Brief Report on the VNC Meeting, March 22, on the "Roadmap to Housing"

On March 22, the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) took another stab at addressing the biggest controversy in our community in recent years – RVs and homelessness. Some outraged voices maintain that the treatment of those living in their vehicles by the L.A. Council office and by the Los Angeles Police Department amounts to a human disaster for the poor. Others object to the presence of RVs anywhere in Venice and blame the occupants for criminal behavior.

For the past several months, the LAPD has been implementing Councilmember Bill Rosendahl's "carrot and stick" approach which includes citing RVs for vehicle and parking infractions, banging on their RVs in the middle of the night, making threats of arrest if they remain in Venice, as well as towing their vehicles to a San Fernando Valley storage yard where the nearly indigent are charged around $800 to reclaim their vehicle/home. Some have called this a "streets to jail" program.

The subject of the VNC meeting was a new proposal from Rosendahl for a "Roadmap to housing" program, formerly called "streets to homes." Initially, it included provisions for some legalized street parking but was modified after complaints from anti-RV residents. It now includes only two sites for RV parking, which are the parking lots at both of Rosendahl's offices, one in West L.A. and the other in Westchester. Some anti-homeless residents had been vocal during the past several years about Santa Monica "dumping" its homeless on Venice. None of them objected to Venice RVs being "dumped" on West Los Angeles or Westchester.

Opposition to the "Roadmap" and accompanying 85.11 ordinance came from RV live aboards and supporters who said that the program would remove the poor from Venice. None of the housing being sought for live aboards is in Venice apparently. Nor is there much of an outreach program to local landlords to sign on to the program even though it can give them a guaranteed rent payment. Also called to the VNC's attention by several speakers was the alleged misuse of the public Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund which is to be used only in Venice.

The arguments seemed to have an effect on the Board which had been prepared to vote in favor of the "Roadmap." In the end, no vote was taken. Another meeting will be held in April.

About 75 people packed the meeting. Attendance slowly dwindled during the three and a half hour marathon. Even so, Venice speakers were given only one minute to express their opinions. Speakers from Los Angeles and Board members were given unlimited time. One of those staying to the bitter end was Rosendahl.

Chairperson Linda Lucks maintained her streak of throwing a stakeholder out of each meeting. This time it was Ocean Front Walk vendor, Mark Herd, who was apparently too impassioned in his one-minute comparison of the treatment and removal of the poor to the 19th century treatment of Native Americans and to the Nazis' treatment of Jews. His expulsion was the only action seen by any of the 18 LAPD officers who stood in the back of the room for the first two hours.

Jim Smith
Free Venice Beachhead