Category Archives: Venice Beach News

Return Protections To Venice Residents…

Columnist Mark Ryavec.
Columnist Mark Ryavec.

By Mark Ryavec

Back in the mid-80s, when I was serving as the chief deputy to the Los Angeles County Assessor, my boss Alex Pope came to me with a “Homeless Bill of Rights.” An ACLU attorney had given it to him over lunch and asked him to get the Los Angeles county supervisors to adopt it.

The attorney told Alex that it would help attorneys for the homeless advance their lawsuits, including those against the city and county. If my memory serves me, the document was similar to Senate Bill 608, the “Right to Rest” bill, which recently stalled in Sacramento, but also with a provision protecting the personal possessions of the homeless. This latter right was later the subject of the Superior Court’s Lavan decision, which required the city to give notice of removal of personal items from sidewalks and to store them for 90 days.

Fast forward 30 years and we can see that the cumulative effect of recent court decisions, including Lavan, has had the same effect as that long ago ACLU proposal: the voiding of vagrancy laws that have for many years protected residents from the negative effects of transient campers. In addition to the usual hot spots for transient encampments, we now see them throughout the city. I would suggest that this was the real goal of the homeless advocates. It’s a form of extortion, though residents in some areas of the city bear this burden far more than others.

The result of the Lavan Decision (hands off homeless possessions), Jones settlement (sleep anywhere you want), and the Desertrain Decision (sleep in your vehicle anywhere you want), is three fold.  First, vagrancy laws are gutted and transients can live outside anywhere they want. Second, there is no pressure at all to leave the street. Third, it is much more attractive to live on the street in Los Angeles, with its moderate weather (and lack of regulations), than in Detroit or Chicago and other points east and north, with their extremes of heat, cold, and rain.

So, it should not come as a surprise that the homeless population here has increased, that more and more of the population is not from L.A., and that they have spread all over the city. For example, the Pacific Palisades has gone from almost no homeless to having them camping on their beaches, bluffs, and parkways. And predictably the response of some people is to start raising funds to counsel and house those newly on their doorstep.  That’s exactly the result the homeless advocates want: to put the homeless in everyone’s face so that the “housed” public acts to succor them and pressure their elected officials to house them. It’s a brilliant strategy but callous in the extreme.

It attracts homeless individuals, which includes the drug addicted, mentally ill, and criminally-inclined, to our city in large numbers, in some instances from homes they were living in before coming to L.A. We know this in Venice from the large number of campers for whom our organization has provided bus fares to return home to welcoming family members in distant states.

The loss of vagrancy laws also puts a huge burden on residents and businesses in the popular venues – think Hollywood and Venice, for example. It exposes some to assault; remember the transient that bit off part of the finger of restaurateur Clabe Hartley, and others to home invasion; we had five within six blocks of my home last year.
And it results in the tragic death of those who in their drug or mental derangement tangle with the police; already two dead in Venice this year, who were not from L.A.

The cry from homeless advocates to not “criminalize the poor” is fatuous. Societies have rules to protect themselves from noxious behavior. Certain situations – urban encampments of homeless near residents, public defecation, urination and inebriation, frequent late night noise, drug use and sales – all set the stage for worse: theft, trespass, assaults, and home invasions.

Due to the misguided efforts of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmen Mike Bonin and Gil Cedillo, the potential of two new ordinances to restore some balance to the situation is on hold and at risk.
The mayor has directed city departments to not enforce the new ban on storage of personal items overnight in city parks.  This allows the Venice Beach Recreation Area to remain a highly desirable campground for hundreds of “travelers” from all over the country and abroad. The mayor’s delay on the parks ordinance is inexplicable since no council members have proposed to amend it.

The mayor also asked city departments to not enforce the new, tighter restrictions on storage of personal items on sidewalks and asked the City Council to remove the misdemeanor penalty for violations. Bonin and Cedillo’s motions to accomplish this will gut the sidewalks ordinance by, among other measures, removing luggage, backpacks, clothing, documents, and medication, and household items from the definition of items that can be collected by the Department of Sanitation if not removed after 24 hours.  Neither Sanitation workers nor LAPD officers have the time to sort through piles of “stuff” to find all the items that would get a pass from collection by city workers.

The mayor apparently fails to understand that under the Lavan Decision and the new ordinance, personal documents and medication will not be disposed of; they will be stored for 90 days and a notice left at the collection site with details of how to retrieve them.

With no possibility of a misdemeanor violation campers will not move their stuff for city cleanups or after the 24-hour grace period.
With no ability for the city to collect luggage, backpacks, clothing, documents, medication, and household items, the encampments in Venice on walk streets, on Third Street, and occasionally along Venice Boulevard will continue and spread, as we have already seen them creep into the Oakwood neighborhood.

With a stalemate on the language of amendments at the City’s Homelessness Committee, the mayor should get out of the way and tell city department heads to enforce both ordinances immediately. The pendulum has swung so far in recent years that the inmates are now running the asylum. It’s time to return some protections to our long-suffering residents who right now feel powerless to protect themselves.

Mark Ryavec is the president of the non-profit Venice Stakeholders Association.

Op-Ed: Councilman Mike Bonin on the Homeless Crisis

Editor’s Note: This is an op-ed from Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin (pictured above). Here he expands on recent coverage of ordinances, allowing the city to clean up sidewalks and parks, that were approved by the City Council and talks about solutions to the challenges presented by the increase in homelessness in Los Angeles’ neighborhoods.

By Mike Bonin

In recent years, Los Angeles has seen more progress in combating homelessness than it ever has – yet the problem is still getting worse.

Since 2011, the region has housed more than 23,000 people – a record number even by national standards. Yet homelessness is on the rise. Encampments are proliferating in our neighborhoods throughout the city. There are villages of tents on sidewalks from Venice to Van Nuys, and shantytowns in neighborhoods from Skid Row to San Pedro.

How is this possible? And how can we fix it?

The problem has roots in Los Angeles’ failure to provide sufficient housing and shelter. In 2006, the city got slapped hard by federal courts, which ruled that it was cruel and unusual punishment to forbid people from sleeping on sidewalks if there was not sufficient housing or shelter. In response, the city made a long-term commitment to build more housing, agreed to allow sidewalk camping, and enshrined that policy in a legally binding agreement.
Predictably, the stock of available housing has come nowhere close to meeting the demand. As a result, there are nearly 20,000 people in the city without shelter — and they are going where the law and the lack of resources is telling them to go: sidewalks, parks, and canyons.

While it must have been a tempting way for the city to wash its hands of the legal issue, this policy has been a disaster. The impacts have been as harmful as they should have been predictable: Encampments are increasing. The unsheltered homeless are falling deeper into chronic homelessness and mental illness. Neighborhood quality of life is being damaged. No one wins.

The ultimate solution to homelessness is providing housing first, with supportive services as needed. But even if we build exponentially more housing faster than we ever have, we will have tens of thousands of people without shelter for years. That’s not acceptable.

While we wait to build enough housing, we spend a tremendous amount of time and money dealing with the issue of encampments, but we focus very little on giving people an alternative to sidewalks. We can’t ignore the problem or wish it away. Housing first cannot mean housing only.

We need real alternatives to living in shanties – a menu of options between our sidewalks and our far too scarce permanent housing. That includes shared housing, bridge housing, sobering centers, transitional shelters, and even emergency shelters. We need options that keep people off the streets, out of risk, and engaged in case management and services unavailable on the street. We need to create and invest in a continuum of care rather than in our current policy of malignant neglect.

We must do better than a system of bare-bones, one-size-fits-all shelters that feel like prisons, and become permanent warehouses for people. We need specialized, welcoming centers or shared housing for couples, for families with children, for teenage runaways, for veterans and others. New York has begun to move toward this model. Agencies there have begun to implement a new “safe haven” system of shelters to lure the chronically unsheltered and service resistant from the streets. Officials are creating a series of round-the-clock “drop-in” centers. Churches and synagogues are opening small overnight “respite programs.”
We should do that here.

The issue of the unsheltered homeless population in Los Angeles is daunting. Citywide, 73 percent of our homeless go without shelter. Addressing this problem will require significant investment from and partnership with other levels of government. We will need money from the state, and from the county, and its health, mental health and social service agencies. We will need partners in the private sector and in the faith communities. We will likely need to change or suspend some land-use regulations to make it easier to create more housing and shelter options.

This will be challenging. It will cost money and political capital – neither of which is unlimited, and both of which are needed to build permanent supportive housing. We need more of both. We cannot ignore the enormous gap between our small supply of permanent housing and our tremendous demand. And we cannot ignore the costs and consequences – to our unhoused and unsheltered neighbors and to our neighborhoods – of the City of Angels being a City of Encampments.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin is a member of the council’s Committee on Homelessness.

LA City Council Approves Million Dollar Payout in Homeless Lawsuit

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a 1.1 million dollar payment to resolve a lawsuit filed on behalf of four homeless people in the Venice area who, were cited or arrested as part of a 2010 crackdown on people living in their cars in the area.

Carol Sobel, the attorney who challenged the law that served as the premise for the crackdown, says she plans to use proceeds from the settlement to challenge future and existing laws targeting homeless people in the city.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, says Los Angeles could follow Santa Barbara’s example by setting up a “safe parking program” in which a lot is set aside where people can park their cars as long as “they are enrolled in social services” that help them find a place to live.

Bon Appétit? The Reasons Behind Gjusta’s B-Grade from The Health Department

Bon Appétit announced their Hot 10  yesterday, naming Venice’s Gjusta, number 2 on their list of America’s Best New Restaurants for 2015.

The magazine hailed Travis Lett’s eatery at 320 Sunset Ave., as a “California dream come true,”

“It’s a juice bar-bakery-deli-pizzeria-coffee shop-smokehouse, you get the idea. Is there anything this ambitious, do-everything spot doesn’t do well?” the magazine raved.

Co- Owner Fran Camaj telling CBS News, “We’re certainly very excited and quite proud to make that list.”

It’s not the first time something in Venice has won approval from the outside world, in 2012 GQ Magazine announced Abbott Kinney was the coolest block in America. An honor that some believe directly triggered a wave of gentrification in Venice. A near Tsunami inundating the beachside neighborhood with a plethora of high-priced, hipster hangouts that serve coffee way more fancy than your average cup-o-joe.

Gjusta is one of these such restaurants and while Bon Appétit may have declared it the number 2 hottest new restaurant in America, locals are divided.

At a city planning hearing regarding the establishment’s patio, Actor Zach Galifianakis said the restaurant represented “…the soul-wrenching velvet-roping of Venice Beach.”

Many locals have been upset by the increase in traffic Gjusta has drawn to the area and believe the developers are in violation of certain codes, including not providing enough parking.

Others can’t get enough, taking a ticket and waiting hours for their weekend Biali.

“I waited half an hour and paid $12 for a loaf of bread,” says Venice resident Henry Hereford.

Even Jay-Z and Beyoncé have pulled up a pew in the courtyard and enjoyed lunch…and the coffee is really good. Way better than your average cup-o-joe.

However, regulars may have noticed that earlier this month a blemish adorned the Gjusta window, a recent B-grade from the Health Department.

It was a low B-Grade, a score of 82.

Reasons listed in the report obtained by Yo! Venice include, staff handling food with dirty fingernails and without gloves, food being stored at inadequate temperatures, flies on food, dishes being washed without sanitizer, and mould on an ice machine in the coffee preparation area.

The inspection took place on July 28th, the report showing the inspector entered the restaurant at 11:36am and left almost 3 hours later at 2:23pm.

A re-inspection date was not specified on the July 28th report, however Gjusta’s current A-rating suggests a more recent inspection has taken place and that the establishment has, quite literally, cleaned up their act.

*Image courtesy of Twitter