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.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Coastal Commission Ignores Its Staff's Recommendation and Settlement Agreement; Nixes OPDs.



In a sign of bad faith, the Coastal Commission at its hearing on Thursday, June 13th, refused to allow several pro-OPD speakers to make their remarks, ignored steadfast support for OPDs from its own staff, and added late requirements, which were impossible for City representatives to meet during the hearing.  This included a late demand for an up-dated parking availability study.  

If the Commission had been operating in good faith, the Commission would have requested the study before it agreed to the settlement.  In the end, the Commission gave into representatives of social service agencies, the Peace and Freedom party, Occupy Venice and homeless advocates.

The prospects for OPD were hampered going into the hearing by several developments.

The first was that the City of Los Angeles, including City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, more or less abandoned defense of its own permit application.  Some of this was just unlucky circumstances, some of this was bad faith by city officials, including Rosendahl.

Over the last three years the City lost two knowledgeable Transportation Department officials, Alan Willis and Yadi Hashemi, to early retirement.  Their replacement was at a lower experience level and was not able to forcefully present the permit application to the Commission.

Next, there was a pissing match between Bill Rosendahl and City Attorney Trutanich over who was going to present the City application to the Commission.  Bill expected the City Attorney's Office to take the lead, since it was a settlement of the City's (and VSA's) lawsuit against the Commission, while Trutanich, miffed that Rosendahl had supported Mike Feuer in the City Attorney's race, refused.  So, Bill deputized his staff attorney, Norm Kulla, to make the presentation.  We offered to brief Kulla, but he said he knew everything he needed to know.  However, in front of the Commission, he asked for little time to make the City's presentation, told the Commission that Bill supported OPD on the grounds of equity, and then pitched the presentation to our attorney John Henning, underscoring the City's lukewarm support for OPD.  John Henning did his best, but because Norm asked for so little time, neither John nor I could finish our presentations.

The fact is that Bill R. took a dive, too.  While maintaining that he strongly supported OPD, he made no effort to either change his medical appointments on the hearing date so he could attend in person or to ask the Commission staff to move the hearing back one day so he could attend.

Trutanich sent an attorney to the hearing, Jerry Sato, but not the right attorney.  He sent the litigator in his office who would prosecute the case against the Commission instead of the attorney who has worked on the issue for the last four years, Valerie Flores.  And he did not allow Sato make any remarks in support of the settlement or to answer questions.

In short, the City completely abandoned the residents who have shown majority support for OPD since the 59% vote at the library in 2009.

One also has to acknowledge that OPD opponents did their best organizing effort ever and generally avoided the shrill and venomous presentation of previous years.  And our side, well, too many of our adherents were no shows.  Too many OPD supporters gave a priority to work and child care commitments and failed to attend.

There were only 80 anti-OPD speakers, but in contrast, our side only fielded about 10 speakers in support.  Our presence was also unfairly limited by an unpublished Commission rule that once the hearing starts no more speaker cards are accepted.  We had been informed that it was unlikely that the OPD item would be heard before 10:30, but the hearing got started about 9:30, so some of our key supporters, including Harris Levey, president of the Presidents Row Neighborhood Association, and Reta Moser, a well known activist and publisher of the Triangle Update, were not allowed to speak. There were several others in this category, including Marie Hammond of the Rose Avenue Working Group.

I could go into the specious nature of the concerns that appeared to drive Commissioners "no" vote, but more important to this analysis is that the Commission's procedures do not allow anyone other than the City’s representatives to answer any concerns or questions posed by commissioners after the public comment period is closed.  So, while I or John Henning could have answered their concerns, we were precluded from answering and the City reps either didn't care or were not prepared to answer (again, City staff simply stood silent).

Of course, if the commission was comprised of professional men and women of integrity they would have read the settlement terms in advance of agreeing to it and raised their questions in a timely manner before they even agreed to the settlement.  Springing a request for a new study of early morning parking availability at the end of the hearing was, of course, unfair to the residents and the City.  But this has been the Commission's behavior all along, to keep setting the hurdle higher after the City has already met the Commission staff's expectations for adequate parking mitigation for early morning beach access and a settlement has been reached.  It's called "re-negotiating a done deal," and reflects a lack of professionalism and integrity, but the Commission is largely composed of small town council members who are not really “ready for prime time."  Usually they recognize this and support recommendations of staff, but in this case they allowed themselves to be influenced by "the mob" and ignored the well-substantiated recommendations from their own staff.

So, where to now?  Clearly, there is no reason to discuss settlement with the Commission again.  It has shown itself to be an untrustworthy negotiating partner.  The only avenue is to litigate the underlying lawsuit.  This is dependent on funding.  If enough Venice residents are outraged at being treated by the Commission as second class citizens, undeserving of the same rights to control their streets at night that the Commission allows most other coastal cities, and provide the donations, then the VSA will litigate this matter.

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed dollars, letters, emails, postcards, etc., to our effort.

Mark Ryavec

Saturday, June 8, 2013

PLEASE ATTEND THE COASTAL COMMISSION HEARING TO SUPPORT THE RIGHT OF VENICE RESIDENTS TO IMPLEMENT OVERNIGHT RESTRICTED PARKING ON THEIR BLOCK!



The City’s application for a Coastal Development Permit for Venice OPDs will be before the California Coastal Commission on Thursday, June 13, at 8:30 AM at the Long Beach City Council chambers.  This action will settle the lawsuit the VSA brought against the Commission for its earlier denial of an OPD for Venice.

Even if your street does not currently have a problem with non-resident cars taking up parking, we ask that you support your neighbors in other areas of Venice who continue to face a lack of parking at night.  OPD will allow residents to park closer to their homes and supports public safety.

PLEASE DO THE FOLLOWING:

1.       Speak in favor of OPD at the Commission’s hearing on Thursday, June 13, at 8:30 AM at the Long Beach City Council chambers at 333 West Ocean Boulevard. 

2.       Email this message to Jack Ainsworth at jainsworth@coastal.ca.gov

“I am a Venice resident and I support Overnight Restricted Parking (OPD) for Venice.”

3.   Go to www.venicenc.org and vote for OPD.

4.       Write a letter to the Commission explaining the parking issues on your block that overnight restricted parking would address:

Members of the California Coastal Commission
200 Oceangate, 10th Floor
Long Beach, CA 90802-4416
         
 Background:

The Venice Stakeholders Assn. and the City have reached a settlement with the California Coastal Commission staff that will allow Venice residents to implement overnight restricted parking (OPD) on their streets. Commission staff is recommending approval of the settlement and a revised Coastal Development Permit.  The Coastal Commission must formally approve the settlement at their June meeting on the 13th.

How OPDs work: If residents on your block petition by a two-thirds majority, the City will post signage that will limit parking from 2 AM to 5 AM to residents and their guests who have a permit. Annual permits are $15; temporary four month permits for visitors are $10; and nightly permits (for late night parties, etc.) are $1. 

With the “No Oversize Vehicle” signage, we found that those in campers and RVs won’t park in a street space in the early evening if they cannot spend the entire night in that space. We expect the OPD signs to work the same way, encouraging non-residents to seek out other parking in the early evening instead of parking in front of our homes at night (which is also a noise problem when non-residents leave bars/restaurants late at night).

The settlement in the OPD lawsuit assures the Coastal Commission that hundreds of empty parking spaces near the beach will continue to be available to early morning visitors by exempting from OPD eligibility certain metered spaces and street spaces in front of government/commercial uses within three blocks of the beach. Under the settlement, the City also agrees to accelerate the installation of bike lanes and to open six City-owned parking lots for early morning visitors, freeing up hundreds of spaces for visitors.

If you have any questions, please call Venice Stakeholders Association at (310) 392 4843 or email venicestakeholders@ca.rr.com.
Please make a donation to the VSA at venicestakeholdersassociation.org to help cover the legal costs of the litigation and negotiating the settlement.