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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Is the MTA Shelter located in a Methane Hazard Zone?


(Photo courtesy of Rick Swinger.) Sign hangs over former Bus Yard.

By Rick Swinger

Without Environmental Reports (CEQA) will the neighbors ever know the true dangers that lie underneath this MTA Shelter? Isn’t the purpose of these Environmental Impact Report Laws  to protect the public? Why would you want to get rid of them unless there was big money behind it? Why has  the LAPD not released the pictures of the supposed bomb at the MTA? What is this warning sign  at the MTA Lot? Don’t we have the right to know?

Fight Back Venice Provides Bomb Threat Scenario and LAPD Summary Statements

Was there really a bomb threat to the Bridge Housing project on the MTA lot at Sunset or was it a couple of NO2 and CO2 cartridges modified to spin like tops? Were they really on the lot or in an adjacent area? — or both? The rumors continue. Venice Update eagerly awaits an official statement by the police.

Fight Back Venice has written a scenario of the events that have transpired  and provided a summary of the LAPD statements.

Bonin Triggers False Media Reports of Anti-Homeless Terror in Venice
Publicly Available Information from LAPD Contradicts Bonin’s Facebook Post

We originally intended to provide a look back at 2019 and an outline of our plans for 2020 in this email, but in light of the false reports that are circulating (and the damage that is being done to Venice as a result), we wanted to provide Venice residents with a summary of the information we have collected to date regarding the “suspicious devices” found last week at and around the Bridge Home Venice site.

As set forth below, publicly available information from the LAPD appears to indicate that there were never any explosive devices at (or near) the Bridge Home Venice site and that the LAPD does not believe there was a connection between the construction of Bridge Home Venice and the (non-explosive) devices found in Venice over the New Year’s holiday. Indeed, several of the (non-explosive) devices at issue (which unconfirmed sources have described as NO2 and CO2 cartridges modified to spin like tops when dropped) were found at locations other than Bridge Home Venice.

In short, Bonin’s narrative about terror activities targeting homeless in Venice appears to be without merit.

Here is what we have at this point:

Bonin’s January 3 Facebook Post
Bonin activated a Facebook post at 9:10 a.m. on January 3 (https://www.facebook.com/MikeBoninCD11/photos/last-night-the-los-angeles-police-department-responded-to-a-report-of-suspicious/2943919072293282/ ) stating that the LAPD had “responded to a report of suspicious devices that looked like bombs at the site of the future bridge housing in Venice.” Bonin further states that “there were three separate devices” that were “apparently designed to look like explosive devices,” but that “LAPD’s bomb squad determined that none of them contained the necessary fuel to cause an explosion.” Further, Bonin states that placement of these “suspicious devices” was “an appalling incident perpetrated by a disturbed and cowardly person or persons” that may have been “meant to slow or halt progress on providing bridge housing.” Then, he writes: “We will not be intimidated, and we will not back down from providing solutions to our homelessness crisis.”

Bonin’s Venice Deputy for Venice Bridge Home, Allison Wilhite, doubled down on that messaging in a news release furnished to Venice Update (https://veniceupdate.com/2020/01/03/venice-deputy-responds-to-venice-bridge-home-bomb-threat/ ) restating Bonin’s Facebook post in full – including Bonin’s theory that the “suspicious devices” were placed by “a disturbed and cowardly person or persons” seeking to “slow or halt progress on providing bridge housing” and intimate homeless advocates.

Police Chief Michel Moore, for his part, chimed in with a comment on Bonin’s Facebook page stating in its entirety: “Councilman Mike Bonin we will continue our investigation and appreciate your appeal for the community’s assistance with tips/leads to identify the individual(s) responsible.” Further, Chief Moore stated in a January 4 email to Christian Wrede that “[t]he councilman’s remarks” – as set forth on Facebook – “[we]re accurate and fair.” Chief Moore ignored Wrede’s requests to provide additional information as to the characteristics of the devices or to help address inaccuracies in news reports.

News Coverage Spawned by Bonin’s Statements

1) A comment accusing two sitting members of the Venice Neighborhood Council of planting the devices in question was posted to the comment section of Bonin’s Facebook post, and numerous print and television outlets ran stories adopting Bonin’s published theory that said devices were directed at the Bridge Home Venice project and Venice’s homeless community.

2) The local NBC affiliate, for example, ran a piece quoting Bonin extensively and stating that “homeless in Venice” were “possibly targeted with pipe bombs.” ((https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/lapd-investigating-fake-explosive-left-at-future-site-of-venice-bridge-home/2285119/)

3) Fox LA ran a story, under the headline “LAPD Working to Determine if Homeless Community Was Target in Suspicious Device Investigation,” stating that authorities believed that “the suspect or suspects responsible for leaving the suspicious devices there may have possibly been targeting the new housing project or the homeless community.” ( https://www.foxla.com/news/lapd-working-to-determine-if-homeless-community-was-target-in-suspicious-device-investigation ).

4) And Los Angeles Magazine ran a piece, under the headline “Fake Explosive Devices Were Found at the Site of a Controversial Homeless Shelter,” stating that “[t]he threat came amid ongoing controversy over” Bridge Home Venice and noting in the very next paragraph that “the Venice Stakeholder’s Association sued the city to halt the project.” ( https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/fake-bomb-homeless-shelter-venice/ ).

Publicly Available Information as We Currently Understand It

Disturbed by this incendiary reporting, a number of concerned Venice residents have continued to push Bonin and the LAPD to provide accurate information to the public and to correct the false and injurious storylines in the press.

True to form, Bonin has completely ignored such requests.

The LAPD, for its part, has declined to provide pictures – or even descriptions – of the devices, but has made several public statements contradicting Bonin’s Facebook post (and the false news reports it triggered), including the following:

 

“I can assure you that none of the devices recovered from the site would meet the definition of an explosive.” Captain Steven Embrich, LAPD, January 4 Email to Christian Wrede, et al

 “We don’t believe it’s related to the homeless shelter construction.” Officer Bob Long LAPD Major Crimes Division (as quoted by Zoie Matthew in “Fake Explosive Devices Were Found at the Site of a Controversial Homeless Shelter,” Los Angeles Magazine, January 3, 2020).

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Los Angeles Times that “none of [the devices in question] had the capability to detonate” and that “the shelter site was not the target of the incident.” Colleen Shelby, “Devices Resembling Explosive Found Outside of Future Homeless Shelter in Venice,” Los Angeles Times, January 3, 2020.

The devices in question were not limited to the Bridge Home Venice site. They “were found on and near” the Bridge Home Venice site and “an adjoining street.” January 3, 2020 LAPD News Release.

“The motive is unclear ….” January 3, 2020 LAPD News Release.

In short, the LAPD has expressly stated that: (i) the devices Bonin wrote about in his Facebook post were not explosive; (ii) the Bridge Home Venice site was not the only location at which the devices were found; and (iii) there is no apparent connection between the devices and Bridge Home Venice.

Further, while we cannot vouch for the accuracy of such information, we have been informed by sources we find trustworthy that detectives investigating the devices have shown residents in the vicinity of the Bridge Home Venice site photographs indicating that the devices in question were NO2 (i.e., laughing gas) and CO2 cartridges modified to flit around on the ground across distances of up to 20 feet when dropped from a height sufficient to trigger the release of gas. According to these sources, the first of the devices was found by a Venice resident on New Years Eve, but no report was made until other devices of similar design were found in various locations. Apparently, five devices in total were found.

We will provide additional information as we receive it. In the meantime, we will leave you to formulate your own hypotheses as to what really transpired with respect to Bonin’s mystery “devices” over the New Year’s holiday in Venice.

Wrede Asks Chief of Police Questions Regarding Bomb Threat

“At this point the caution to the community is if they see something suspicious to call us,” emailed Chief of Police Michel Moore to Christian Wrede who is a concerned Venice Neighborhood Council Board member.

The statement was written in response to the question Wrede posed to the Chief:Is the LAPD planning to provide any guidance as to the risk of escalation and what precautions Venice residents — and especially children in nearby schools — should be taking while the investigation is in progress?

In a separate email, Wrede posed many questions to the Chief:

As you can see here, Allison Whilhite from Councilman Bonin’s office furnished a new release to Venice Update (and perhaps other outlets) today repeating verbatim statements from Councilman Bonin’s Facebook post regarding the Bridge Home Venice bomb scare.

Venice Deputy Responds to Venice Bridge Home Bomb Threat

Notwithstanding your email above, it does not appear that Ms. Wilhite’s statement reflects any new information from your PIO.

At this point, Councilman Bonin is telling the public that devices intended to look like bombs were placed at the Bridge Home Venice site in an apparent attempt to derail the project and terrorize prospective residents.

Does that accurately reflect the LAPD’s view of the situation? If so, what information can you provide to support that assessment or to enable the parents concerned for the safety of their children to draw their own conclusions? If not, what efforts are being made to provide guidance to the Councilman?

A terrorist act in the heart of the second most popular tourist destination in California and one of the most densely populated areas on the Westside strikes me as a big deal, particularly in connection with an issue as contentious as homelessness. And it seems a little odd, frankly, that all public information relating to such an incident would come exclusively through Councilman Bonin’s office.

Competent and reliable information from the LAPD — including pictures of the devices at issue — is urgently needed. I plan to request an update at the VNC meeting next month, but obviously Venice residents should not have to wait that long.

Chief Moore’s response to the Councilman’s statement from his facebook page was “accurate and fair.” There is much more work to do to identify the individual(s) responsible for these devices and their motive.

Venice Deputy Responds to Venice Bridge Home Bomb Threat

Note: This is a news release from Allison Wilhite who is the Venice Deputy for the Venice Bridge Home.

As you may have heard, last night (2 January 2020), LAPD responded to a report of suspicious devices that looked like bombs at the site of the future A Bridge Home in Venice. Streets were closed and nearby homes were evacuated for several hours while the LAPD Bomb Squad analyzed the devices. Fortunately, there were no explosives.

Nevertheless, this incident is unsettling.

The A Bridge Home is intended to be a safe haven for those living on our streets in Venice, providing them stability and security while they seek the services and housing they so urgently need. While our service providers will be working hard to support the clients on site, the City will also be working hard to deliver on its promise of increased public safety to the neighborhood. Dedicated LAPD resources will be added to the neighborhood as well as increased sanitation and street outreach services. The safety of our residents in Venice, housed and unhoused, will continue to be of utmost priority and not deterred by this senseless act.

Below you can read a statement from Councilmember Mike Bonin regarding this incident. Thank you for your continued engagement with our office and willingness to participate in tough, but necessary, conversations about the A Bridge Home in Venice.

“Last night, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a report of suspicious devices that looked like bombs at the site of the future bridge housing in Venice. Streets were closed and nearby homes were evacuated for several hours, while the LAPD Bomb Squad analyzed the devices.

‘According to LAPD, there were three separate devices. While they were apparently designed to look like explosive devices, LAPD’s bomb squad determined that none of them contained the necessary fuel to cause an explosion. LAPD removed the devices, conducted a safety sweep of the area, reopened streets, and allowed people back into their homes.

‘LAPD‘s Major Crimes Division is investigating. Anyone with information that could assist in the investigation should contact 1-877-LAPD 24-7 (1-877-527-3247).

‘This is an appalling incident perpetrated by a disturbed and cowardly person or persons. If it was meant to slow or halt progress on providing bridge housing, it failed. It is unacceptable and inhumane for people to be living and dying in sidewalk encampments in our neighborhoods. It is imperative that we get people off the streets. We will not be intimidated, and we will not back down from providing solutions to our homelessness crisis.

‘I am grateful to the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, especially those in the LAPD Pacific Division and the LAPD BOMB Squad, for their quick, professional and exemplary work last night. And I am grateful to the neighborhood residents, who responded patiently and calmly to this attempt to frighten and inconvenience them.”

MTA Lot on Sunset Has Bomb Threat — Only Info Available is from Councilman Mike Bonin’s Facebook Page

Note: LA Times has just come out with a story.

Last night (2 January 2020), the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a report of suspicious devices that looked like bombs at the site of the future bridge housing in Venice. Streets were closed and nearby homes were evacuated for several hours, while the LAPD Bomb Squad analyzed the devices.

According to LAPD, there were three separate devices. While they were apparently designed to look like explosive devices, LAPD’s bomb squad determined that none of them contained the necessary fuel to cause an explosion. LAPD removed the devices, conducted a safety sweep of the area, reopened streets, and allowed people back into their homes.

LAPD‘s Major Crimes Division is investigating. Anyone with information that could assist in the investigation should contact 1-877-LAPD 24-7 (1-877-527-3247).

This is an appalling incident perpetrated by a disturbed and cowardly person or persons. If it was meant to slow or halt progress on providing bridge housing, it failed. It is unacceptable and inhumane for people to be living and dying in sidewalk encampments in our neighborhoods. It is imperative that we get people off the streets. We will not be intimidated, and we will not back down from providing solutions to our homelessness crisis.

I am grateful to the men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department, especially those in LAPD Pacific Division and the LAPD BOMB Squad, for their quick, professional and exemplary work last night. And I am grateful to the neighborhood residents, who responded patiently and calmly to this attempt to frighten and inconvenience them.

Judge Decides Against VSA and Clears Road for 154-Bed Homeless Shelter

An LA County Superior Court judge ruled against the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) members in a suit that VSA wanted CEQA invoked at the MTA site for the 154-bed homeless “bridge home”project.

At question was the validity of Assembly Bill 1197 that exempts homeless projects only in Los Angeles from complying with the California Environmental Quality Act.  The bill was passed after the MTA homeless project in Venice at Sunset and Pacific was started.

President of the VSA Mark Ryavec said “It is simply unfair for the state to  say that everyone in the state — except for the residents of LA — has certain rights under CEQA to question the environmental impacts of a project and ask that they be mitigated.  The City got the state to move the goal posts.”

Attorneys for VSA were still evaluating whether to appeal.  “It is an untested law singling out the City of Los Angeles,” said attorney Jeff Lewis.  “The legislature may have stepped out of the bounds of its authority.”

Fight Back Venice also lost its law suit recently regarding AB1197.

LA Times article.

MTA Lot Continues to Morph to “Bridge Home”

Note: These photos were sent Tuesday. For some reason, did not see them. So this is what the Bridge Home looked like Tuesday.

By Shawn Stern

The large tent went up very quickly. it will be the main “housing” building for 100 adults. (1st Photo). There is a metal frame being erected in the center of the trailers, which, according to the mock up, will be a covered “dining/seating/lounging area”. (2nd Photo). And some rebar is being set on the right (south) side of the tent between the tent and the permanent MTA building, also not sure what this is for as there seems to be some vertical rebar. According to the “mock up” on the Bridge Home website, this area will be for storage.

I have to say that tent design seems a bit flimsy to me and susceptible to the heavy winds we get around hear before/during/after large storms as well as Santa Ana’s. I’m sure that the city officials, LADBS and architect/builders have made sure that the structure is up to code and this won’t be an issues. I guess time will tell.

Bridge Home at MTA Site Becomes a Little More Concrete



(Photos by Shawn Stern)  Pacific Ave facing east.

By Shawn Stern

Concrete pump came in early this morning (26 November) as it was there when I woke up at 7 am. And now the first truck has arrived and they are beginning to pump the concrete for the slab that will, I believe, be the communal “building.”

This has been the main focus of work for the past 10 days as they put in sand and a vapor barrier, made the forms and set the rebar. Keep in mind all of this work and materials is supposed to be temporary, which means it will all be torn out when they dig this entire lot up to put in what will likely be a huge mixed use NOT affordable housing unit in the future. Such is the use of our tax dollars.

If it helps the estimated one thousand homeless in Venice to move off the street into housing and get services they need, then great, but since there is literally no housing to put them in now, I doubt this “plan” will work six months or a year from now when there is still no housing to put them in.

This is at best a very expensive band aid, and I believe, without a comprehensive detailed plan on how the government will solve the issues of ALL homeless in the city, (especially those individuals with serious mental health and substance abuse problems that are a danger to themselves, which means a danger to the public). The tax payers/voters will continue to be angry over the lack of spine of our elected representatives and appointed administrators in charge of solutions.

The one question I never see addressed in community meetings I’ve attended or in the numerous government and homeless advocacy literature/websites I have read, is what is the plan for those individuals that say NO to services, NO to getting off the street? No one has an answer other than they are “working on a comprehensive solution to a complex problem.” That may be true, but unfortunately the hard decisions that need to be made are not being made by those in “charge.”

The police can’t fix this, that’s not their job and putting the chronically homeless with serious mental health problems into jail doesn’t help anyone, especially not them. For the past thirty years the homeless advocacy groups have battled with local governments and the stalemate has resulted in leaving the homeless to live on the streets and parks “hoping” that the combined government and private services would find a solution. And clearly that doesn’t work!

Bridge Housing MTA Lot, Monday

Note: Shawn Stern has said he would give daily photos of the site. So this is Monday, 18 November.

By Shawn Stern

This is the MTA site today. Also the LADOT was out today adding/replacing the NO STOPPING OR PARKING TOW AWAY between 8am-8pm signs on Pacfic Ave with new signs that limit the no stopping between 8am-10am and 3pm-7pm. That means people can now park on Pacific between 10am-3pm.

Bridge Housing Starts to Move in at MTA Lot

By Shawn Stern

They are delivering the “temporary housing” to the lot today (Friday, 15 November.)  Both photos are at Pacific looking east with Sunset Ave on the left.

There is a lawsuit pending regarding CEQA and that is to be held 11 December.