Pat Raphael : 420wPat@gmail.com
You are here. You’ve arrived at the beautiful seaside paradise of Venice, California. Only you didn’t get here by buying one of these million-dollar beach pads, in LA’s hippest zip code. You are here because you want to be nowhere else, and not letting the inaccessibility of supply and demand economics stop you from being here, you are willing to exist on the fringes of Venice society as one of the hordes of Street People — finding a supportive community posture for we who choose to be out here, on the Venice fringes. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, to get with the vibe of what The Venice Way is all about. But once you get it — that it’s all about coexistence, artistic creativity, positive cultural contribution and free-range freaks… that it’s all about having a good time and enjoying the moment — you will find your place here in Venice. Many who find their Venice place choose to do it while living in their car. Yes, by having the “more” that the car offers, it brings with it more responsibilities and hassles to keep & maintain the “more”. But the significant measurable advantages of having a secure place to store belongings and shelter from the elements, makes it quite the no-brainer to put up with the costs, and enjoy the benefits.
We who have the space to live in our vehicles, do so with a grateful indebtedness to the legacy of activism that stood up and fought short-sighted pushes to eliminate vehicle dwelling through legal and legislative maneuverings like neighborhood parking permits and excessive pay-metering. Groups like L.A. CAN, Occupy Venice, the American Indian Movement along with the welcoming vibe of Venice and the predominant community sentiment of coexistence, seem a fitting legacy to the history of access planted here in Venice by Abbot Kinney. As things stand, there have been some victories and some encroaching losses, but living in a car continue to be a viable option in Venice, and may very well be where we would find undiscovered Jim Morrison or Marilyn Monroe, making their way among us, in 2018.
From where some strong lines seemed to have been drawn, the community sentiment shows the preference that people aren’t living in their cars right up on somebody’s house, or close to schools and day cares. The rule as it stands (which activists warned was too narrowly drawn), require that vehicle dwelling be five hundred feet away from any one of these sensitive use properties. The problem with that, though, is that the remaining available spaces are far fewer than the number of vehicle dwellers in our community. Add to that, that those spaces (rightfully) are also available to others who are not vehicle dwellin’, we are left with a quasi-legal state where anybody can live anywhere they park, as long as they do it smartly, FIRST with coexistence in mind.
Like every other instance in life, vehicle dwelling is most clearly seen through the lens of the individual. Some who started in a mansion and lost it, then a regular house and lost it, then a seedy apartment in a “bad” part of town then lost that too, may “end up” in their car, hating every minute of it. Another might have started on the pavement, then got a bike so they could be more productive and work harder. By the time that person hustles and saves to finally get a car… then navigate all the layers of obstacles laid out by local/state/national governments, to finally have a piece of security to park on your street, there is such a greater appreciation for what the car offers them in Venice.
The hack is to navigate this fortunate space in such a way that community is accentuated. veniceToo $hort: Get In Where You Fit In, …beach! It’s like how nature offers the example of different species of plants, in a vertical canopy of light sharing, where each gets what they need, and none encroaches on the other. In this mindset, a vehicle dweller recognizes the great advantage they have in being able to pack up and find new neighbors, whenever they choose. With that, it is important to always move in respect, so that the whole city is open to your presence. A car dweller that does not piss and crap every where, nor leave messes for people to clean up, and is never excessively noisy at all hours… this guy is welcomed to park wherever he finds a good fit. These are the neighbors who understand their vehicle is an extension of their very self, and find ways to keep their car clean, inside and out.
These compassionate neighbors understand that housed Venetians can not get up and leave, so they come to an area and are polite & friendly, and go out of their way to make sure our housed neighbors never feel like their block is being taken over.
In spite of all efforts to coexist, there are times, though, when a vehicle dweller still has to navigate a few passive aggressive notes, and the obvious feeling of not being welcomed on a particular block. Mostly, that’s when my great advantage kicks in, and I get the hell on up the road. Leaving them sad angry people to their little circle of negativity, to go chill somewhere else. But we in Venice are here because we are free people. Sometimes free people don’t feel like getting pushed around. At times it becomes important to assert your right to exist. Yes I am here, I have biological functions, I take up space, I enjoy a social circle. I have drive and dignity and will make my life to fulfill my desires. I’m living my life. If this bothers another sooo much that their solution is to ban together and create legislative aggression, so that their LAPDogs can have legal cover to sick us with heartless ferocity… naw kid. Something in me stirs, and I start looking for ways to make my stand.
Of course your level of stand, is limited by the direct proportion to the steadiness of your vehicle’s legality. Don’t be one of those dumbazzes yelling and fuming about your rights, and get the cops called to a hot azz unregistered vehicle, with no insurance, illegally parked and a dozen tickets on your tag. At that point, the gleeful look on the neighbors’ face as the tow truck drives your bucket off, it’ll be like them creaming their pants. Till you show up next week with another fifty dollar bucket… because taking people’s cars is such big business, there’s an excess of old cars getting auctioned everyday from tow lots all over the city. It’s never more than a few hundred bucks to buy an old tent on wheels, and start the cat and mouse all over again. There’s gotta be a better way.
So from your car, DO NOT ENGAGE. A legally registered vehicle, lawfully parked on a city street, becomes your castle — if you choose to utilize it as such. Never forget that a vehicle dwelling citation can only be directed to the individual, not the vehicle. So if neighbors are being d!cks, and call the cops, take a walk… leave your lawfully parked vehicle, and enjoy a few hours on the beach. Or curtain up your windows, and never come out to uninvited knockers at your door (regardless of the costume of “justice” they might be wearing). Take note of how much resources the city is willing to spend, deploying a stake-out, just to try to catch you “living” in YOUR vehicle. Let your positive coexistence become the contrast to illustrate right from wrong. When power organize themselves to take a poor person’s blankets on a cold night, be the network of guys who always have a warm tent to share, or a new sleeping bag in stow. Keep showing what right looks like, and the heart of Venice will take note, and you will find yourself together with they who truly know what The Venice Way is all about, showing the haters all around another possibility of love.