Tuesday, January 19, 2021

VSA Opposes Motion to Make Sidewalk Cleanups Voluntary


Two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion to replace the city's current mandatory encampment cleanup system with a voluntary one.

The motion was filed by Nithya Raman from District 4 and Mike Bonin from District 11.

The motion would offer services including trash and bulk item pick-ups, create designated areas for trash and waste to be placed for disposal and removal, provide easy-ups or shade structures to help homeless people temporarily relocate during cleanups, provide mobile showers, bathrooms, and hire homeless people to keep areas tidy between cleanings. It would also not involve law enforcement during the cleanups.

"Here in Los Angeles, we have an absolutely broken system about how we try to maintain our streets and sidewalks and how we try to keep encampments clean until we can house everybody. Me and a couple of my colleagues have proposed different, and we think a smarter and better way of doing things.

"Instead of rolling down the street and creating conflict and controversy and seizing people's belongings and forcing them out of their tents, which is strongly against public health guidelines, particularly in the era of COVID, we're proposing a voluntary system where just like you and I or anybody who's housed, a sanitation truck comes down the street and they pick up what you want them to pick up," said Bonin.

Bonin said they've started a pilot project in the 11th district with the voluntary cleaning model.

"We started piloting in our district the past couple of months and it's really starting to work. It's not a matter of stopping cleanups. It's about doing them differently and doing them better," he said.

When asked about homeless people who might be seen as medically unfit determining whether or not to participate in what would be a voluntary program, Bonin said it's not an issue.

"That has not been a tremendous problem so far. What we have found is after trust has been built up, when people see that you're not coming to seize their belongings and we've had people who have had their medicine taken, their documents taken, we've had someone who died because of their heart medication was taken. When they see that you're coming to provide a service, people are more cooperative, and over time we have built up a cooperative relationship," said Bonin.

Bonin said they've had an "over 90 percent level of cooperation."

"I would like us to replace the current system which confiscates belongings and throws people out of their tents and takes their tents with a system that is actually cooperative," he said.

It's a controversial motion especially after a fire in Venice that started at a homeless encampment and engulfed a commercial building.  

"The surest way to make sure that we don't have fires at homeless encampments is to make sure we don't have homeless encampments and the surest way to make sure we don't have homeless encampments is to make sure we have housing and we need to stop having conversations about how do we try to magically make or legislate encampments away and how do we get people more quickly into housing which is why I'm a big advocate of purchasing, leasing even if we have to seize vacant hotels and moving people in the way the CDC says we should. I think we need my motion to go through to make sure the fires don't take place, right now we have a broken system that isn't cleaning up the encampments," he said.

Reverend Andy Bales, the CEO of Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row, said he believes the mandatory cleanings are important.

"Especially with COVID amidst the filth, we cannot leave the filth on the streets and people living in it and leave it up to their discretion, they are just trying to survive and they need all the assistance possible," said Bales.

Bales has been a victim of unclean streets while advocating for unhoused people.

"I lost my leg four years ago to staff and E.coli and flesh-eating disease and that's the danger we're leaving people in when we hesitate to clean up. I know Mike Bonin, and I know his heart and he was crying out for more shelter beds rather than slow to develop very expensive housing but you do need to make it inviting and try every way you can to offer the help but in the end, it's very important that we get in and clean up as best as possible," said Bales.

Bonin also believes police should not be involved in the cleanup process. Bales believes they should be in the area.

"The police could be stationed a couple of blocks away and not even make an appearance but ready in case there's an event that comes up like the one who killed the Pasadena outreach worker," said Bales.

Mark Ryavec, the President of Venice Stakeholders Association and a member of Venice Neighborhood Council, believes the motion is problematic. Ryavec also ran against Bonin in the past.

"The voluntary nature of it will mean that quite a few of our sidewalk campers will not accept service and these encampments will continue to grow and the human waste, food waste, rats, the diseases, just will all continue to accumulate," he said.

He mentioned the surge in COVID-19 cases the homeless population is currently seeing and does not believe mandatory cleanings will cause any harm.  

"These folks [people living in encampments] are not sheltering in place. You come out to Venice and you'll see they're all partying together. They're all moving around. They're not wearing masks. It's not as though doing an involuntary cleanup where they have to strike their camp, and move out is going to have any appreciable effect on the virus spread," he said.

Ryavec mentioned the recent Venice fire as well.

"Folks are lighting fires to keep warm and for whatever reason, they're getting out of control and it is just a matter of time before one of those fires takes down not an empty office building but takes down an apartment building. We're very lucky that no one has died yet from a fire that got out of control," he said.

Ryavec does believe it's logical to schedule the mandatory cleanups but does not believe they should be voluntary.

"Many of them [homeless] are really trying to make the best of a bad situation and are not problematic but there are some bad actors and there are some clearly mentally ill people and folks that are clearly drugged a good bit of the day. Because he [Bonin] keeps relaxing restrictions, and adding services, they [homeless] just keep coming," he said.

Ryavec said residents want Bonin to solve the homeless encampment concern like he did for the encampment on Rose Avenue, offering homeless people vouchers for places to stay.

"They [residents] want him to do the exact same thing along the Venice Boardwalk. What Bonin did on Rose for the 100 campers over there was a tremendous relief to the residents there and that's what residents here and business people who are constantly having homeless people come and steal from them and threaten them and steal their bikes and vandalize their facilities, want him to do and I don't understand why that would be so difficult because he already knows how to do it. He's already done it once and certainly, we are not looking for more services. We are not looking for this to become a permanent Kampground of America," Ryavec said.

The motion is in the hands of a city council committee.

However, a Superior Court Judge ruled Monday to deny a request from a homeless advocate group to temporarily halt the mandatory cleanups.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Please Oppose the Massive Reese-Davidson Project Slated for the Venice Boulevard Median

 From our friends at Fight Back, Venice -


First Hearing on Reese-Davidson Community:
Wednesday, January 13, 9:30 AM!
The access information is as follows:
Join from a PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone or Android device.
WEBINAR ID: 853 4535 7254
PASSCODE: 101696

Participants may also join by phone:
1 213 338 8477 or 1 669 900 9128
When prompted, enter the
Webinar ID: 853 4535 7254

The hearing notice is here.

We encourage you to “dial in” and make brief comment in opposition to the project. Speakers are typically allocated 90-120 seconds. Suggested talking points are provided below.

In addition, please:
  1. Send the one-click email opposing the project, if you have not already done so.
  2. Leave a voicemail opposing the project for Ira Brown, LA Planning Department, at 213-978-1453.  
  3. Organize distribution of this flyer or this flyer about the project in your neighborhood.
  4. Forward this email to your friends, family and neighbors.
  5. Donate to our legal fund!
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The upcoming January 13 meeting is a meeting of the Deputy Advisory Agency (“DAA”) of the Los Angeles Planning Department, which comprises Planning Department staff. The DAA will make a recommendation on whether the Reese-Davidson Community qualifies for an exemption from environmental review under state law A.B. 1197. It will also make certain findings as to whether it is proper to combine the 40 or so existing lots at the proposed building site into two parcels for purposes of construction. The required findings largely involve environmental impacts and impacts on public safety.

In addition, a “hearing officer” from the Planning Commission will take preliminary public comment on whether it is appropriate to exempt the proposed zone change for the building site from environmental review under A.B. 1197 and various other issues.

Once the DAA makes its findings and recommendations with respect to environmental review and lot consolidation, there will be hearings before the Planning Commission, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee of the City Council, and then the City Council itself. We will provide information on those hearings as it becomes available and estimate the City approval process will take approximately four months in total. The project will then go before the California Coastal Commission.

All of the foregoing bodies will rubber stamp the project, applaud the developers and, in some cases, make unfounded personal attacks on those in opposition.

In our view, however, there are numerous unlawful aspects to both the project and the review process and it is, therefore, essential that Venice residents participate actively in the approval process, to build a factual record and preserve as many rights as possible for litigation.

Suggested Talking Points

The following talking points are tailored to the items on the January 13 agenda for the DAA Hearing. They also reflect time limits and the relatively narrow scope of the DAA’s authority. We will provide new talking points, addressing other issues, for subsequent hearings. Of course, you should also feel free to say whatever you like about the project. These are merely suggestions to assist in preparing your remarks (which, again, must be very brief).

You can also go to our website – www.fightbackvenice.org – for more information about the project.
  • This hearing should not proceed at all because:
    • The information that has been provided to the public is inaccurate and misleading. The project plans falsely show a single project with conventional parking in two parking structures. However, there are actually two projects in development: the Reese-Davidson Community, which VCHC is developing, and the East Parking Tower, which the City of Los Angeles is developing. The plan for the East Parking Tower has not yet been provided to the public. All we know is that it will likely be robotic (automated-lift) parking, which is noisy, slow and uniquely unsuited for beach traffic.
    • The City has failed to make the contents of the environmental file for the Reese-Davidson Community available to the public. Approval of the proposed lot combination requires a finding that the Reese-Davidson Community will not have adverse environmental impacts. The environmental file goes directly to that issue and must be made public before the approval process can start.
    • The City has failed to provide documents showing the impact that the Reese-Davidson Community will have on law enforcement and schools. The Reese-Davidson Community is projected to have at least 420 residents, and public records show that VCHC properties have extremely high incident rates. The LAPD and LAUSD have created documents describing impacts on law enforcement and schools. The public must see those before any hearings are held.
    • The COVID pandemic and lockdown have made it unduly difficult for the public to focus on this issue, exchange information, organize and otherwise participate in the hearing process.
  • No exemption from environmental review should be granted because:
    • VCHC publicly promised to prepare an exhaustive Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) for the project.
    • The Venice Neighborhood Council has demanded an exhaustive environmental review for the project.
    • The exemption from environmental review that VCHC is seeking for the Reese-Davidson Community (under A.B. 1197) applies only to supportive housing for the homeless, but less than one quarter of the project consists of supportive housing for the homeless. Plus, the Reese-Davidson community has outrageous design elements—including a 70-foot tower with observation deck—of the sort the legislature obviously did not intend to exempt from review.
    • The supportive housing exemption cannot possibly apply to the East Parking Tower, which is a separate project consisting solely of public parking that has nothing to do with supportive housing.
  • The lot combination should not be approved because:
    • The proposed building site is one of the most environmentally sensitive and environmentally risky locations in Venice:
      • It is at or below sea level, just a block off the beach. There is no place in Venice more vulnerable to sea level rise and Councilman Bonin himself predicted that it will be underwater in 50 years.
      • It sits directly on the Venice Canals, which draw from and feed into the protected Ballona Wetlands.
      • It is in a tsunami hazard zone on a tsunami escape route. A project of this scale will amplify the impact of a tsunami by deflecting waves into existing homes; impede escape; and deprive Venice of a crucial disaster relief staging area.
    • The project will destroy the staging area currently used for maintenance of the Venice Canals, which are on the National Historic Registry, without providing a replacement.
    • The project will adversely affect public safety by:
      • Further straining law enforcement, which has recently experienced severe cuts despite spiking crime rates, with 420 new residents, many of whom have special needs.
      • Permanently locking in grossly substandard streets and sidewalks and moving parking further away from the beach – on a corridor used by more than 10 million beachgoers a year.
      • Preventing the installation of protected bike lanes as called for in LA’s Mobility Plan.
    • The project eliminates the last major open space parcel in Venice and does not comply with the Venice Specific Plan, with respect to height, density, set backs or parking.
  • In general, the Reese-Davidson Community should not be approved because:
    • It is an outrageous misuse of funds that does nothing to solve homelessness in Venice or elsewhere. According to City records, the Reese-Davidson Community will cost $100 million, not counting the value of the 3-acre building site. Yet we are only going to get 68 homeless housing units.
    • It violates the City’s anti-containment policy. Venice, which measures just 3-square miles, currently has more than a dozen new or pending homeless projects, but there is nothing in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades or most other Council District 11 communities. Also, Venice accounts for less than 5% of the land in Council District 11, but 60% of the homeless. The overconcentration of homeless resources in Venice has created a magnet effect. Other communities need to start doing their fair share and the City must stop piling on Venice.
Thank you, as always, for your support.


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