Posted March 9, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns
Another Big Idea: Parking Lots for Overnight Campers

Re: “Mike Bonin’s Big Idea: Acres of Prime Venice Real Estate Slated for Affordable Housing,” Cover Story, Jan.28

I decided about four years ago to live on the streets of Los Angeles County in my beautiful 27-foot Winnebago RV. It’s been quite an experience.

Hollywood was very cool, but when I decided to move closer to my children down in the West L.A. area, things got ugly! There are quite a few homeowners and renters out there that really resent somebody parking on the street and sleeping there.

When I started, I found out it was against the law. The police, however, were very understanding and even helpful.

When it became legal about a year ago, this made homeowners even angrier. I can understand that. I don’t share that point of view, but I understand it. Luckily, I had an income, but I’ve met many other homeless people living in RVs who face mental illnesses, alcoholism and other conditions, or just don’t have a job.

This leads to the reason for my response. Why couldn’t there be many open lots with running water, bathrooms and electricity for RVs? The city could charge a minimal rent, and those who park there could pay for the water and electricity they use. Campers would have to follow rules that would be enforced.

I think this idea could take advantage of a lot of vacant lots all around L.A. County, and it would give homeless people a real and affordable option for a place to live in this beautiful part of the world.

Congratulations to The Argonaut for maintaining. You’re really an important part of the community!

Rick Pearce
Los Angeles


Keep a Watchful Eye on the Wetlands
Re: “War at the Shore,” News, Feb. 4

It is encouraging to see The Argonaut and so many local environmental groups take an interest in the fate of the California Coastal Commission’s executive director (“War at the Shore”, February 4). It is essential that our public agencies serve the public interest, not the narrow political or financial interests of outside groups.

However, environmental advocates often focus on high-profile issues at the statewide or national level at the expense of important local issues over which we typically have more control. There is another state commission based right here in Los Angeles with many projects affecting our local coast, and it has its own issues with transparency, accountability and conflict of interest.

The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC) is a locally-based, non-regulatory state agency whose public staff members are mostly hired by and paid by a private entity called the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation (also known as The Bay Foundation). For years, the SMBRC was the local face of the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project and everyone knew it.
Foundation employees serving as commission staff handed out SMBRC business cards, wrote letters on SMBRC letterhead, signed their e-mails with their commission titles, put the commission’s logo in their public presentations, etc. However, when the restoration project became bogged down by poor management decisions, such as the decision to include a large-scale construction proposal by a wealthy special interest in the ongoing environmental analysis, the project became a political liability. The draft Environmental Impact Report that was supposed to be released at the end of 2012 still hasn’t materialized and is now expected in summer of 2016.

When our small non-profit began pressing for project records created or retained by SMBRC staff a year and a half ago, the SMBRC did something remarkable. They abruptly cut ties with both the restoration project and the staff working on the project, claiming that the project and staff were connected to the private foundation and not to the public commission. They even went so far as to claim that SMBRC had never had a direct role in the project, and that the business cards, letters, annual reports work plans and countless other documents showing otherwise had simply used the wrong entity names inadvertently.

After months of refusals by SMBRC to release the records in question, we filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. On Jan. 26, Judge Mary H. Strobel ruled that the foundation employees working on the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project were indeed working on behalf of the SMBRC, and that their correspondence was subject to the Public Records Act.

The contrast between SMBRC’s numerous denials of that fact, all made under oath, and the judge’s unequivocal ruling could not have been starker. While the judge did not grant us access to all of the records we requested, this ruling is a big victory for the public, which has a fundamental right to monitor how public agencies are conducting our business. However, we will only make real progress at Ballona when more community members, journalists and elected officials start taking more of a proactive interest in this valuable public resource. Whether with regard to the California Coastal Commission, the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission or any other public agency, we have to be informed and engaged if we want our interests to be served.

Walter Lamb
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust


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