Buscaino Asks City to Pass Motion to Ban Camping at Libraries

Ruby has been offered help, but continues to sleep at the Palisades Library.

Pacific Palisades residents will be happy to hear about a new motion (LAMC 41-.18 and 56.11) submitted by Councilmember Joe Bucaino on June 3 that would prohibit lying, sleeping and storing personal property within 500 feet of a library.

A homeless woman, Ruby, who has been repeatedly offered help but has refused, continues to sleep at the Palisades Library. She stores her belongings there.

One resident wrote CTN last week, “Until the community (and some library staff) quit feeding Ruby and making her feel welcome, Ruby will remain on library property and be a draw for the crazy homeless. They join her on the bench in front of the library and in the covered walkway.”

One of the recent people who had come to the library was “Minnesota Mike” who yelled obscenities at the different elementary school children as they walked by to play in the park. Mike was arrested for robbery, but his case was considered a misdemeanor, which meant no bail and he was released. He has returned to this community.

“Ruby living on library property is not good for anyone,” a resident said. “It isn’t good for Ruby, it isn’t good for the library, and it isn’t good for the community members (including children) that get harassed. Can’t the LAPL take some action to get her removed from their property?”

If Buscaino’s motion passes, Ruby could be removed.

“Libraries are an essential public resource and one of the pillars of our society,” Buscaino said on Friday. “Today I introduced a motion that would ban encampments within 500 ft of all LA City libraries.  Unfortunately, encampments are correlated with increased fire risk like what just occurred in Venice at the Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library. This motion will help us take the necessary action to preserve a vital public resource. We should not have to wait until one of our libraries burns down before we act.”

Buscaino also co-authored a motion that was approved with a 13-2 vote at Council–asking the City Attorney to draft legal language that would expand the anti-camping law within 500 feet all schools and day care facilities in the city. Councilmember Mike Bonin cast one of two dissenting votes against that motion.

One of the tents near the Venice library caught on fire and threatened the building.

A June 3 story in the Westside Current “Friends of Venice Library Says ‘Enough’ after Tent Fire Threatens to Destroy Building” spoke about the community trying to get its library back. An encampment, which contains some threatening individuals, has made it difficult for Venice residents to use that resource.

The story reported that the Friends of Venice Library is fighting to save what once was a vital library for that community. The Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library is under constant danger because of a nearby homeless encampment at the adjacent Centennial Park. More than 60 encampments are in the park.  And, after warning city officials of a potential fire hazard, just one of many dangers facing the area, the Friends’ concerns became a reality last Friday night, May 27, when a tent burst into flames, nearly torching the building.

“Do we have to wait until the library burns down before city officials take notice?” asked Linda Martinek, President of Friends of Venice Library. “Sadly, it was only a matter of time that a fire was going to happen. We have sent countless emails to [Councilmember] Mike Bonin’s office and other city officials warning them that the tents surrounding the building were a potential fire hazard. Their response? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

While no injuries were reported from the fire, a scorched palm tree was chopped down the following morning and within days, a new tent was set up among the ashes and burnt debris.

“This should be viewed as a wake-up call,” said Bert Fallon, another longtime Venice Beach resident and member of Friends of Venice Library. “We are extremely lucky that the library didn’t catch on fire. It could have been much worse had the winds been stronger. The city has ignored our ongoing requests to remove the tents that are up against the library. This is a fire hazard. Can’t we at least protect our local library?”

Another library under attack is the Westchester Library. Several “several aggressive homeless and several mentally ill homeless living in squalor in the library parking lot” have made it difficult for residents to go into the library to check out books or access the building. The library is across from Councilman Mike Bonin’s District Office. He has hired a private security company for his office, but there is no additional police support for the library.

On June 6, CTN stopped by the Westchester Library, which has several homeless loitering in the parking lot. Also of concern was the voting center located in the Westchester Senior Center. It was empty and one of the clerks came out and said that no one was coming by.

Maybe it was the big dogs that belonged to transients in the parking lot – many of which were off leash. The poll worker thought Westchester was an off-leash dog park. It is not.

A resident wrote CTN “We have been receiving complaints from community members that seniors do not feel safe voting there. Nearly all of the handicapped parking spots are taken by vehicles used as dwellings and the trash surrounding them. This is a terrifying situation for seniors, who could sustain a life-ending injury by tripping in that parking lot.

“Can we get a crew there early in the morning to clean up the parking lot so seniors may exercise their right to vote in person?” the resident asked.

“It might also make seniors feel safe enough to vote if there were law enforcement presence,” the person said. “The security guard Mike Bonin has stays in Mike Bonin’s office behind a locked door and provides no security at all for seniors trying to vote.”

The Westchester Library parking lot is a hazard for library goers and senior citizens.

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