A Venice committee charged with addressing issues specific to the homeless has proposed a pilot program intended to assist those forced to live in their vehicles on their path to finding housing by providing options for temporary overnight parking.

As the Venice community continues to grapple with the contentious issue of overnight parking districts, those who must use their vehicles as living spaces are facing the ongoing dilemma of where to find places to stay overnight while they seek housing and other services.

While members of the Venice Neighborhood Council Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness and Vehicular Living say that the streets are an inappropriate place for people living in their vehicles, they propose that certain off-street sites be considered for parking while the individuals move toward housing.

The committee is recommending that the neighborhood council support a pilot program in which the city would allow public or private lots to be used overnight in Venice and surrounding communities as transition sites to affordable housing.

“It’s a transition to housing; it’s not to warehouse people,” committee co-chair Mark Ryavec said. “We’re not into having Venice be an urban campground.

“Our goal is to have the city and county reach out a hand to those who are really poor and really need help to find affordable housing.”

The proposal is modeled after a vehicle to housing transition plan in Eugene, Oregon and one with some similarities in Santa Barbara.

The neighborhood council is scheduled to consider the plan Tuesday, May 19th, weeks before the California Coastal Commission will address proposals for overnight parking districts in five sections of Venice. In a special election in February, a majority of Venice stakeholders supported an initiative that would give residents the right to vote to establish overnight parking restrictions.

According to the vehicle to housing plan, participants who would be considered for off-street site parking must be of very low income status. No more than three vehicles would be allowed on a site at one time and the vehicles would be restricted to three-month stays.

The participants would also be required to follow a variety of guidelines, such as no consumption of alcohol or drugs, no loud music and no pets.

Ryavec said committee members searched across the Westside to find areas that could possibly serve as off-street parking sites. The potential lots are located in communities throughout the 11th Council District, including Del Rey, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista and Westchester, and are situated at least 300 feet from inhabited residences.

“The focus is to work with people who are in need and really want to improve their lives,” committee member Stewart Oscars said. “It’s about getting tools to people who are looking for tools to change their lives.”

Under the proposal, the program would be operated by a non-profit social service agency, which will help facilitate the participant’s placement into affordable housing and supervise the off-street site. The service provider would also be delegated by the city as the “first responder” in the case of a program violation.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl had addressed the vehicle living issue early this year when he proposed an amendment to a Los Angeles Municipal Code Section that says “No person shall use a vehicle parked upon any city street…as living quarters” overnight.

Rosendahl, who argued that the ordinance effectively “criminalizes living in one’s vehicle,” proposed an amendment based on the Eugene and Santa Barbara plans in which council members can designate specific areas in their districts where people can sleep overnight.

The Venice Homelessness and Vehicular Living Committee submitted a petition soon after, calling the motion “seriously flawed.” Ryavec and Oscars argue that Rosendahl’s initial proposal was just a beginning point and didn’t include details of plans such as the vehicle to housing transition.

The councilman has acknowledged that the overnight parking districts and vehicle living issues have been a difficult task. Among the challenges is ensuring that residents’ concerns are addressed while making sure people who are living in vehicles are treated with respect, he said.

“I want to be straight and fair to the residents as well as treat those folks in their cars with dignity,” Rosendahl said.

Referring to the vehicle to housing pilot plan, Rosendahl said he would review the committee’s recommendations and agreed that city leaders should take a new look at the situation.

“I appreciate the people in Venice’s engagement on this issue,” he said.

Neighborhood council vice president Linda Lucks, who is adamantly opposed to the proposal for overnight parking districts, said she supports the idea of finding off-street lots where people in vehicles can transition to housing. While she believes the plan is a good place to start, Lucks said she can’t comment on specifics because she had not fully reviewed the recommendations.

“It’s a concept that I like a lot,” she added.

Neighborhood council president Mike Newhouse backed the committee plan, saying it has been successful in Eugene and Santa Barbara and could be a workable solution for Venice. He said a key factor of the program is that it encourages regional locations for the overnight lots, and is not limited to Venice.

“An important thing that I like is that it is urging a regional solution to this,” Newhouse said.

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