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More on Venice Suit

February 17, 1991

In response to your article "Gadfly's Grant Has Its Critics" by Nancy Hill-Holtzman (Times, Jan. 27), Ulan Bator Foundation is proud to announce a $7,000 pledge to enable COAST (Coastal Area Support Team) to pay for legal fees, legal insurance and the costs of preparing and submitting depositions in the Prudential/Marina Place case.

At this time, it is critical that all Venetians and Westsiders who believe the coastal access suit being pursued by COAST is a strategy to follow rise to the occasion and raise funds to support the ongoing efforts to challenge and defeat in the courts the placement of a regional shopping mall on the border of Venice.

It is a studied misrepresentation to claim that one of my tactics is to first support a project and then oppose it . . . thus establishing the legal grounds for some kind of extortion. My position toward the project never changed from the beginning. I negotiated under duress; I always said it was too tall, too dense, too much commercial. But these things were not on the table, as some of my critics on the Venice Action Committee know all too well.

What I try to do, as I participate with lots of others in negotiations with developers, is be certain of already conceded ground and pay attention to what others decry and want, and attempt to imagine solutions which might be acceptable to Venetians. I am always looking to protect Venice and get the best deal for Venice, although I agree that such a call is always subjective and invites second-guessing.

I want to clarify several points concerning the $450,000 settlement with the Channel Gateway Project in return for my agreement not to go to court. First, $250,000 will go for a community center on public land in Venice. It will not be paid to my private charity, Ulan Bator Foundation. As for the remaining $200,000, I was the only person from Venice with standing to go to court. No one else bothered to use the system, not the Venice Action Committee activists from Oxford Triangle who negotiated substantial financial compensations for their neighborhood and had plenty of chances to oppose the project, and not the former board of the Venice Town Council, who made no effort to stop or scale back the project as it went through administrative hearings.

Before accepting the settlement, I talked to many people. Only one suggested that I go to court. Most said I should avoid the money for several obvious reasons. I decided I could handle it and that the potential benefits were worth the risks.

I have established the Ulan Bator Foundation and have begun to spend the funds. I will make a full public accounting of how I spend these funds each year. I expect people to watch me and judge me, and I am not afraid because I have nothing to hide. I will try to help Venice and follow my judgment and inclinations, and seek broad counsel. I think I have earned a reservoir of good will over the years with Venetians for my community work, so I expect that most people will . . . wait and see!

ARNOLD SPRINGER

Venice

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