A week ago, Circling the News went on a 6 a.m. tour of Venice Beach with a member of the Venice Stakeholders Association. Although City Councilman Mike Bonin had said that more than 200 homeless had recently been offered housing, about 56 people were found sleeping along the boardwalk or in the sand. Around 8 a.m. that morning, one transient was found dead of an overdose at Rose and the Boardwalk.
Mark Ryavec of the VSA did another early-morning count on August 28. He reported, “The number of homeless campers in the Venice Beach Recreation Area increased again, going from 56 last weekend to 71 this weekend.”
He noted that some homeless had not moved from the previous week, such as ones on the sand south of the handball courts. A new transient, with gear and a tent, had set up north of the handball courts.
Five campers with sleeping bags took over one of the pagodas mid-boardwalk. More tents were evident, though few were on the sand itself.
Ryavec said, “Lack of enforcement of nighttime curfew erodes the tremendous progress made in recent months and invites a return to the chaos and dangerous conditions Venice residents and visitors have lived through the last several years.”
The City recently passed a no-camping ordinance (LAMC 41.18.) and Palisades residents wonder, If people are offered housing but refuse, why are they allowed to stay on the sidewalks?
Traci Park, who is running for Bonin’s seat in 2022, explained that the new ordinance only narrowly restricts sitting, lying, sleeping, storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property:
* in a manner that impedes passage under the ADA;
* within 10 feet of a driveway or loading dock;
* within five feet of any building entrance or exit;
* within two feet of a fire hydrant;
* in a public right of way in a manner that obstructs or interferes with any activity for which the City has issued a permit; and in a public street, bike lane, or bike path.
Encampments can be prohibited up to a maximum of 500 feet from a school, daycare, park or library; up to a maximum of 500 feet from a freeway ramp, underpass, or overpass; and up to a maximum of 1,000 feet from a homeless shelter opened after January 1, 2018.
Park, a lawyer with Burke, Williams & Sorensen, said that “in any of these circumstances, the entire City Council must first adopt a resolution ‘to designate a specified area or areas for enforcement.’ The City must also post signage in the area, and then wait 14 days to begin enforcement.”
To clear encampments from the streets, sidewalks, or other areas, the entire City Council must vote on a resolution “based on specific documentation” showing that obstructing the public right-of-way at that location “poses a particular and ongoing threat to public health or safety,” Park said.
What are the threats? Such circumstances “may include but are not limited to: (i) the death or serious bodily injury of any person at the location due to a hazardous condition; (ii) repeated serious or violent crimes, including human trafficking, at the location; or (iii) the occurrence of fires that resulted in a fire department response to the location.”
The ordinance does not define what “specific documentation” is necessary to prove the unsafe conditions.
“It also does not define how many fires, violent crimes, or deaths are necessary in order to designate an encampment an ongoing threat to public health and safety,” Park said, noting that the new ordinance leaves discretion to individual councilmembers about enforcement in his/her district.
“A law enforced in Westwood does nothing for Westchester, and a law enforced in Van Nuys does nothing for Venice,” Park said.
Councilman Bonin voted against the ordinance. On his Twitter he wrote: “I voted against this ordinance because it tells people who are unhoused and unsheltered and have no place to go where they cannot sleep. It does nothing to tell them where they can sleep.”
Some City Council members say there should be a “street engagement strategy.” City Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo recommended on July 28 that such a strategy be “implemented as a pilot,” even though he acknowledges that the recommended procedures are what outreach teams are already doing.
Park, who has spent 20 years as an attorney in labor and employment law and civil rights, said that “Szabo also requested that LAHSA use its 17 City-funded Homeless Engagement Teams for the effort (at a price tag of $4.2+ million dollars). His proposal allows for up to four months of engagement before enforcement commences