It is one of the most heavily traversed areas of Venice.
Whether it is by people in cars, on bicycles or on foot, the Windward Avenue Circle sees its share of traffic as a crossing point to the beach and other local points of interest.
The area’s central location near the ocean provides a host of options for community-serving opportunities, residents say.
Now, with the anticipated sale of a U.S. Postal Service property along the circle at Windward Avenue and Grand Boulevard, residents are coming forward with suggestions on how to make use of the property for the greater Venice community if the city were able to acquire the land.
“It’s a great piece of property by the beach,” said resident Erin Sullivan, who is part of a group supporting a proposed park and community center for the site. “We think it would be great if the neighbors got together and supported something.”
Resident Carolyn Rios agreed, saying, “It’s a nice substantial piece of property.” Rios, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council, has suggested using the property for ground-level parking and a transitional housing facility.
Community members note that they became interested in the city possibly acquiring the lot when they learned the Postal Service had announced its postal annex is up for sale. Postal Service spokesman Joseph Harrison said the agency has issued notice for solicitations for purchase of the annex property and decided to sell it to consolidate operations and cut costs. A request for proposals has not yet been issued.
“We were looking at how to effectively and efficiently continue our operations,” Harrison said of the decision for consolidation. “It was deemed as a property that we can relinquish to cut costs.”
While operations plan to move from the facility, which was used primarily as a postal carrier unit, Harrison said mail delivery will not be interrupted for customers.
“The public can be sure that they will see no change in the collection or delivery of mail,” Harrison said.
As the Postal Service reviews bids for the annex property, the agency plans to consider all proposals, including those potentially from the community, in which the applicant has the financial means to purchase, he said.
The announced sale of the lot has also drawn the attention of elected officials, including Congresswoman Jane Harman. In a letter to Postmaster General John Potter, Harman noted that the facility is a “valuable piece of property,” but she asked that the City of Los Angeles be given the first right of refusal to buy or lease the property from the federal government.
“The Venice community already suffers from high-density, heavy traffic, a lack of public sites to serve its residents and public transit options — problems that would be exacerbated if this property was purchased by a private developer,” Harman wrote.
“Instead, my constituents would very much like to see the property converted into a space for a public partnership project that could provide an invaluable benefit to the neighborhood for years to come.”
Some residents who have taken an interest in the potential uses have expressed concern that the property could be bought by a developer looking to take advantage of the desirous location.
“We want to get it in the public domain instead of having four-story condos,” said resident Mark Ryavec, who is working with Sullivan in the group known as the Windward Circle Park Committee.
The Venice Neighborhood Council heard a proposal from the committee May 19th recommending that the city purchase the annex lot either through current or future park bond funds and/or federal grants and convert it to a park with the existing building used as a multi-purpose community center. The community center would offer space for an art, photograph and sculpture gallery, performance and dance space and community meeting rooms. The facility would be fenced and closed at night.
The Postal Service site covers 77,722 square feet, including a 17,000-square foot building. The Windward Circle Park Committee notes that the property is part of the original Venice of America tract subdivided by founder Abbot Kinney and over the years it has had various uses, including the Venetian Villas and Cosmos Social Club.
Committee members say they envision restoring the land as open park space and want to compliment Venice’s art history and culture by creating a community center.
“We want to have a place where the neighborhood can get together,” Sullivan said of the idea. “Our hope is that the city could purchase the land and turn it into a passive park and community center.”
Rios, who has also offered recommendations, said she likes the idea of a community arts center, but believes there are other pressing needs for the community, such as parking and transitional housing for the homeless. The lot is close to both the beach and Abbot Kinney business district, where ground-level parking would be beneficial and transitional housing could be added on the second and third stories, she said.
“The parking (area) can be very green and landscaped to give the illusion of a park,” Rios said. “I think visually it could be an enhancement to that area.”
The neighborhood council will continue the discussion on the two annex property proposals, as well as any additional recommendations, at its meeting next month.
PROLIFERATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA CLINICS —
At its May 19th meeting, the neighborhood council also addressed a motion by Land Use and Planning Committee chair Challis Macpherson to consider a potential course of action regarding the proliferation of medical marijuana clinics in Venice.
The motion says that in recent months a number of medical marijuana clinics have been established on Lincoln Boulevard and other streets, some within close proximity to each other. The clinics are located a short distance from a school and residences, the motion states.
The council discussed the issue at its meeting in April, when some patrons and dispensary operators spoke of the need for licensed facilities for medical purposes.
When taking up the issue again earlier this month, the council voted to form a task force headed by council member Dexter O’Connell to propose recommendations on the dispensaries. The committee will include dispensary owners, clients, and community members.
“Safe access to medical cannabis is an important right people have if they need it for medical use,” O’Connell said. “It’s important that it’s safe and licensed and that the community knows what’s going on.”