A Venice neighborhood group filed a petition Friday challenging the city of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission's approval of a 154-bed homeless shelter one block from Venice Beach.
The petition brought by the Venice Stakeholders Association in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges the project approval was done in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, the California Coastal Act and other laws.
"The city and the Coastal Commission jammed this project through the system and bypassed the environmental laws and the Coastal Act," VSA President Mark Ryavec alleged. "No government or project is immune from these laws."
The petitioner is asking that the city and the Coastal Commission set aside the approval of the project until the proper environmental work is done.
A representative for the Coastal Commission did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice, released a statement in reaction to the petition.
"It is disappointing how consistently VSA will fight to prevent solutions to homelessness," Bonin said. "We face a stark choice between providing housing and shelter or allowing the proliferation of sidewalk encampments in our neighborhoods. By fighting against solutions, VSA perpetuates the problem and makes it exponentially worse."
Ryavec acknowledged the need for shelters and other facilities to address Venice's persistent homeless problem, but said "a residential neighborhood like this one is not the right place for such a project, especially since much of the facility is essentially outdoors, and just across a narrow street from homes."
The shelter would be located in the middle of a residential neighborhood and would have a multi-bed dormitory, an outdoor dining area, a large outdoor kennel for residents' pets and several other buildings, according to the petition. And according to the VSA, the project would have as little as 20 parking spaces.
"If a developer proposed a 154-bed convalescent hospital with dozens of staff people, an outdoor kennel and dining facility, just feet from residents' living rooms, with only 20 parking spaces, the city would require an environmental impact report and mitigation before approving it," Ryavec said.
"A homeless shelter is no different."
According to the petition, the city approved the project in 11 days and the Coastal Commission gave its nod in nine days. The Venice Neighborhood Council, which is elected by Venice residents, was not even consulted, the petition states.
"The neighbors and the public were ambushed," Ryavec said.
The petition alleges the city refused to do any environmental review for the project under CEQA, and the Coastal Commission granted the city a waiver from the requirement of a coastal development permit, avoiding an analysis of the impacts of the project on coastal resources such as parking and water quality.
"Just because the city and the Coastal Commission think this project will benefit the public doesn't mean they can avoid considering its impacts under the environmental laws and the Coastal Act," said Ryavec, who added that other beneficial projects, such as hospitals and schools, must comply with the same laws.