The city should be trying to prevent the exodus of the middle class, not turning a blind eye to the selfish behavior of the rich, rude and tasteless
By Jack Schwartz
Schwartz is a housing attorney and a 30-year resident of East Venice.
About a year ago I was standing in front of my East Venice home with then-LAPD Pacific Division Capt. Dominic Choi and Senior Lead Officer Adrian Acosta, right next to a large police SUV, when some idiot sped past two cops in uniform toward Penmar Park. Acosta motioned for the driver to slow down, but was ignored. No ticket.
Later, the captain expressed to me that the LAPD didn’t have the resources to enforce the laws against speeding and ignoring stop signs, and that my neighbors and I should petition the Department of Transportation for speed humps. We petitioned. DOT told us we can’t get speed humps because we have stop signs, and because our street isn’t long enough for cars to actually speed. They said it was an LAPD problem, if it existed at all.
Now, I’m not a Venice original. I got here in 1988 and am merely one member of a shrinking resistance to the latest wave of gentrifying, homogenizing, yuppifying, uglifying and whitening Venice. We’ve been under attack from the power of greedy market forces since the times of the Tongva. The coast is just too beautiful not to be in a constant process of desecration by tasteless people with more money than class.
The difference now is that city government should be a force to mitigate the expulsion of the middle class and destruction of non-Caucasian enclaves, but instead has chosen to essentially do nothing. I want the city to protect my neighborhood from the self-indulgent newcomers and cut-through commuters. I want lawmakers and law enforcement to help control their limitless sense of entitlement.
We have people unwilling to drive a car without carrying on a phone conversation. They aren’t paying attention when a traffic light turns green, but are in too big of a hurry to bother with turn signals, hit the brake at stop signs or drive within the speed limit. And what mental defect causes a person to drive with a dog in his lap?
There are now four infants on my block, and soon they will be old enough to dart into the street. But the cars that the Waze navigation app (owned by Google, one of Venice’s preeminent gentrifiers) funnels down my street as an alternative to Lincoln Boulevard or Walgrove Avenue blow right though the stop signs as they speed to work and back. People drive so fast it’s sometimes hard to pull out of our driveways.
Cities can restrict non-resident traffic flow, but then they’d have to deploy traffic officers to enforce it — resources the city already claims it doesn’t have. Some residents installed their own speed humps, but the city came and removed them.
And about that traffic cop? We had one out there for a few days, writing tickets as fast as his arm could move. I asked him if the schmucks claimed the right to speed and roll past stop signs, and he emailed me: “Wouldn’t you know it, every person I stopped (and mind you I was only stopping the 10-plus mph people) would swear up and down they stopped fully.” The drivers didn’t even have the guts to own their self-indulgence. Instead, they just lied.
It’s not just cars. Bicycles and Bird scooters ignore stop signs and red lights, dangerously cutting off cars. But do you ever see them ticketed in Los Angeles?
A lot of my neighbors have stopped going to Penmar Park because of off-leash dogs. We asked for and the city erected “leash your dog signs,” but they’ve since been vandalized or torn down. We’ve asked the L.A. Department of Recreation and Parks, Animal Services and the LAPD to start issuing citations, but they won’t. Instead, I hear my neighbors arguing with people who think it’s perfectly OK to let their dogs treat a neighbor’s lawn like a public toilet.
Another example of inconsiderate behavior is that short-term vacation rental brokers are replacing my neighbors with transient tourists, taking properties off the rental market and making housing more expensive for everyone. I reported one short-term rental house to the city, even sending along a copy of their advertisement on Airbnb, but a representative for the Planning Department told me, a lawyer, that the city won’t prosecute because they can’t prove their cases in court. What do they need, a confession?
The massive size of new houses going up all over Venice is also a destructive force, displacing middle-class families with multi-million dollar McMansions. Morningside Way in East Venice has become Abomination Boulevard, where human-sized houses are being replaced with two-story, double-lot boxes that look like airport terminals. Does everyone need six bedrooms and a pool? When a home lists for $4 million, you sometimes have to wonder why they couldn’t spare a few bucks to spend on design.
Enactment of new size limits actually accelerated the rate of mansionization, since the council didn’t use the available emergency enactment mechanism, so the developers had time to get permits for construction that is currently not allowed. Then they sat on the permits.
Another gift to developers is that the city allows construction from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays. With an average of four construction sites on each East Venice street, the noise is nearly constant.
Who tells the people ruining Venice that they can do whatever they want? The city does, every day that it does nothing about it.
Maybe we can’t stop gentrification, but in a democracy the government is beholden to limit the destructive excesses of the rich and powerful. Without the city taking some action, even those middle-class residents who somehow afford to stay in Venice will be driven out by deteriorating quality of life. Seriously — what other major city leaves neighborhoods without regularly scheduled street cleaning, as is the case in East Venice?
My next-door neighbor has waited four months and made four inquiries to get a meeting with L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, which are offered on his web site. She hasn’t gotten one. I reached out to Bonin’s district director, LAPD, Rec & Parks and Animal Services for their responses to the above problems, and none have been responsive.
In the meantime, I’m still hoping the police will come back to write some more speeding tickets.