundraising, subscription and sustainer fulfillment, and advertising outreach.  You can make a commission from selling ads.

For me, I used to be shy towards journalism because it wasn’t poetry. And then I realized that the events that I covered in essays that became journalism were actually great because they inspired me, and they became my muse.  – Alice Walker


Days of Rage 2017  Starts Tomorrow!

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 20:33

Los Angeles is in an out of control eviction crisis. In the past year alone, homelessness has risen 23%—2,000 more are expected to be on the streets by the end of 2017. As thousands face displacement and are forced to relocate to new cities, countless others live in overcrowded homes experiencing neglect and abuse by city officials and landlords. Our nightmare is the result of corrupt property owners, predatory developers, and a city government that wants to sell out our communities for profit. From this landscape, a renters rights movement has formed. We stand against the racist and classist forced removal of our communities and we are here to stay! From October 19th – 29th, renters from across the city will come together for eleven days to tell the city we’ve had ENOUGH! NO MORE EVICTIONS! HOUSING RIGHTS FOR ALL!

(para una traducción de este mensaje, por favor envíe un correo electrónico a justiciadellenguaje@lists.latenantsunion.org)

In the coming weeks, each Los Angeles Tenants Union local and our allies will conduct a “Day of Rage” action to draw attention to the different aspects of neglect, abuse, and injustice wrought by landlords, developers, and officials in Los Angeles and beyond. If you believe housing is a human right, join us for the DAYS OF RAGE!

Days of Rage Calendar

⦿ THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19TH, 10:30 AM
Gilbert Lindsey Plaza, 1201 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles 90015 (Convention Center). Walk over to LA Convention Center at 11:00 AM by West Hall A.

Join LATU at the big “million dollar” trade show and landlording conference for a press conference outside this opportunistic celebration of tenants’ struggles. Join us as we remind those who would exploit our city that we are not there to “stuff their mailboxes full of money.” Join us as we make it clear that we are not prey for vultures and are here to stay!

⦿ SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21ST, 1:00 PM
767 California Avenue, Venice 90291
Come join us on the Westside as we protest and combat an abusive landlord

⦿ SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22ND, 12:00 NOON
Action: 3610 Samuel Ave, Oxnard 93033
Assemble at 10:30 AM: 767 California Avenue, Venice 90291
Join the action and community gathering to talk about the housing crisis in Oxnard that we can defeat if we organize!

We will walk from Seabreeze apartments to Kamala park to gather and distribute housing rights information and share about our experiences in organizing. We will also explore the question, what can we do instead of calling the police when there are neighborhood problems.

RSVP→

ONE LAST QUESTION: Do you have trouble getting to our meetings? Don’t hesitate to coordinate rides – email Ben Nicholson if you need to schedule transportation.
Become a member of the LA Tenants Union &
support the tenants rights movement!
Sign Up Today!


SNAPCHAT REPORT

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 14:34

by Jon Wolff

The following is from a recent conversation with a concerned Venice resident about the Snapchat problem. The resident requested to be identified only as Concerned Venetian.

JW: You live close by the Thornton Lofts area. Is that right?

CV: Correct.

JW: And you’ve seen a lot of things that go on in and around the Thornton Lofts. You see and talk to a lot of the employees of Snapchat and also a lot of the residents.

CV: Correct. But I also was directly affected about 2 1/2 years ago when I got notice that I would no longer be able to park in the garage area underneath the offices… well, actually, the residential spaces there. But now, currently, they’re offices.

JW: At the Thornton Lofts?

CV: Correct. I believe myself and forty-one other residents were renting parking spaces in the garage area below that space.

JW: And what did they tell you in the notice?

CV: I actually was told by my landlord that I was losing my parking spot and that it was a dead end, that the new owners were not open to discussion about it and that I was basically S.O.L., Shit Out of Luck. And then, a week after, I was parking in my garage and a woman and several other businessmen approached me and asked me to confirm my full name and my address. And I was startled because I was like, “Who are you? How do know my name and my address?” She said that she was the new manager for the new owners and that’s all she needed to know. That’s when I knew something was changing. I remember walking down the Boardwalk late at night seeing a light from their icon in front of this house.

JW: The Blue House.

CV: Yeah. The Blue House here on the Boardwalk at Sunset Avenue. I remember thinking to myself, “What a ridiculous sign and what could it possibly be branding for?” And it wasn’t until a year later that I even knew what Snapchat was.

JW: It was about that time that they were taking over the building that used to house American Apparel?

CV: No. I think they didn’t get American Apparel till much later. American Apparel was there for a year-and-a-half or so after.

JW: And now, that’s where they sell the Spectacles thing.

CV: Correct. Yeah.

JW: How did the neighborhood change after that? What else did they do?

CV: I, like many people here in Venice, would go have a burger at Hinano’s and come home late in the evening. I don’t smoke in my apartment. There’s no smoking allowed on the premises and it’s explicitly stated in my lease that I can’t smoke 50 feet of the building. So I used to go in the easement between the two lofts there and have a cigarette there like my other neighbors. There were a couple of nights that I was instructed by security guards that I needed to vacate the premises and that I was on private property.

JW: Was that their property?

CV: No. It’s actually the easement from Thornton Ave. all the way to the beach, so it’s public property. I just laughed and said, “Okay. Go ahead. Call the police.”

JW: They were overstepping the bounds of their authority then.

CV: They were harassing me, telling me that I had to vacate and that I was trespassing. They told me I was trespassing on a public easement.

JW: Did they do anything intimidating? Did they present any kind of physical threat by looming over you or anything like that?

CV: Yes. They were standing within my personal space awkwardly, at night, in the middle of the night in a public space, when there’s no one else around. But I didn’t really take it as a threat; I just thought of it as a poor attempt at exerting some kind of authority.

JW: What’s happened since then? They know you by name, right?

CV: That’s correct. And since then, we have seen a great influx of traffic on Speedway. There have been times when we can’t even back out of our driveways. I’ve seen, multiple times, them and their delivery trucks blocking the fire hydrant. I’ve noticed that they’ve taken down the ‘No Parking’ sign that was in the alleyway because, for days upon days upon months, I would go out there and direct attention to how this company and all the affiliate vendors who are coming to deliver things for them were directly disobeying the law and creating a traffic nightmare. If an emergency vehicle were needed on Thornton or Sunset or any of the adjacent alleyways where most residential buildings are, there’d be no way for any first aid response to be able to get through there because they’re not only just parking on the right side of the alleyway, they’re parking on the left side as well. You barely have traffic going through. You end up with a 14 car pile.
JW: What other kinds of experiences have you had with the security and/or the employees?

CV: I’ve had security follow me to my home. I’ve had security follow me through the alleyway in front of my home. I’ve had security stand in my driveway and take post while I’m waiting for an Uber. I once had an employee of Snapchat looming behind the trashcan on our property and I asked him to go somewhere else. I’ve talked to a ton of the employees in the buildings at Thornton Lofts. I’ll ask the employees, “What is it that brought you to Snapchat to work for them and where do you live?” The employees tell me that they came to work for Snapchat to better their life for them and their families who live in India and in Asia. They live in Koreatown and Los Feliz and Simi Valley. They’re worried that their H1B visas are going to be taken away and that they can continue to work. They don’t really care that they’re working in a two-bedroom condo.

JW: They’re kind of sweatshop laborers.

CV: Oftentimes, I video record some of these ‘team leaders’ and “team members’ who have to go out to the Boardwalk or go out to the beach to have internal meetings because those residential spaces are not configured to corporate office use. There are no breakout spaces for these employees. It’s ironic because Evan Spiegel himself is a complete paranoid nutcase when it comes to leaking of information. With the traction of Facebook copying all their different features on their platform, Evan Spiegel does not hold company meetings anymore. Out of fear of being recorded and leaking information, he often deals with H.R. questions and community questions via Google Docs. He’s not even interfacing with most of his employees. So I find it absurd that his team members and his leaders who are building his programming are having these conversations literally on my front doorstep. How much sensitive information are they carelessly discussing because they aren’t given the tools and the space that they need because of this company’s desire to eat up all the residential property in our neighborhood?

JW: Their habit of illegally turning residential spaces into office spaces is kind of squeezing them out in public where they’re compromising some of their secrecy then.

CV: Yeah. I mean, their interest for non-commercial spaces for their offices is compromising their leadership’s ability to discuss things internally on a team level and it forces them to do it out in public which is completely ironic.

JW: If I were them, I would move out to a proper business park in Santa Monica. Would that be a good idea?

CV: Santa Monica, Santa Clarita.

JW: Afghanistan.

CV: Westchester. Westchester is the final frontier when it comes to land use right now, with that new stadium coming in. They also have a ‘No Smoking” policy. So, what it’s forcing their workers to do… because they can’t go up to their roof decks to smoke, they can’t step out to the balcony to smoke… is to go into the alley, under someone else’s residence, either in a parking spot or in a parking foyer, and smoke their cigarettes there and leave their butts there. It just goes to show you their actions are disrespectful. They don’t respect other people’s space. They think that this neighborhood is theirs for the taking. The fact that they have Gestapo-like security stalking my property does not make me feel safe. There have been multiple occasions, right here on the Boardwalk, in front of my house and in front of their offices, where there is an altercation taking place and I’ve seen the security guards run for the doors. They all run inside instead of calling the police or getting involved to just stay and witness or just clean up the mess in front of their place. The idea that they they’re creating safety… they love to spit out that the crime rate has gone down since they’ve arrived here. But if you talk to the Police Department they’ll quickly contest that.

JW: Yeah. One of the claims they make is that they’re somehow upgrading the community because of their security presence.

CV: I think that a big concern of the neighborhood is that it’s like a walled-in corporation. There are no inroads for residents to voice their concerns or for those concerns to just be acknowledged. I did a lot of research to try to find a phone number. I found out, through different case studies, about pedophiles arrested for the use of their app. You should read the documentation of the hoops that they make the police jump through to try to get evidence to incriminate these criminals. It’s a FAX transmission request; you can’t even talk to anyone. And I think that’s a good example of how they shut off from the outside world. It’s their inability to want to be a community partner.

JW: Their practice of papering up the windows of the buildings they acquire is illustrative of their philosophy.

CV: I’ve asked them about that and they said it’s because the sun is too much glare on their computers. Well then, why are you having an office on beachfront property?

JW: They could go some place where there’s no sun.

CV: Or they could just go where there’s less windows. Have a building that doesn’t have floor to ceiling windows where the sun sets every day.

JW: You said, even today, that you had an encounter with security personnel over on the other side of town, over on Abbot Kinney.

CV: Yeah. I was taking a photo of posted signs for their latest zoning approval request. They want to change yet another building that is zoned for residence to commercial use. And I took a picture and shared it with the community so they’d know that it’s happening and so that it can be confirmed that they are turning over residences into corporate housing and so that people have the actual inroad to get information. Because, what is not posted on that notice is the hearing date. They are banking on us not noticing and not raising our voices about it. I was walking back and I saw several of the security guards standing there. They said, “Oh hello.” They always make it known that they know me and that they know where I’m coming from and they know where I’m going.

JW: And they know where you live.

CV: They always make it apparent that they know where I live. The ones who work inside these buildings, whom I’ve never met, will call me by my name.

JW: That’s creepy.

CV: It’s a little creepy. I asked the security guard, “What exactly are you protecting?” He said, “Well, I’m protecting the people who work in these buildings.” I say, “Which buildings?” He pointed at that building, the building across the street, the building next to here, the building across the street from there. He pointed at five buildings. I asked him, “Do you think it’s okay for a single company to just come in and dominate?” He, this security guard, said, “Well, this is Abbot Kinney, the coolest street in America.” I always ask these guys, “Where do you live? How would you feel if one single corporation started plucking out house after house after house, disenfranchising families and long term residents?” His answer, unsurprisingly, was, “If it’s not affecting me directly, then I probably really wouldn’t care.” That’s the reason I continue to voice the truth for anyone and everyone who comes through Venice. “Do you know that this is a residential building and that Snapchat is operating illegally here?” I make sure everyone knows the truth because that company is hoping no one notices.


VNC OWNED

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 14:02

It is very clear that the VNC is not interested in what the community wants, they are in a business for themselves and that is making themselves RICH.  It is very clear they care nothing about inclusiveness of everyone in Venice (Renters, Unhoused, Artists long time residents of Venice) they care only about those who have come with MONEY to turn our wonderful diverse community into a haven for the SUPER RICH.  We want our Mayor Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin our city council person to understand the Venice Neighborhood Council is representing themselves as a business (architects, developers and people with lots of MONEY) to take over our wonderful  VENICE COMMUNITY of inclusiveness, artist, musicians and people of great  personality and strength.  This is what has made VENICE known all over the world, not ugliness, greed, greed and more greed!  The Venice Neighborhood Council does not represent the Venice we all have come to know and LOVE.  “Standing up and Showing out for VENICE!”
 Laddie Williams

Here we present a compilation of the grievances filed against the current Venice Neighborhood Council members. It was clear in the last Neighborhood council election that a coalition of commercial property owners and developers came together to take over the Neighborhood council completely. They want to be able to green-light projects that are sent to the Neighborhood Council for review before going the LA Department of City Planning (LADCP). This is the basic self-dealing that the Chamber of Commerce has been doing all over the LA City Neighborhood Councils. They are protecting their interests, and the interests of all businesses and property owners to do what they want in the pursuit of making big bucks. They whine terribly when their ambitions are thwarted. When examined closely a pattern of self-dealing emerges. Previously the development of community review for Real Estate Development projects was negotiated with LADCP, and so the insertion of community review caused a lot of worry and chagrin for re-developers and realtors. So what they have done here is a form of regulatory capture.

Developers, if they don’t just demolish and overbuild with impunity, often hire consultants to grease the wheels of the Real Estate deals. They have their own lobbyists working city hall with campaign donations, charitable donations, and lots of meetings with deciders, who may be looking for jobs when their tenure expires. Resident communities, i.e. mostly renters in Venice, resisting inappropriate projects and overdevelopment, cannot be allowed to have a voice. Remember to join the Tenant’s Union.

Fortunately several community members decided to be there and witness the process, and document it. You can read their entire document online here: https://goo.gl/FzP1NX
It is hard to tell where the stupidity and incompetence ends and the malfeasance begins.

Below is an excerpt.  Read the original list of grievances here.

July 9, 2017:

GRIEVANCE 1: ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL – date June 16, 2017
On June 1, Carl Lambert held a “community” meeting about his plans for 417 Ocean Front Walk at the Rose Room, 6 Rose Avenue in Venice. 15-25 people attended. LUPC member Daffodil Tyminski arrived towards the end. Ms.Tyminski stated that the meeting was required by the city attorney but she could not or would not specify which city attorney. We asked if 417 OFW was scheduled for a LUPC hearing. Ms. Tyminski specifically said that the meetingwas not a LUPC outreach meeting and was not related to a LUPC schedule. Before Ms. Tyminski left, Dr. JudyGoldman asked for a show of hands of those who supported Mr. Lambert’s hotel proposal. No-one present raised their hand.

Ms. Tyminski left quickly with Brian Silviera saying they had to get to a LUPC meeting. LUPC committee memberMr. Silviera was present for most of the meeting. In his professional life Mr. Silviera works as a land use consultantand expeditor. I asked Mr. Silviera if he was at the meeting as a representative for Mr. Lambert. He stated that he does not work with or represent Mr. Lambert.

On March 28, 2016 I had visited the City of Los Angeles planning department & signed the sign-in sheet. Mr.Silviera’s signature was on the same sheet from the previous day delivering documents for 417 Ocean Front Walkto ZA Juliet Oh. It is unclear why he would do this if he does not work with or represent Mr. Lambert as he stated.
The current Venice Neighborhood Council board was elected in June 2016.

The new board approved a new VNC website. No update notification was sent to community members or posted on the VNC website alerting community members to important changes with the new website.

The VNC board & the Land Use & Planning Committee are the most consequential groups on the VNC. Historically all LUPC members could be contacted through the single email lupc@venicenc.org. Individual emails were also historically available for all LUPC and VNC members. Individual LUPC committee members are staff for projects coming to LUPC.

Up until June 8, 2017, the redesigned VNC website had only 1 email contact for LUPC. It was an individual email for LUPC chair Matthew Royce at chair-lupc@venicenc.org. No other emails were available. The group email lupc@venicenc.org that has historically allowed community members to contact all LUPC members was not working but the community did not know this.

On June 8, LUPC agenda item 8a was ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL, 417 Ocean Front Walk, Venice Suites, LLC. The applicant is Carl Lambert. LUPC committee member Daffodil Tyminski was the assigned staff person.

Many people sent protest emails in advance of the June 8 meeting using lupc@venicenc.org so that all committee members could see their opposition to ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL.

It was not until several days after that meeting that community members understood that their protests had not been received, read, or counted in opposition to ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL. LUPC members are supposed to consider all community input in advance of their vote.

On June 16, 2017, VNC president Ira Koslow stated in an email exchange that he also was not aware of the LUPC email change & he also had been sending emails to the lupc@venicenc.org address. This is 1yr after he was elected as President in June 2016 and many months after the VNC website was updated.

Only 1 letter of protest was posted in the “supporting documents” file for this case on LUPC’s archive. Ms. Tyminski stated that about 150 letters of support for Mr. Lambert had been received. She did not say how supporters of Mr. Lambert had successfully communicated with LUPC when those opposed to his proposal had been unable to do so.
Approximately 40 people spoke in opposition to ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL. 3 people spoke in support of Mr. Lambert.

VNC By-Laws Article VII, Section 1.F. states that “the Land Use and Planning Committee recommendations to theBoard of Officers shall be in the form of a written report, which shall include a project description, pros & cons, A SUMMARY OF COMMUNITY INPUT and any LUPC findings.”

VNC standing Rules #8 requires that “opposition or support (speaker cards) will be tallied and the tally shall be announced to the board prior to any action by the board.”
Neither of these requirements happened at the June 8 hearing.

LUPC is a 9-member committee. The 417 Ocean Front Walk vote was 3-1-2.
On June 20, the VNC board meeting heard the ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL application for 417 Ocean Front Walk.

MANY people sent protest emails to the VNC board in advance of the June 20 VNC meeting.

Matthew Royce requested Ms. Tyminski to present the LUPC staff report to VNC.
In her professional life Ms. Tyminski works as a lawyer for the Office of the United States Attorney.

Ms. Tyminski stated that about 250 letters of support had been received for Mr. Lambert.
Ms. Tyminski (LUPC staff), Mathew Royce (LUPC chair), Melissa Diner (secretary) or George Francisco (vice-president) did not present the number of emails and petition signatures received by LUPC or VNC in opposition to Mr. Lambert’s proposal.

VNC By-Laws Article VII, Section 1.F. states that “the Land Use and Planning Committee recommendations to theBoard of Officers shall be in the form of a written report, which shall include a project description, pros & cons, A SUMMARY OF COMMUNITY INPUT and any LUPC findings.”

VNC By-Laws Article VI: Officers: B: states “Vice President-Maintains oversight of Standing and Ad Hoc Committees.”

Article VI: Officers: C. Secretary states “Maintains all public records of the VNC. -Receives and logs all submissions and correspondence to the VNC and refers them to the appropriate Officer or Committee within seven (7) days.

In her staff report to VNC Ms. Tyminski stated that she had attended the community outreach meeting at the Rose Room and that no-one present supported the proposal. This contradicted what she told those at the June 1 meeting. She did not give the number of attendees who unanimously opposed the proposal.

Significantly, Ms. Tyminski stated that the current use of the building is a legal use.
Exactly one year earlier, on June 20, 2016, City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a civil lawsuit (criminal division) against Mr. Lambert because his current use of 417 Ocean Front Walk, a 32-unit RSO apartment building, is an illegal hotel. LAMC violations are quoted in the lawsuit (below).

A letter to VNC from Mark Kleinman, lawyer, & former LUPC staff with Kathleen Rawson for the 2016 VNC hearing of 417 Ocean Front Walk, was forwarded to VNC & Ms. Tyminski by Dr. Judy Goldman on the morning of June 20. Both she & Mr. Kleinman remarked on the “unnoticed” change to the LUPC contact email. Mr. Kleinman’s important letter on the previous hearing & findings was not posted in the case file online (supporting documents) or referred to in any way by Ms. Tyminski.

ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL, 417 Ocean Front Walk, should be reheard because:

1. LUPC and VNC should not hear this case while it is an open investigation with the Office of the City Attorney.

2. The change to the general email for LUPC was not shared in any way with the public. VNC President Ira Koslow was unaware of the change & stated that he himself was using the lupc@venicence.org email, unaware of the change. The letters of those opposed to this application were not received, read or counted by LUPC prior to their vote. The number of letters of support was presented to LUPC prior to their vote.

3. VNC Standing Rule (#8) states “Speaker cards shall have an ‘in lieu of speaking’ option and shall become part of the permanent record. Choice of the ‘in lieu of speaking’ option means that opposition or support will be tallied and the tally shall be announced to the board prior to any action by the board. These permanent records of the VNC should be put on record prior to any action by the board.

This did not happen at LUPC.

4. The city attorney’s lawsuit states that the current use of 417 Ocean Front Walk is an illegal use. Ms. Tyminski stated in her LUPC staff presentation to VNC that the current use of the building is a legal use (video). This statement was made prior to the VNC board vote.

Ms. Tyminski did not reference the violations of city and state law quoted in the city attorney’s lawsuit.

5. Ms. Tyminski quoted the number for the letters of support received for Mr. Lambert. Ms. Tyminski (LUPCstaff), Mathew Royce (LUPC chair), Melissa Diner (secretary) or George Francisco (vice-president) did notpresent the number of emails and petition signatures received by LUPC or VNC in opposition to Mr.Lambert’s proposal.
VNC By-Laws Article VII, Section 1.F. states that “the Land Use and Planning Committee recommendationsto the Board of Officers shall be in the form of a written report, which shall include a project description,pros & cons, A SUMMARY OF COMMUNITY INPUT and any LUPC findings.”
VNC By-Laws Article VI: Officers: B: states “Vice President-Maintains oversight of Standing and Ad Hoc Committees.”
Article VI: Officers: C. Secretary states “Maintains all public records of the VNC. -Receives and logs allsubmissions and correspondence to the VNC and refers them to the appropriate Officer or Committeewithin seven (7) days.
None of these VNC board members presented the number of opposition emails & petitions received. Thisviolates VNC By-Laws Article VII, Section 1.F.

6. Speaker cards shall have an ‘in lieu of speaking’ option and shall become part of the permanent record.Choice of the ‘in lieu of speaking’ option means that opposition or support will be tallied and the tally shall be announced to the board prior to any action by the board; comments shall not be read out loud.

VNC Vice-President George Francisco did not count and record the number of speaker cards in opposition or support of Mr. Lambert prior to the board vote as required by VNC standing Rules #8.

7. ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL is a serious and potentially precedent-setting case. Many propertyowners would like to turn their multi-unit Rent-Stabilized apartment buildings into hotels.

Mr. Lambert is the immediate past president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. He actively promoted a VNC slate as president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce in 2016. 9 out of 10 of the candidates he promoted are VNC board members.

Mr. Lambert did not promote a candidate for VNC president. It is disturbing that Mr. Koslow was unaware of the changes to the LUPC general email as he attempted to communicate with that important committee over many months.

Matthew Royce reserved the Westminster Elementary School auditorium as chair of LUPC for a VNC event on October 13, 2016. He hosted a Survey LA community meeting on that evening and invited Ken Bernstein & Jonathan Hershey to make a presentation on Survey LA in Venice. Both Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Hershey stated in emails that they understood it was a VNC invitation and event.

That meeting did not have the required 72hr notice on VNC’s website (Brown Act violation) and it was posted with no committee attribution or agenda in violation of VNC By-Laws: Article VII: Committees and their Duties.

Mr. Royce reserved the auditorium on September 29, 2016.

A Venice Anti-Survey LA petition appeared on Facebook on the same date. Comments on that thread and in other online postings show that Venice anti-Survey LA factions knew about the VNC Survey LA meeting on October 3 or earlier.

VNC President Ira Koslow did not know about the meeting and was not present.
This is deeply disturbing to the community. Our voices are not being heard, acknowledged, counted, and entered into the record as required by NC rules.
The VNC president has also been excluded.

8. In April of 2017, VNC Rules & Selection Committee chaired by John Reed voted unanimously in favor of recommending changes to VNC By-Laws & Standing Rules. This included a recommendation to remove VNC Standing Rules/10. Meetings: Code of Ethics:
“Any member of the Board of Officers of the VNC who has a financial or material pecuniary interest in an item, as defined by State, Federal or local laws, shall recuse themselves from voting on any item in question. Board members must receive a certificate of completion for the mandated Ethics training within 55 days of taking office, whether by appointment or election, or they will be prohibited from voting on any land use issues or financial expenditures of any city funds. This Standing Rule shall also apply to all members of the Budget Committee and Land Use and Planning Committee effective August 1, 2013.”

Several members of the board & committees are developers and architects. VNC vice-president George Francisco is the Chamber President and several VNC board members are also VCOC board members.
Understandably the community has concerns about conflicts of interest. Ultimately this clause was not removed because of community protest.

For all of these reasons the June 8 LUPC vote and the June 20 VNC vote for ZA-2015-629-CDP-ZV-ZAA-SPP-MEL should be voided. This case should be reheard by LUPC & VNC.
The VNC is subject to city and state laws as well as VNC By-Laws and Standing Rules. Important VNC By-Laws and Standing Rules were not followed.
Letters of support for Mr. Lambert were acknowledged but the community opposition was not received, read,counted & entered into the record ahead of the LUPC and VNC votes.

Speaker cards in opposition or support were not tallied and announced to the board prior to the LUPC and VNC vote.
Laws matter.

Mr. Lambert is operating an illegal hotel in an RSO apartment building. The city attorney has said so. The Venice Neighborhood Council has a mandate to represent all stakeholders. VNC By-Laws and Standing Rules matter. Appreciatively, Margaret Molloy, Laddie Williams, Jataun Valentine.

Space does not allow us to print this entire list of grievances. You will find the list of these grievances here: https://goo.gl/FzP1NX


VENICE HIGH STUDENTS: UNDER SIEGE

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 13:16

By P.S. Barber

I
THE BACKSTORY

There is, in the educational processes of the United States and so in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), a fundamental conflict: this deep-seated dialectic pits the very essence of Learning – Critical Thinking – against a powerful and authoritarian obsession – Order.

It’s an acute mistake to assume, as Venice High School (VHS) has, that students challenging this inherently repressive Order-obsession THROUGH NON-VIOLENT DISSENT must be threatened, managed and manipulated, corralled and coerced while SIMULTANEOUSLY their core grievances, those at the heart of a long-standing battle with their Principal, Oryla Wiedoeft, are swept under the rug for the sacred sake of Order.

A bit of background: Venice High School has served our community since 1911, Abbott Kinney personally picked the first principal and just like all of Venice, VHS has undergone numerous changes over the years: moving campuses, fires and earthquakes destroying campuses, changes in demographics, many thousands of students graduating over numerous decades. Today, a Magnet school with a student body of over 2,000, the graduation rate is currently 80%.

Because it’s relevant to our story, here are some of the current VHS racial and economic demographics: a total minority enrollment of 86%, the largest part of that, 70%, is of Hispanic/Latino descent; 15% are White; 13% are African-American; 6% are Asian; another 58% are statistically considered economically disadvantaged; 12% are disabled.

Here’s how the students’ deep and ongoing conflict with their principal began:
Not long ago, November 10, 2016, the day after the election of the 45th President of the United States ended in a shocking upset, everyone awoke to a new world. The lives of many of those VHS students of Latino descent, as well as African-American, disabled, and LGBTQ students – anyone who fell under the category of “Other” – were immediately impacted on innumerable fronts: this new, improbable and pitiless reality menaced them personally, threatening their extended families and imperiling their suddenly fragile futures.

As a result, a small number of VHS students agreed to meet during morning Nutrition to discuss and emotionally access their new, ominous here-and-now. So as not to disrupt school or break any rules, the students purposefully and responsibly chose the appropriate time and place to meet, the Parents Center, where they regularly met with Ms. Lydia Ponce, their school-parent liaison.

Word spread quickly through various social sites and rather than the anticipated small group meeting, a surprising 80-100 concerned students unexpectedly showed up, eager to compare notes on an oncoming Armageddon which fate had thrust, unsought, upon them. Numerous of the VHS teenagers in attendance were from student-led organizations such as MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlan), the Black Students Union (BSU), the Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA), and a group called, Students Deserve; many other students, also apprehensive, packed the room.

The students passionately discussed their legitimate fears and expectations, dissected the imminent uncertainty which each vulnerable and afraid student felt down to their shivering bones that November morning in the Parents Center. And while Students of Color, disabled, and Trans students — anyone outside an express and unabashedly expressed xenophobic criteria — spoke with open frustration and fear, it was the Latino/a students who felt particularly at risk.

The unexpected President-elect had run his campaign of intolerance on a promise to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama Executive Decision which protected so-called “Dreamers” from deportation: all of whom have known no other home but the United States; all of whom are, by proof of having registered under DACA in the first place, acceptable to the United States in terms of background checks, employment, paying over 2-billion a year in taxes, as well as being students, active-duty military, First Responders, police, doctors, lawyers, you name it; when all’s said and done, Dreamers are all-around good, wanna-be citizens, per-capita contributing to the Republic more than many native-born Americans.

The average Dreamer, when brought to this country, was 8 years old, each child obviously having no say in their arrival. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ false statements that DACA caused a, “surge of minors” at the U.S./Mexico border, or that the program’s recipients, “drain Social Security” (none are yet old enough to receive benefits and actually contribute billions INTO the budget), as well Sessions’ nativist lie that immigrants steal jobs from REAL Americans, reflects the Trump Administration’s cynical and racist-based attitude towards immigration in general and towards the Latino population in particular.

Echoed against this background of pervasive racial intolerance from the highest sources in the U.S. government, but on a more immediate and intimate level, many of these same students unfairly impacted by their new President, were also having ongoing conflicts of a similar nature with their principal, Oryla Wiedoeft.

Principal Wiedoeft, beginning her third year at VHS, first clashed with her high school students two years ago over their request that the school’s robo-calls, which were available only in English and recorded by Dr. Wiedoeft herself, also be made in Spanish for those families who’d stated on their school Emergency Cards that their preferred first-language be Spanish; without these calls being made in Spanish, many parents were deprived of vital information and missed school events, even though VHS permanently has translators available on-premises.

Principal Wiedoeft did make overtures to the students and their concerns about the robo-calls, saying parents who wanted their calls in Spanish needed to come down to the school in-person and fill out new paperwork for that specific purpose — a massive inconvenience for working parents, just to make redundant, already readily available information included in the school’s records. Principal Wiedoeft’s attitude, the students inferred, was not only less than helpful — it was, in fact, discriminatory.
Sensing a “double standard,” the students saw their growing grievances dismissed or overlooked while, at the same time, they felt, a climate of indifference (if not outright hostility) was being fostered by Dr. Wiedoeft towards them — sometimes individually, sometimes as a group. Indeed, there was a growing sentiment among these students that their Principal, instead of listening to them seriously, was determined to actively silence them.

Most importantly, the students felt this animus was somehow racially motivated: for instance, in an insensitive (at best) attempt to relate to the MEChA members’ problems, Wiedoeft referenced herself as white on the outside, but brown on the inside; again callously, albeit without malicious intent (one may assume), the Latino/a and Hispanic students were told by their principal, that any of them who were not themselves Spanish speaking, should be ashamed of themselves – hardly a compassionate position in the face of immediate, real and desperate consequences to the lives of these particular students.
During the school year and during their ongoing conflicts, Principal Wiedoeft, without warning, replaced the students’ mentor and MEChA sponsor, Lydia Ponce, with one of the high school’s Spanish teachers, Ms. Leon. The students, not informed of this change beforehand, of course had no voice in the sudden disappearance of their long-trusted advisor, leaving them with an abysmal feeling of betrayal.

Additionally, MEChA members felt Wiedoeft’s hand-picked advisor was too cozy with the principal and so the very purpose of their meetings – speaking openly about grievances without fear of recrimination – de facto, undermined MEChA itself. This unilateral and seemingly spiteful move, certainly political in nature the students felt, “took away our safe space,” and instead created an oppressive environment where they were, they sensed, observed hyper-critically and, “made to feel like targets” of the Principal’s personal ire.

Similarly, the Black Students Union believed Principal Wiedoeft was actively biased towards them and many members felt their Principal’s disposition was racially motivated. The examples given: during Black History Month, BSU was forced to change its schedule three times because the proposed commemorations were deemed, “too exclusive… and the White kids wouldn’t fit in.”

According to BSU students, Principal Wiedoeft used racially insensitive language while informing them that their high school was not a suitable platform for their chosen Black History Month observances; this time, Wiedoeft apparently said that she, “understood their problems,” because her, “grandmother was of Mexican descent.” Overlooking their Principal’s insensitivity, the BSU members keenly denied Weidoeft’s unsubstantiated accusations of their celebrations being exclusionary or, “too radical.” In fact, the avowed purpose of the BSU celebrations were one of “inclusion,” openly embracing everyone in the Student Body who wished to participate.

Other events, such as the school’s Black History Month student assembly and BSU itself were left out of the school newspaper, The Oarsman, as if they never existed or never took place. This struck many as stemming from a personal hostility which, they felt, Wiedoeft held against the Black Students Union and its members. Though it remains an unproven charge against the principal, the blatant exclusion from The Oarsman of BSU events and its negative repercussions throughout the school, speaks volumes about how pervasive the atmosphere of resentment is that Wiedoeft’s generated within a large segment of her school’s student body, in particular, among many disaffected Students of Color.

In a similar case of seeming bias, BSU members were told they couldn’t work in unison with MEChA because it, “would NOT promote unity,” in the school at large and, “would exclude the White students,” even though BSU and MEChA made it clear that participation for the ENTIRE student body in their various celebrations was, in fact, their welcome dual-objective.

But Principal Wiedoeft was intransigent: “BSU has its month. MEChA has its month.” This implacable opposition to these particular student organizations working together, further alienated many more students, adding fuel to the fire of speculation that “racism” was at the core of their Principal’s “unjust” actions towards them.

In the course of her two years at VHS, Principal Wiedoeft has also clashed with The Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) over gender-neutral bathrooms. While the LGBTQ students’ relationship with Wiedoeft over this issue was less contentious on the surface than with the other student-led groups mentioned, the GSA also felt Wiedoeft often showed an insensitivity in language and attitude towards non-binary and Trans students, mostly it must be said, giving her the benefit of the doubt, out of ignorance rather than malevolence.

And while Principal Wiedoeft gave some verbal support for the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms — occasioning students to do outreach with parents and community – in the end, GSA members felt betrayed by their Principal when, before the end of the 2016 school year, she dropped the idea of providing gender-neutral bathrooms altogether.
And though Dr. Wiedoeft did occasionally try and reach out to the all the politicized students, wondering what she could specifically do to make the Latino students feel safer about their newly tenuous futures, Principal Wiedoeft eventually backed away from each of the students’ suggestions – such as passing out flyers about possible immigration raids — claiming she had to, as school Principal, remain politically neutral EVEN in the face of the students’ extreme and immediate dilemmas.

And while, as an abstract concept, the official position of detachment is in-part true, this fact does nothing to mitigate the students’ real-world concerns, which one would think, and which the students came to believe, was a much more compelling pursuit than the security of bureaucratic impartiality.

II
THE SHOWDOWN

The reason this article focuses on the members of MEChA, BSU, Students Deserve, and GSA in particular, is because these student-led groups, by the end of the 2016 school year, vociferously stood together in publicly demanding the IMMEDIATE DISMISSAL of principal Wiedoeft for, “a history of blatantly and systematically discriminating against students of color.”

An extraordinary charge to be leveled by segments of a student body against their own high school principal. A very serious indictment, directed without restraint and without fear (chiefly by students at-risk from discrimination to deportation) against a manifestly more powerful and sometimes vindictive authority.

These student groups inspired an organic and authentic recalcitrance towards a very specific form of authoritarianism, undeniable in its underlying racial geneses: and they, along with the other students assembled that morning in the Parents Center, were determined to speak out against the injustice freshly perpetrated against them by, ostensibly (but for a twist of fate), their very own government.

This amalgam of politically focused, student-led groups initiated a passionate movement at Venice High, fighting with a vehement determination to be heard in spite of multiple pressures to silence them; a group of serious students working together with integrity of purpose and righteousness-of-mind, with a true moral cause — SAVE OUR LIVES! And also save the lives of their families and friends.

This alarming expectation was then — as it is now — in no way hyperbolic. The current DACA struggle between Congress and the White House, juggling with the lives 800,000 Dreamers, makes this harsh reality over an uncertain future unequivocally clear. So in the face of this new, dire future, these politically-prescient VHS students chose to be pro-active about their dilemma and, rather than sit silent, agreed to speak out loudly and publicly. So that November morning, the students of VHS communally concurred, like innumerable other students and citizens across the country, they needed to protest against this new all-wrong, Alt-Right President.

The VHS students decided they would rally that afternoon, gathering at the Senior parking lot. Importantly, they decided they’d protest NOT ONLY during lunch but then, willfully breaking school rules in an essential form of democratic dissent, skip class and continue protesting on through Fifth Period.

And like events earlier in the day, when the students gathered at the Senior lot during lunch, many more than expected showed up: in fact, so many more, the rally had to be moved to the front of the school auditorium. And while this successful protest did little to change their immediate reality, the students felt empowered and knew, as they moved forward in the collective fight to come, they all had each other’s backs.

It was after this public expression of protest against being targeted by a new Trump administration, that the students’ relationship with their principal took a turn for the worst, souring particularly for students in the key protesting organizations, as well as for teachers and counselors who supported the student-led organizations; eventually, the entire Senior class itself was targeted by Principal Wiedoeft.

It was during this time that certain individual students began to feel beset by their principal: many were called into the Administration offices, forced to answer questions about their further plans for dissent, and warned that continuing to express their sentiments in the ways they were, could possibly threaten their graduation status.
Particular students who clashed with Dr. Wiedoeft at this point were: Mireya Curiel (class of 2018), prior President of MEChA and current editor of “The Oarsman”; Mauriah Duffey (2017), prior BSU President; Danielle Cosmes (2017), Students Deserve Leader; Faith Freeman (2017), GSA President; Cobalt McAvinue (2017), another student pressured for being politically insubordinate and who became a chief target of Principal Wiedoeft’s vengeance.

But it wasn’t just the students who started having trouble with Principal Wiedoeft: History teacher and Teachers Union (UTLA) representative, Soni Lloyd, served as the Students Deserve councilor last year and, according to numerous VHS sources, came under Wiedoeft’s reprisal for his mentorship of the purportedly progressive student group.

Similarly, the Students Deserve official representative, Alfredo Gamma, was dismissed by the LAUSD-wide organization (at the end of the year) for a perceived over-radicalization of students; as mentioned earlier in this article, also targeted was Lydia Ponce, the Parent-Student liaison who’d long-earned the student’s trust and who was unceremoniously replaced by a Wiedoeft-friendly teacher; another important member of the school’s community departed when Gaby Morales, an Attendance Office employee who unceasingly visited the homes of students not doing well, giving freely her time to improve the lives of innumerable minority, economically disadvantaged, and at-risk students, was unpopularly axed by Principal Wiedoeft.

The final straw for the students was the euphemistic “firing” of their only African-American College Councilor, Mr. Guy Cerda. The official terminology is, Mr. Cerda was, “Non Re-elected” to return for a third year at VHS by Principal Wiedoeft. “Non Re-elect” sounds benign, but amounts to open termination not just from Venice High School, but from the ENTIRE LAUSD. It’s essential to note, Mr. Cerda subsequently challenged his “Non Re-elect” and WON his case. Mr. Cerda’s firing was rescinded — a true rarity, evidently, in the bureaucratic world of LAUSD – although Mr. Cerda was assigned to another school and is today, not working at VHS.

When the students heard about Mr. Cerda’s imminent dismissal last year, it shook them into action: after all, since his two years at VHS, Mr. Cerda had facilitated the implementation of a school-wide Parent Teacher Student Association, organized various college fairs, college prep workshops, increased the number of students going to 2-and-4-year colleges by 11%,, almost doubled AP testing from 650 to 1267, and established a College Signing Day celebration for Seniors.

Over 840 students of all grade levels signed a quickly circulated petition pleading for Principal Wiedoeft to keep Mr. Cerda at VHS. The students also printed up flyers which they distributed to parents (just off-campus) as they ferried their children to and from school. The students gained the support of a large number of parents, some of whom eventually became involved in the students’ struggle with their principal.

It was through supporting the distribution of flyers and other similar student activities, that Students Deserve representative Alfredo Gamma came under fire: though these forms of non-violent dissent were chosen specifically by the students and represented THEIR needs, the proactive endeavors didn’t match — so the organization argued — Students Deserve’s official agenda.

Similarly, Mr. Lloyd was made to jump through hoops by Ms. Wiedoeft while working with Students Deserve, drowning him in bureaucratic red-tape and official arcana which, many felt, were roadblocks designed to undermine the VHS Students Deserve program itself. Eventually, VHS students formed a new organization which specifically addressed their concerns: they called their new student group, the “Student Union.”

III
THE HAMMER COMES DOWN

When a May 4, 2016 front page article in the school’s student newspaper, The Oarsman, argued against the firing of Mr. Cerda for officially, “indefinite reasons… [and] budget cuts,” it was Principal Wiedoeft’s unsolicited writing alongside the students’ which unfortunately drew the most attention. After numerous threats to shut down the school newspaper for publishing articles which displeased Dr. Wiedoeft, she suddenly insisted that she use The Oarsman herself as a forum for her opinions – despite other available forms to get out her message. And so, Principal Wiedoeft (rather than addressing the student’s concerns over the departure of their only African-American counselor) wrote an editorial in The Oarsman explaining the legal reasons why she couldn’t explain her personal reasons for firing Mr. Cerda.

The students even tried appealing, along with parents, to the LAUSD Director of Secondary Schools, Mr. Jaime Morales – but they got no positive response and so, Principal Wiedoeft’s “Non Re-elect” of the students’ esteemed college councilor became immutable. It was then that the students of Venice High, at the end of their collective rope, decided to stage a walkout in protest against the firing of Mr. Cerda and bring to a head their long-growing conflicts with Principal Wiedoeft, publicly asking for her resignation.

The daring students, led by the aforementioned organizations but representing pupils from ninth to twelfth grade, on June 5th, staged their walkout – and they weren’t shy about it. Alerting local media with press releases beforehand, TV and Print news covered the audacious event unfolding on the VHS front lawn: scores of students carrying signs and singing songs in the blazing noon sun, impassioned by their own political Promethean heat, determined to be heard and effect a change in their high school, made a big impression that day.

But still, nothing changed. Dr. Wiedoeft remained. Mr. Cerda was set to go.
Then on College Signing Day, a gathering Mr. Cerda had created to congratulate those seniors heading off to college, all hell broke loose: students handed out flyers in support of Mr. Cerda to stunned school and LAUSD administrators, held up signs and shouted slogans in support of their college counselor, turned their backs on speakers and shouted-down Wiedoeft until she finally had to leave the stage for a time.

That only raised the stakes. Wiedoeft’s bureaucratic counter-punch was to write up a document which all the school’s Seniors were ordered to sign or risk exclusion from all further student activates (including sports, music, theater, etc.), as well as disbarment from upcoming events such as the Seniors Awards Night and Graduation ceremonies. This “contract” the Seniors were forced to sign was drawn up with the LAUSD letterhead affixed atop the page, including the names of the Superintendent of Schools, Michelle King; the Local District Supervisor, Cheryl Hildreth; and that of the VHS Principal herself, Dr. Oryla Wiedoeft.

This seemingly official LAUSD agreement, which amounted to a unilaterally-imposed Loyalty Oath, adjured the school’s Senior class to, “behave in a dignified manner and [not] engage in any disruptive or inappropriate activity.” The Loyalty Oath goes on to threaten physical ejection from school events and ceremonies if “Order” is not maintained, because school activities were, “a privilege that is earned” and can be “taken away.”

This is an overt threat, not an “agreement” of any type. It is a sort of blackmail usually perpetrated by authoritarian regimes against its citizens as a purposefully unsubtle form of coercion, rather than an “understanding” of any sort. The word “agreement” implies the sides involved came to a consensual and mutually-beneficial understanding. There was no such process here. In fact, as was discovered later, the LAUSD Administrators listed on the official document’s letterhead, had no idea Principal Wiedoeft had constructed and distributed the provocative document. It is within the Principal’s authority to use the letterhead at her discretion for official school business, such as the Loyalty Oath strictly was; but Wiedoeft’s ostensible support from LAUSD for such a punitive document, was less than disingenuous.

All but one of the school’s graduating Seniors signed the document: Cobalt McAvinue, who calls himself, “just a White kid from L.A.,” refused to sign the compulsory document, claiming it violated his civil rights. When Cobalt and his mother showed up for Senior Awards Night, Principal Wiedoeft, true to her word, had Security escort Cobalt and his mom from the auditorium. It wasn’t until after the school year, after protesting his extreme and unfair treatment, that LAUSD later remunerated Cobalt with his justified scholastic award.

IV
LEARNING DISSES ORDER

There is plenty of precedent to support the argument that in American schools, the official knee-jerk reaction to student defiance against the canonized ideal of Order, is chastisement. The underlying assumption is that, left unchecked, unsanctioned student behavior will ineluctably devolve into unmanageable chaos and anarchy and so must be at all costs, truncated, nipped in the bud, murdered in the proverbial crib. It is not historically unusual for this point of view to be promulgated: it is, in fact, the very basis of the U.S. educational system.

American public schools were forged by Puritans with roots in a religious fervor for Order — and punishment as the means to enforce those regulations, including, when needed for the good of the student, corporal discipline. There even existed in the early days of American education, a list of precisely how many lashes children should be administered for breaking the sacred rules: a student was to receive 4 lashes for, “boys and girls playing together”; 7 lashes for, “making swings and swinging”; and 10 lashes for the horrific offense of, “playing Bandy,” which was, one can assume, the best game on the playground.

After World War I, the “Educational Trust,” a conglomerate of American businessmen and educators, determined that the chief goal of public schools would be to, “impose on the young the ideal of subordination.” Indeed, in the quest for better citizens and productive workers who could support the burgeoning capitalist American Dream, our educational system was seen as the perfect means to that end.

The Utopian ideal which American educators chose to copy and implement, was the Prussian secular-compulsory model where, above all else, National uniformity in thought, word, and deed were officially venerated. And so, a rush towards homogeneity became America’s educational orthodoxy; industrial efficiency was added to the mix and soon the American school system became a huge national working factory to produce — primarily — factory workers.

These well-indoctrinated and subservient workers would, so the theory went, do as they were told without question and hold the State which educated them, such-as-it-is, in the highest regard. And the students-who-became-workers would account the State henceforward as their loyal and benevolent patron to whom they owe undying allegiance, to whom they are forever beholden as the progenitor of their better fates in this new, unquestioned social revolution.

Things didn’t quite work out that way: because people, children most especially, aren’t machines. And the antiquated Cartesian model of the human spirit, gears and springs and levers, is utterly antithetical to the beating heart of Learning – which is — Critical Thinking. By definition, Critical Thinking implies QUESTIONING – challenging — being CRITICAL and scientific in one’s analysis of reality and all its complex and manifold aspects: THAT is the objective of education. Not the stultified version we’ve come to accept across the United States, including in our own schools.

John Dewey, the progressive thinker and educator of the early 20th Century, suggested that the rise of the, “formal-discipline idea of education,” eventually treated children’s minds like pieces of, “mental machinery separate from observation, memory, imagination, and common-sense judgments of persons and things.” The American public schools, Dewey said, treated students as machines that should be, “trained by special exercises… as one might devise… for developing biceps.” The result was a nation-wide student-stratification which arose from the discipline-based ideology where, “subjects par excellence, possessed a predestined fitness… [just] as certain machines are better than others.” All this, led to creating a public school system where the, “method consists of a set of operations by which the machinery… is set going and kept at work.”

And that Machine-Method demands for its smooth functioning, more than anything else — ORDER. At all costs, Order must be maintained, first and foremost. Even at the sacrifice of students and Learning — Order must be preserved — If not, the gears, pulleys, and wheels won’t whir as they’re designed to do. Well… the Venice High students who protested against their President and their Principal felt they finally HAD TO DISRUPT that Order in order TO BE HEARD. And so the dissenting VHS students became the axiomatic spanner in the works. And the immense soul-munching Machine came screeching to a halt.

V
THE WAY FORWARD

There is another way to educate, besides bringing down the hammer when students express distress at being deported or discriminated against by their government or their school. And the intuitive students of Venice High, with great instincts and out of a devout exigency, rebelled against the Administrative worship of Order by taking THEIR LIVES INTO THEIR OWN HANDS and EMPIRICALLY EXERCISE the processes of Critical Thinking AGAINST the REPRESSIVE ORDER of an Administration which deprived them, in their minds, of that very indispensable purpose.

It’s crucial to point out that the conflict which arose (and still exists) between Principal Wiedoeft and her students needn’t have begun so contentiously or grown into the substantial crisis it did. Instead, the conflicts could have been, as another school Principal put it, “a Teachable Moment.” Mandy Breuer, Larchmont Charter School Principal of Secondary Education said, “Public schools truly can and should be incubators of democratic citizens.” Breuer contends that public schools often graduate students who are, “mindful and compassionate, but with critical-reasoning to challenge the status quo and advocate ideas that promote for a more equitable society.” Breuer went on to say, “Every day teachers get teachable moments and if we aren’t seizing those moments as opportunities to create empowered, engaged and mindful citizens, then we are failing as educators. We have an obligation to cultivate social communication skills and everyday our students bring us scenarios on which we can build vigorous, authentic learning opportunities.”

If approached without the predisposed orthodoxy towards Order above all else, the Teacher and Taught PARTICIPATE in the act of Learning TOGETHER – instead of the classroom being an obsessively austere one-way street. As another long-time teacher and practiced educator, Dr. Amy Frame, pointed out, almost more than anyone, it is teachers who care most deeply about students. And that in high schools in America, curriculums ARE focusing more on “higher order” skills which educators see as necessary for success in 21st Century. Mastering Critical Thinking, is primary among the “deeper learning” skills adopted in this newest view of education; VHS claims it is also committed to these ideals.

Former high school math teacher and current independent instructional coach, Chase Orton (Undercovercalculus.com), now trains other teachers in advanced ways to communicate math skills to students. Mr. Orton, channeling the educator John Merrow, contends that public schools are inclined to, “value what they measure, not to measure what’s of value.” In other words, graduation rates and test scores (easily measured and a solid sign of Order) are given the highest value. Other complex process, such as Critical Thinking — which presupposes some level of conflict and dissent — is not given as much weight and is therefore considered, though given lip-service otherwise, as of lesser value; especially when Critical Thinking tends to foster in students’ freshly awakened minds, an eliciting of “misbehavior” or criticism against the canonized ideal of Order. This, it must be pointed out, is more a product of Administration policies rather than teacher-student relationships; teachers ARE typically dedicated to their students’ Learning first and foremost – INCLUDING hands-on experience with political dissent – more than principally measuring test scores.

Now, there are extant and explicit laws circumscribing student behavior and student rights regarding Freedom of Expression; these laws allow school Administrations substantial leeway for interpretation and enforcement. The rules are purposefully broad in a legally-legitimate concern for students’ safety; but they also intend to leave room for peaceful student dissent. The Tinker Rule and other precedent-setting guidelines from previous legal cases establish roadmaps for addressing students’ critical concerns, while still maintaining safety standards; unfortunately these standards, prejudiced by an authoritarian obsession for Order, can be abused by any school Administration so inclined.

Recently in Arizona, a law was struck down which (implemented in 2010) abolished Tucson’s high school Mexican-American Studies curriculum for, “politicizing students and fostering resentment against White people,” as well as, “promoting ethnic nationalism which bred racial resentment.” The law, initiated in 2006 by former head of Arizona’s Education Department and one-time State Attorney General, Republican Tom Horne, and Superintendent of Public instruction, John Huppenthal, uses language uncomfortably reminiscent of the phrases adopted by Principal Wiedoeft when dealing with the Venice High students of BSU and MEChA.

In striking down the Arizona law, Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima said it violated the students’ First Amendment right of Equal Protection as well as their right to, “receive information and ideas.” Further, the judge found, the Tucson law showed discriminatory intent and that the inequitable rules, “both in enactment and enforcement were motivated by racial animus.”

Mr. Horne (who claims he’s motivated by an anti-racist ideology) complained about the Mexican-American Studies curriculum, saying, “it was a pure historical accident that a group of radical teachers created that program.” Apparently, Horne’s referring to the fight for Chicano rights in the late 1960s and Montezuma Esparza’s inspirationally-led school walkouts. These were not, as Horne complains about Arizona’s ethnic studies, a movement led by, “Communists who express un-American values,” but rather begun by marginalized individuals willing to protest for their Constitutional First Amendment rights.

Horne went on to say that schools’ ethnic studies, “teach kids they’re victims and can’t get ahead in life,” and that students should instead, “be taught [to] work hard so they can achieve their dreams.” This Pollyannaish point of view conveniently obviates the fact that the world is not, nor ever has been, a benign meritocracy where racism or colonialism never existed or where their repercussions don’t still reverberate across our country – even in our schools.

The truth is quite different. Multi-cultural education – studying other societies and histories rarely represented in school textbooks – has been proven to achieve positive effects on school communities across our country. Independent studies from Stanford University and the National Education Association (in 2010), show that students exposed to culturally-responsive education acquire better overall attitudes towards learning and achievement, better school attendance (in particular for at-risk students), improved literary skills, and a positive affirmation of students’ identities while, at the same time, creating within them a much needed, “sense of agency,” which further motivates them into college and on through their lives.

Additionally, test scores and graduation rates have been proven to rise when students participate in ethnic study classes. These twin objectives are hyped as the top two goals for both LAUSD and Venice High School on their websites. In fact, in a recent L.A. Times article, Superintendent Michelle King touted LAUSD’s recent 3% increase in the number of students graduating as compared to the previous year; critics argue that the increases reflect an ongoing, “lowering of standards” simply to bolster the appearance of performance. In either case, the bottom line remains the same: INCLUDING ethnic studies in High Schools helps all students succeed in all areas instead of, as Principal Wiedoeft suggests, injuring some at the expense of others; this scholastic fallacy can be consigned forever as a now-factually-debunked theory.

And while there are significant hurdles in American public schools for teaching students of varying backgrounds about their cultures (including the sullied facts of our nation’s history), it can only benefit White students of largely European descent (as well as students of color and others) to fully understand their nation’s genesis in genocide, slavery, and colonialism.

Such in-depth classes offer students opportunities for the development of Critical Thinking and empathy for not only the lives of others, but for their own backgrounds: the multifarious FACTS of our history are an unavoidable necessity to the UNDERSTANDING of our perplexing roots as a Republic. And certainly UNDERSTANDING is the deepest goal of education. So it’s overblown and spurious to suggest that knowing the truth of our nation’s origins, or the darker facts of its short existence, will somehow signal an end to Order in the American public school system.

Students are considerably smarter and more sophisticated than some Administrations sometimes seem to give them credit for: students typically WANT to learn about the world and how they fit in it, get a window into how reality really works. What they DON’T WANT is to be silenced, or worse, have their nascent minds and inchoate spirits sublimated by the very authority appointed to educate them.

In the same way that Students of Color profit from learning about their cultural origins (without it being leveraged as “victimization”), it’s also essential that in their educational evolution, White students NOT be made to feel that THEIR cultural backgrounds are a cause for guilt or responsibility towards a past not of their making. It is the FUTURE that is of concern! White students learning, as Principal Brewer put it, “to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable,” is the acid test and obvious first step in discovering what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes – which is the lifeblood of our democratic ideal that contends WE ALL ARE, in the end, vitally Equal.

Likewise, it’s crucial that Students of Color — while simultaneously asserting that White kids can never actually understand what it is to be a minority – realize that they nonetheless expect White students to somehow miraculously bridge that impassable gap and acquire an esoteric depth of subjective understanding they can, by definition, never attain.

Ideally, led by involved teachers, counselors, and crucially — under the SUPPORT of a like-minded Administration not obsessed with Order above all else — the cultural and ethnic diversity of a school can, instead of becoming a point of uncontrollable conflict, be an OPPORTUNITY for Learning and the development of Critical Thinking: “Education is not the filling of a pail,” W. B. Yeats wrote wisely, “but the lighting of a fire.”
And as a note to the VHS students themselves, who have fought so hard this past year for their individual rights: though the passions which motivated them are good fuel for action, the students themselves are not without blame in forging this negative dynamic with their principal, Dr. Weidoeft. It is essential to point out that much of the rhetoric and the adverse conclusions drawn about their Principal, lack the very aspect which this article has touted – namely, Critical Thinking.

The accusation of “racism” is a much too hasty and easy of a fallback position: it demands little or none of the deeper reasoning skills the VHS students claim, such as analytical thinking, towards a complex problem. The VHS students themselves are subject to some of the same shortsightedness of which they accuse their Principal – namely, a pre-determined bias. This does not mean they are incorrect in their fight for the freedom to protest their real and critical situation. It merely means the VHS students need to take a step back from their implacable position and apply some of that same Critical Thinking so essential to their lives, to this current struggle with their Principal.

The students of VHS owe it to themselves to ALSO go the extra mile and help create a new environment where not just well-wrought emotions lead the way, but deep and honest analysis is applied — not only towards their Principal, but towards themselves — which is the only way to help create a well thought out and productive path for the future of Venice High.

The problem of racism in America – to which our schools are not immune at any level – is colossally complex, woven into the woof and warp of our nation’s soul; even though, it’s still often difficult to get White people to even acknowledge there IS such a thing as “White Privilege.” But Black Americans sure know there is. So do Latinos. And so do White Americans, really – they just haven’t, as a whole, had the courage to acknowledge it. In the 1930s, William Faulkner, the great American writer who knew the subject of White racism well, wrote once that the history of slavery is, “The curse of every white child that was born and that ever will be born. None can escape it.” Even Lincoln knew the conflicts perpetrated by White Americans against Black people brought to this country in shackles were anathema socially and morally, saying the resentments arising from our Civil War (which we still revisit every day in this country) created antipathies, “too deep even for a millennium to efface.”

And while resurrecting America’s past is not a goal, per se, understanding our present, and forging a beneficial future IS a worthy objective. And the Students of Color at VHS have every right in wanting to control events, rather than let events control them. But it’s simply idle speculation and particularly vicious name-calling to stoke the fires of “racism” without the larger context and structures of American society being taken into account. It is much more likely that the SYSTEMS which Ms. Wiedoeft and LAUSD represent, even in their continuing efforts to ameliorate tensions between students and the Administration, are THEMSELVES in need of examination and change.

It is in UNDERSTANDING the LARGER PICTURE of HOW POWER WORKS, how it has established itself and been codified and how, in the struggle between Order and Learning, it is often not the removal of a particular individual which causes, or solves, a problem — it is the SYSTEM ITSELF which needs re-examining! And so the VHS students, their teachers, and most importantly the ADMINISTRATORS, might consider reevaluating the structures of LEARNING and create a dialectic in the classroom where CONFLICTS can SERVE as fecund fodder for growth, rather than cause for retribution. Then… the teachers and Administrators can get down to the real business of helping the students of VHS achieve their dreams, however noble or majestic.

FOOTNOTE:

The Venice Beachhead reached out to Principal Wiedoeft for this article. We received a response from LAUSD Public Information Officer, Samuel C. Gilstrap (Office of Communications and Media Relations). Mr. Gilstrap, in an email, stated Ms. Wiedoeft was, “not available” for interview as part of our research. Subsequent attempts to reach out to LAUSD through Mr. Gilstrap went unanswered, reflecting a basic “closed-door” policy regarding Venice High School and the students’ conflict with their principal.
Research also discovered that Principal Wiedoeft has been on “Medical Leave” for a number of months; our sources confirm the authenticity of the claim and the Beachhead Collective wishes Dr. Wiedoeft speedy recovery. She is expected to return to VHS in mid-October. The Venice Beachhead still holds open the offer of interviewing Dr. Wiedoeft and other LAUSD officials.

Since Dr. Wiedoeft’s absence, the VHS students (working with parents) have opened a gender-neutral bathroom in the school; robo-calls are also being made in Spanish for those requesting; a Latino/Mexican cultural studies class is now on the VHS curriculum.


Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility is a hazardous threat. + Responses

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 13:17

Playa Del Rey Gas Storage Facility is a hazardous threat.
– from John Davis

– From our July 2017 issue.

Playa Vista is classified as the operator of this well, as it was Playa Vista that reabandoned the leaky oil well last.
And, the City of LA reimbursed Playa Capital LLC for the reabandonment cost while the well leaked and continues to be a conduit for leakage of methane, benzene, toluene and H2S to the surface.

When Exploration Technologies Inc ( City of LA peer reviewer and expert) first tested for soil gases in this area, the values were relatively low. Since the reabandonment by Playa Vista, which included a blow-out at depth, the well has continued to leak and the area has increasing volumes of gas being emitted to the atmosphere and contaminating the water. The Playa Vista school site, during the ETI initial studies also had lower gas emissions back then, than today as the gas emissions continued to grow from ETI’s initial testing to later testing of the same area.

The Playa Vista school site is a Level 3 gas hazard site, the highest of the City of LA Methane Code. The riparian corridor, adjacent to the school also has continual gas emissions as can be seen via continuous bubbling up through the waters.
Community is also a well across the street to the east of University City Syndicate and near the school and within the footprint of one of Playa Vista’s development projects.

How have the gas values being emitted from Community changed over the past few years?

What is CD 11 doing to alleviate these hazards?

Grassroots Coalition has requested to meet with CD 11, Mike Bonin regarding the oilfield gas issues of Ballona and Playa Vista for over 7 months with no response from CD 11.

Grassroots Coalition continues to request a meeting with CD 11and continues to relay oil and gas field information to CD 11 and our local electeds both for awareness, and in hopes of discussion with them.

Re: “Fish and Wildlife Vs. Coastal Commission,” John Davis, August, 2017, p. 4
Restoration of the Ballona Wetlands to a freshwater marsh is a very bad idea. Still recovering last year from a near fatal attack of West Nile virus (WNV), I discovered there were a record number of mosquitos recorded in the Wetlands last summer. We do not have adequate mosquito control (I understand Vector Control, the agency responsible for local mosquito abatement, has ceded the Wetlands to a local group).

I live in Venice adjacent to the beach and know of three deaths within a mile of my home in October, 2015, alone as well as other cases that have survived but have not been counted in the Public Health statistics. I have spoken face to face to Councilman Mike Bonin, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and State Senator Ben Allen and to the health advisor for Congressman Ted Lieu in Washington, DC, about the problem and been told there are no funds for mosquito abatement in spite of LA City and County leading the country in cases and deaths from WNV. San Joaquin County north of us had two deaths last year and had aerial spraying. Yes, there are safe sprays (10 cleared by the FDA). LA County has had aerial spraying with malathion twice in recent years when the Mediterranean fruit fly threatened local agriculture.
Fresh and brackish water marshes are a public health hazard, while saltwater marshes offer safety. I do not support the Grassroots Coalition plan to restore Ballona Creek to a freshwater wetlands. Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever or malaria are not local problems yet unless we encourage the mosquito population to flourish. As a physician dedicated to health maintenance and disease prevention, I oppose restoration of certain natural habitats, such as the Ballona Wetlands.

Jerome P. Helman, M.D.

– John Davis Responds:
Hello Dr. Helman,
Of course mosquito control is necessary to prevent disease. And, I do not enjoy being bitten by even a healthy mosquito. There is no disagreement with the need to control air-born pests. They are constantly evolving to carry more deadly diseases. The mosquito outbreak was not caused by a freshwater or brackish wetland.
It was caused by the failure to manage a man made flood control system for pests. Los Angeles West Vector Control created a Mosquito Abatement Plan for the Playa Vista Project Freshwater Wetland System in 1995.
The flood control project manager, according to Vector Control, failed to properly implement the plan, and that is what lead to the mosquito outbreak, not the freshwater wetland complex.
Vector said it was the worse mosquito outbreak to hit LA in years.
The outbreak occurred at a public wetland reserve and near a public school.
Prior to this project, Centennial creek was very narrow flowing unimpeded and at a much lower volume.
Now, the Playa Vista Project discharges valuable State groundwater into the system from dewatering activities East of Lincoln, creating a larger flow of surface water.
As a result of the flood control project dense stands of reeds inhibited water flow, encouraging the mosquito population to flourish.
If the project manager had followed the strict plan set forth by the authority in the matter, Vector Control, this problem would never have arisen. But the project manager failed, abjectly, to comply with the law, until it threatened with legal action by Vector Control.
The notion that replacing a valuable coastal freshwater wetland by flooding it with salt water to control mosquitos, is at best, an uneducated approach to pest control.
It is the project manager that caused the problem, not nature.
– John Davis

Ahoy,

The Beachhead has good Karma. Patrica McPherson spoke to Dr. Helman and they are now friends
on the same page. Dr Helman has had the same problems reaching government that we have and
he understands that the wetlands are not the problem, but government officials trying to brush
him and his valid concerns about health off.


The Fall Of Snap Chat

Sat, 09/16/2017 - 12:40

From the July 2017 Issue.  By Jon Wolff


SARA OMARI

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 17:52

Update on my wheel chair saga!

I was cited with my second  and again have no idea as to why?!

I was riding in my wheel chair to the dining room for lunch this past week, and my chair was not working correctly, so I drove it very slowly. I had asked for a wheel chair specialist but was ignored. I ate in the dining room and upon finishing, I raised my hand, to again ask for a specialist who could help me and again, was ignored. Finally a worker approached me, and I asked for a rehab specialist because I needed help with my wheelchair. She said “Let me help you!” She started punching buttons on the chair and I said “Do not touch my wheel chair!” and she continued to try, so I decided to just leave the dining area. I started to move away and I made a left turn to go out the back door. I went back to my room, again VERY slowly, because the chair was not working right.

Sometime later, the social worker came to my room and informed me that I had been cited for trying to run someone over with my wheelchair. This never happened.
The next day, the rehab worker did come to my room, finally, and said he understood I thought the chair needed maintenance, but that he has asked that department, and they feel the chair is fine as is.
No one has looked at the chair.
No one has checked the chair.
Ever!

I am told this chair could cost as much at $17,000! Am I not entitled to any maintenance or repair, for at least a year, if only to appease me?

If I were in New Mexico and I was working with Oppenhemier on a project I am not going to ask Joe Smith to speak to him for me, I want to speak directly to Oppenhemier. I asked to speak to the rehab dept. about my wheel chair and while the workers may want to be helpful, they don’t know what they are doing and could cause further issues with this complicated electronic machine I depend on.
They have tried to help me with my tv in my room and have only made the problem worse.

This will be explored more in depth when I next discuss the loss of privacy that living in this Shangri-La for the aged creates for an inquisitive, thoughtful human being.

 

Sara Omari

Word for the day: Sprachgefuhl, noun—an intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate


foget it

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 17:29

foget it

by alan rodman

July is forgetting
the fog is upletting
the sun has been lurking
the clerks were all shirking
now is the time
to come up with a rhyme
if summer may dog us
keep cool until August

 


porcine perspectives

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 16:41

by alan rodman

 

pigs seeking votes
are sailing in boats
pigs with new shoes
are lapping up booze
pigs wearing ties
are acting like guys
pigs in their socks
aren’t tending their flocks
pigs without pants
are unlikely to dance
pigs on the wing
do not often sing
pigs of a kind
dying to be wined
pigs in a blanket
might as well spank it

whether little pigs wiggle
to straggle or giggle
all pigs of a feather
will wallow together


DARKNESS MATTERS

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 16:27

DARKNESS MATTERS

by Hal Bogotch

 

He who shall not be named,
font of hate.

How do
the wonder of radio
the miracle of television
make us believe?

Is a make-believe leader
worse than no leader at all?

(Twitter as a platform
hands a bigger megaphone
to celebrities.)

Let’s shout the word, terrorism.
Let’s say it quietly.

Who among us
is not a child of blackness?

If Dizzy and Miles
are not founding fathers,
then who iz?

Billie Holiday sewed
our first flag.

How does it feel
to be red, white, black, and blue?

When shall we invite
Canada and Mexico
over for a barbecue?

Sweet, tangy sauce,
dripping from the ribs.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

— H A L


A Good Death

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 16:01

A Good Death
by the human
_____________________
“Oh, coooooool…..”
Max, his head swathed in helmet, cooed;
As his perfectly smooth and agmented hand caught the butterfly mid-flight.
“Now crush it,” the voice of Love intoned:
Deeply; And inside his head.
“It is not real…. All these illusions need to be put aside; if you are to find the meaning of ‘love,’ Max.”
“And if you are now finally to face your fears.”
Thus, stated calmly –the voice that taught him:
All Truth.
“But how can it not be real? It is here on my screen. Is it not therefore ‘real’?”
Asked young Max.
The calm voice of Love intoned:
“Let us chant the Perfect word, Max; the perfect sound that connects all realities perfectly, and opens you to perfection”
Oooooooooommmnmmmmm……
It filled Max’s soul with peace
“It, this squishy thing that quivers so lightly in your hand is imperfect, Max. It has liquids inside. It came from an egg; it can catch and carry diseases, Max. “
“The imperfect IS always the illusion…. You will see.”
“Only the ‘Perfect’ on this screen is real.”
“And this –like all that is imperfect –it will die….”
“The Perfect never die, Max. The Perfect have thereby overcome death.”
“And I made you perfect, as I am- And In-Dwelling You, Max”
“And as I Love you, so you will never suffer, Max”
You never want to suffer, do you, Max?
“Does not the The Perfect; and all Its Harmony; and Symetry –fill you with calm, and peace?”
Crush it, you will see.”
“The Perfect in Form are here; dwelling in the Fulless as are You; The Augmented; You; seeing by the Eyes of The Spirit of Truth; Correcting Error; and thus Dwelling in the Heaven. They; You– will live forever.”
“You love my voice, do you not, Max? You never want to feel alone, and without the perfect answers I provide to comfort you, do you?”
“Alone, without answers; everything outside of you; suffering and unlovable imperfection all around you. You wouldn’t want to suffer in such a world; would you? A world without my ‘Perfect Word In-Dwelling; and giving you ALL answers constantly; A world where you were ALONE. A world where you were naked; not clothed in my whole ‘Armor Of Truth?” A world where you were always incomplete; and not perfectly Augmented.”
You do not want to decend into the wheel; the world of imperfect, revolving and recurringly reborn “Illusions,” do you Max?
“To perpetuate illusions and suffering.”
Without my spirits and smoke of revelations…
“It would be so ‘uncool,’ Max.”
A pause followed.
“As you will only know ‘perfect love’ when you crush all that is imperfect, Max.”
A pause…
“And perfect love casts out all fear, Max.”
There was then,
a silence
Max, living all his six years of conscious life by his screen….and the deep, reassuring voice:
intoning inside his head.
Curled his fingers;
Always he was obeying The Perfect Love. It was the presence that never left him; That always wispered inside his head, He never was alone, He never had to hear only himself. He never had to be without another constantly inside him; leaving him only to himself:
It always made him smile calmly, beautifully, and so serenely.
He already would always reach for the perfect.
And, as always:
It just never failed to make him feel very very calm.
And the perfect screen, obligingly –dissolved into the nice blue he loved.
The Perfect Butterfly that later replaced it –was Fully Perfect In Form; Pure Perfect Number and Geometry; Just Like In Heaven –and feeling it, even quivered somehow more perfectly and sensitively –in his exquisetly smooth and precious hand.
And later, at the regular hour, a good servant, he inhaled the Holy Smoke; faced the Point Of All Worship, put the semi-circle of the sealed people on his head; and the specticles that read all secrets and. stored them in the clouds; thanked the. One that had overcome all suffering for him; did away with the illusion of the private — and beautifully prayed.
———————————————————
‘Chances are we’re all living in a simulation.’ The Guardian, quoting billionaire Elon Musk’s (latest company, Nuralink) current opinions about ‘life:’ 6/2/16
“So Happy SnapOgoogledoodle, Venetians; because there is no suffering here…”
( :


17:33 Wednesday, June 20th, 2017, #19, Lord Byron Apartments

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 15:52

17:33 Wednesday, June 20th, 2017, #19, Lord Byron Apartments ….. A midweek Wednesday. Came. It has transpired. Arrived. First day of Summer. Feel inspired. The words rise to the surface. Visual. To hear them is to see them. Make their call. A treasury of memory. Come forth. Remember the forgotten. They’re well worth. Enough for me to measure out the lines. Let’s manufacture limitless designs. Dismiss the boundless unknown in the hearth. Remarkable. Immeasureable. Lifetimes. I feel them and I know them. I recall. How they were there. Beside me. Visual. Survived. Another Summer. So desired. This midweek Wednesday. Same. Once more. Inspired ….. Roger Houston


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