Tuesday, May 19, 2015

From Yo Venice May 15 Edition

Another Tragedy in Venice

By Mark Ryavec

What can we learn from the tragic death of 29-year old Brendon Glenn, a beach dweller shot to death in a confrontation with police officers in front of the Townhouse bar on Windward Avenue on May 5th?

Well, first that Brendon was yet another traveler, from Troy, New York, who was attracted to the easy life of sun, panhandling and booze on the Venice Boardwalk.  Since the homeless all have cell phones and occasionally laptops, too, the message that it’s all a great party here in Venice is constantly circulating coast to coast. 

Next is that Brendon was a troubled young man, struggling to find a job while still in the grip of an alcohol addiction.  He told his counselor at the Teen Project on Windward the day he died that he had started drinking at 11 AM.

While all his friends on the Boardwalk are quick to remark on his friendliness, he was combative that night, getting into a physical altercation with the doorman at the Town House before the police tried to restrain him.

Some want to read the shooting as part of the larger national portrait of police violence towards Black men.  I see it within the continuum of violent incidents stemming from the lawless, “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere along the Boardwalk and elsewhere in Venice.

Here in our beach-side community a supposedly civilized society allows 741 homeless people – the unofficial count from earlier this year – to live on the town’s parks, streets and alleys and does almost nothing about it.

The result is ugly and shows the dysfunction of our city and county governments which have for too long been more focused on the care and feeding of its employees than meeting its core mission, which is the care of its residents and the indigent.

Let’s tally the victims of this neglect since just August 2013, less than two years. 

A transient living in his car in Venice takes offense at a drug deal gone bad on the Boardwalk and mows down 17 pedestrians with his car, killing Alice Gruppioni, an Italian visitor in Venice on her honeymoon.  The driver is now on trial.

A transient is caught on CCTV beating the crap out of another beach dweller with a chair.

In April of last year a young mother and two children barely escape a home invasion at 4:30 AM on Horizon as the homeless invader breaks through a glass door pane, covers their apartment in blood from his cuts and in his PCP rage pulls two bolted sinks off the wall of the bathroom. 

Over several months four more home invasions follow within six blocks of the Horizon break-in, committed by campers living along Venice Beach

In October of 2014 a transient sleeping on a walk street attacks Robert DiMassa because Robert’s service dog had urinated near where the transient was sleeping.  The damage to DiMassa was two broken ribs, severe abrasions on his legs, two black eyes and a bloodied lip.  The culprit was never caught.

Then, in an incident similar to the events that took Brendon Glenn’s life, a transient went into the Cow’s End and demanded money from the patrons.  The owner, Clabe Hartley, asked him to leave, and the fellow attacked Clabe, wrestled him to the floor and bit off his finger tip.

In Brendon’s case, he was harassing Townhouse patrons and passersby and the doorman tried to back him off.  One report says he had earlier gone into the bar to panhandle and been evicted by the doorman.  Later Brendon picked a fight with the doorman, which led to the police getting involved. 

What’s the common denominator in all these incidents?  The instigator was a transient.

There is more to learn from all of this.

Why are there so many homeless in Venice and what’s being done to help them get off the street? 

Well, the sunshine helps bring them here from all over the nation.  (That’s why many of us are here, too.)  Then there’s a slew of short-sighted court decisions and legislation that makes it much easier to live out in the open in California, and in Los Angeles in particular.  This is compounded by a squishy, homeless-loving City Attorney, Mike Feuer, who had advised the LAPD to not enforce the City’s “no camping, no camping equipment and no encampments” rules (which are enforced in other city parks like the one next to City Hall).

Then there is the time honored tradition of giving complete responsibility of any area in the City to the councilmember (in this instance Mike Bonin).  The result is that the Mayor and City Council have washed their hands of any responsibility for Venice despite it being a phenomenal tax generator for the City and the primary park/beach destination in Los Angeles.  For example, Griffith Park has fewer visitors and yet gets park rangers, but not Venice.  A recent proposal by the Venice Neighborhood Council to add a Rec. and Parks Department superintendent, accountable for management of the Venice Beach Recreation Area, to the City budget was ignored by Mayor Garcetti.

At the recent LAPD community listening session on the shooting there were two notable absences: Mayor Garcetti and County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.  Their absence is also reflected in the dearth of City and County services.  Other than the $350,000 that the County gives to the St. Joseph Center annually to focus on moving the 40 homeless most likely to die on Venice streets (or parks) to housing and services, there is no County or City financial support to provide any relief to the other 700 homeless folks living here (other than meager general relief which some receive).  There are no counselors from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, who can arrange housing for our homeless.  There is no funding for the Teen Project, which must depend on donations.  There is no funding for People Helping the Homeless (PATH), which provided critical services and housing to the homeless when Bill Rosendahl was councilman.

So, Venice continues to be abandoned, with just a few LAPD officers to contain the uncontainable.  The situation reminds me of Los Angeles’ early years as a wild, ungoverned frontier outpost.  And as everyone knows, people get harmed or killed fairly easily in such an environment.
Ryavec, a 29-year resident of Venice, is president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, which is suing the City and County of Los Angeles for maintaining a dangerous public nuisance along the Venice Beach Recreation Area.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Drain the Swamp, Mr. Bonin

Breaking News – Fatal Shooting on Windward Avenue at Venice Beach

The Venice victim tally since August 2013

  • Deranged transient living in his car in Venice mows down 17 pedestrians on Boardwalk with his car and kills young Italian woman in a rage over being ripped off in a drug deal gone bad.
  • Transient brutally assaults resident Robert DiMassa on walk street because DiMassa's service dog urinated on the sidewalk near where the camper was sleeping.
  • Five home invasions - four by wasted, mentally ill transients - in a six block area centered on Windward and Riviera.
  • Clabe Hartley's fingertip bitten off by transient on Washington Blvd.
  • Homeless Jose Gonzalez dies April 19th after suffering a blow from transient Thomas Glover on Abbot Kinney at California. 
  • And now the death of transient Brendon Glenn on May 5th in altercation with LAPD on Windward. 
Message to Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti:

Drain the swamp:  stop the camping on Venice Beach, stop the storage of tons of transients' stuff on Venice Beach, and bring back the City's ordinance banning "sitting, lying, sleeping" on sidewalks.

Or more people - residents, visitors and transients - will be harmed in Venice by the lawless conditions the City has allowed to exist here.


Friday, May 1, 2015

VSA Opposes Legalization of Street Vending on City Sidewalks

Today the VSA forwarded the following letter to the City Council's Economic Development Committee, which is considering a proposal to legalize street vending on City sidewalks throughout the City.  The VSA called for any street vending to be by local option of adjacent property owners.

Venice Stakeholders Association
May 1, 2015

Councilman Curren Price, Chair,
and Members, Economic Development Committee
Los Angeles City Council
City Hall
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA  90012

Re:  Street Vending CF#13-1493

Dear Councilman Price and Members of the Committee:

I am writing to indicate the opposition of our organization to the proposal to legalize street vending on the City’s sidewalks and in its parks.

Venice residents already face extreme challenges from vending in the Venice Beach Recreation Area and from the complete occupation at many places in Venice of its sidewalks by transients.

Vendor wares are continuously strewn about and/or stored in the Venice Beach Recreation Area (our beach park) and in the adjoining commercial and residential areas.

Farther inland, sidewalks along entire blocks are at times impassable to pedestrians, even though these blockages violate the American with Disabilities Act.

The lack of current enforcement by the LAPD and parks officials of existing ordinances has significantly degraded the quality of life of nearby Venice residents to the extent that our organization and several individual plaintiffs are currently suing the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles for maintaining a dangerous public nuisance along the Venice Beach Recreation Area.  The noxious behavior of so-called “artist” vendors represents one aspect of this nuisance. Based on the past inability the LAPD and City Attorney’s staff to enforce regulations governing these existing “artist” vendors and the frequent practice of these vendors to sell drugs under the guise of their artistic offerings, we are very concerned that the city will not be able to adequately enforce and regulate street vending if it is legalized.

The Venice Stakeholders Association is dedicated to civic improvement.  The VSA supports slow growth, protection of the limits of the Venice Specific Plan, neighborhood safety, better traffic circulation, increased parking for residents,
neighborhood beautification projects, historic preservation, habitat restoration and protection of coastal waters.

We join with other neighborhood groups that have opposed legalization of street vending due to a host of problems associated with the proposal:

  • Overlapping regulatory responsibility and gaps in enforcement between departments

  • Increase in trash and food waste and offensive odors

  • Lack of any limits on locations and/or zones where permitted

  • Lack of City resources/staff for enforcement of permit compliance

  • Obstruction of public right-of-way and loss of scarce sidewalk space for pedestrian and handicap use.

  • Potential for ADA violations

  • Lack of hot water for food vendors for hand washing

  • Unfair competition with brick and mortar stores

We would propose that any proposal to legalize street vending include affirmative opt-in language; i.e., all Los Angeles communities would be automatically excluded from the ordinance until a community affirmatively opted in.  The opt-in would be at the block level, not the neighborhood council level; i.e., the property owners on any block proposed for street vending or the property owners adjacent to any park proposed for vending would have to indicate approval by 2/3rds signatures upon City petitions for opt-in to occur. 

I would ask that this letter be placed on Council File #13-1493

Thank you for your consideration of our views on this matter.


Mark Ryavec

Mark Ryavec, President

cc:  Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Paul Krekorian, Councilman Jose Huizar, Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, Councilwoman Nury Martinez and Councilman Mike Bonin