VNC Monthly Meeting: The Great Storage Bin Debate

By Jamie Virostko

It was a particularly long night at the VNC monthly meeting on January 22nd with the Winter Shelter Storage Program Motion taking over an hour of the night’s minutes. Other motions on the Agenda, included a Resolution on a Proposed $3 Billion Street Repair Bond Measure; Speed Monitoring Radar Signs on Pacific, and; Reconsideration of a Vote to Approve the Mural Ordinance.

During Announcements, the community was introduced to Greg Smith, a politician running for City Attorney, and also met a representative from Snap Tech, a company that has recently moved into 523 Ocean Front Walk.

Later in the meeting, the LAPD reported that, in 2012, overall crime was down 5.8% in Venice, with a 6.9% drop, specifically, in the Oakwood area. There was also a report from the Department of Transportation concerning its plan to address the proposed terms of a settlement agreement following the Coastal Commission’s twice rejection of the City’s application for overnight parking districts in Venice.

Shortly after calling the meeting to order, Linda Lucks “broke the rules” and gave the floor to Bill Rosendahl, out of order, to provide his Government Report, as he would have to leave early. He gave us the rundown of issues currently on the top of his agenda, namely his long battle to fight the expansion of LAX and to close the Santa Monica Airport.

Before discussing the first motion of the night, the LA City Attorney addressed a recent court case which impacts how the City of Los Angeles must deal with the personal property of homeless people. The Federal Government has told the City that it cannot summarily destroy the property of a homeless person. The Constitution protects the right to own personal property regardless of whether one has a residence or not. Now, the City of LA has the complicated problem of not being able to remove what may or may not be the abandoned personal property of a homeless person without due process. That due process could get expensive.

Shortly thereafter, we got to the Winter Shelter Storage Program Motion, which would be debated for a very long time and relates to the above in that it could be a potential, at least partial, solution to the City’s homeless clutter problem. For now it is simply a short-term, pilot program. Council President, Linda Lucks, recused herself, as she works for the VCHC and has a conflict of interest. Steve Clare, who operates the Winter Shelter and Arturo Peña were on hand to explain the details.

The Winter Shelter closes on March 1st and is operating at 70% capacity, which means over 40 empty beds. It is a high funded program where the homeless are put in contact with health care and other city services. Each empty bed represents a person who is not being helped and funding that is going to waste.

A main reason that homeless people do not access the program, is because they have to abandon their personal property (should it be more than can fit on their lap), when they take the bus to the Winter Shelter. That personal property would almost certainly be lost as a result. The City, along with some people from the community, is implementing a pilot storage locker program (modeled after others in existence) to help fill those empty beds and collect data concerning its future and those of similar programs.

Most of the community present seemed to be for the program, which would provide temporary storage space for the personal property of about 22 homeless people.

Since the bins were to be placed near the beach, the issue was raised of needing a Coastal Permit. From what I understand, an injunction is to be filed by the Stakeholders. Another argument against the storage bins was that they would enable homeless people to live on the beach. You know, because if I had a locker by the ocean where I could put some of my crap, I would stop paying rent and just live there.

A few people took issue that the personal property was not going to be searched before storage. What if they put a gun in or a bomb in there? Really folks? An open and free beach where 16 million people from all over the world and their backpacks, purses and luggage mingle in heavily populated shops and restaurants every year, and we think, because no one is going to search the stuff of some homeless folks, that it will cause a major security issue? Ok.

As the debate moved to the Council, we quickly learned that the VNC itself was very dissatisfied that it could not properly vet the Winter Storage Locker Motion before it was brought before them. Though the point had been made numerous times, many council members felt the need to repeat their frustration again and again. To some, it even seemed their primary reason to oppose the motion, not its actual merits.

All in all, citing compassion and a willingness to try something new, the VNC, approved the Motion by a vote of 8 to 5. Nearing 10pm, when they closed the matter, well over half of Official Agenda had not been covered.

Categories: Homeless/RVs, Venice