Lining parts of Rose Avenue, west of Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, are vehicles that some neighbors say they’ve seen parked on the street for as long as days at a time.
At the center of the issue are recreational vehicles (RVs) which residents say take a spot on the street and don’t move until they’re required to, either by the street sweeping schedule or the 72-hour limit for vehicles staying in the same location.
To some neighbors, those stationary vehicles and others on Rose and other neighborhood streets west of Lincoln Boulevard are turning the areas into a campground.
The vehicles parked for lengthy periods of time have been an issue of concern for some Venice residents living west of Lincoln who claim they create unsanitary conditions and reduce the availability of parking in the neighborhood.
“Venice isn’t a campground,” said Richard Myers, a Venice Neighborhood Council member who lives on Rose Avenue.
The reason the vehicles are not budging, some residents say, is that there are currently no overnight parking restrictions on Venice streets west of Lincoln Boulevard.
Those streets are situated in an area under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission, which does not want parking restrictions to inhibit beach access. While there are some existing overnight parking restrictions in Venice, they are in areas east of Lincoln and outside coastal commission jurisdiction.
“We want to provide maximum access to the beach for the people who want to park down there,” said John Ainsworth, deputy director for the California Coastal Commission South Coast District.
But residents say they are even more frustrated at the issue because other surrounding coastal communities have overnight parking limits, while Venice does not.
The RVs lining neighborhood streets such as Rose Avenue are a main reason residents in the area say they are pushing city officials to work with the coastal commission in developing overnight parking restrictions, primarily between 2 and 6 a.m., on streets west of Lincoln.
Many RV occupants are sleeping in the vehicles overnight and leaving remnants of living on the street, such as trash and human waste, in the neighborhoods, some residents claim.
Other concerns expressed by neighbors include the alleged use and selling of drugs associated with the vehicles, creating issues of safety. Some claim the vehicle occupants are able to avoid getting cited for parking violations by moving only often enough and far enough to be considered not in the same place, as well as allegedly abusing handicapped placard regulations.
The vehicles seem to be parking on a host of western Venice streets, including those in the President’s Row Neighborhood near Abbot Kinney Boulevard, but the “hub” of activity is on Rose Avenue, according to Neighborhood Council member Stewart Oscars.
“The greatest problem is on Rose Avenue, west of Lincoln,” said Oscars, chair of the Neighborhood Council Overnight Parking District Ad Hoc Committee, which has been working on the issue for over a year.
For some residents, a big concern is not knowing who is staying in the parked vehicles.
“We have no idea who these people are,” said resident Carolyn Ward.
Concerned residents have approached the Neighborhood Council about relocating the stationary vehicles by pursuing establishment of overnight parking limits in the areas.
But others have defended the situation of the RV residents, saying they are being treated like criminals when they, too, are actually community stakeholders who happen to be living in unfortunate circumstances.
“These are Venetians just like us,” resident Jim Smith said at a Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday, August 21st. “They need compassion and care.
“I think you should consider all of the stakeholders, not just the ones who are fortunate enough to afford their own house.”
Peggy Lee Kennedy of Venice Food Not Bombs, an organization that helps feed the homeless, also argued for the people living in vehicles, saying they need help and that restricting overnight parking is not the answer to improving their situation.
“These people need help — they’re not just a bunch of criminals,” Kennedy said at the Neighborhood Council meeting. “Permit parking and signs on streets do not solve homelessness.”
Overnight parking restrictions near the coast are also important in dealing with safety in the community, as they can prevent potentially dangerous situations from occurring on the beach at night, Neighborhood Council president DeDe Audet said.
“By restricting parking it can help prevent people from engaging in risky activity at night,” she said.
Frank Mateljan, a Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney spokesman, said the office has been working with the community on the overnight parking issue in Venice. The office prosecutes individuals lodging in their vehicles for municipal code violations, but lodging needs to be proved, he said.
Claudia Martin, City of Los Angeles neighborhood prosecutor for the local area, said she reviews complaints and information on the vehicles, such as the license plate number, description and location, and will file a citation if it meets the guidelines.
Venice Neighborhood Council members said they are working with representatives from City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office to determine if establishing overnight parking districts is the best solution to the RV issue.
Mark Antonio Grant, Southern District director for Rosendahl, told the Neighborhood Council August 21st that permit programs can be established in coastal areas if the community submits an application for consideration. The application process could take as long as 18 months and cost the city approximately $30,000 for each of four proposed permit parking districts, Grant told the council.
Ainsworth noted that a coastal development permit application is required for any community that seeks overnight parking restrictions. As part of the application, the community is asked to provide documentation of problems occurring with vehicles parking overnight, he said.
The coastal commission must review the application to determine if overnight restrictions are justified, but Ainsworth said Venice may have a strong case.
“I think they have a pretty good rationale for why an overnight parking district is necessary in Venice,” said Ainsworth, adding that the community has a “pretty significant problem” with overnight camping.
The coastal commission might have an issue with the community’s proposal to restrict parking until 6 a.m., as beach users might want to be able to access the beach at that time, Ainsworth said.
According to Grant, Rosendahl is scheduled to address the overnight parking issue in Venice at a California Coastal Commission hearing Thursday, October 11th.
Neighborhood Council members are exploring other potential solutions to the parking issue, including allowing the RVs to park at empty lots.
Audet has also asked the council to consider a program similar to one that was established in Santa Barbara which aims to help people move from RVs into permanent housing.
The program utilizes paved parking lots of churches, nonprofit organizations, city and county facilities and industrial lots from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and has reportedly moved dozens of people off the streets, she said.
“It looks like a great program,” Audet said. “I think it’s a reasonable way to assist people who don’t have a proper place to park.”
The Neighborhood Council considered sending a letter to Rosendahl to explore a similar program for Venice but voted to table the motion until the next council meeting for further review.