Thursday, October 30, 2014

Venice Stakeholders Association and Residents File Lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles for Dangerous Conditions and Public Nuisance at Venice Beach

After years of having public safety and health concerns ignored, the Venice Stakeholders Association and individual residents today filed a lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles for their maintenance of a public nuisance and dangerous conditions along the Venice Boardwalk and beach that deprive residents of the quiet and safe enjoyment of their homes and the Venice community of the safe use of the Venice Beach Recreation Area.

“It has long been evident that the City and County enforce “no camping” laws in all of their parks except the Venice Beach Recreation Area,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the neighborhood association.  “One look at the pristine condition of the park next to City Hall or Grand Park next to the Hall of Administration shows the unequal treatment Venice has received.”

“It is only at the Venice Beach Recreation Area and on adjoining streets that a lawless Skid Row encampment, open drug sales and use, loud late-night noise, and public inebriation, urination and defecation is routinely permitted,” Ryavec said.  “This is not tolerated elsewhere in Los Angeles or in other beach cities along Santa Monica Bay.”

“Since City and County officials and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority have not replied to our many requests to clean up the park and beach, we had no choice but to bring this lawsuit.”

“The stakes are very high,” Ryavec said.  “This lawless environment spawns deadly behavior – for example, the killing of a young Italian visitor who was run down on the Boardwalk by a meth-addicted transient in his car in the summer of 2013. Or the recent home invasion that forced a young woman out onto the rooftop of her house to escape a transient who had broken in. 

“The lack of enforcement of existing laws makes the hundreds of campers living along Venice Beach feel they can do anything they want with impunity.  The result is that harassment, intimidation, trespass, vandalism, home invasions, and burglaries are common.”

Rob Glushon, the attorney for the VSA and individual plaintiffs Gary Harris, Jack Hoffmann, Arthur Kraus, David Krintzman and Brad Neal, said, “California law requires all property owners to maintain their property in a manner that does not cause harm and danger to others.  Both the City and County need to take action to abate the intolerable conditions at Venice Beach, which are a serious threat to public health and safety.”

Contact:  Mark Ryavec at 310 871 6265

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Legal Issues in Confronting Venice's Transient Crisis Outlined in ABA Journal

The American Bar Association Journal has published a cover story on recent court decisions that have exacerbated a chronic lawless environment at Venice Beach and fueled an increase in assaults, trespass, burglaries, drug sales and use, intimidation and harassment of residents, and public inebriation, defecation and urination in our community.

Cities get mired in civil rights disputes in trying to deal with growing homeless populations


house on venice beach
Photo of Mark Ryavec by Kyle Monk.
Mark Ryavec lives in a beautifully restored 1907 duplex in Venice Beach, the artsy beachfront neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

He's about half a mile from the shore and even closer to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a trendy artery filled with pricey restaurants and boutiques. Depending on which real estate website you consult, his improvements and recent gentrification in the area have pushed the property's value to roughly three or four times what he paid for it in 1989.

Across the street, one of his sometime neighbors lives in a van. Drinking coffee in his front yard, Ryavec watches a young man slip out. Shortly afterward, the man comes back with a car that jump-starts the van. This is necessary because it's a street sweeping day and the space ceases to be legal at noon. This, Ryavec says, means the van-dweller will take up a parking spot that a resident could be using—in a parking-poor neighborhood that gets 16 million visitors a year.

But this is just the beginning of Ryavec's problems with homelessness in Venice Beach. A much smellier problem is that people living in vehicles have limited access to bathrooms. As a result, he says, vehicle-dwellers routinely relieve themselves behind million-dollar homes.

More at: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/unwanted_guests 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Residents Ask City for Ban on Luggage Stored at Venice Beach and Ban on Sleeping within 125 Feet of Residences and Hotels



The Venice Stakeholders Association today forwarded to City officials a petition from residents supporting public safety amendments to protect Venice Beach and other major outdoor event venues in Los Angeles from a Boston Marathon-like backpack bombing.  The package of amendments also would establish a buffer zone around residences and hotels throughout the City in which the City’s “no sitting, lying or sleeping” ordinance could be enforced.


“Currently Venice Beach, with an estimated 16 million visitors a year, is at risk of attack due to the ease with which anyone can leave unattended baggage for hours,” said Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA.  “Unattended luggage is not allowed at LAX or Union Station and it also should not be allowed anywhere in the City where huge numbers of people congregate,” Ryavec said. “Our amendment would plug this hole in City law.”

Also included in the package is an amendment that would re-establish the City’s “no sitting, lying or sleeping on public rights-of-way” ordinance within 125 feet of any residence or hotel.  The ordinance has been largely unenforced for eight years as part of the “Jones Settlement,” an agreement between the City and several homeless individuals in Downtown’s “Skid Row” neighborhood to temporarily hold off enforcement between 9 PM and 6 AM until additional housing is built to house the homeless.

Jack Hoffmann, a Market Street resident, said the application of the Jones Settlement to areas beyond Skid Row has created a nightmare in Venice, especially on and near Ocean Front Walk, which is known as the Venice Boardwalk.  “By encouraging the establishment of large encampments of mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted, and criminally-inclined individuals living on our doorsteps, the City has endangered residents, visitors and those living on the street; abandoning people helps no one.” Hoffmann said.


“Instead of forcing people to live with this danger and bear the burden the City will not accept, in Venice or elsewhere, the City should at least create a buffer zone around residences and hotels citywide where these encampments cannot remain while a comprehensive solution is developed.” Hoffmann said.
  
According to Ryavec the Jones Settlement does not preclude the City from passing – and then fully enforcing – a new ordinance that more narrowly tailors the sitting/lying/sleeping ban to those areas closest to residences and hotels.  “The settlement specifically states that the City’s agreement to temporarily not enforce the ban from 9 PM to 6 AM does not apply to any ordinance adopted in the future,” Ryavec said.

Ryavec also noted that even after the City finishes building the 1,250 housing units required by the Jones Settlement, any enforcement of the present sitting/lying/sleeping ban could invite a new lawsuit since the City still would not have enough shelter beds to accommodate all those living on the street.  “If the VSA’s amendment is adopted, and the absolute ban is challenged again in court,” said Ryavec, “the narrower ban has a better chance of surviving because it is tailored specifically to protect residents and visitors where they live and sleep.”

In the letter to City officials, VSA said that by not enforcing the sitting/lying/sleeping ban the City has allowed a lawless situation to develop along the Venice Boardwalk and on nearby residential streets, as hordes of aggressive, opportunistic transients attracted by mild weather and the easy availability of drugs camp out on private and public property, committing a constant stream of assaults, thefts and burglaries, defecating and urinating in public, and harassing anyone who gets in their way . (Ryavec noted that residents and visitors are not the only victims of these conditions; there is also a record of brutal transient-on-transient assaults.)

Ryavec referred in particular to a recent case that drew international media attention, in which a transient invaded a home two blocks from the beach while the resident was home, forcing her to hide on her roof until the police arrived.
David Krintzman, a walk street resident near the Ocean Front Walk encampments, said a robbery of his neighbor’s apartment had recently been committed in broad daylight by a transient who absconded with the neighbor’s laptop, clothes and other possessions.

“From a neighborhood safety perspective, I am very concerned about the transient encampment the City has permitted to exist at the grassy knoll and pagodas at the foot of Dudley Avenue as well as the encampments which extend several blocks north,” Krintzman said. 








Thursday, July 17, 2014

Public Nuisance and “Skid Row” Conditions Plague Venice Beach Recreation Area

Public Nuisance and “Skid Row” Conditions Plague Venice Beach Recreation Area

Camping in Venice Recreation Area

VSA Again Documents Blatant Unequal Enforcement of
City of Los Angeles’ Park Ordinances

(Venice, CA/7-8-14)  The Venice Stakeholders Association today released a letter to City officials which again documents that the City of Los Angeles is blatantly engaged in unequal enforcement of city park ordinances, which has resulted in “Skid Row” conditions along Venice Boardwalk and beach park.

City Hall Park
The letter, prepared by attorney John Henning for the VSA, shows the pristine condition of City Hall Park, once the site of a large “Occupy LA” encampment, and LAPD Headquarters park, and compares them to the Venice Beach Recreation Area where there is frequent use of banned camping equipment and trash dumps along the Boardwalk.  (The VSA previously brought the lack of enforcement of City ordinances to the City’s attention in 2012.)
“LA’s politicians are enforcing every park law to keep City Hall Park and the LAPD’s park safe and attractive,” VSA president Mark Ryavec said, “but along Venice Boardwalk, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the LAPD allow campers to violate all the city laws against storing personal property on park land and the use of banned camping equipment.”  The result is that squatters have taken over the park from residents and visitors, many of whom do not feel safe using the park, the neighborhood leader said.

LAPD Headquarters Park

For example, Henning notes in the letter: “…occupying a sleeping bag or bedroll within a City park for any purpose is forbidden by City ordinance. Specifically, the phrase “for any purpose” is unequivocal and strips the ordinance of any requirement that a violator have the specific intent to use the sleeping bag or bedroll for lodging or living accommodation as opposed to recreation.”  

Campsites with Furniture Takeover Grass Areas

“Yet Rec. and Parks staff and the LAPD allow the wide use of sleeping bags in the park on a daily basis,” Ryavec said.
“These conditions are alarming to residents and clearly having a negative effect on visitors, who frequently complain about being harassed on the Boardwalk and are fearful of bringing small children to the beach in this part of Venice,” Ryavec explained.
Henning noted the lack of enforcement has led to a lawless atmosphere in the beach park which last summer resulted in the tragic murder of a young Italian woman by a meth-addicted transient driving illegally on the Boardwalk.  “Conditions at Venice Beach have only gotten worse since then,” Henning said.

Campsite Next to the Bike Path

The Henning letter notes that a lawsuit could be brought under the California Civil Code to abate the public nuisance the City is now allowing at Venice Beach.  Ryavec said the group is currently raising funds for a public nuisance suit.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Venice Stakeholders Issue Letters Supporting Beach Curfew

The Venice Stakeholders Association today released a letter to the Los Angeles Police Department and city officials supporting the City’s 12-5 AM beach curfew, noting that the curfew is an inherent municipal police power and expressly exempt from purview of the Coastal Act and the Coastal Commission.

“The framers of the Coastal Act carved out the police powers of coastal cities from the requirement to obtain a coastal development permit (CDP),” said Mark Ryavec, the VSA’s president.

Ryavec, a former legislative analyst for the City of Los Angeles, said the exemption for cities is straightforward.  “The State Legislature did not want the Coastal Act to prevent the police from protecting residents and visitors.”

In the letter the Venice leader noted that “while the curfew does limit “access to water,” so does a line of police tape that is placed across entry points to the Boardwalk in emergency situations or around sites in the VRBA when a crime has been committed.  The curfew is simply a proactive version of police tape designed to prevent crime, vandalism and the violation of quality of life ordinances that protect residents.”

“No CDP is required for any of these exercises of police power to protect citizens and property.”

Also released was a letter supporting the curfew from long-time Venice resident Jack Hoffman, who is the past president of the Venice Action Committee.  (Hoffman lives one-half block from the curfew zone.)


Venice Stakeholders Association

June 25, 2014

Captain Brian Johnson
Commander, Pacific Division
Los Angeles Police Department
12312 Culver Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Re:  Venice Beach Curfew 12 to 5 AM

Dear Captain Johnson:

The Venice Stakeholders Association strongly supports maintaining the City’s 12 to 5 AM curfew for the Venice Beach Recreation Area (VBRA).

Enforcement of the curfew has brought the first serious relief to long suffering residents who live on the Ocean Front Walk and on the nearby walk streets.  Until it was enforced residents lost many nights of sleep to loud music, screaming campers and drugged-out meth addicts yelling just to yell.

The curfew has also noticeably reduced crime during the curfew hours in the area by removing those who would engage in theft, destruction of public property, and vandalism.

We have consulted with legal counsel and do not believe that a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) is necessary for the curfew to be in effect.  The curfew is an exercise of the City’s inherent police powers, which are expressly exempt from Coastal Act requirement for a CDP.  While the curfew does limit access to water, so does a line of police tape that is placed across entry points to the Boardwalk in emergency situations or around sites in the VRBA when a crime has been committed.  The curfew is simply a proactive version of police tape designed to prevent crime, vandalism and the violation of quality of life ordinances that protect residents.  No CDP is required for any of these exercises of police power to protect citizens and property.

Sincerely,

Mark Ryavec

Mark Ryavec, President

cc:  Mayor Eric Garcetti
       City Attorney Mike Feuer
       City Councilman Mike Bonin

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

VSA President Calls for Appeal of Decision Voiding LA's Ban on Car Camping


VSA's president Mark Ryavec was interviewed Monday, June 23, on the Doug McIntyre Show on KABC Radio about the 9th Circuit Court's decision that LA's car camping ban is unconstitutional because it is too vague about what constitutes lodging in a vehicle.


He called upon the City authorities to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and to reinstate the last remaining tool the LAPD and residents have to remove car campers from their doorsteps.

Click here to listen to the interview or go to the Doug McIntyre Show on KABC.

Examples of car campers:

Monday, January 13, 2014

OPD Lawsuit Dismissed for Lack of Support from Councilman Mike Bonin

Councilman Ignores Community-wide Vote in Favor of OPDS

Here is a summary from VSA's attorney John Henning of what has happened with the OPD litigation against the Coastal Commission:

The case was filed in 2009, when the Coastal Commission first denied the City’s application for Overnight Restricted Parking Districts (OPDs) on the ground that they would impede public access to Venice Beach for the handful of people who actually visit the beach between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., when OPDs would be in effect.  The City itself did not initially sue the Commission, so the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) initiated a lawsuit.  The City later responded to the VSA's argument that the City should defend its OPD ordinance and the community-wide vote in favor of OPDs, and joined the suit.  Both the City and VSA argued that the Commission lacks any jurisdiction over City OPD parking restrictions.

The case was stayed for almost four years while the parties tried repeatedly to settle with the Commission.  During these discussions, the City offered to make hundreds of extra parking spaces available especially for early-morning coastal visitors in City parking lots, so as to protect these visitors’ access to the beach.  The City’s offers were enough to satisfy the Commission’s staff, but each time the proposal went to the Commission itself for a hearing the Commission was swayed by transients and homeless advocates who strenuously oppose OPDs because they would restrict the use of public streets by campers, vans, and other vehicles used for living quarters.

The second and final attempt to settle the case was in June of 2013.  After the Commission denied OPDs for a third time, the City got cold feet and abandoned the lawsuit.  This left VSA in the position of having to pursue the case to trial by itself.  Although VSA was entitled to do this, the Commission’s lawyers contended that the City’s withdrawal should be interpreted to mean that the City would not pursue OPDs even if VSA were to win the case.  In October 2013, the Commission brought a motion to have the case dismissed on the ground that it was “moot,” which means that the Court could not grant any meaningful relief because of the City's apparent reluctance to implement OPDs even if the VSA won at trial.

In November 2013, the Court held a hearing and said that it was amenable to the Commission’s argument, but allowed VSA time to present evidence that the City would, in fact, pursue OPDs if VSA won the case at trial.  Beginning in early December 2013, VSA asked Councilmember Mike Bonin to provide assurances from the City's Department of Transportation and/or from the Council office itself, that OPDs were still a priority for the City and that they would be implemented if VSA won the case.  Despite multiple certified letters to Councilmember Bonin and attempts to reach him by telephone spanning more than 5 weeks, the Councilman failed to reply in any manner to VSA’s request.

On January 8, 2013, having no way to bring the case to trial in the absence of a sign of continuing City support for OPDs, VSA voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit.