Roadmap to Housing turns into a Lonesome Highway

September 1, 2011

By Greta Cobar

In what could be a viewed as a publicity stunt at best or another slap in the face, councilperson Bill Rosendahl made headlines this week as he ceremoniously handed Alfred Adkins the keys to an apartment in Venice. This is the so-called success story of People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), an organization that Rosendahl gave $650,000 of Venice funds, that were to be used only in Venice, but are now spread out in the entire eleventh council district. No wonder the first Venice person to receive housing, in Koreatown, did not make the headlines.

The Venice Vehicle Census, conducted by St. Joseph’s and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, counted 254 “vehicles used as dwelling spaces in Venice” on the morning of July 13, 2010. Then Rosendahl called the September 23, 2010 Town Hall Meeting, where he stood in front of hundreds of Venetians and said loud and clear: “jails exist for those of you who choose not to be part of my program.” Concurrently a police task force was created, and “the mission of the task force is to effect arrests of individuals who are violating local and state codes.” Most specifically, 85.02, which makes it a crime to sleep in a vehicle.

To make a long story short, during the fall and winter months of 2010 the police chased out of Venice as many people living in vehicles as they possibly could in a military, Nazi-reminiscent fashion. The terror, the fear, the arrests, the tows, the tears, the nightmares and then the cold nights on the cement once the vehicles were gone. The people are still here.

Rosendahl surely did deliver on his pledge to put people in jail. He did not deliver on coming up with his program though. Here we are, a year later, and two people have been put into housing. After dozens were arrested, thousands of dollars were spent on towing costs, and years were shaved off people’s existence by the stress of having their shelter either in peril or gone. The initial plan of providing parking lots for those living in vehicles is now out the door.

What happened was Rosendahl used his political power and elbowed his way into the Housing Authority and the Veterans Administration to snatch housing vouchers. He did not create the housing that he is providing, just took it from someone else and is planning on giving it to the 115 people on his “list.” Jeremy Sidell, spokesperson for PATH, could not estimate how many of those 115 people are actually from Venice.

Notice that while 245 people were counted as living in vehicles in Venice alone, only 115 people are on the “list,” which now covers the entire eleventh district. And after bragging about personally giving Atkins the keys to the apartment and half a dozen fresh eggs Rosendahl went on to say: “the others: we have a law that gives us the ability to deal with them if they choose to illegally live in a vehicle.” I guess the other half dozen eggs will be thrown at the rest of us.

As many of you might recall, the “let’s get rid of RVs” hysteria was started on August 17, 2010 by an allegation of an RV dumping sewage made by members of the local Neighborhood Watch. The validity of those allegations has been questioned in the past, and the felonious background of the person making the allegations was exposed by the Beachhead in June (Who’s Watching the Neighborhood Watch) and was validated three months later by an August 25 article in the LA Weekly (Clamor Over Venice311).

The authority cannot make it illegal for people to exist and the affluent cannot eliminate the “undesirables.” But today, when everyone is out looking for a dollar, it seems unusually cruel to target those with the least. I suppose the authority expects us to be grateful that the law still allows sleeping on the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 


Not Just The Rich Can Live At The Beach

September 1, 2011

By Carol Fondiller

Years ago, shortly after the earth cooled, I became interested in housing matters.

It was a matter of self-interest.

During the late ‘60s there was a real estate boom, and property owners in Venice, who derived profits from renting below-code substandard units at fairly low rents, saw the opportunity to make a killing.

The only obstacle standing in their way were the low-rent tenants and inhabitants that occupied their apartments and houses. I was one of the low rent parasites.

During the tumultuous Vietnam Watergate years, the owners of large portions of Ocean Front Walk and other members of the Venice Improvement Association began demonizing low-income people.

It didn’t matter if you were paying low rent and working just enough to support your surfing habit, your poetry habit, or you just didn’t have any ambition except to work just enough to pay the rent and get some duds from the used clothing (pre-collectible) stores that used to be in Ocean Park and Venice, and swim, you were the enemy of all things that made America great.

Every long-haired hippie, peacenik, pensioner, and women’s libber who sat on the now extinct benches on the Last Working Class Beach (as titled in the L.A. Times article) was a barrier to the gazillions of bucks that they could make on their “property.”

In collusion with the development happy ecologically ignorant City Council, who at that time met a piece of black top or office building it didn’t like, the various business and developer groups such as the Venice Improvement Association, the Chamber of Commerce, etc., sicced the cops on people who questioned, who fought back when they were told to make way for more “desirable” inhabitants, i.e., more affluent residents.

Meanwhile, the “undesirables” fought the speculators to a standstill, a huge victory considering that the only resource we had against the well-heeled developers, city officials, and elected representatives were numbers, cunning, tenacity, and a sense of desperation.

In the years that followed, many of the homeowners and owners of smaller pieces of property who sided with the owners of mega-properties were also “evicted” from their homes and businesses because of discriminatory code enforcement and taxes.

 

People became more aware of the value of the incomparable California coastline. The preservation of access to the beach for all Californians and the preservation of the delicate environment became even more important than – gasp! – “property” values.

In a great consciousness raising effort, it became a matter of interest to preserve and build low-income housing to ensure that access to the beach wouldn’t only be for the affluent. Thus the Coastal act was passed.

Although Venice was a refuge for artists of various media of various incomes, in the ‘70s Venice was discovered by the Afflu-Hips. These were the people who wanted a roll in the ol’ nostalgie de boue, but also wanted a hot tub and parking for their three cars plus those of their friends.

In other words, they wanted San Marino in Greenwich Village. To paraphrase Tom Wolfe, when the artists start moving in the millionaires follow.

The strategies that the eco-freaks and community activists used to stall stop or alter huge developments with little or no parking zip low-income housing began to be used against them.

Now when one attends a meeting for a proposed low-income housing project, someone is likely to speak out against it because the parking does not confirm to the coastal development requirements. Some of these people live in buildings whose owner/builders have bootlegged units through all the zoning requirements to the detriment of parking. They are P.O.’d because low-income housing projects are not required to have the same amount of parking as market-rate developments.

But some of the protestors simply do not like the thought of low-income residents living next to them. Perhaps they are afraid of catching the poor disease.

It’s too bad they don’t take the advice of Steve Clare, Executive Director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, and look at complexes that the VCHC has put up.

VCHC doesn’t squander its money. They use most of it for acquiring property and land to build and preserve housing units. Their buildings do not intrude on the neighborhood.

They grace it. The VCHC takes the space and enhances the environment not only physically with murals and tiles, but also with work plans and art groups. They give back to the neighborhood.

Would that some of the for-profit developers take a cue from the relatively impecunious VCHC and instead of wasting their money on public relations, would put their money into developing buildings of unassuming grace and beauty that used technology to implement solar energy, wind power, etc., instead of building those not-for-artist, grey, concrete bunkers on Electric Avenue.

And the newcomers should be reminded that the low-income folks who they want to eliminate were here first.

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers