By Mark Lipman
Remember that everything Hitler did was legal … and it was by design. The problems that we face here in Venice, across this city and country, are created by no less of a design. Any issue you can name can be linked back to the roots of greed and want of power.
We are distracted by rants of crime, while no substantive discussion ever takes place to the root causes or solutions to our most pressing issues of income disparity and homelessness.
If you are poor, black or brown — anywhere — you are a target. This too is by design. Policing is a very lucrative business, as is the impoverishment and scapegoating of communities of color. Racism therefore becomes the very foundation of the economic engine that drives the real estate industry.
Thirty years ago, it was widely said that the only thing keeping the real estate agents out were the gangs – gangs being the direct result of a generation of underfunding for local schools and other needed public services, while the CIA funneled drugs into our neighborhoods to pay for their secret wars in Nicaragua and other places, giving cities an excuse to criminalize an entire nation of black and brown youth through gang injunctions, which literally tore families apart … and opened up the market.
Once upon a time, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, it would have been inconceivable – for anyone without ‘a plan’ – to think that the right wing would sweep our local elections. The highest voter turn-out ever … surpassing only our previous record. How is it that in a simple matter of years our local electorate has doubled? Well that has a lot to do with money and racism too.
Venice, as it was, just a short decade ago, is unrecognizable. By that point the shift had focused to those living in their vehicles – those trying to literally keep off the sidewalks. The attacks were vile and relentless. That’s when we started seeing the results of the right-wing vigilantes living in the community – yet oddly nothing ever seems to be done about them. Where is the “Neighborhood Watch” when an RV gets burnt?
All the while more and more houses are being sold … and demolished. In comes the big, block house that over-shadows the entire neighborhood Inch by inch, house by house, apartment building by apartment building, out with the old, the disabled, the poor, and in with the new, the rich, the cool. People were making a lot of money … just never enough … yet, the demographics were changing … all they needed now was a friendly(-ier) politician.
In 2005, there was a protest sign that read, “As goes Lincoln Place, so too goes Venice.” What happened at Lincoln Place was criminal – an entire community, something like 700 low income families evicted in mass to make way for what is now $3,000 rents. Criminal. In the end, yes a few individual families were compensated … but Venice lost a stronghold of low income housing that it will most likely never get back.
That is the gentrification imposed on our community … and our government lets — nay, makes — that happen … through a conspiratorial role with this very same band of
developers, using our tax dollars to implement business plans that just so happens to keep their re-election coffers stuffed.
If you are an astute political observer, you will know that the first thing they do, before cutting public services, is give a big tax break to their major political donors.
Fleeing city taxes from Santa Monica, in 2011 Google moved to Venice. All of a sudden silicon had taken over the beach. Google was sponsoring art walks and soirées for elected officials, putting their logo on flyers, making sure they paid off all the right people.
Whoop, and next thing you know, our Councilman — Mike Bonin — “Champions” an 80% Tax Break … “for internet-based companies” (like Google). Funny thing though is that if Google is “internet-based,” then why do they need four square blocks of the most valuable real estate in Venice to do business?
Speaking of real estate … what does this 80% Tax Break for the super-rich do for our community? Well, since Google (and Snapchat) take up a lot of physical space in the community … and are getting this big tax break for doing business in Venice, you would think that they would create jobs for the community … but instead, they import high paid employees from other places and pay them bonuses for living locally, creating a whole new real estate boom that expedites the eviction of low income families, primarily older people on fixed incomes, to make way for the nouveau riche.
What no one ever seems to be able to connect though is why we have such a spiraling rate of homelessness on our streets. There have always been people unhoused on the streets, but not like this – not in these numbers. What in the world could account for so many people sleeping on pavement? Laziness, really? To steal a line from Luis J. Rodriguez, “It costs billions of dollars to keep us poor.” I think we should look back at the greed that is driving the underlying cause.
For every person that is evicted, someone along the chain of dominoes becomes homeless. For every one of the RSO units Carl Lambert illegally converts into a hotel room – someone becomes homeless. For every person Tami Pardee throws out of their homes through Ellis Act schemes – someone winds up on the streets. For what the business model of people like this does is to create artificial housing shortages by destroying and demolishing affordable housing, so that people like Brad Neal can charge upwards of $20K per month for an apartment at the beach. This is what that 80% Tax Break is going to – making a few people obscenely rich by creating homelessness for thousands of others.
Did you know that Google alone has gotten out of paying over a billion dollars to the city in business tax over the last 5 years? Did you know that by Google alone paying their fair share of tax, we could end homelessness for the entire City of Los Angeles? Did you know that? Well, it’s true.
So the next time you drive your bicycle down by 3rd and Rose and that frustration begins to boil in you, as you look upon the indigent sprawl, remember that the anger you feel is rightful, but that it should be directed towards those who have actually created the problem and not its victims.
So, here we are today, with an enormous problem of homelessness. With all the people who have profited from this mess, who have either bought or paid for practically every seat of ‘power’ in our community, who have only ever offered criminalization as their tool of choice, telling you that a Business Improvement District will solve the problem. Well, what this consolidation of wealth really does is privatize our entire public coastline, while putting millions of dollars into the hands of some very careless people, to run a private security force throughout the community, with no public oversight and no accountability. Oh joy, what could go wrong?
And just to show you how above board and democratic all this is … you don’t get to vote on it. You have no say whatsoever. Only the property owners – primarily the very same people who have been putting this together in secret, behind closed doors for the last two years – get to vote on it.
Unsurprisingly, not only is our Councilman, Mike Bonin supporting this corporate takeover of our coastline, he’s “championing” the B.I.D. as a “key priority for his term in office,” … and is very gratefully accepting campaign contributions at this time.