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Letters to the Editor: L.A. Times takes a cheap shot at a Venice church for opposing a housing project

Homeless in Venice
Homeless people rest on a sidewalk near Venice Beach.
( Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I find it interesting that you accuse the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles and St. Mark Catholic Church in Venice of hypocrisy, rather than fully explain why these entities would take the unusual step of opposing the proposed homeless housing project Lincoln Apartments.

St. Mark had to make a wrenching choice between advocating for a small group of unhoused people or for the welfare of the schoolchildren under its care. It decided based on its experience sharing a property line with the homeless drop-in center Safe Place for Youth, the location of the project, that it could not put its children at what would clearly be an unacceptable level of risk.

There are many reasons to oppose this project, but the most salient one is that, because of its funding structure, it will very likely need to include people with severe mental illness. It will have no sober-living requirement or 24-hour security guard.

I understand that these things are not considered best practices for such a housing project, but not having them is inappropriate for a facility that will abut a school. This is not a simple question of NIMBYism.

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I am neither Catholic nor a parent at St. Mark. I am a resident of the neighborhood, and I am writing because I was amazed by your blinkered, incurious editorial.

Victoria Godfrey, Venice

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To the editor: Your editorial unfairly demeans the many years of support by Saint Mark parishioners to those experiencing homelessness. The suggestion that this suddenly ended is disheartening. Very recently, our parish kitchen was upgraded to improve meals for the homeless people we serve at Safe Place for Youth.

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The new Lincoln Apartments project would be logistically intertwined with our parish and school grounds, including a driveway where children will cross every day and an active rooftop patio that has lines of sight into a school playground. This would be an issue with any development adjacent to a school.

Vital concerns like these have been insufficiently addressed by the developers and by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission. We were left no choice but to file an appeal. Depicting St. Mark as uncaring of homeless people is a cheap shot.

A pastor cannot simply enforce support for a project, however honorable the goal may be. Those days are over. Our goal is to engage in a process to find a balance in meeting the needs of our neighbor while ensuring the safety of the children who live, learn and play in the immediate vicinity. That is 21st-century Catholic pastoral care in action.

Fr. Albert van der Woerd, Venice

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The writer is administrator of St. Mark Catholic Church.

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To the editor: I was distressed to learn that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is fighting Venice Community Housing’s proposal to build supportive housing for homeless people on the site of Safe Place for Youth next to St. Mark Catholic Church. This kind of NIMBYism is common in L.A., but to see it coming from our own archdiocese is unexpected and discouraging.

One of the most powerful passages in Scripture reads, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Why wasn’t the archdiocese guided by this wisdom?

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It’s not too late for the archdiocese to put this wisdom into practice, but I fear that “opposed housing for the poor” will be added to the humiliatingly long list of instances when the Church did the easy thing instead of the right thing.

Fortunately for believers, having faith in God does not mean we need to have any faith in our archdiocese.

Nicholas Burns III, Los Angeles


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