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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Councilman Meets with Canal Residents about Venice Median

By Darryl DuFay, editor Voice of Canals

“I’m Done With Something Not being Done,” said Councilman Mike Bonin.

I start this Informative with that statement from Councilman Mike Bonin.

On Tuesday evening, August 23rd, Councilman Mike Bonin held a public community meeting in the Venice Canals on his proposal for Homeless Housing on the public parking lot on Venice Blvd. between Pacific Ave. and Dell Ave. The meeting was with the leadership of the Venice Canals’ two community organizations, the Voice of the Canals (VOC) and Venice Canals Association (VCA). Twenty-three people attended at the home of the president of the VOC Marjorie Weitzman. Also attending, was Josie Scibetta, president of the VCA. Mike’s staff was in attendance: Taylor Bazley, Venice Field Deputy, Debbie Dyner, District Director, Ezra Gale, Senior Planner for Projects, and Chuy Orozco, Del Rey/Playa Vista Rep. Also in attendance was Will Hawkins, VNC At-Large Officer, who lives in the canals.

The hour and a half was filled with Mike’s opening presentation and wide ranging question and concerns from the audience. Here is a “brief” summary in no special order:

—Mike gave an historical background on homelessness in Venice with emphasize that homeless population has changed. It is younger and less “rooted” to the community.

—LA has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country. There has been an 87% increase in encampments in LA. Note: The 2016 Homeless Survey listed the top four reasons for homelessness in our Council District 11: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Physical Disability, and Domestic Violence. Venice, one of the 10 communities of CD11, has 35% of the CD11 homeless.

—Court decisions, especially in the “Jones” case, say that homelessness cannot be criminalized. A settlement outside of a trial to provide 1,250 units to allow the City to return to some enforcement towards sleeping on sidewalks, public land, etc. is still in flux. Attorney Carol Ann Sobel and Community Activist Mark Ryavec are at odds on this issue. The City remains “handcuffed” in enforcement options.

—There is an absolute need to provide more permanent homeless housing. The City of Los Angeles has sent out to builders, contractor, etc. a “Request for Qualifications and Proposals” RFQ/P for “Affordable Housing Opportunity Site for 12 properties. Two are in Venice. Venice Blvd parking lot and Thatcher Yard in the Oxford Triangle. The proposals are to be returned on September 15th. No one knows what they will be, nor their size. Mike has said those proposals that meet the construction specifications will be “vetted” by the communities and Venice Neighborhood Council for their practicability, location’s desirability, and type of homeless population to be served. That will be an “interesting” undertaking. There was an observation that the Venice parking lot could take up to three years to develop. This is partly because it is the “dual jurisdictional” area of the City of Los Angeles and Coastal Commission and that takes time. However, no one really knows. Some developer might have it “all together” and you could see something happen in a year or so. Time is money.

Mike discussed “intermediate” and “long range” actions. Intermediate to involved a move from 12-hour Shelters to 24-hour “Bridge Housing.” The Storage of homeless belongs such as at the Westminster Senior Center is part of this effort. Emphasis however is on “long range” permanent housing. He spoke very highly about the “HousingFirst” concept of housing with services. Also of note, a recent decision by the Federal government to terminate funds for “transitional housing” and focus on “permanent housing” is of concern. He also had photos of three projects in Venice of permanent housing.

Discussion of “housing and service resistant” homeless people. Many are afraid of their fellow comrades in close quarters, some just want to be “out and about.” Also discussed the “transient/vacation” homeless. No good statistics on this, but that is not to say it is insignificant.

The City and County are now working together on Homelessness. A multiple strategies document has been produced. It it “mammoth” in its reach. The costs over ten years is way over one billion dollars. The County is responsible for health services, the City the structures involved.

Question asked about selling the parking lot property. Such a sale has a number of number of steps. First choice on the property are other agencies within the city government for their use. If the property is sold the money will go into the long existing Venice Surplus Fund. This fund can ONLY be used for projects in Venice.

Will Hawkins asked probing questions about what can be done now, mentioning illegal drug violations on the beach as something that should be enforced. This then led to a discussion of the present atmosphere surrounding law enforcement in general and specifically their interaction with the homeless. The situations are so fluid, atmosphere often hostile with media attention overwhelming, and potential lawsuits possible. If there is some reluctance to enforcement it is understandable.

The successful work with the homeless of the Foursquare Weller Chaplains and Laura Burn’s Teen Project among others was mentioned. Also, there is a brand new program of the LAPD called “HOPE” for working with the homeless. Don’t know much about it.

The Business Improvement District (BID) program, with 74% participation, will be approved.

It was a good and informative meeting. And, use of the word complex to describe it is an understatement.

Mike announced that he will have another community-wide meeting at Westminster School on Homelessness in early September.

Comment (1)

  1. Graham

    —LA has the largest unsheltered homeless population in the country. There has been an 87% increase in encampments in LA. Note: The 2016 Homeless Survey listed the top four reasons for homelessness in our Council District 11: Mental Illness, Substance Abuse, Physical Disability, and Domestic Violence. Venice, one of the 10 communities of CD11, has 35% of the CD11 homeless.

    Problem with figures like this is that they’re based on homeless people who seek help from some Social Service Agency. And those tend to be all the alcoholics and addicts who are looking for something for free. There are a lot of homeless people out there who don’t have substance abuse problems who have never stepped foot inside any kind of welfare office who never get counted in these numbers. Maybe they don’t want to be around a bunch of addicts. Maybe they’re Republicans who don’t think it’s the government’s job to give them anything for free. But they’re definitely out there. And they’re not being counted.

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