by Mark Lipman
Seeing the direction the city has taken on the issue of homelessness, with the drastic ramping up of criminalization of status and the outright refusal to support any solution brought forward, in my opinion, I can only conclude that it is with willful intent that the city – at every level, including very much the CD11 council office – is not only creating the problem of homelessness, but moreover is exacerbating it.
Please understand that I’m writing this not for the sake of taking any digs at Mike or any individual player in the city, but simply to state fact from basic scientific reasoning.
You see, the actions the city are taking are quite understandable, if you look at it in a detached objective manner. What is happening is there is a major conflict of interest going on involving incredibly large sums of money. Homelessness is a very profitable industry.
By Pacific Division’s own numbers, 80% of all their policing revolves around interactions with homeless people – mostly ticketing and harassing people for actions of basic survival, like sitting, sleeping … existing. That’s a lot of money, to pay a lot of police salaries … money we wouldn’t have to spend – police we wouldn’t need on the streets – if we simply provided the basic services that our communities have been demanding for well over a decade.
Then of course, we cannot ignore that incarceration costs the city over $62,000 per year for every person we jail. That is an awful lot of money that pays for prison guards … no wonder their union is the strongest in the state. And how many private contracts to companies get paid for with that money? Jails are big money and make a handful of people very rich … and just perhaps those riches get turned into influence to keep the system working just the way it is … perhaps?
Just imagine though if that money was instead invested into our schools?
Then of course we need to look at the big elephant – the number one underlying reason why homelessness exists in Los Angeles. The foundation of policy and principle for the city — pushed heavily by both Mike Bonin and Eric Garcetti — the Fast Track permitting of real estate development. Again, this is coming from every level – every department of the city – but the push – the root of this stems from the council office and the mayor’s office as set policy. Again, I’m simply stating fact.
The city – our elected officials – not only have the right, but more importantly, the responsibility to ensure a basic standard of living for all. In my opinion, that is their primary, underlying function for holding office.
Yet, at every occasion, laws are ignored, process is circumvented, zoning is changed, exceptions are made, and enforcement is non-existent, when it favors the land speculator … a great many being for corporate shell companies and foreign investors which are using our communities as cash cows.
Short-term vacation rentals alone have taken 11,000 housing units off the market in Los Angeles, 1,200 of those – more than 10% of the total – from our 3 square mile Venice Coastal Zone. This is having a devastating effect on our community, exacerbating homelessness and driving the price of rent through the roof.
Yet, instead of doing anything to curtail this, the council office instead changed the zoning and issued a permit without proper public input to Carl Lambert of Venice Suites, the biggest purveyor of illegal underground hotels in Venice, which operates in flagrant violation of the Mello Act, which forbids the conversion of residential units to commercial use. Again, stating fact, Mike knows this, yet for some reason the law is treated as irrelevant.
So, please simply add all this up. On one side we have the richest, most powerful players in the city making a lot of money by keeping everything just the way it is, on the other side you have the poorest, most under-represented segment of our community being blamed and criminalized. It doesn’t take a PhD to figure out why homelessness exists in our city – all you have to do is follow the money.