Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl has received the backing of the Venice Neighborhood Council to include a Venice public parking lot in the planned locations for a vehicle to housing program on the Westside.
The neighborhood council voted April 12 to support an amendment by Rosendahl to add the parking lot of the Penmar Golf Course on Rose Avenue in Venice, along with Rosendahl’s office parking lots in Westchester and West Los Angeles, to the proposed Roadmap to Housing program. The program is designed to allow people living in vehicles who are participants in the initiative to park safely overnight in designated lots as they transition into permanent housing.
Some neighborhood council members said they believe that Venice, as the local community most impacted by the vehicular living issue, must take part in the housing program by offering a parking site in addition to those in Westchester and West L.A. The council’s support came despite concerns from several Penmar neighborhood residents, who argued that the golf course lot was not the right location for the program.
Rosendahl told the audience April 12 that he included the amendment for a Venice lot after hearing public comments at a previous meeting that the beachside community needed to be a part of the program.
“It became very clear to me after being here in Venice that we need to find some form of support in Venice,” the councilman said.
Rosendahl, who viewed the entirety of back-to-back neighborhood council meetings on the issue, additionally asked for the distance between residences and the parking lots to be extended from 50 to 150 feet. After the Venice council supported the amendments, the City Council’s Transportation Committee also gave support April 13.
Rosendahl pointed out that although some Westchester residents expressed concerns about the use of the city-owned lot, which also serves Westchester Park, the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa overwhelmingly supported the Roadmap to Housing plans. Cyndi Hench, president of the Westchester-Playa council, noted that the board backed the proposal with conditions including that a Venice parking lot be included and families with children get the highest priority.
The West Los Angeles Neighborhood Council is scheduled to vote on the plan Monday, April 25.
The city has released a draft ordinance, 85.11, which will allow the vehicle to housing program to be implemented in the 11th Council District. Rosendahl said the city has already secured 50 housing vouchers to begin the effort.
Under the program, which will be managed by People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), a maximum of eight RVs can park on the three public lots between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Rudy Salinas, outreach director for PATH, told the audience that an overnight security team will work each of the sites and various rules will be in place.
While community members said they were in favor of the program’s goals, some residents who live near the proposed Penmar site voiced frustration that they received short notice on the plan and argued there are better lots to use in Venice.
“I think it’s ill advised at this location,” Penmar resident Andrew Carrillo told the council.
Penmar Neighborhood Association member Chris Williams called the Penmar Golf Course area “one of the most beautiful green spaces in Venice,” and while the group is supportive of the initiative, he said the golf course and its eatery would be impacted financially with the use of the parking lot.
“I think there are much better places to do this,” said Williams, adding that alternatives need to be vetted.
In a letter to the Transportation Committee, Craig Kessler, director of governmental affairs for the Southern California Golf Association, said the Penmar course’s ability to generate revenue for the recreation and parks department would be harmed by the use of the commercial lot for the program.
Others urged the Venice council to push for making a public lot available in the community where the highest number of vehicular homeless have been situated. Resident David Ewing said while Westchester and West L.A. are playing a part with their sites, Venice is the “linchpin” of the program.
“We need to help our people and they can help their people; that’s what’s really going to make the program work,” he said.
Homeless advocate David Busch told the council, “Let’s recognize that Venice has to take the responsibility for its homeless.”
Responding to inquiries about why the Penmar lot was chosen as the Venice location, Rosendahl chief of staff Mike Bonin said that in discussions with police about possible sites, it was determined that Penmar had the greatest distance from residences. The parking spots would be located on the eastern end of the lot, complying with the 150-foot buffer, he said. In regards to the program’s use of on-site restrooms, Bonin said the course’s gate would be closed after business hours but porto-potties would be provided.
Referring to resident complaints about the selection of Penmar, Mike Newhouse, the neighborhood council’s president emeritus, said there would be some community concerns regardless of where the lot were located. He suggested that program managers consider modified hours based on the use of the course, but stressed that Venice needs to participate in the important step in people’s transition into housing.
“I don’t think there’s any way of getting around the fact that a lot does need to be in Venice because we’re trying to solve a Venice specific problem,” Newhouse said.