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.