Temporary Housing Insanity
100 beds on Main Street won’t solve homelessness, but it will move associated problems closer to residences and schools
By John Tapia
Tapia is a pharmacy owner and longtime Venice resident writing in response to “Help is on the Horizon,” a July 12 opinion piece arguing in favor of establishing temporary housing for the homeless in Venice.
The city’s plan to convert the former Metro bus yard on Main Street into a 100-bed temporary housing facility will be a catastrophe for Venice. While I appreciate that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin may have the best of intentions, the city’s previous failures to keep our community safe from the ill effects of homelessness would suggest that city leaders are not prepared to address the dangers inherent to a temporary housing facility at this site.
First off, the site is a couple blocks from four schools clustered on or near the Westminster Avenue Elementary School campus. These house our community’s most vulnerable children, and some have already been harmed by repeated incidences of homeless campers and those occupying vehicles on Main Street and Westminster openly exposing their genitals and relieving themselves in sight of children. Inviting 100 homeless individuals to live at the Metro lot — and others who can be expected to just hang out outside (to sell drugs, see their buddies inside, etc.) — just increases the risk of such incidences or worse.
Next, the site itself is surrounded on all sides by residences, unlike other potential sites on the Westside, which are at some distance from residences. I anticipate that the 24-hour nature of the facility will allow a lot of coming and going, much of it at night. This will undoubtedly relocate some of the late-night noise problems associated with current encampments along the boardwalk and on Third Avenue between Sunset and Rose avenues. It also has the potential to bring the crime associated with those sites to our neighborhood.
The city has presented nothing to suggest that it will prevent the public space around the Metro yard, or the parkway and sidewalk across the street at the Dogtown Station Lofts, from becoming yet another large homeless encampment. While Garcetti recently suggested that the city has the right to return to enforcing its “no sleeping on a sidewalk” ordinance, we have yet to see any proof of this — nor has the council office publicly agreed to direct the LAPD to use that ordinance to prevent additional encampments around the temporary housing facility.
Attorney Michael Rapkin’s recent guest opinion piece in support of establishing temporary housing in Venice suggests that the city will start cleaning up former encampments once the facility is up and running. But city sanitation workers already clean up encampments along the boardwalk and Third once a week, with little lasting effect. These areas quickly return to Third World conditions, with litter and food waste and bodily fluids strewn among assorted furniture and enough bicycles to suggest that some of them were stolen. It’s not clear what benefits additional cleanups will bring.
What would benefit homeowners and renters living near existing encampments is for the city to declare them “red zones” — that after campers are offered transitional housing or other accommodations, the city would declare that no sleeping, camping or storing personal possessions would be permitted at the former encampment site. The city has adopted a similar standard to bar people living in their vehicles from parking near schools and parks and/or on residential streets at night, and they could do so for sidewalks and parkways near residences in Venice, too. We have seen no indication, however, that the city intends to enact similar restrictions for existing encampments.
Mr. Rapkin also asserts there would be far less personal property strewn around Venice once the bridge-to-housing facility is opened, since personal property could be stored on the former Metro lot. Assuming some of the folks now camping near the beach or along Lake Street next to Rite-Aid move into temporary housing, there is absolutely nothing in the city’s plan that will prevent other transients, from elsewhere in Los Angles or from out-or-state, from taking their place.
The end result of temporary housing will likely be no decrease in the size or odiousness of current Venice encampments, no checks against the growth of new encampments popping up on and around Main Street, and a riskier situation around Westminster Elementary.