Human Rights/Constitution

The Meeting to Close the Boardwalk

By Mary Getlien

I arrived early to the VNC Meeting. The room was filling up with well-dressed people. Marc Saltzberg told everyone the Police would be there soon and they were going to explain the new curfew for the Venice Boardwalk. Between the hours of 12 am and 5 am, the Boardwalk will be closed. They explained that the ordinance was written into law in 1989, but had never been enforced. Then Arturo Pina, Bill Rosendahl’s Deputy, explained that the law had actually been on the books since the 1920’s. Lt. Paola Kreefft explained that residents would have to carry ID’s in case they were stopped on the Boardwalk after 12 am.

Lt. Kreefft said the reason for this is the problem of homelessness on the Boardwalk. The Police explained that this law would give them the legal power to kick people off the Boardwalk. So then where would they go? The walkways, of course. That is not really a solution, because it essentially moves homeless people closer to the residents’ houses.

The Police also said no one would be permitted to walk on OFW. The closed part of the Boardwalk  extends from OFW all the way down to the water. That essentially denies a resident of Venice access to the ocean and the coast. LAPD was telling these worried residents that they would have to get in their houses by the back entrance. People objected to this because it is more dangerous for a single woman to open her door in the dark, than on OFW, which has a lot of lights.

Denying people access to the coast is denying part of your inheritance of this country. This is the problem of closed beaches – they fence off the ocean (which is your birthright) from poor people. And they think they can get away with this.

I couldn’t believe I was hearing what I was hearing. Venetians were meekly accepting the plan to lock down the Boardwalk!

Members of the audience asked Lt. Kreefft a lot of questions about the homeless problem, several related experiences of being threatened by the homeless, and were scared in their own homes. Lt. Kreefft said, “Our hands are tied.” They don’t want to be sued, so they don’t arrest the homeless. The residents seemed very worried and afraid of the homeless situation.

Some of the public comments were:

– “Now people will have to walk on Speedway, at night, now homeless people will be in peoples’ back yards. You’re moving them from OFW to walkways, where we live. How is that going to help us?”

– “OFW is a treasure. We need to preserve it for residents and visitors.”

– “Homeless people are not accessing services. It’s a lifestyle choice. They stay out on the street, drunk – they like it. Meanwhile, my wife is afraid to walk on OFW anymore. They have destroyed the Boardwalk and made it a homeless encampment.”

One man got up and said, “Look what they are telling you. They are telling you they cannot deal with this unless they kick everyone off the Boardwalk, including residents. The Boardwalk has only been closed once in its history – during the L.A. Riots.”

An older woman said, “This is a battle between the rich and the poor. The Boardwalk is out of control. I do not feel safe down there anymore.”

The feeling in the room was very tense. The Police did nothing to reassure people that things would improve. A woman asked Lt. Kreefft, “If you can’t enforce the laws now, how do you think you will enforce this new law?”

Steve Clare brought up the fact that the Jones Act is on the books, which states that people can sleep on the streets of L.A. because not enough shelter beds are available. LAPD maintains that the Boardwalk of Venice does not qualify as a “Street of L.A.”, which is illegal and just plain stupid.

You have to have equal protection under the law. There can’t be a law banning people from their own addresses, can there? How absurd.

Marc Saltzberg asked for a straw poll on this ordinance. By a show of hands, 63 people voted for closing the Boardwalk from 12 am to 5 am. Eighteen people felt the issues were not clear enough to discuss. Eighteen people believed that there are other ways to deal with the homeless.

This meeting was called at the last minute, and so many people were left out. Lisa Green, an advocate for the homeless, urged residents to have some compassion for homeless people. The problems of the homeless are many: alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, to name a few. The situation on the Boardwalk at night is scary. The Police say they can’t enforce laws at this time, that “Their hands are tied.” I can understand that some residents are afraid, and no one should have to live in fear.

One woman told Lt. Kreefft that someone was in her back yard and wouldn’t leave. She called the Police and they wouldn’t come out and help her. At the meeting, they told her to post “No Trespassing” signs on her property, which would make prosecution easier.

This is one more example of how the L.A. City Council rolls over the residents of Venice. No one in Venice had a chance to vote on this, LAPD simply announced that this new law is going to happen. They are denying people access to the coast, which is illegal, according to the Coastal Commission. There are a lot of residents of Venice that go jogging, swimming or surfing in the early hours of the morning, or late at night.

I don’t see this as a solution to the homeless problem on the Boardwalk. They are talking about shoving people off the Boardwalk, onto Speedway. The only place next are the walkways. This is a bullshit attempt by the LAPD to cater to the population of homeowners and take away our civil rights at the same time. This is a total lie by the LAPD that this will solve the homeless problem.

George Orwell said, “Through times of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

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