Reese Davidson vs. the Venice Nimby pt.2

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Artist’s rendering of the Reese-Davidson Project

By Lisa Robins

In the August issue of the Beachhead I laid out what I perceived to be the central problem in housing our homeless population: “Everyone wants to help the homeless….but Not In My Backyard!”

I also posed the question at the heart of NIMBY accusations: is our councilperson, Mike Bonin, attempting to squeeze most of the Westside’s homeless services and large supportive housing projects into Venice? In this series of articles, I’m focusing on one element of Bonin’s plan to help the homeless, the Reese-Davidson Community, described by Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC) as “An affordable and supportive housing development on the parking lots at Venice-Dell-Pacific”. I’m using it as an example of how various factions of Venice respond to potential housing to ease the homeless crisis, and how this project compares with others moving forward in our neighborhood.

As I see it, there are 3 basic types of Venice residents with regard to homelessness: those who are willing to try anything to help house those on the street; those willfully and blissfully ignorant of the issues, stepping over the sleeping bags and avoiding encampment blocks; and those angered by a perceived infringement on their rights and pocketbooks-who want the problem to go away to another neighborhood. Proximity to the encampments generally exacerbates their concerns: I’ve heard many NIMBYs complain that their property is close enough to feel and smell the direct effect of having a class of people struggling to survive (or scamming the system, as many see it). Giving the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume that all factions want to help house our homeless citizens. All want a better Venice. But there are major differences on how to achieve these goals.

As many of you know, Measure HHH authorized $1.2 billion in bond money funded by property taxes, to pay for homeless housing. Approximately 40 land parcels throughout LA have been identified as “opportunity sites”, city owned properties which are underused or vacant. 30 of these 40 have been designated for development to provide affordable housing thus far.

The Reese-Davidson Community is the largest “opportunity site” in the District 11 pipeline. Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC), was given a two year option to develop the Venice median into a PSH development. If approved, the development would replace the existing parking lots between Pacific and Dell, bordered by North and South Venice Blvds.

The REESE-DAVIDSON COMMUNITY would contain 140 Apartments:

68 supportive housing apartments for formerly homeless individuals and families

34 low-income artists’ apartments

34 lower wage households’ apartments

8 On-site trained professional staff apartments

3 Community rooms for tenant services and recreational opportunities

Preventing this development, along with stopping the MTA Bridge Housing, and other potential affordable housing solutions (VCHC Rose Ave), is the target of much of Venice NIMBY energy. Their main concern seems to be a lack of fairness and a fear of being overrun by the homeless. And perhaps a dip in property values.

NIMBY Concerns:

1) Venice already has too many homeless residents- They fear that Bonin is luring an endless stream of homeless to Venice with too many new PSH units and services..

2) New housing will serve too many non-Venetians- They argue there’s no guarantee the residents will be from Venice, and many might come to scam the system.

3) Too Big- They fear the Reese Davidson Community will be too large, with too many units.

4) Wasteful and Inefficient-NIMBYs point out the city land is prime real estate and could be sold, with the money used to create far more housing in a less expensive area. And, why build new developments instead of refurbishing existing buildings?

5) Cheating –NIMBYs claim VCHC is aiming to skirt zoning laws.

6) It Won’t Work- NIMBYs fear is that we’re enabling people to take advantage of the system asking nothing of them such as sobriety, etc.…

Underlying all of it seems to be a POV that if we care for those living on the street it will encourage more to do so. They point out that many have chosen this “lifestyle”, and it’s unfair to expect us to spend our city funds, and potentially reduce the value of our property, to support them. There’s the sentiment that although many homeless people are benign, there are those who aren’t, and exposing themselves and their children to this population reduces their quality of life.

Last March I met with Becky Dennison and Linda Lucks from Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC), the potential developer of the Reese Davidson Community (along with Hollywood Community Housing Corp), as well as the Rose Ave project.. I met separately with Will Hawkins, who was at that time an elected official of Venice Neighborhood Council, elected by the VNC to chair the homeless committee (VNCHC). Since then, Hawkins has since resigned. I’ve been comparing their points of view, with Councilperson Bonin, the “Venice NIMBYs”, and my own observations.

NIMBY Issue #1) Bonin is inviting homeless to Venice- I wrote extensively of this concern in my August Beachhead article.The gist of the Venice NIMBYs fear is that Venice is set to host more homeless per square mile than any other part of District 11.The NIMBYs charge is that there is an unfair distribution of new PSH units in Venice. They point out four supportive housing projects in the pipeline in Venice: Reese Davidson Community on the Venice Median (140 units), VCHC’s Headquarters on Rose Avenue (34 units), Thatcher Yard (proposed senior low income housing), and the MTA Lot Bridge Housing (units TBD).

In fact there are currently 4 properties in CD 11 approved for HHH funding.  1) West LA- the former animal shelter on Pico (city owned property).2 & 3) West LA/Brentwood –VA campus (not city owned) first 200 units are now approved, with a total of 1200 units planned 4) VCHC Administration site on Rose. There are two more sites in pre development that will likely access HHH funds sites, Reese Davidson and Thatcher Yard, both in Venice (both city owned).The Metro Bus Depot (MTA) in Venice, currently being considered for temporary Bridge Housing for the homeless is not city-owned. If approved it would host Bridge Housing for the homeless for 3 years, then revert to mixed use- residential, commercial and affordable housing. Prior to HHH, the last 3 projects approved in Council district 11 were in Del Rey, which already has far more supportive housing than Venice. 

Current PSH units- I tried to find a current list of PSH units and affordable housing units in LA to counter the NIMBY arguments, but found them surprisingly difficult to locate.

Apparently, the VNCHC had the same question. Here’s a motion from October 24th:

“Affordable Housing Accountability” (George Francisco, vp@venicenc.org)MOTION: The VNC Board will write a letter to Councilman Bonin, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl , the LAHSA, CDLA and the LA Dept. of Planning, requesting a full and accurate accounting of the amount and location of ALL units of “affordable” housing including but NOT LIMITED TO all forms of covenanted, rent controlled, Section 8, Permanent Supportive, and all other types of housing generally referred to as “affordable” located within the boundaries of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s borders AND within a mile of those borders. Recommended by the Neighborhood Committed 7-0-1 on 10/24/18

I’m very much looking forward to receiving this information.Along with other concerned neighbors, I wonder if Bonin and Garcetti were more proactive in housing the homeless in ALL the communities of District 11, if many of the NIMBY arguments would evaporate. One friend and neighbor who is for all the current proposals says, “It’s not just about bridge housing. Venice gets shit on. Income vs population. Tourists…it’s an epidemic…a national disaster…we would buy in if they put shelters in the rest of District 11…in Mar Vista, etc…” Bonin’s District 11 “is bounded by Mulholland Drive on the north, the Pacific Ocean on the west, Imperial Highway on the south and roughly the 405 freeway on the east. The district covers all or a portion of the following: Brentwood, Del Rey, Mar VistaMarina del ReyPacific PalisadesPalmsPlaya del ReyPlaya VistaVeniceWest Los AngelesWestchester and the Los Angeles International Airport.[1] (Wikipedia)

The United Way’s website has some information but it’s incomplete. http://everyoneinla.org/supportive-housing-tracker/  

The website states that each LA councilperson has committed to providing a minimum of 222 new supportive housing units. District 11 has 190 of 222 approved, and 63 existing units. However they don’t specify where the units are.

Stats as of August 2018

Currently Los Angeles has 6,000 units of permanent supportive housing citywide. Only 42 out of the 6,000 existing PSH units are currently in Venice. The entire Westside hosts only 5% of LA’s Permanent Supportive Housing. Venice contains 42 existing PSH units, and less than 1,000 affordable housing units. Santa Monica has around 350 PSH units, and 3000 affordable housing units. Del Rey has 71 existing PSH units.Brentwood’s VA site will contain 1800 units of PSH currently in development, however this stems from a Federal program specifically for veterans. Pacific Palisades and Malibu host zero PSH units as far as Becky from VCH knows (apart from the many homeless residents camping in the hills and on the streets.)

Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey currently host 216 units of Venice Community Housing affordable housing (http://www.vchcorp.org/housing/our-properties).

According to Sam Catanzaro of the Brentwood News, VNC looked at the following alternate sites in WLA within Council District 11 for a bridge housing facility. LAPD Training and Operations Center – 5601 Manchester Boulevard. City-owned 13.6-acre zoned industrial property currently in limited use. Has open space for tents. Has a high presence of police officers. Residential houses are on two sides of the property. West Los Angeles Civic Center – 1645 Corinth Ave Currently up for sale, is vacant and on property proposed for a bridge housing site. This large property currently includes the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) West Division offices, a public library, the vacant West Los Angeles Courthouse and a 1.2-acre parking lot. The proximity to the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration and hospital make this an appealing choice but like the Venice MTA site, is nearby to an elementary school and residential apartments. Westchester Recreation Center (7000 W Manchester Ave) This 27.5-acres-includes office space, a library and men’s and women’s locker rooms. Available on January 1, 2019, and because the City owns the property, there is no lease required. Close to LAX, the future Rams’ football stadium and public parks all offering potential jobs. It is, however, nearby to the KinderCare learning center and the public Loyola Village School. USS Enterprise (CVN-65) this decommissioned United States Navy aircraft carrier was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and the longest aircraft carrier ever built. Active from 1961-2012 and decommissioned in 2017 and is currently awaiting scrapping and recycling and in Virginia. With sleeping quarters, bathrooms, cooking facilities and office space, this ship can hold up to 5,828 people. Some have discussed a similar idea in San Francisco regarding the USS Peleliu, a decommissioned assault ship. Former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle proposing docking the boat in the city’s port and allowing homeless individuals board at night.    

Let’s follow up on these alternative sites. I’d love to see all of them, including the MTA Lot,utilized until every last person has a safe place to rest.

But back to our own community…

Homeless and at risk adults and families are currently served by the St. Joseph Center, and youth are served by Safe Place for Youth (SPY).

New Venice Solutions and the Venice Neighborhood Council

Bridge Housing at MTA In August, 2018, the Venice Neighborhood Council Homeless Committee (VNCHC) unanimously passed a motion supporting the concept of Bridge Housing in Venice along with executing a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with the city that would allow the community to have a say in what it was and looked like, and would hold the city legally accountable to maintain the facility as agreed to in that contract.On Oct 17th there was a raucous town hall featuring Mayor Garcetti, Councilperson Bonin, and Police Chief Michel Moore, which dealt mainly with “A Bridge Home”, the proposed MTA temporary bridge housing. Vocal, determined and many would say rude opponents outshouted supporters. Our councilperson and mayor are still convinced that the moderate factions represent Venice, and plan to move forward with the project.

Rose Ave.-On November 20th, the VNC voted to support the new VCHC Rose Avenue Apartments. This will be a new construction of 35 homes including permanent supportive housing for 34 formerly homeless households (50% for transitional aged youth and 50% for those who have experienced chronic homelessness) and one resident manager unit on the grounds just west of Lincoln on Rose which has housed VCHC administrative offices for about the past 20 years. 9 voted in favor, 4 opposed, and 1abstained. The “Everyone In” VCH supporters organized this time, wearing black shirts saying “Yes Bridge Housing/ Supportive/ Affordable, while carrying red roses. The opponents on the VNC council’s main concern seemed to be mass scale and character issues, along with setting a precedent for density and parking issues, which was scoffed by the crowd in attendance who have witnessed so many variances for mini-mansions and businesses, along with the fact that many homeless residents don’t have cars.

Reese Davidson and Oxford Yard Previously the VNCHC has been seems to have been opposed to the Reese Davidson PSH development. Not sure if a vote has been taken or where they stand now. The project has been eclipsed by the proposed MTA Bridge housing and the VCH Rose projects.

NIMBY FEAR #2– Too many Non-Venetians!

A big NIMBY argument is that there’s no guarantee that the potential residents of Reese Davidson (or Rose or the MTA Bridge housing) will be from Venice, and that many more might flood to our community to scam the system.

So who are these Venetians? Who has the right to live here?

At meeting at Beyond Baroque this fall, where we were supposed to have Bonin and Garcetti answer questions about bridge housing, but which was instead usurped by NIMBY agitation, I spoke to several NIMBY protesters. I asked, “What makes a local? How long do you need to have lived in Venice before you’re considered a Venetian? “

One answered “Last housed in Venice. I interviewed 20 homeless people…2 were from Venice”

Another answered, “If someone was living in Venice, paying taxes in Venice for 5 years- then they’re Venetian homeless”.

One thing that’s rarely mentioned is that many residents of Venice lucked into their homes via their family money (trust funds), or some other fortunate set of circumstances. Others ventured here when it was scary and affordable, before gentrification, before it was cool, attracted to the grungy, artsy edgy, inclusive vibe.

Coordinated Entry System

The fact is, the city operates with the Coordinated Entry System to choose where people who enter the “system” go.(CES https://www.lahsa.org/ces/)It’s a matching process- factoring in how successful you’ll be in the community, and what your ties are, like outreach and mental health workers.The effort is to stay local to your community.

“The Los Angeles County Coordinated Entry System (LA County CES) facilitates the coordination and management of resources that comprise the crisis response system in the county. CES allows users to efficiently and effectively connect people to interventions that aim to rapidly resolve their housing crisis. CES works to connect the highest need, most vulnerable persons in the community to available housing and supportive services equitably.

The main objectives of the system are: 1) reduce the length of time a family is homeless and permanently house them as quickly as possible, using rapid Re-housing and linkages to supportive services. 2) Build upon existing community-based infrastructures to serve homeless families, leverage resources, and provide more targeted and cost-effective interventions.

Of course, to qualify for any of these potential services or affordable housing, one needs to enter the system. Many currently on the street don’t want to enter this or any other system.

There’s a concern about the quality of the potential residents of Reese Davidson (or any other PSH) – a fear of the mentally ill or criminals. Back in March, Will pointed out “30%-mentally ill, 30% physically ill-they need asylums, treatment centers, putting them in a unit somewhere won’t help….We need a healthcare system-we need national healthcare.” I couldn’t agree more. The whole point of CES is to direct applicants to proper services. The mentally ill would hopefully be directed elsewhere, although there is a vast lack of solutions there as well.

Becky Dennison from VCH noted, “We can’t solely serve homeless from Venice- if we did that we’d never house a person here in Venice. If everybody only served their own neighborhood “nobody would be able to move, ever…All people getting services now get a voucher and are shuttled to housing in SLA or the Valley….Folks need to have some mobility. That said the CES is local to Westside- they sign up in the Westside…Where they were from originally is a different question -doesn’t matter. Because there is large homeless population in Venice, we’re over represented in the Westside….75% in all VCH developments (in Venice, Del Rey and Mar Vista) were homeless from Venice.”VCH hears community concerns and is looking into getting a Master lease program- with the health department that funds Venice outreach team, to keep units designated for Venetians. But most of the proposed housing is going to happen outside of Venice, and it would be a shame for our homeless population be unable to be housed merely because they are Venetians. Firm boundaries just don’t work.

Sadly, these potential housing sites are a tiny drop in the bucket compared to all those camping without a solid roof over their heads or facilities or a place to dump their trash. The homeless numbers are so vast it’s a whole lotta hullabaloo for only 140 units of housing. And anyone who thinks homeless folk are just scamming the system to not have to work, should really think long and hard about the reality of spending every single night in a sleeping bag on a sidewalk, scavenging for food and a place to pee. Really? Is that the life you want to scam for?? Think about it, would you really want to be living in a tent or an RV or your car or a bank atm lobby?Even if you were being fed and had a bathroom? If you had a bathroom and shower and a safe place to sleep wouldn’t you be more likely to want to get your sh*t together?

As Larry Hankin said in his one person show about being homeless, “It’s a full time job “.

Of course, the bugaboo is that, no matter how well intentioned, the city and local neighborhood councils also have an obligation to their taxpayers and voters of Venice to represent their concerns as well as those less fortunate. While he was on the VNCHC Will said, “Therefore we must drive down middle of issue-Make sure both sides are heard. Sometimes we make a decision that supports the local homeowners and businesses since what’s going on with homeless is affecting their lives and businesses – Not trying to hurt homeless, just trying to respect investment so they’ll be able to continue on living here.” We live in a meritocracy- work hard, sacrifice- you can live how you want. We have a right to have an opinion on what gets built next to us. The role of VNC is not that of a legislative body. The committee provides motions, but City Council chooses whether to take action or not. Will believed “We can’t wait for City Hall to solve our problems…as a community we need to take action ourselves…that’s how the reunificationprogram came about- We saw need saw how we could make a difference. Our reunification program is expanding throughout other neighborhood councils who are replicating our program…We have housed 30 people…safe parking for 200 Vets…In process of creating a new women’s shelter on Main Street for 20 homeless women…We’re doing good work. We’re trying to save the community.” Will pointed out the majority of motions passed by the VCHHC aid the homeless like storage containers for the homeless on 3rd and Rose who are those registered with CES. The council passed a mobile bathroom initiative, but allows homeowners to have a say where they end up- if 2/3 of residents don’t want the bathrooms, they need to go somewhere else. But have any of the mobile bathrooms been placed? Or are residents just saying no?

Various factions make up our homeless population: mentally ill, drug addicted, vets, younger runaways, unaccepted gay kids, abused women and children, older women and men, artists, families who lost their job and can’t pay bills (sometimes couch surfing or living in cars). And certainly everyone can agree on supporting some-back in March Will said, our”City needs to have support for artists…Also the city should have programs to support teachers, firemen, municipal workers…”

But there are also homeless folk who appear to have chosen this path- those “bumming around”-“millennial travelers” who may come from wealthy families. How much do they need services? , And then there are the scammers: fuel for NIMBY fodder.

However, Becky guessed the latter factions comprise 10-20% of the total, and the odds of one of them getting the much coveted affordable housing is low. Just to get onto the CES requires intensive screening, working with an outreach worker-it can take a couple of months just to get on the wait list. The best case scenario, if you’re the neediest person and a housing unit or voucher opens up, is still a 9 month wait. And what makes you the neediest? It’s determined by 10 page assessment for the CES- age, disability, health condition, etc.…If you’re a traveler or temporarily homeless, you’re unlikely to even get into the program. And if you haven’t been homeless for 5 years, with chronic health problems, you’re not likely to rise to top of the list. The CES holds approximately 25,000 people on its list, the odds of scoring an apartment are vast. Therefore the NIMBY fear tactics of saying tourists and scammers are gonna move in next door are completely false.

With regards to the mentally ill: symptoms, level of care, and meds are all assessed. It’s a long and difficult process, and the applicant needs to have stabilized just to get through it. Those needing more full time care than PSH can provide, would hopefully be referred to a mental health facility, but sadly they’re limited too. Many mentally ill people who used to be in 24 hour care who didn’t need that much supervision, and permanent supportive housing would provide the middle ground that Regan promised, which was supposed to be there 20-30 years ago.Everyone in the Reese Davidson Community will have an intensive case manager on site- most people have additional mental health care. There would be 4 full time onsite caseworker.Only 68 of the 140 units are permanent supportive housing units- with 3 caseworkers. 1 caseworker would be for the other residents who don’t come with as much high needs, and who may have their own case worker from outside.VCHC assures us that each resident would have access to the level of care they need.

Good Neighbors- Many NIMBYs claim, if our homeless population had shown themselves to be better neighbors, perhaps our community would be more welcoming. You’re in my yard, leaving stuff, stealing bikes-you’re being a crappy neighbor-starting fires between encampments- no order, cleanliness. Homeless are guests…show us you want to be here and are responsible -be a good neighbor and part of neighborhood

When I posed the question last March, Becky responded that “Some are good neighbors, but some are not” It’s hard to tell however, if the behavior began that way, or is a result of street life (like the Artful Dodger in Oliver). She’s worked in the “Housing First” model for 20yrs, and has seen “lives transform when folks are housed”. Much of the negative behavior disappears. For 95%, behavior changes drastically when they’re in a community they want to live in. For the handful of those who don’t change, VCH uses intensive services, harm reduction approaches and other ways to shift behavior, often successfully. And if that doesn’t work, they sometimes have to evict people for being bad neighbors – can’t be loud, rude, aggressive or abusive.

When I asked Becky how she thinks homeless people can add value to the neighborhood, she responded, “I think they’re already adding value to the neighborhood now…For the most part they’re warm and caring and giving people …and they’re forced to live under difficult circumstances, yet for me…most have treated me like good neighbors…sweeping sidewalks …coming to neighborhood council meetings, organizing around issues…once housed they can contribute more…their talents can thrive. Working in neighborhood, artists reengage in their art, instead of constant survival mode, active engaged in school, community. Until then, ideally our homeless citizens can watch out for their neighbor, watch out for our kids…a quid pro quo-security vs. blankets and food. The best education for our kids is to not judge what they look like, but who they are.

Safety —There’s a basic misunderstanding that residents would be in more danger with homeless housing and/or services located nearby. The truth is just the opposite. Since the homeless folk would be taken care of with services, a place for their trash, and a place to use the bathroom, the neighbors would in fact, be more safe, not less. Additionally, the city has promised that there will be guards (perhaps caretakers is a more benevolent word?). All this would hopefully clean up the areas in question from our current state of every person for themselves without a pot to piss in.

Becky stresses, “We’re on the right side of this …I just have no doubt…it’s the right thing to do…it’s the responsible thing to do…We are responsible neighbors …we will end up with great properties that enhance people’s lives both who live in the property and don’t, and we’re gonna get a lot of crap about it along the way. The homeless population is here-some people say, “it’s not gonna solve the problem so let’s not do it”…. One step at a time…our development is not going to solve the problem …it’s gonna get some lucky, deserving people into housing…But it is part of a citywide effort to do 10,000 units… it will change it substantially, improve it substantially”. VCHC can’t get involved with politics, but does support Bonin’s clear plan and advanced solutions. He won 77% of votes – voters want a more equitable community. Progress moves slow but steady, and Linda Light reassures, “We’re not backing down”.The VCHC have guested in private homes and small informational sessions, and there is much support for the project -many residents are supportive or won’t oppose the progress to care for our homeless population. However the NIMBY opposition is well organized, well- funded, and they lie.Becky states, “Every community benefits from affordable housing and diversity, particularly Venice, which was created from artists and bohemians… goal is to democratize the neighborhood.” Additionally, Fair Housing Laws demand a reduction of geographical segregation of affordable housing. In other words, by law you can’t just sell prime real estate in order to fund low income housing in existing low income neighborhoods. VCH is committed to protect affordable housing in Venice, taking the solution to where the problem is.

VCHC states, “Our team continues to work to develop our final land use and planning proposal for the City’s approval process, the Neighborhood Council and other public meetings.  As this site is City-owned, requires land use amendments, and is a close partnership with the Department of Transportation to preserve and improve all public parking, the process has taken longer than originally expected.   We will email as soon as there is a final proposal and include access to all public documents related to the approvals process.”

On November 16th, 2018 I received an email from VCH stating

Reese Davidson Community is moving forward!  

This week, Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing filed the Environment Assessment Form, which is the first step in the Environmental Impact Report process.   The form is available HERE, as is the overall plan and background information about Reese Davidson Community.  

A longer email will follow with the process for review and approval, which is approximately a 16-month process.   Two next steps to look out for:

 1) The full application for City approvals is expected to be submitted within the next two to three weeks.   It will be shared on this email list and on the website.

2) The first public hearing will be the Scoping Meeting for the Environmental Impact Report.  This is expected in December or January.   It will be announced on this email list, through a 500-foot radius mailing, and other outreach.

Venice spirit- Circling back once again to my original question; Is Bonin exacerbating the Venice homeless “crisis”, luring more homeless to Venice by providing more PSH and services? As I personally think about this complex issue I realize that although it may be true, I don’t care. I embrace the Venice spirit I moved here for, despite the challenge of finding sleeping bags in my bamboo, seeing my homeless neighbors camped out across the street, or watching the SPY kids line up on my block to receive services. I secretly hope they’re watching out for me as I share our streets. I wish there was a toilet for them to use so they won’t be tempted to use my yard or the gutter or need to hold it in while McDonalds is closed between 2-5am.Our homeless neighbors have arrived. Does it really matter where they last paid taxes or who they ran away from? That’s the fascinating individuality of each and every person sleeping on the street.

I had a realization just the other night as I was feeding my stray cat. Shadow was abandoned several years ago by a guy living in his van in the parking lot behind the car mechanics on Lincoln near my house. He had at least a dozen cats living in and outside his van, leaving many of them behind when he split. At least one of them took residence in my backyard and under my house. I would hear terrible cries from my own rescue kitties as he terrorized them and even chased one of them away. I have a mixed relationship with Shadow. I resent him for taking territory from my cats. I resent the fact that although I feed him, he’ll never let me touch him. He hisses at my remaining house cat. But he’s here. He lives here. And as soon as I accepted that, I noticed how beautiful he is- sleek and black, like a panther, with big round green eyes. And I’m gonna feed him and care for him, because he’s a living creature living under my nose and it’s the right thing to do.Amazingly, a host of other stray cats have not moved in to take advantage of me. Even the raccoon and possums have been scarce. But Shadow is now most definitely mine.

As Becky said back in March, “Venice is one of the most bleeding heart liberal places in the country- let’s put our values to the test”. She reminds us, “We can’t point to a place where there’s more homeless or encampments because of PSH –the opposite is true.” NIMBYs ignore the history of our neighborhood – believe nothing existed before them so their vision is the only vision. Some have the sentiment, “I’m here now, so clean it up- I don’t like it”. But as a colorful supporter of MTA Bridge housing said, “You knew when you bought your 5 million dollar house –you saw the homeless encampments, you were aware they were there. Only after you move in you decided to cry foul…If you wanted white picket fences and Kumbaya, you could have moved to Marina Del Rey, or Santa Monica. I came here for funky diversity.I don’t want to see people walking around with colored poodles and spending $7 for coffee.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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