Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Who Is Responsible for the Deterioration of Venice Beach?

I was recently asked about the party or parties responsible for allowing Venice Beach's deterioration to Third World conditions.

Here is the history as I know it.

The Venice Beach Recreation Area (VBRA) is a Los Angeles city park and it stretches from the eastern edge of the Boardwalk west to the water and from the Santa Monica border on the north to the Marina's Main Channel on the south.  It is all city property. 

One of the ways you can be sure of this is that you will never see County Sheriff's Deputies patrolling any of that territory. 

The State of California owns the beach west of the mean high tide line.

Many years ago the city and the county of Los Angeles entered into a contract, as the county did with all of the other cities with beaches, for the county to provide lifeguards and beach maintenance in exchange for the parking revenue that comes off of all of the beach parking lots. 

Thus in Venice, County Beaches and Harbors has maintenance jurisdiction east of the Marvin Braudi bike path, and of the parking lots. The city's Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) provides maintenance and has jurisdiction over all the concrete and grass areas, restrooms, recreation facilities and the Boardwalk itself. 
Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) 63.44 bans camping and tents at any time, and personal possessions and any persons after park closure, in any Los Angeles park, including the VBRA.

In enforcing Los Angeles Municipal Code 63.44, the LAPD has a willing partner in County Beaches and Harbors to remove any private property that is left on the sand west of the bike path.  LAPD enforces and can arrest, Beaches and Harbors removes property, backed up by LAPD if needed.
However, RAP has never been willing to take on that responsibility, in part because they maintain neither they nor the city Department of Sanitation has any place to store stuff.  This is a requirement dictated by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on the Recreation and Parks Department, not because there is any current legal requirement to so, but because Feuer fears a lawsuit if they don't store the stuff for 90 days. The Department of Sanitation's failure for over 10 years to allocate existing city space or lease storage space on the Westside to store personal possessions picked up from the Boardwalk and grass areas is one of the primary hurdles to removing tents from Venice Beach.

Bob Davis, who is the Rec. and Parks beach superintendent for Venice, has also historically been concerned that if his staff was seen confiscating any private property or tents, etc., that the campers might retaliate against them.  Beaches and Harbors staff does not appear to have this concern.

Pristine San Pedro Beach
It is important to note that RAP enforces LAMC 63.44 in all of San Pedro's parks, including beach parks (see photos), and that LAPD officer Rusty Redican, with help from County Beaches and Harbors, enforces LAMC 63.44 along the entire length of Will Rogers Beach, which is loudly applauded by the Pacific Palisades community.  Of course, both San Pedro and Pacific Palisades are districts of Los Angeles, like Venice.
RAP's failure to work with the LAPD to enforce LAMC 63.44 has been exacerbated by Mayor Garcetti and Councilman Bonin's blind and one-sided interpretation of CDC guidelines for homeless individuals during the pandemic.  Those guidelines call for leaving the homeless to shelter in place, to self-isolate, to wear masks like everyone else, and to not move location so their social worker can find them to provide services.  Garcetti and Bonin miss the fact that most of the campers in the VBRA were not there back in March, so they have already violated CDC guidelines by moving here.  And as Councilman Joe Buscaino in San Pedro notes, the homeless frequently do not wear masks or self-isolate.  In the VBRA, on the Boardwalk (and on 3rd Steet) they are frequently seen partying and socializing, so there is little value in observing the guidelines in the instance of homeless encampments in Venice (or elsewhere).
San Pedro Beach Park
Clearly, judging by San Pedro's beaches, by just about every other park in Los
Angeles, and by the pristine state of Will Rogers Beach, LAMC 63.44 may legally be enforced at Venice Beach, at its recreational facilities, like the handball courts, and all of the grass areas may be returned to public use. 
However, my belief is that until Bonin leaves office Venice Beach will remain overrun by homeless encampments, drug sales and use, and crime (and fires).  At any time Bonin could implement what Joe Buscaino has done in San Pedro, Officer Redican has accomplished at Will Rogers, or what he himself did on Rose Avenue in Penmar, but his knee-jerk support for the homeless prevents him from showing the leadership necessary to restore Venice Beach to its former popularity and safety.