Bumpy Ride on the Roadmap to Homes

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By Roger Linnett

On April 19, The VNC held a special meeting at Westminster School for the sole purpose of voting on Councilman Rosendahl’s proposal to use part of the Penmar Golf Course’s parking lot as the third leg in his “Roadmap to Homes” pilot program.

After Councilman Rosendahl gave a short introduction, his chief of staff, Mike Bonin, spoke about the process that led to the site’s selection. He, along with LAPD Lead Officer Skinner, visited all the public parking lots in the Venice area, which one by one failed to meet the specifications for site selection.

The most consistently cited reason for disqualification was the program’s mandated 150-foot buffer zone, increased from its original fifty feet, to separate the program’s participants from nearby residences.

The police requested the lot at the end of Venice Blvd. be disqualified because it has a history of crimes and shenanigans facilitated by the vestigial end of the Grand Canal and its walkways, which pass under the lot between North and South Venice Blvds. The LAPD claims the underground passageway attracts shady, nefarious types and miscellaneous no-goodniks.

A quick and easy solution to that problem would seem to be fencing off both ends of the passageway, thus ending its use and making the whole area safer. But, it seems this idea has never been proposed, or occurred to, the proper authorities.

So, by process of elimination, Bonin explained, Penmar was the only seemingly available option left.

Rudy Salinas, the head of PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), the organization charged with implementing the program, followed Bonin and spoke at length, reciting and explaining the strict rules and regulations program participants had to agree to abide by under pain of expulsion from the program and laid out in detail the security arrangements and grievance procedures to respond quickly to any problem or infraction.

He also told of past successes their approach has had. There was even the offer of increased police activity in the area, but the dissenters in the audience were having none of it.

Apparently, the decision had not been widely publicized by the Councilman’s office, and VNC Community Officer Mariana Aguilar, who lives in the Penmar area, upset at the lack forewarning of the decision and the quickly-called meeting, went door-to-door on the prior Saturday to raise the alert in the neighborhood.

Before the vote was taken Aguilar proposed a motion to amend the proposal, to wit: that Penmar’s parking lot be excluded altogether from the “Roadmap” program. This was followed by a public comment period and each of the councilmember’s input.

Many of the meeting’s attendees were residents of the neighborhood around the Rose Avenue site, and were unanimously against the proposed solution. Many were obviously of the opinion that somebody was “trying to pull a fast one,” by scheduling the meeting so soon after the decision to use the Penmar lot had been reached, and with no apparent public discussion.

During the public comment period, various residents came forward to speak of past problems visited upon the neighborhood by homeless and transient interlopers. There was also muttering about “that [unprintable] St. Joseph’s,” which is some distance away on Lincoln Blvd.

Others raised issues about the participants interfering in the golf course’s operations, and the possible loss of revenue to the facility. Although no representative was present, Bonin did say that they were in contact with the city agency responsible for its management and the company that ran the facility.

Salinas explained that all three sites have specified hours of operation — from 6pm to 8am, at which time all vehicles must leave the area. However, the residents, desperate to find something to sabotage the proposal, lamented that during the summer the course opens well before 8am and closes after 6pm, implying the distasteful possibility of having “them” intermingle with and the good and law-abiding citizen/golfers, who frequent the course.

Salinas offered that the hours were certainly flexible and that any special case adjustments could be amicably worked out between PATH, the Penmar management and any aggrieved parties. But, again the residents were not assuaged.

A number of Venetians complained that back in October, 2010, when the county (L.A. County’s Beaches and Harbors Dep’t.), which oversees the beach parking lots, restricted the size of vehicles allowed in the lots, it left the RVers no other option but to park on city streets. This, in turn, lighted a fire under already steamed local homeowners over the increased presence of RVs, which had no where else to go.

And then, before Rosendahl’s nascent “Vehicles to Homes” program could find approved sites for these vehicles, the LAPD began its crackdown, turning up the heat on an already volatile situation, dividing the community still further and leaving both sides of the issue seething at Rosendahl. Meanwhile, the county, which exacerbated the problem, in particular, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, is nowhere in the picture.

Also at the meeting was the president of the Westchester Neighborhood Council, Cyndi Hench.  During the public comment period, she stated that, since Venice seemed to be the epicenter of unlawful RV habitation, for them not to due their part by participating in the “Roadmap” program and establishing a lot in Venice, her members would be disinclined to allow the Westchester portion of the program to proceed. (Another of the proposed sites for the program is at Rosendahl’s Westchester office.)

A letter from the president of the WLA Neighborhood Council who was unable to attend the meeting (the third proposed site being at Rosendahl’s WLA office), was read by VNC President Linda Lucks. He voiced a similar lack of enthusiasm on his council’s part should Venice absent itself from participation in the program.

For a moment Rosendahl’s three-legged program looked kinda wobbly.

The last public speaker was Nancy Kapp, coördinator of the city of Santa Barbara’s “Safe Parking Program,” after which “Roadmap” was modeled. She excoriated members of the audience for their lack of human compassion and NIMBY attitude, especially in light of the “hoops” the participants had to jump through just to get into and remain in the program, which are intended to weed out the very type of character about which they were protesting.

She related how her program’s participants were treated as part of the community and they, in turn, behaved as you would expect stakeholders to.

After the public and the council members had all voiced their opinions, a vote was taken and the motion was defeated.  The Council then voted overwhelmingly to pass the proposal– with Penmar included.

The “Roadmap to Housing” Program, designated LAMC 85.11, which will be offered as an amendment to the controversial LAMC 85.02 ordinance, is on the agenda of the L.A. City Council’s Transportation Committee, chaired by Rosendahl.

But because of the start of budget hearings, the meeting, scheduled for April 27, had to be postponed. Rosendahl’s office will advise constituents via e-mail as to when the item will go before the committee as soon as the information is available. To sign up to receive his advisories go to: [email protected].

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