With overnight parking restrictions for RVs and other oversize vehicles having been authorized by Los Angeles city leaders, a program designed to accommodate people forced to live in those vehicles displaced by such restrictions is also moving ahead.
The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance last month that allows council members to implement parking restrictions between 2 and 6 a.m. for oversize vehicles on city streets where there is found to be an impact.
Overnight parking can now be prohibited for vehicles longer than 22 feet or taller than 7 feet on streets in areas such as Venice, where RVs parking for extended periods has been an ongoing problem with residents complaining of impacts to the neighborhood and environment.
Though Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa returned the law unsigned, stating that city leaders needed to do a better job of addressing homelessness, the ordinance received enough council support to be implemented.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the Venice area, said he has worked hard to develop a comprehensive strategy that balances restricted parking and law enforcement with social services for those who need them. He noted that as the council approved the oversize vehicle parking law, he has also pushed for a program modeled after efforts in Eugene, Oregon and Santa Barbara that designate areas where those forced to live in their vehicles could park safely overnight, obtain services and begin the transition to permanent housing.
“This program is the result of months of collaborative effort by hundreds of people,” Rosendahl said in a letter to constituents. “This is a smart and cutting-edge program that builds on the successes of similar programs in other cities and improves and tailors them for our community.”
Rosendahl said the council has initially allocated $750,000 for the effort and that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the agency charged with administering the so called “Streets to Homes” program, has released a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) to seek a social service provider to run the program. The plan, he says, is to select a provider in the early fall and implement the program in conjunction with the oversize parking limits before the end of the year.
“The $750,000 is just the seed money, and it shows that we’re creating a pilot in Venice that we want to work with,” he said. “As the oversize vehicle ordinance becomes the law, the departments will sit down with community groups and create a petition and a strategy (for the safe parking) and we’ll go forward with it.”
A consultant for Rosendahl’s office, Sophia Heller, gave a presentation on the proposed program at a meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council July 20, where she explained that the initiative is meant to connect homeless people with the support systems they need to eventually move into permanent housing. A team of outreach managers will engage the people living in their vehicles and assist them as they are able to move into housing, she told the audience.
According to the draft RFP, the selected project provider will work with Rosendahl’s office and the community to identify locations for the safe parking sites, such as church or non-profit lots in Council District 11, that will provide restrooms and trash disposal. Rosendahl stressed that no decisions have been made on specific sites but he believes the program will take the pressure off a given block while allowing people living in vehicles to have dignity.
Heller said the proposal initially limits the number of vehicles at a certain lot to five and those who violate the rules and regulations would be removed from the program.
A Homeless Services Authority spokesman said the agency has declined to comment on the program until the official RFP is released.
Some Venice residents who have been active with the parking issues, including members of the group Venice Action Alliance, said they have supported implementing a safe parking program in tandem with the oversize vehicle restrictions.
“It’s important to have these things work together. Putting too much emphasis on one and too little on another will result in the problem not being solved,” said resident Chris Plourde, a Venice Action member.
Fellow action alliance member Karen Wolfe agreed that the program should be part of a “multi-pronged” approach to the issue and was pleased that service providers are the ones who will oversee the effort.
“Safe parking does not just concern the safety of the RV dwellers, it concerns the safety of the whole community,” Wolfe said. “It would create a program where the participants are monitored and where they have incentives to participate.”
Neighborhood council President Linda Lucks is another supporter of having the overnight parking lot project take effect along with the oversize law, which would not move the problems onto other communities.
“I’m very hopeful that the implementation of the over-height vehicle ordinance and the safe overnight parking program will be able to move forward simultaneously,” she said. “I think it will relieve the residents and at the same time give a helping hand to people who have no place else to go by giving them a safe place to park.”
Some noted they still have reservations about how the program will be implemented and its impact on the community. Resident Sean Suveg, who lives near one of the proposed lots, says while he is not anti-homeless and supports solutions, he would like more safeguards enforced and is concerned about lower property values. If the program is successful, it could “open up the flood gate” for many more vehicles, he says.
“Right now, (the program organizers) are promising a lot I don’t think they’re going to deliver on,” he said. “When word gets out the lots will overflow, there will be more camping on the streets surrounding the area, and more will come with or without their cars making my neighborhood deteriorate.”
Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, which works with the homeless, said the objective of the parking project is to find alternatives for those low-income people who are currently in the community and will be displaced by the overnight restrictions. For the program to be effective, it must serve only those who are truly in need of help and make sure they follow the regulations, he said.
“I think it needs to focus on the people who really need help — the very low-income who are living out of their vehicles out of necessity — and make sure those people are good neighbors,” Clare said.