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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Homeless Committee Gets Bridge Housing Update; Agrees on Funding Changes and Facial Masks

By Angela McGregor

Thursday night’s Zoomed meeting of the VNC’s Homeless Committee began with a welcome from Chair Frank Murphy (co-chair Charles Rials was not present) to the Committee’s two newest members: VNC at-large Board Members CJ Cole and Vicki Halliday. Also present were Brian Ulf, Michael Rapkin and Liz Wright.

First on the agenda was an update on the Bridge Housing facility at Main & Rose from Nisa Kove, formerly a VNC Board member, now Venice Field Deputy to Mike Bonin’s office. She began with an overview of legal restrictions on the city’s ability to manage encampments in Venice, and an acknowledgement that many residents are frustrated. Due to CDC recommendations that tents be kept up full time, it is now legal to sit, sleep or lie on public right of way at any time of the day or night. Furthermore, an injunction from a Federal court has made it illegal to collect bulky items without storage, 24 hour advance posting (and the City is having difficulties identifying storage locations). Finally, comprehensive cleaning by Sanitation is not allowed, only spot cleaning.

Allison Willhite, who had been the City’s liaison for the Bridge Housing facility, has moved on and Nisa, for the time being, will be taking over her role. Nisa stated that she had just had a meeting with the Mayor’s office regarding neighborhood concerns about drug use in and around the facility, crime, and people coming in and out, and stated the City was “taking this very seriously”. Part of the problem, she said, is the lack of availability of services & people due to Covid-19 concerns about social distancing — for example, Bridge Housing can’t have same number of counselors, and there are no one on one meetings between clients and outreach. Currently, SPY has 9 empty beds at the facility reserved for clients under 25, while PATH has 6 for older clients. Since the facility opened in February, there was been just 1 reunification.

Board commentary reflected the neighborhood’s frustration. In particular, Brian Ulf chastised the city for using the current crisis to justify longstanding shortcomings, and pointed out that the Bridge Housing facility has an additional 1.5 unused acres that could be used for storage. Board members agreed that Venice has reached the end of its rope with regard to the growth in encampments and needs “action steps”. Nisa responded that Bonin is waiting to hear back from Judge Carter, who in mid-May issued an injunction requiring the City to provide immediate shelter for homeless living under freeways , and with whom Bonin recently visited the Rose/Penmar encampments, along with many nearby residents. Out of this meeting, a motion to put resources toward moving those Rose/Penmar campers into hotels and shelters was put forth. Nevertheless, the city is also stretched for services because it’s clear that new encampments are springing up all over the city on a weekly — if not daily — basis. (In fact, figures released today for the 2020 Homeless Count indicate that homelessness increased by over 14% in Los Angeles county last year. See: https://www.lahsa.org/news?article=726-2020-greater-los-angeles-homeless-count-results&ref=hc).

The Committee moved on to Motion 1, which stated, in part, “that the Venice Neighborhood Council calls upon the City of Los Angeles to immediately direct any and all funds (city, state and federal) available for homeless shelter and housing to the following, less costly models, towards the objective of housing all unsheltered homeless persons in two years”, listing a variety of options, including large tents and SHARE Collaborative Housing, and forbidding such facilities from being “installed or constructed within 200 feet of a residence, child care center, school or park”. As a Board member of SHARE, Brian Ulf recused himself from the motion.

VNC Board member Mark Ryavec, who authored the motion, stated that it came out of discussions with L.A. Alliance for Human Rights (https://www.la-alliance.org/), the litigants in the Judge Carter ruling, and was aimed at providing housing for 60% of the unhoused, in order to enable the City to be able to legally enforce the no sitting, standing or sleeping on public right of way laws. He also stated that, with budget cuts looming, it is imperative that Los Angeles come up with lower cost options for immediately housing the homeless, rather than relying on the high-cost, permanent housing solutions and temporary hotel and motel (“Project Room Key”) programs which would, in his opinion, leave tens of thousands still on the streets, where they are increasingly vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic. Most of the remaining public commentary was in agreement with the Motion, although one commenter pointed out that the only major outbreak of Covid among the homeless was at the Union Rescue mission, and began with a staff member there.

Board commentary began with Mike Rapkin, who had concerns that the motion would take money away from services and disregard the findings of housing experts who maintain that permanent housing is the correct solution. Frank Murphy found the language regarding limitations on where such facilities could be built to be “draconian” and to effectively forbid building them in Venice. Liz Wright proposed an amendment to take out this language, but it failed in a tie vote. Ultimately, the original motion was approved, 3-2-1.

Motion #2 would demand that the city cease and desist its planned installation of restrooms in the vicinity of Rose Avenue and fourth street. Since these restrooms have already been moved to a different location, the Board voted unanimously to table this motion.

Motion #3, resolved that “the Venice Neighborhood Council, through its website and social media, will encourage stakeholders who sew to make masks to be given to Venice’s homeless population, and the VNC Homeless Committee will set up logistics for manufacture and delivery”. Public commentary focused on the necessity that, in order to be effective, such cloth masks need to be laundered regularly — something the homeless are largely unable to do. Another solution, suggested by both members of the Board and Public — would be for the City to provide disposable masks for first responders and service providers to hand out among encampments. Liz Wright, the author of the motion, and Frank Murphy both pointed out, however, that the motion was also meant to generate a connection between residents and local homeless, which would not be accomplished by relying on the city. In the end, the motion passed, 4-1.

Both approved motions will further be discussed and decided upon by the VNC Board at their next meeting — Tuesday, June 16th, online.

VNC Homeless Committee Set for 11 Feb

The Venice Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee is set to meet 6:15, 11 February, at the Venice Library, 501 Venice Blvd.

Motion Turned Down by VNC Homeless Committee to be Presented at Feb VNC Meet

The motion presented by Venetians to the Homeless Committee last month to add a restriction of no homeless within 300 feet of  single-family homes to the LA City Homeless and Poverty Committee motion  with be considered at the 18 February Venice Neighborhood Council meet, 7 pm, Westminster Elementary School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

The group is seeking a Community Impact Statement to show that Venice indeeds supports the City Council and the City Council Homeless and Poverty Committee that wants to restrict homeless within 500 feet of schools and parks.  They want their statement to be considered for an amendment to the City’s proposed motion and to be added to the Council File 19-06Q2-S1.

“Furthermore, please be advised that if my personal motion request regarding amendments to LAMC 41.18 is denied and will not be heard at the February Board meeting, I am submitting a Stakeholder petition on behalf of 169 Venice Stakeholders  who are requesting that the above Motion to Amend LAMC 41.18 be placed on the Board Agenda, so that the Motion can be voted on by the full Board,” the petition read.   “The Petition has 19 pages and the first 7 pages containing 60 signatures are attached.  The remaining pages will be sent in a separate e-mail.”

City Council Passes “REQUEST” that LAHSA Produce Detailed Accounting Within 60 Dayas

Note: It is the Venice Update opinion that the same should be requested of St. Joseph Center.   This is a public institution operating without answering questions.  Any public, charitable institution should be available for questions and answers,

Darryl DuFay is making the motion request to be presented at the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) at the 18n February meeting that a Community Impact Statement (CIS) be passed by the Venice Neighborhood Council in support of this City motion (shown below) and be presented to the Los Angeles City Council.  A CIS in effect states Venice agrees, supports  you or does not agree and for such reasons,

A motion was brought by residents at the Venice Homeless Committee to add a restriction to the City’s Homeless and Poverty committee motion of a 500-foot restriction for parks and schools to include no homeless within 300 feet of property with a certificate of occupancy for R-1.. The Venice Homeless Committee turned the proposed motion down. Eva Greene has stated they have more than enough signatures to bring the motion to the Venice Neighborhood Council, bypassing the Venice Homeless Committee, at the February meeting. The Venice Neighborhood Council does not make laws. They make suggestions to the City Council for action.

Venice is the homeless capital for CD11.  It should definitely stand up and state its position!

By Darryl DuFay

Homelessness is in a crisis. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority ( LAHSA) is the premier organization in charge. It is a joint-powers behemoth of the County and City of Los Angeles. It administers over 400 million dollars a year. The accusations, finger pointing, and complaints about the sad state of effectively dealing with homelessness has reached a point where the City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee demanded to know what is going on.

The Committee passed and sent a Motion on Jan. 15th to the City Council demanding to know what LAHSA has done over the past four years. It is a momentous action and reads like an indictment. A copy is below. It was adopted by the City Council on January 28, 2020.

When the VNC Board meets 18 February, Agenda Item 13D (see below) is a request for a VNC Community Impact Statement (CIS) in support of the City Council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee Motion. This will create a permanent file. As of this date no other CIS has been filed.

Raucous Homeless Committee Meeting Fails to Deliver Motion

By Angela McGregor

The public meeting room at the Venice Public Library was packed with an overflow crowd on Thursday night to weigh in  on the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Homeless Committee’s single motion:

MOTION TO AMEND LAMC 41.18 The Venice Neighborhood Council calls upon the Los Angeles City Council to Amend LAMC 41.18 as follows: (d) No person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way as follows: (1) At any time in a manner that restricts fifteen feet of clearance from any utilizable and operational entrance, exit, driveway or loading dock. (2) At any time in a manner that restricts passage to less than 36” in any and all directions, as required by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). (3) At any time: (i)Within 300 feet of any structure, with a Certificate of Occupancy, that is in residential use. (ii)Within 500 feet of a park. (iii)Within 500feet of a school. (iv)Within 500 feet of a daycare center. (v)In or upon any tunnel, bridge or pedestrian subway that is on a route designated by City Council resolution as a school route. (vi)Within 500 feet of a facility opened after January 1, 2018 to provide housing, shelter, supportive services, safe parking, or storage to homeless persons. (vi) Bike and other recreational paths. (vii)Public areas(non-sidewalk) posted with No Trespass signs for safety purposes. (viii)Public areas posted with closing times for safety and maintenance purposes. (ix) Crowded public sidewalk areas like those exempted in the Citywide vending ordinance and other large venue-adjacent areas. Upon passage this Resolution shall be presented as a Community Impact Statement to the City Council and attached to Council File #19-06Q2-S1.

According to the presenter of the motion, VNC Board member Mark Ryavec, 90 percent of the motion was drafted by the City Attorney at the request of City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, in response to the recent Boise decision by the US Supreme Court.

Prior to the motion being presented, dozens of attendees spoke during general commentary to give their opinions and/or experiences with the homeless population of Venice. Many had been victims of violence by the homeless, including three stakeholders who recounted elderly neighbors being assaulted and robbed.

Others pointed out to cheers from the crowd that the homelessness crisis in California is not due to housing but rather mental illness and substance addiction, and that services to address this need to be prioritized over other solutions.

When CD11 Bridge Housing representative Allison Willhite introduced herself, she was asked whether the Bridge Housing facility being built on the site of the MTA bus yard (due to open late next month) on Main Street would feature rehab and/or mental health treatment. She declined to state, but suggested holding a special committee meeting in the future to discuss concerns regarding the facility.

Commentary from the loud and occasionally rowdy crowd was almost universally in favor of the motion. Board commentary from the four committee members who attended (Will Hawkins and Liz Wright were absent) was as follows:

Brian Ulf, who described himself as a long time recovering addict, member of the LAPD’s advisory committee and board member of SHARE (Self Help and Recovery Exchange) Collaborative Housing, stated that it was clear to him that the community has “reached a crisis level and deserves answers, and a response.”  He offered to meet  with anyone with questions after the meeting. He voted in favor of the motion, he said, because Venice is suffering more than any other community, and this would send a “small message” to the City council that things are becoming intolerable.

Michael Rapkin, a local attorney who has advocated on behalf of the homeless for several years, stated that the measure was legally unenforceable and so he could not support it after a somewhat long-winded explanation that included his recounting of taking in a homeless couple for four months and arguing on behalf of a woman living in her RV.

Committee Co-Chair Frank Murphy, a local developer who has pushed for denser housing in Venice, also voted against the measure. He acknowledged that Venice has both a disproportionate number of homeless as well as services, but stated these needed to be dealt with “in a smart way” and that the motion, which he also deemed unenforceable, was “not smart”.

Committee Co-Chair Charles Rials, elected to the VNC Board as an at-large community officer last year, also voted against the motion. He stood and described himself as “formerly homeless” and said he knew “what it’s like not to have any place to live on the street because no one wants you there”. In a 2019 article in the Argonaut, Rials said that he had arrived in Venice at the age of 15 after escaping foster care in Texas. Rials was convicted in November of 2015 of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, after a widely publicized incident in which he and a gang of local skateboarders pinned a 16 –year-old girl to the ground and opened her skull with a skateboard. After leaving prison in April 2016 he became an outreach worker for Safe Place for Youth.

The crowd responded angrily to the vote, and immediately a petition was circulated to get the motion onto the agenda of the next VNC meeting, which will occur in February.

The next meeting of the VNC Board will be Tuesday, February 18th.

VNC Homeless Committee to Meet 16th January

Homeless Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Committee will meet Thursday, 16 January at 6:15 pm at the Venice Library, 501 Venice Blvd.

A motion is proposed to add a 300-foot residential restriction to the proposed City Council motion that amends 41.18.  The City Council Homeless and Poverty Committee motion would  restrict homeless 500 feet from parks and schools along with some other restrictions.   Status of the  City Council motion is unknown.  The proposed motion is in the agenda.

Agenda.

First Homeless Committee Meet Brings Up Many Issues


Left to right are William Hawkins, chair of the former Homeless Committee, Frank Murphy, co-chair, Charles Rials, co-chair, and Elizabeth Wright. Not present were Michael Kaplan and Brian Ulf.

The newly formed Homeless Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council met 14 November, Thursday night at the Extra Space Storage on Venice Blvd for the first time to a standing-room audience.

Frank Murphy started the meeting by reading the committee mission statement, which is: Homeless Committee shall analyze and address the various sides of homelessness and its effects on the Venice community. Using experience, understanding and inclusive resolutions, it will work closely with service providers, local government, enforcement agencies and most importantly Venice stakeholders, to help propose solutions that will address everyone’s needs.

That set the pace and people started bring up issues that they wanted clarification on. It was decided that the person in charge of the count with the LAHSA annual homeless count would be invited to explain the count. It was decided they should consider the motion put forth by the City Council’s Homeless and Poverty committee regarding restricting homeless from schools and parks. An effort in Venice is now requesting that in addition to the motion put forth that homeless be restricted from residential areas within 300 feet.  People wanted to know the homeless services and shelters available.

Many issues were brought up that were new and issues that one was looking for qualification or clarification. One lady had three people interested in housing but did not know how to proceed. Rick Swinger brought up the fact that the Venice Family Clinic was dispensing needles without exchanging for the used needles. One person mentioned that he thought things had gotten out of control and that the Federal government should be considered.

VNC New Homeless Committee to Meet Thursday

Newly formed Homeless Committee of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) will meet Thursday, 14 November, 6:30 pm at Extra Space Storage, 658 venice Blvd.

The agenda can be viewed at https://www.venicenc.org/docs/34484696-8527.pdf.

VNC Addresses Billboard Blight, Renews Homeless Committee

By Angela McGregor

Tuesday night’s meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board featured a motion to create a Community Impact Statement in opposition to the City’s recently passed Sign Regulation Ordinance which would create exemptions to the ordinance for artists of small, hand-painted commercial signs for small businesses. The motion was opposed by a representative of Ban Billboard Blight, who stated that creating such a loophole within the hard-won ordinance would result in legal challenges from the signage industry and the subsequent appearance of big-business sponsored, painted signage designed to circumvent the ordinance. A motion to send the motion back to committee for clarification failed, and the motion then narrowly passed, 8-7-4.

It has been over 90 days since the ad-hoc homeless committee was created and co-chairs Charles Rials and Frank Murphy were appointed by Ira Koslow. Since the committee has not had a meeting it must, per the VNC’s bylaws, be renewed. A motion to do this, with the same mission statement, incited public commentary in favor of placing Matt Fisher in charge of the renewed committee. Ira Koslow stated that this put him in an untenable position, since he had received an email from that person (Fisher) accusing the head of “an organization in charge of Bridge Housing” of “child abuse.” Fisher denied having done this, to which Koslow threatened to send the email in question to the entire Board. Board member CJ Cole stated her opposition to the committee because she had asked to be on it and was refused; board member Mark Ryavec reiterated his opposition to the mission statement as being “too vague.” The motion to renew the committee ultimately passed, 15-2-2.

The final motion voted upon would have amended the VNC bylaws to allow three community officer votes per stakeholder/voter (the current limit is just one vote, with a total of 13 community officers being elected). Public commentary in opposition to the motion centered on two arguments: 1) That the current one-vote system made it possible for greater diversity among board members and 2) That one-vote system prevents filling the board exclusively with members of one slate, which had been an issue in the past. A motion was made by Jamie Page to allow for each voter to vote for 13 candidates, in the interest of “democracy and greater voter participation”. This motion failed, 3-14-2. Any change to VNC bylaws requires a 2/3 vote of all board members (14 out of a total of 21), and so the original motion also failed, leaving the current system of voting in place: 9-4-6.

The next meeting of the VNC Board of Directors will take place at 7pm on November 19.

Bonin Proposes Commission of People Who Are Formerly Homeless

From Councilman Mike Bonin’s September Neighborhoods First Newsletter

Mike is pushing the City of Los Angeles to get input on its homeless strategies from people with expertise — people who are or have been homeless in Los Angeles. Mike and his colleagues hear regularly from government officials, non-profit executives, business associations, neighborhood councils, homeowners, developers, and activists from a variety of organizations and perspectives. But they rarely from people who have experienced homelessness, people whose voices can tell them which programs work, and which ones don’t, and why. The Commission on Lived Experience with Homelessness would be modeled after city advisory commissions on disability issues, children’s Native American issues, and transgender issues, and would provide expert and real-world experience to improve policy-making, program development, and budgeting decisions.

Find out more at the link below.

MIKE PROPOSES NEW COMMISSION COMPOSED OF PEOPLE WHO ARE OR HAVE BEEN HOMELESS