Thursday, April 1, 2021

Boardwalk Owners and VSA Issue Liability Warning to City of LA for Allowing Transients' Tents - and Fires - Next to Buildings

Venice Boardwalk property owners and the Venice Stakeholders Association today issued a warning to the City of Los Angeles for its "extreme negligence" and the liability it faces in allowing hundreds of tents to stand next to or within mere feet of fire-vulnerable structures along Ocean Front Walk and elsewhere in Venice.

In the letter, Attorney Jeff Lewis wrote that "the recent fire at 723 Ocean Front Walk on January 13, 2021, which destroyed a large office building and threatened an adjacent apartment building and single-family residences, revealed in the clearest terms that the Los Angeles Fire Department is not in some instances capable of suppressing major fires in Venice to prevent property destruction and, by logical extension, prevent loss of life or serious injury to inhabitants of structures in Venice."

Hampton Avenue Encampment Fire

Lewis, noting the $400,000 settlement against the City of Oakland for the Ghost Ship fire, said in the letter, "a municipality may be held liable for nuisance conditions that it has created."

In the Ghost Ship fire, Oakland faced allegations that it was aware of an ongoing and constant danger of fire yet failed to protect residents from a foreseeable risk of harm, injuries or death.

Lewis also noted "that in 2018, the City of Los Angeles paid $14 million to settle litigation arising from the City’s failure to erect sufficient barriers to protect pedestrians from cars. In 2013, a driver, Nathan Campbell, killed a young Italian woman and injured many others."

"The potential loss of property and life presented by transient-caused fires is much greater and more foreseeable than the danger of cars on the Boardwalk that led to the $14 million settlement."

Recent Sunset Avenue Encampment Fire
The letter includes a list of over 20 transient-involved fires in Venice spanning the last two and a half years.

Also included in the letter is a recent Resolution of the Venice Neighborhood Council calling for "the Los Angeles Fire Department to conduct an immediate study of the fire hazard posed to structures in Venice by encampments and to issue orders for those encampments that pose a fire threat to be removed from proximity to those structures and fire access lanes."

Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA, said "the reality of the LAFD's inability to put out all fires in a timely manner, and the immediate threat this poses to residential structures, caused our organization to reach out to property owners to put the city on notice for allowing these conditions - which if not mitigated - will eventually kill or maim residents."

The entire letter is available on request to: