STOP BONIN FROM MAKING VENICE A PERMANENT HOMELESS HUB

Be Heard: I Oppose the Bridge Home Facility at the MTA Lot

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Take Action Now –

Email to the VNC Board Opposing the Bridge Home Facility at the MTA Lot

Use the Form Below to Send an Email Right Now Telling the VNC Homeless Committee that you Oppose the Bridge Home Facility at the MTA Lot

Last month, the VNC Homeless Committee unanimously approved a motion – entitled “VNC Support for Bridge Housing & Community Benefits Agreement” – that will pave the way for a massive Bridge Home shelter on the 3+ acre MTA Lot on Main Street under Mayor Garcetti’s (grossly underfunded) Bridge Housing program.  The Homeless Committee has also drafted motions calling on the City of Los Angeles to pay Venice residents to provide space for RVs in their driveways and tents in their backyards. 

Be Heard! Send an email letting the VNC know that you OPPOSE this latest attempt to use Venice as a political stepping stone and to permanently convert our neighborhoods into encampments.


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The email below — including the subject line — will be sent to the distribution list at the bottom on your behalf, and you will receive a copy!

Let’s Fight Back, Venice!

Subject Line: I Oppose the Bridge Home Facility at the MTA Lot

Email Body:

Dear Members of the Venice Neighborhood Council:

Last month, the VNC Homeless Committee passed a motion entitled “VNC Support for Bridge Housing & Community Benefits Agreement” that the Chairman of the VNC Homeless Committee apparently drafted in cooperation with Councilman Mike Bonin’s office to pave the way for a massive shelter on the 3+ acre MTA Lot on Main Street.

I understand this motion is coming before the VNC Board for consideration on August 21 and I urge you to vote it down for several reasons.

First, this is yet another example of improperly concentrating a disproportionate share of homeless services and facilities in Venice. Bonin and his allies in the social services sector claim that Venice needs St. Joseph’s, the Mobile Pit Stop Program, Lava Mae, the Westminster Park Navigation Center, the Venice Median Project, the Thatcher Yard Project, the Rose Apartments, the 102 Navy Project, virtually unlimited car camping, Safe Parking programs, and, now, Bridge Housing because we have one of the largest homeless populations outside of Skid Row. But that is in large part because Bonin and his predecessors have been funneling homeless (and transients) to Venice for years with lax law enforcement and services that are not available in other communities. And, in any event, there is no reason why the considerable costs and burdens associated with the homeless crisis should not be distributed more evenly across the Westside. Placing a Bridge Home facility in Venice will only reinforce Venice’s worldwide reputation as Skid Row West and a designated homeless hub. It is high time for our neighbors in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades and elsewhere do their fair share to address homelessness, yet Venice is the only community in Council District 11 that has been called upon to host a Bridge Housing. That is unacceptable.

Second, this reeks of the dirty, anti-democratic politics that sadly have become the norm in Council District 11 under Mike Bonin. Bonin used fake statistics manufactured through biased polling and bused in out-of-town activists to drown out local voices when he crammed the Road Diet “pilot” down Mar Vista’s throat last year. Of course, the “pilot” is now permanent, and Venice Boulevard merchants are paying the price. Bonin is doing exactly the same thing here. A recent Fight Back, Venice! public records request, for example, shows that Bonin’s assertion that the public called for Bridge Housing at the MTA Lot in an online poll is completely false and the much ballyhooed “I’m In!” survey – which remains shrouded in secrecy despite a public records request – is obviously bogus as well. Similarly, Bonin and his allies have produced no less than three campaign-style videos in support of the Bridge Home facility at the MTA Lot, while also launching an email campaign to get homeless housing activists to turn out at the August 21 VNC meeting in force, regardless of their place of residence. The VNC is not supposed to be Bonin’s tool. It is supposed to be an independent advisory body to the City Council that faithfully reflects the needs and will of the Venice community. Please remember that when you are voting Tuesday night.

Third, this looks and feels a lot like a shake down. Bonin has repeatedly promised stepped up law enforcement if Venice plays ball on the Bridge Home facility at the MTA Lot, and the Homeless Committee’s Bridge Housing motion states “Mayor Garcetti has guaranteed millions of dollars in sanitation” for communities that accept Bridge Housing. But the City already has the power to break down tents during daytime hours. The City already has the power to ticket RVs parked for extended periods near schools and playgrounds. Drug dealing, prostitution, violent crime and property crime are already illegal. Venice property owners already pay roughly 10 times as much as their counterparts in Pacific Palisades – nearly $2 million a year on top of other taxes – in BID fees for street maintenance. In 2017, Bonin voted against using a $2 million surplus to fund encampment clean ups. Per published LAHSA policy, the Bridge Home facility cannot expel residents for use of illegal substances. And the MTA Lot is a mere stone’s throw from Westminster Elementary School and two nursery schools. If the City wants to link Bridge Housing at the MTA Lot to safe, clean streets, then the VNC should offer Bonin this deal: Provide the safe, clean streets that Venice families deserve – and that the City already has the means and power to provide – and then the VNC Board will engage in discussions with the City as to what shelter facilities (if any) make sense for Venice in light of the resources that are already available here and what our neighboring communities are doing.

Fourth, the VNC Homeless Committee has no business making policy decisions with lasting implications for our community. The VNC Homeless Committee is a mere ad hoc committee. It has conducted no meaningful research on homelessness in Venice (or elsewhere). Half of its members are unelected. Three of its unelected members have appeared in campaign-style videos (funded by the social services complex) promoting Bridge Housing. One of its unelected members sits on the board of a social services provider that is in line to provide services for the Bridge Home facility at the MTA Lot. It has historically failed to respect the most basic procedural safeguards, like posting complete and accurate meeting minutes. It is notoriously hostile to public comment. And we now know that members of the Homeless Committee did not even review LAHSA guidelines for Bridge Housing – which, for example, permit substance abuse and require admitting homeless from other areas – before voting on the Bridge Housing Motion. In short, the Homeless Committee has no special expertise; it is not elected; it suffers from demonstrable conflicts of interest; it is not run democratically or with integrity; and it is not respectful of the community it serves. It has no business making any policy decisions on behalf of Venice – let alone decisions of this magnitude – and there is certainly justification for the VNC Board to defer to its recommendation in this instance.

Fifth, we cannot believe any of the promises Bonin and others have made in connection with the proposed Bridge Home facility. We have been told, for instance, that the Bridge Home facility will be dismantled after three years, but we all know it will remain open until it is replaced by the government housing project that Bonin has been planning for the MTA Lot (as a complement to his massive projects at Thatcher Yard and the Venice Median) since he took office in 2013. We have also been told that the MTA Lot will be reserved for Venice homeless, but even if such a policy were otherwise legal and feasible, it appears that published LAHSA guidelines for Bridge Housing require Venice to accept referrals from other communities in Service Planning Area 5 as well, including Santa Monica, Malibu and Beverly Hills. And we have been told that Bridge Housing will significantly reduce encampments in Venice, but how on Earth can that be? Venice has a homeless population of approximately 1,000. Even assuming encampment vacancies would not be backfilled by newcomers, the City would have to cram 300 people or more into trailers on the MTA Lot to make a meaningful dent in existing encampments. A shelter of that size is unthinkable for a variety of reasons, and, in any event, we now know that the City can’t even afford to shelter 50 people at the MTA Lot – let alone a meaningful percentage of Venice’s homeless population. The fact is that the VNC Homeless Committee, itself, knows full well that, if anything, the Bridge Home facility will grow Venice’s street dwelling population – which is why, even now, it is continuing to prepare motions (over vigorous community opposition) calling on the City to create a reservation system for sidewalk encampments in Venice and to pay Venice residents to provide space for RVs in their driveways and space for tents in their backyards.

Sixth, the Community Benefits Agreement (“CBA”) called for in the Homeless Committee’s Bridge Housing motion is a joke. In fact, it appears that most of the proposed provisions – “a) security, b) sanitation, c) housing placement services, d) reunification, e) sober coaching” and such – apply to the Bridge Home facility itself. All Venice working families appear to get is: (i) a semi-annual report on “outcomes of individuals that have transitioned through Bridge Home”; (ii) “[a] yearly public meeting [] organized by the Mayor’s office to discuss the program’s effect on the neighborhood;” and (iii) the empty promise addressed above that “[o]nly homeless from Venice [will] be admitted.” Even assuming the CBA is enforceable (and that VNC or some other entity or individual will have the resources and will to enforce it when the time comes), it is self-evidently worthless to the Venice community at large.

Frankly, a lot of bad things have happened to Venice over the past several years and while the current VNC Board has been in power.

Homelessness – and plain old vagrancy – has grown nearly 400% since 2013, while increasing by a comparatively low 75% in Los Angeles as a whole and staying flat (or even going down) in the rest of the state and country.

Thanks to LAMC 85.02 – which allocates more space for car camping in tiny 3-square-mile Venice than in Pacific Palisades and Brentwood combined – our commercial and residential streets have become parking lots for RVs from every imaginable corner of the country doubling as crack dens and bicycle chop shops.

Perfectly valid laws against drug use, indecent exposure, disruptive conduct, camping on the beach and camping on sidewalks during daytime hours are no longer enforced or even taken seriously.

Venice residents who dare speak out on behalf of their families have been maligned as bigots and NIMBYs in local, national and even international publications by our own elected officials and social service entities that operate in Venice.

And Residential break-ins and violent crime – including shootings and stabbings – have become commonplace.

As a Venice resident, I am tired of being trampled by the City, the social services complex and high-minded neighbors with self-righteous visions of what Venice should be. And I am disgusted by the lack of meaningful advocacy from our elected VNC Board on behalf of rank and file Venice families.

Like all LA communities, Venice has an important role to play in addressing homelessness and we want to do our part. But this not a one-way street and Venice is not a dumping ground for the City’s problems.

Please take this opportunity to stand up for our beleaguered community: vote down this ill-conceived motion, call Bonin to account for his improper tactics, and demand a level playing for Venice.

Sincerely,

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