A Victim of Gentrification

By Mary Getlein

They called Patty Warivonchik, “Blue Bus Patty,” until her bus burst into flames in the Ralph’s parking lot. She lost everything she owned in the fire. Then a camper was given to her and she lived in that for 11 years. I saw her at the Westminster school meeting about what to “do” with the homeless in RV’s. Rosendahl said: “go into my program or go to jail – that’s it!”

She went up to the mic and exploded, a volcano in the shape of an irate woman, her arms waving in the air: she announced she was homeless and she wasn’t about to be evicted from the streets. She compared the eviction to the removal of the Roma in France, and said they were the “Northern American Gypsies” and were about to become extinct. “You care about a fish, a moth, a frog?”- we’re human beings, man, you can’t do this to us!”

She was magnificent in her fury. But Rosendahl put the program in place, and one by one, RV’s and their owners were arrested and dragged away. Patty was safe, parking in a church parking lot in Ocean Park. Then one day, as she drove through Venice, she was pulled over and threatened with arrest, and confiscation of her vehicle, if they ever caught her in Venice again. For driving her vehicle. In Venice.

Patty was a street artist in Venice. She danced in the drum circle, she sang and danced on the boardwalk, she sold her pottery on the boardwalk, she loved telling stories and jokes to people. She fed homeless people and freely gave of herself. So what, you ask? So she’s gone, man. She left to go back home to New Jersey, to escape the daily harassment and intimidation of LAPD. It gets really old to hear the daily stories from other people of getting harassed and pushed around by LAPD.

Picking on poor people who want to live by the ocean, too. Picking on people who can’t fit into the role that society has ready for them. Picking on people who have no one to back them up. Meanwhile – there are crimes going on around here, aren’t there? Why aren’t the resources of LAPD being used in the way they advertise on their cars: to protect and serve? How many people have you protected today? How many people have you served?

Patty made beautiful pottery and enriched a lot of people through art. She was never afraid to voice her opinion about anything. She came here when she was 19 and stayed for thirty-five years. We watched a lot of sunsets together and shared a lot of songs and laughter. She will be missed.


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