Strange Bedfellows: Lieu, Rosendahl and the Pacific Legal Foundation

By Jim Smith

Member of the state Assembly and aspiring Attorney General, Colonel Ted Lieu (USAF Reserves) has stuck a dagger in the backs of poor people in Venice. In an attempt to make an end run aground the Coastal Commission’s decision against permit parking and the expulsion from Venice of those forced to live in RVs, the Air Force man and politician has introduced an anti-RV measure, AB 2228, in the California legislature.

The bill would allow cities to “prohibit or restrict the parking or standing of vehicles on certain streets or highways, or portions thereof, between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.” and to create preferential parking districts (permit parking) without regard to the Coastal Commission.

Lieu’s effort to cap a lackluster Assembly career by having the state address an issue better left to local communities is not without precedent. State authorities also tightened the law that would have left it to local communities like Venice to decide whether they wanted to become their own city. And when many cities began passing strong rent control laws, big landowners found pliable Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to pass the Costa-Hawkins Act which gutted local laws. In these cases the rich and powerful had their way, and most likely passed on part of the profits to friendly politicians.

Lieu’s devious maneuver puts him in league with the tea partiers at the Pacific Legal Foundation, homeless haters inVenice, loose cannon and L.A. City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich and the otherwise sane Councilmember Bill Rosendahl – all of whom want to impose permit parking on Venice even if it results in lessening the power of the Coastal Commission.

It all started shortly after the Coastal Commission’s decision in June 2009 when staunch anti-RV advocate Mark Ryavek filed suit under the name of the Venice Stakeholders Association. To date, he is the only identified member of this clandestine organization. Meanwhile, Ryavek and his buddy, Jim Hubbard, are trying to win the top two spots on the Venice Neighborhood Council, presumably to draw that organization into this sordid imbroglio.

It’s unclear who initiated bringing in the Pacific Legal Foundation to file an Amicus Brief in the lawsuit. It is one of the oldest right-wing foundations in existence. Founded in 1973, the PLF claims to be the “most successful public interest legal organization that fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection.” In practice, this means fighting unions, opposing affirmative action programs, “protecting private property” by repeatedly suing the coastal commission, and opposing numerous government efforts to protect the environment. The PLF’s governing board is top-heavy with white male “captains of industry,” particularly in the real estate and construction areas. Thomas Bost, a former partner in the Latham and Watkins law firm, a powerhouse in Los Angeles city affairs, is vice chairperson.

Pacific Legal Foundation President Ron Rivett spoke admiringly about the tea parties in a radio interview last year: “Millions of people realize that big government’s expansion is dangerous and must be resisted,” said Rivett. “You could see it in the thousands who flocked to ‘tea parties’ on April 15 to protest multiplying regulations, galloping deficits, and voracious new taxes.” There’s more at www.pacificlegal.org

Why would seemingly nice people like Ted Lieu and Bill Rosendahl make common cause with a group like the Pacific Legal Foundation? You’ll have to ask them. It’s time to see if we can find a more compassionate person than Colonel Lieu to be California’s next Attorney General. There are 13 other candidates to chose from on the June ballot. You can reach Ted Lieu’s Sacramento office at (916) 319-2053. Bill Rosendahl can be reached by dialing 311 or at Councilman.Rosendahl@lacity.org. In the meantime, keep up the fight for housing, services and respect for the homeless and RV dwellers. Lil’ Venice has prevailed against powerful forces in the past and it can do so again.