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: 

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.