READER COMMENTS POSTED AT ARGONAUTNEWS.COM:
Re: “Bonin draws line in the sand on Venice Beach boardwalk chaos,” news, Aug. 7
‘No simple answers’
Thank you for covering the unacceptable state of Venice Beach and our ongoing work to give the people who live, work and enjoy the area the clean, safe and characteristically funky neighborhood they expect and deserve.
Venice Beach and the surrounding neighborhood is a tourist attraction, but it also a residential neighborhood and a business district — and it too often is held hostage by rowdy punks and criminals who manipulate vending rules and laws meant to protect the homeless to create their own sketchy environment and campground. It is not acceptable.
We must and will be expanding programs and coordinating services to help the needy and those who are left with no choice but to sleep on our streets. But those are not the people causing problems in the neighborhood. To combat that problem, we are installing brighter lights at Venice Beach, and we will be installing 24-hour security cameras. We are increasing neighborhood cleanups, and the LAPD is instituting new patrols and policies. We are also going to tighten up vending regulations that create a scofflaw underground economy that is forcing out the entertainers and performers.
There are no simple answers to the complex intersection of social justice and public safety issues at play here. Government and the community need to work hard to respond with dignity, compassion, and assistance for those who want and need help — and to provide hard and strong law enforcement for those who violate the law and think our neighborhoods are a cool place to party, cause trouble and live off the grid.
City Council member
Housing is the issue
The issue here is that the people who are homeless on the beach often have nowhere else to go — and no one is providing them options. A strict law enforcement approach leads to police harassment of the homeless while they are trying to clean up your “jewel.” A big part of the reason that the homeless in Venice are so restless could be because they literally get no rest. The LAPD repeatedly wakes people up during the wee hours of the morning and harasses anyone who chooses to sleep anywhere but Rose and 3rd (which is often dirty and completely packed with people).
The only housing option available to Venice’s homeless is jail. I honestly believe that by relaxing or eliminating laws that seek out homeless people, such as loitering laws (which are only enforced in Venice upon the homeless), and sleeping in public laws (which are only enforced when the homeless are sleeping somewhere the LAPD decided they shouldn’t), and camping laws (because really, doesn’t it make more sense for homeless people to sleep on the beach at night than to force them to sleep on the sidewalk in residential areas?), the general unrest and turbulence that the homeless community feels will be reduced, therefore making everyone’s experience in Venice more enjoyable.
Additionally, implying that a homeless person set their own mattress on fire is ignorant. Would you burn your bed, especially if you had been sleeping on the concrete for goodness knows how long before you got it, and will be again now that it’s garbage?
I understand the frustration that comes from living in an environment that is also shared by hundreds of homeless people. However, in reality, they were there first. You can’t come into a community and gentrify it and expect things to go smoothly, especially if you try to do it by criminalizing people and trying to force them out.
What Venice needs to do is adopt a Housing First program and open spaces for these people to go.
Boardwalk connects all walks of life
This is a Band-Aid solution designed to put more homeless people in prison instead of in proper housing. I work on Venice Beach and watch law enforcement harass homeless people on a daily basis — homeless people who are doing nothing but sitting on the side of the boardwalk selling necklaces or flying a clever sign, creating part of the unique tourist attraction that is Venice Beach. Venice is made lively not just by the shops that line the boardwalk, but by the largely homeless population who sets up their stalls every morning and close up at sunset to find a warm place to sleep. They are a part of Venice, part of what makes us a Mecca for creative travelers from across the world. We are a highway for connecting people from all walks of life. Why can’t we just give them a place to sleep?
Venice deserves better
Finally! I think this is a great start in addressing the impossible-to-ignore issues on Ocean Front Walk. No doubt it is a complex and nuanced issue. But as the proposal suggests, there are a number of programs proposed to reduce crime and vandalism. Those who live, work and play in the area deserve a clean and safe environment. I don’t see this as an attack on the homeless at all (as some of the others suggest). I appreciate their passion of homeless advocacy; however, the status quo is unacceptable and incredibly dangerous for the peaceful individuals who sleep on the beach. This strip of coastline deserves better, and so do the residents.