By Greta Cobar
The Venice Neighborhood Council held a Town Hall Meeting on December 2 to discuss Venice as the #1 tourist destination in Southern California. However, the voices on the microphone echoed those of the September 23 meeting, which was dominated by Bill Rosendahl’s mission to get rid of RVs and to institute his “Vehicles to Homes Program,” the details of which he was unable to provide. He was not present at the December meeting.
During the September meeting many of us were appalled by his threat that “jails exist for those of you who choose not to be part of my program.” So it was really sad to be in that same room two and a half months later realizing that no program was ever created and no places to park were provided, yet tens of people were arrested and dozens of RVs impounded. It had been previously estimated that there were 270 RVs in Venice. A current estimate put that number at 17.
The police crackdown of people living in vehicles, based on selective enforcement, inevitably caused the stress of RV residents to skyrocket. Many were not surprised when, on December 1, James Hunter’s body was found in his van. His friends knew that the police had given him an ultimatum to move the vehicle out of the area he’s been living in for at least 15 years, without giving him an alternative spot to park.
While most Venetians celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in warmth, with a ridiculous over-abundance of foods and tons of useless, unwanted presents, up to 253 mostly long-time Venice RV residents were left truly homeless, without the modest but sufficient shelter that they previously enjoyed. Either that or they were pushed into another neighborhood, away from their friends, support system and place they call home. It’s easier to read these numbers than to hear even one personal story.
During the most recent Town Hall Meeting Diane Butler, who’s been living in Venice since 1970, asked Rosendahl for a moratorium to the sudden increase of harassment towards RV dwellers during the holiday season, reminding everyone that “Christmas is a time of togetherness, love and giving. Let’s not kick people out right before Christmas time,” she went on to say.
Shareen shared her personal story of traveling to see her father for Thanksgiving and coming back to find her bus gone. It had been impounded for a barely-noticeable oil leak that was not there before she left. It cost her $1000 to get her bus back. She asked: “What do you want to do with people who live in vehicles? Is it morally right to kick them out of their shelter?”
Emily Winters reminded Venetians that “we used to be a place of love. Now we are becoming a place of hate.” Juan Alcala also pointed out the changing character of Venice and the effect that change might have on tourism. According to him, Venice is the #1 tourist destination in Southern California because of the very characters that Rosendahl is on a mission to get rid of. ‘tourists don’t come to Venice to eat at the Sidewalk Café, they have the worst coffee in the world. They don’t come to buy stuff from China,” he said.
Subsequent to the Town Hall Meeting, a group of people proceeded to go all the way to Rosendahl’s Westchester office on December 9 to push for a “Venice homeless holiday arrest moratorium.” Feeling unheard, Venetians then marched with signs on the boardwalk and up to Third and Sunset on December 11, again asking for humane treatment of fellow humans.
And after all that Rosendahl went on as a true Scrooge and denied the moratorium. I wish there was a happier Venice Christmas story to be told.
Another very non-urgent but scheduled topic of the Town Hall Meeting was tourism in Venice. Overall consensus was expressed regarding two issues: that Venice needs additional resources to be able to cope with the large number of visitors and that the city of Los Angeles does not provide those resources.
If the money generated by tourism in Venice stayed in Venice, the problem of inadequate resources would vanish. And if we as Venetians could decide locally what the money should be spent on, we might just have “Venice becoming the city imagined./ A city like no other on earth,” as the late Venice poet laureate Philomene Long put it.
Realistically speaking, obtaining Venice cityhood is the only way for us to hold on to the money generated locally and be able to decide how our community could benefit most from that money. Although a move towards cityhood was started back in July and Venetians seem to be delighted by that idea, people choose to be couch potatoes instead of organizing and volunteering. Meanwhile we wonder: whose job is it? Here’s an anonymous story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody, that illustrates the problem:
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.