Friday, April 27, 2012

So, Who’s Telling the Truth…?

Here’s one more odd chapter in the chronicle of “Stakeholders vs. City Hall” in the effort for residents to feel safe in their homes and on the sidewalks of Venice.

I was invited to Paramount Pictures last week to hear the Mayor give his annual “State of the City” address.  We all sat in the studio’s large theater and heard about the successes and remaining challenges of the City’s many transportation projects.  While he touched on some other topics, “LA Fast Forward” and fulfilling Tom Bradley’s vision of a “subway to the sea” were the centerpieces.

Then, bogged down in traffic on Melrose, I noticed that Mozza Osteria, a restaurant I had been meaning to try, was just ahead.  Since the Mayor’s traffic improvements were not in evidence in the stalled traffic, I dropped the car off to a valet and found a seat at the bar for dinner.

Some commotion behind me made me turn my head and there I saw the Mayor sitting with what appeared to be his girlfriend and other family members.  He was frequently out of his seat, greeting other diners or talking on the phone.

I thought to myself, would it be appropriate to ask the Mayor for a moment to talk about the public safety issues we’re seeing here in Venice.  I kept thinking about this while I enjoyed a terrific meal.  As I was finishing up, I thought, why not ask; he’ll just say “yes” or “no.”  So, I scribbled out a note on the back of a business card and gave it to one of those sitting with the Mayor, since his eminence was off again in an alcove on his cell.

A member of his party came over and said the Mayor would speak with me right then.

He was welcoming.  When I told him that I wanted to talk with him about the problems we are having with transient encampments in Venice, he interrupted me and said the real problem was that the council district “has no leadership.”  Then he made another derogatory remark about Bill Rosendahl.

He volunteered that Bill had called him a day or two earlier and asked him to initiate criminal prosecution against me for having posted addresses on the VSA website [of the Mayor, Bill, a deputy mayor, the editorial editor of the LA Times, the lawyer who frequently represents transients, and some other local homeless advocates who by my estimation would welcome the homeless to sleep on their parkways, given that they oppose enforcement of City laws against camping on public property].

I was taken aback for a moment.  This certainly conflicted with Bill’s usually avuncular demeanor and his comment to me two nights earlier that he would give me $20 to pay some homeless person’s bus fare to come camp on his sidewalk.  Bill had told me to leave him on the list.  (It was also odd procedurally because the City Attorney and District Attorney have prosecutorial authority, not the Mayor.)  The Mayor then said, “You are Mark Riabec, right”?  And I replied, “Mark Ryavec, and we’ve met numerous times.”  He said, “Yes, that’s what Bill called about and something about some woman.”

Then we went on to talk about the encampment problems in Venice, the recent attack on two residents on 3rd Avenue, etc.  I told him that Bill had told me that enforcement was out of his hands and that Chief Beck reported to the Mayor, not Bill.  I also told him that Bill had said that either the Mayor or Larry Frank, a deputy mayor, had stood in the way of enforcement of City laws, on the Boardwalk and more recently with the encampment on 3rd Avenue.  The Mayor said, “Not at all.  We’ve stayed out of it in deference to the councilman of the district.”

Then he said, “But if you want me involved, I will get involved.  You may not like my solution, but you will get a solution.  Did you hear me today [referring to his successes with transportation improvements]?  I get things done.”

“When you stop believing that I am in anyway interfering with enforcement in Venice, then come see me and I’ll get involved,” he said.  I told him that we very much would like him to get involved and provide the leadership that both of us feel is lacking.  He told me to call his office to set up the meeting.

For the next day or two I debated whether I should confront my friend Bill about the Mayor’s claim that Bill was pushing for prosecution of a political statement (that is fully protected by the 1st Amendment).  Eventually, I did share the Mayor’s story with Bill and he absolutely denied it.  Then, as he told me later, he called the Mayor and asked the Mayor directly if he had told me that Bill wanted me prosecuted.  Bill said that the Mayor admitted talking with me but denied telling me Bill had pushed him to instigate prosecution.

So, who is lying?

I did follow up with the Mayor’s scheduling secretary and his Westside deputy, Joe Hari and Deputy Mayor Larry Frank, who lives in Venice.  At first, Hari disputed that I had actually spoken to the Mayor.  He went so far as to call the staff who was with the Mayor at Paramount and then called me back to, basically, call me a liar, because the Mayor’s handlers reported that that no one had a substantive discussion with the Mayor before or after his speech at Paramount.  Hari was a bit sheepish when I told him that I spoke to the Mayor at Mozza, not Paramount.

A day or so later I sent another email asking for a reply to my request for a date for the meeting with the Mayor.  Eventually Hari called me and said that there would not be a meeting.  I said that the Mayor had clearly agreed to meet with representatives of our group on the public safety situation in Venice.  Hari said that it wasn’t going to happen.  So, I said that I intended to blog that the Mayor’s staff had interceded and told the Mayor that he shouldn’t meet with us, against the Mayor’s own commitment.  The call ended.  A few minutes later Hari called me back and said that my request for a meeting was in process.  I asked that the Mayor’s scheduler call me to confirm that the meeting was being calendared.  He said he would have her call.  She hasn’t called.

I’ll leave you with the Mayor’s parting comments at Mozza:  “You know, when I leave office, I’m going to move to either Venice or the Pacific Palisades, so I have a personal interest in helping you with this.”

Posted by Mark Ryavec, President, VSA

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Please Ask Rosendahl to Enforce City Ordinances

Dear VSA Supporter:

As you are undoubtedly aware, the City of Los Angeles, under City Councilman Rosendahl's authority, is permitting large encampments of transients to exist at several locations in Venice.  We know from past experience that within these populations are some individuals who are prone to intimidation of residents, assaults, violence, drug sales and use, stabbings, burglary and even murder.  We also believe that the City, the County and various social service agencies and non-profits organizations are currently woefully incapable of enticing those living in these camps to accept services, housing or assistance of any kind that would remove this threat from our neighborhoods in a timely manner.

Thus we ask that you print out the following letter onto your stationery and send it to Councilman Rosendahl with copies to Mayor Villaraigosa, Chief Charles Beck and Captain Jon Peters by first class mail.  Should you prefer to communicate electronically, their email addresses are also provided below.

Thank you for helping to make our community safer.

Mark Ryavec
President, Venice Stakeholders Association

P.S.  Please forward this message to your neighbors and friends in Venice.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl
City Hall
200 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA  90012

Dear Councilman Rosendahl:

I respectfully ask that you immediately order the LAPD to enforce existing laws against sitting, lying and sleeping on public property between 6 AM and 9 PM, on occupying public property without a permit, obstructing the public way, obstructing ADA access, and storing personal possessions on public property.  I also ask that you immediately introduce an amendment to the Boardwalk Vending ordinance to remove the spaces for public feeding programs.

You are currently playing Russian roulette with the citizens of Venice.  

Within the encampments you are allowing to exist and grow on 3rd Avenue, in the Farmers Market parking lot and elsewhere in Venice are individuals who are mentally ill, addicted to various drugs, and those prone to violence.  The assault on a young couple on April 14th by several campers living on 3rd Avenue and the stabbing at the Farmers Market parking lot on April 21st underscore the violent element living in these encampments.  It was not a coincidence that Boneetio Washington, who raped and murdered pregnant Eun Kang on Electric Avenue, routinely visited a public feeding program in Venice.  The feeding stations, which serve no purpose in helping these individuals leave the street life, are a magnet and an enabler.  The unsupervised encampments, in violation of several City ordinances, also enable these individuals to continue their life on the street and are a magnet for more transients to settle in Venice, which puts violence prone individuals close to our homes and families. 

On April 18, 2012, Mayor Villaraigosa told VSA president Mark Ryavec that you control whether the LAPD cites the violations of the Municipal Code concerning occupation of public space in your district and that his office has taken a hands-off approach in deference to the prerogatives of the Councilman of the district.

Please exercise your clear authority to remove these dangerous encampments from our neighborhood.


cc:    Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
        City Hall
        200 North Spring Street
        Los Angeles, CA  90012

        Charles Beck, Chief of Police
        Los Angeles Police Department
        100 West 1st Street
        Los Angeles, CA 90012

        Captain Jon Peters
        Commander, Pacific Division
        Los Angeles Police Department
        12312 Culver Boulevard
        Los Angeles, CA  90066

Councilman Bill Rosendahl <>
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa c/o <>
Police Chief Charlie <>
Captain Jon Peters <>

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Westside Guide to Safe Camping Locations for the Homeless

 Dear Homeless Advocate: The Venice Stakeholders Association is preparing to publish a camping guide for distribution to homeless individuals in Venice, including those living on the sidewalks and parkways along 3rd Avenue between Rose and Sunset Avenues in Venice. The guide will provide Venice homeless with locations of sidewalk/parkway locations where they will be more welcome to camp out than the 3rd Avenue location. The residents and property owners in this area find this encampment, with its related crime, assaults on police officers and residents (one as recent as this past Saturday evening), public drug sales and use, public inebriation, public urination and defecation, and threat to public health, to be intolerable. We will continue to press the City of Los Angeles for the removal of this encampment, including bringing a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for maintaining a public nuisance if necessary. Our camping guide will provide these Venice homeless individuals with locations of sidewalk/parkway locations where they will be more welcome to camp out than the 3rd Avenue location. In light of your vigorous support for the rights of the homeless to sleep on public pedestrian easements over private property, which is what sidewalks and parkways legally are, we are contacting you to ask if you have any objection to our including a photograph and address of your residence in camping guide. On the following page are the addresses we would like to publish in our guide. We intend to incentivize these individuals to take advantage of your welcoming spirit by offering them $20 per day to relocate. Please advise me at your earliest convenience of whether you object to being included in the guide and if the address listed is correct. Yours truly, Mark Ryavec President

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Official Residence): 605 S. Irving, Los Angeles CA 90005

Councilman Bill Rosendahl:  3715 Wasatch Ave., Mar Vista (Los Angeles) CA 90066
Deputy Mayor Larry Frank: 2110 Walnut, Venice CA 90291

Carol Sobel: 860 23rd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403, CA
Nicolas Goldberg: 111 S. Norton Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90004
Los Angeles Times: 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Linda Lucks: (address and photo removed at the request of Ms. Lucks)

David Ewing: 1234 Preston Ave., Venice CA 90291
Steve Clare: 733-739 Palms Blvd., Venice, CA 90291
Karen Wolfe: (address and photo removed at the request of Ms. Wolfe)

Debra Lashever: (address and photo removed at the request of Ms. Lashever)