March 22, 2011

Councilmember Bill Rosendahl
Los Angeles City Council, District 11
200 North Main Street - Room 415
Los Angeles, CA 90012

RE: Roadmap to Housing, AKA Vehicles to Homes Program

Dear Bill,

I wish I could support this long-overdue program, but I can’t. The reasons are as follows:

1. It increases gentrification of Venice to the detriment of the poor and working people.
2. It is at least two years too late to resolve the RV parking issue without dividing Venice.
3. It’s housing component takes long-time residents out of their community.
4. It is paid for out of a fund which by ordinance can only be spent in Venice.

This “roadmap” is part of a larger city effort to rid Venice of those who are forced to live in their cars. At least one-third of RV live-aboards had previously had an apartment in Venice, according to a survey by St. Joseph’s Center. A major part of the reason for a growing vehicle-as-a-home phenomenon is your failure, and that of your colleagues on the L.A. City Council, to lobby the legislature to repeal or modify the anti-rent control Costa-Hawkins Act which prohibits vacancy control of rental units. As a result of exorbitant rents, a growing number of Venetians have found it necessary to live in vehicles or even the streets.

Growing hostility toward those without fixed addresses from some homeowners and some of those still able to pay their rents has played into the hands of developers and city officials who want to divide Venice. I, and others, have met with you and your staff several times during the last several years to urge you to create a program in which those living in RVs could be safe from individual and police harassment. We have suggested to you numerous lots and streets away from residences without result.

Meanwhile, through your notorious “carrot and stick” program you have encouraged the police to become involved in a social issue that has taken them away from fighting crime, e.g. robberies, break-ins, assaults and murders. You have let the divisions in Venice fester while trying to increase city revenue with overnight pay parking schemes which most of us did not want but had to spend two years defeating.

Now, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), a public agency, has been given $750,000 by you to implement the “roadmap” program. LAHSA subcontracted to People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), a nonprofit group, and gave it $650,000 (LAHSA apparently took a $100,000 cut).

Joel Roberts, the CEO of PATH, says that permanent housing is the goal of this program. This is a laudable goal, particularly if it is coupled with public assistance, jobs, health care and educational opportunities. However, there is no emphasis in Robert’s approach, nor in the entire “roadmap,” to assisting vehicle live-aboards in their own community. For many potential “clients” in this program, occupying a Section 8 housing unit in the San Fernando Valley or other distant locations means being torn away from their friends, their neighborhood, and indeed, all that is familiar to them. If this program is to be successful it must include an active effort by you and by PATH to contact Venice landlords and to get their agreement to provide at least one Section 8 housing unit. With enough effort, I’m confident that housing units can be found right here in Venice.

Finally, the funding for the entire “roadmap” program is illegal. The Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund can only be used within Venice. None of the major expenditures of this program take place in Venice. PATH does not have an office in Venice. It’s staff are not from Venice. The parking lots under consideration for RVs are not in Venice. In short, little of none of the activities or expenditures fall under the definition of legitimate use of the Fund.
As you know, the Fund is defined in the Los Angeles Administrative Code, Section 5.121. “Venice Area” is defined narrowly as that part of Venice west of Lincoln that is bordered on the north by Santa Monica, the south by Marina del Rey and the west by the sea.

The language is quite clear on how the Fund can be used. It states: “...shall be devoted exclusively to capital or non-capital projects or purchases generally within the "Venice Area"…

The “roadmap” can by no stretch of the imagination be considered to be “generally within the Venice Area.” Further evidence of the Venice Fund misappropriation is contained in the draft 85.11 ordinance itself. It refers not to Venice or the Venice Area but to the 11th Council District as a whole, a clear misuse of the Fund.

The draft ordinance states in section C:

(6) In order to qualify for eligibility to enroll in the Roadmap to Housing Program, a person must establish one of the following conditions:

(i) The person resided in a vehicle in the Eleventh Council District as of July 20, 2010; or
(ii) The person resided in a dwelling, not a vehicle, in the Eleventh Council District as of the effective date of this Section and later became homeless and forced to reside in a vehicle.
(my emphasis)

In summary, the “roadmap” and the draft ordinance both show misappropriation of public funds, to wit, the Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund.


Jim Smith
Venice Homeowner,
Poet and former
Neighborhood Council Treasurer