Keep Venice Free – No OPDs

By Greta Cobar

What else could possibly be done to change the welcoming spirit that has been the trademark of Venice for as long as it’s been on the map? How about bringing in Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs) that would make it illegal to park without a city-issued permit from 2am to 5am.

The California Coastal Commission has voted against OPDs in Venice on June 11, 2009 and June 10, 2010. Because neither the legislature nor the circumstances have changed since, it is expected that the same vote will yield the same results come June 2013. The judicial system of the US is heavily based on precedent rulings.

The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) was scheduled to hold a Town Hall meeting on OPDs on April 4, but that meeting was canceled and the next tentative date is May 6.

The reason the last meeting was cancelled and the date for the next one is still up in the air is because of disagreement between Linda Lucks, VNC President, and the Outreach Committee of the VNC, concerning who should be on the panel answering the public’s questions at the Town Hall.

“I’m not going to accept this,” Linda Lucks told the Beachhead about the current selection of panel members. They include Mark Ryavec of the Venice Stakeholders Association; Arturo Pena, Bill Rosendahl’s Chief of Staff; Jane Usher, former President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission; and Tamara Martin, LADOT representative in charge of OPDs. All of these individuals are strong supporters of OPDs.

Town Hall meetings in Venice have historically been dominated by strong, outspoken opinions and enraged citizens on all sides of an issue. But the current effort of the VNC Outreach Committee is to have the next one be non-controversial and non-confrontational. According to this committee, the option of not having OPDs is not an option anymore.

Following the Coastal Commission’s 2010 ban on OPDs in Venice, Mark Ryavec’s Venice Stakeholders Association filed a lawsuit with the City of Los Angeles in which he argued that no Coastal Commission approval is needed in order to establish OPDs in Venice. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, although at first against Ryavec’s lawsuit, changed his mind and joined forces with Ryavec against the Coastal Commission.

“An earlier, tentative settlement went to the Commission about a year and a half ago, but it was rejected by extremists on the Commission. In the intervening time the Commission membership has dramatically changed,” said Mark Ryavec,

Although the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board voted to approve OPDs in 2010, then Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission Peter Douglas joined forces with the 38 Venice residents who had filed an appeal against OPDs by filing his own appeal.

As a result, the Coastal Commission in 2010 voted against the establishment of OPDs in Venice.

Unfortunately Peter Douglas passed away on April 1, 2012, and the Coastal Commission went from what the World Bank had previously called “the strongest in the world” to what Steve Blank, a Commission member, predicted at the time of Peter Douglas’s death: “Once he’s gone, this commission will implode in the blink of an eye and all we’ll be talking about is the color of the concrete used to pave over what’s left of the coast.”

Currently a tentative settlement between Ryavec and the Coastal Commission has been reached, which would allow OPDs throughout Venice if the Coastal Commission were to approve them. In addition, two-thirds of the residents of each block would have to sign the petition asking for OPDs in order for them to go into effect.

Linda Lucks, although not the most outspoken liberal member of the VNC Board in the past, is now taking a strong stand against the Town Hall panel being represented only by Ryavec and those who agree with him and his settlement with the Coastal Commission.

As a result, Ryavec and his Stakeholders Association on March 25 filed a request for an investigation of an ethics violation by Linda Lucks. According to the request, Lucks should recuse herself from involvement with deliberations concerning OPDs because she has a conflict of interest due to her position as Capital Campaign Coordinator at the Venice Community Housing Corporation, which has opposed OPDs.

“The ethics charges are groundless, I don’t have a conflict of interest,” Lucks told the Beachhead.

Ryavec has previously been a big advocate of the Oversize Vehicle Ordinance (OVO), which prohibits RVs from parking on certain streets between 2am and 5am. “Vehicle dwellers have simply moved to vans, small trucks, and SUVs, which are not subject to the restriction on oversize vehicles,” Ryavec stated.

“The city of Los Angeles cannot justify this proposal as a way to address homelessness,” wrote Kim Thompson, a San Fernando valley resident and regular visitor to Venice, in his 2010 appeal to the Coastal Commission against OPDs.

Undoubtedly public access to the beach would be restricted under OPDs. According to the Coastal Act of 1976, “the public should have 24 hour access to the beaches.”

The midnight to 5am curfew that is now in place in parts of Venice under LAMC 63.44.B.14(b) is not only selectively enforced, but also illegal. A person sleeping on OFW during that time is likely to be harassed by the police either with a ticket or an arrest, while someone walking his or her dog is likely to be ignored by those same cops.

According to the Coastal Act of 1976, “the public should have 24 hour access to the beaches.” Under that same act, the city needs a permit for “any sort of curfews or restrictive ordinances that have such a negative impact on coastal access” said Charles Posner, Coastal Program Analyst with the California Coastal Commission in a phone conversation with the Beachhead in January 2012. The city does not have such a permit.

OPDs come at a price to all residents: they cost money. And the fee will be increased on a yearly basis. All of a sudden we will have to pay to park in front of our own houses and will end up paying outrageous parking tickets when we forget to put up the permit. Our friends will have to leave in the middle of the night or pay for the ticket more than they would for a hotel room if they just decide to crash over. Or, even more trouble can come about if they decide to leave after drinking because they’re worried about getting a ticket.

Although OPDs would be a hassle to the residents, the more important issue to consider is the public’s right of access. Do we want Venice to become the equivalent of a gated community?

Just because certain fractions of the VNC are trying to make it seem as if OPDs are inevitable, the settlement reached by Ryavec is tentative, just like the ones reached in 2009 and 2010. The Coastal Commission cannot afford to discredit itself by issuing a ruling opposing its previous decisions. Neither can it afford fighting and losing, based on the Coastal Act and on precedent rulings, the lawsuits that would inevitably follow.

The Coastal Commission is going to hold a hearing on the settlement on either June 12, 13 or 14 at the Long Beach City Council Chambers, at 333 W. Ocean Boulevard, in Long Beach. The public cannot attend this meeting, but letters opposing OPDs can be mailed in. Also, keep an eye out for the Town Hall meeting, currently scheduled for May 6, and come to voice your opinion during the Question and Answer section.