By Peggy Lee Kennedy
Why did the City of Los Angeles close the people’s beach from midnight to five in the morning? I have heard it all: the gangs, the homeless, drugs, prostitution, et cetera, et cetera. The truth is that Ordinance 164209, amending LAMC 63.44 in 1988, does not say why the City of Los Angeles closed access to the beach in Venice from midnight to five in the morning. And, according to California State law, a municipality or a personal land owner cannot deny access to our coastal waters. Sure, there are exceptions like a giant tidal wave, a terrible tsunami, or maybe a nuclear disaster.
In case you haven’t been paying attention or you are new to Venice, there is a process to restricting access to the beaches in the State of California dictated by the California Coastal Act. You first must obtain a Coastal Development Permit (CDP), and recent court findings have upheld this. Even if there is a nuisance, the applicant first must prove a valid reason to restrict access to the coastal waters and go through the CDP process. This involves the public, by the way. Creating a beach curfew that has a maximum restriction to coastal access is simply a violation of the Coastal Act, which requires maximum access.
The City never ever obtained approval to close the beach in any way. Over and again the City has said that it does not need a CDP. I guess some might want you to believe that there is a nuisance so great that the City of Los Angeles can-over ride State law. Wrong. There is a provision in the Coastal Act regarding nuisances, but you can’t use it to negate the CDP requirement. I do think those remaining spent fuel rods at San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant are very concerning. And Diablo Canyon is scary. But let’s get real: this is about homeless people being on the beach next to properties with skyrocketing values into the millions of dollars.
I am so sick and tired of the City feeding us Orwellian crap about how they are taking steps to end homelessness when the budget is simply telling another, more honest story. The City’s 2014-2015 budget dedicates 43.4 percent of the general fund to the Police Department. That is approximately 1.3 billion dollars. B I L L I O N. Guess how much went to the Housing Department? That would be ZERO.
There are a few things I learned from my life as an accountant. One is that if it’s not in the budget, don’t expect to spend money on it. After reviewing the numbers and following the money (OK it’s a simple pie chart found online), the truth is the City of Los Angeles really does believe we can police our way out of homelessness.
On the same shameless beat, the city goes on allowing the big box million dollar “home” developments in the Venice Coastal Zone on top of a demolished community character and lost forever affordable housing. There is a pretty profit for the few and foreseeable increased property taxes for the City. This is what the city has been protecting now for years.
Los Angeles is one of the least affordable places to live in the country and the recent “Poverty and Inequality Report 2014” by Stanford University reveals that the official poverty rate has increased dramatically. Fear mongering is in lock step with this. Be afraid; be very afraid when you hear: “We need more police.” If you or your friends are saying this, please check for zombie bites on your bodies. Los Angeles City has the third largest police force in the country and it is increasingly becoming more militarized, dwarfed only by a more militarized NYPD. But I do digress. And the percentage of New York City’s budget allocated to its police department is substantially less than the City of Los Angeles.
There are some monies from the County that the city of L.A. uses for homeless issues. I understand that Venice’s allocation is being spent on the over-the-top hazmat cleanings on the Ocean Front Walk (and elsewhere) so you are safe from even a chair on the OFW. And the City has been focusing on confiscating homeless belongings, including hard to carry around tarps and tents, because they may be violating the disability act by blocking a sidewalk. We wouldn’t want the disabled homeless people doing that, especially since there is an overwhelming amount of this country’s disabled population living homeless. Venice is no exception.
One L.A. City expenditure executed on homeless people, which goes completely unreported, is the unimaginable amount of tickets being issued for minor infractions. They are handed out like candy by the LAPD – possibly to reflect some kind of increase in “nuisance” crime on our beach.
Please, stop and meditate on what the real solutions to homelessness are. It is not excessive ticketing by a police department being allocated over 43 percent of the City’s budget and it certainly is not closing public access to the entire Los Angeles City coast line.
Venice is the people’s beach. Let’s take it back.
By Peggy Lee Kennedy