What Needs to Be Said

by Mark Lipman

Due to the draconian 1 minute time limit for public comment at the Venice Neighborhood Council – which prevents a calm and respectful conversation on the issues that are most important to the community, here is my full statement for the people of Venice and VNC:
I moved to Venice in February of 2007, in a van with $20 in my pocket. That was right around the same time as the LAPD made a massive 3am sweep of minority owned homes in the Oakwood neighborhood, right around the 30 year mark of using illegal gang injunctions and harsh code enforcement policies to break up local families of color, who had been living in Venice for 4 and 5 generations, forcing many families to sell their homes to the likes of Tami Pardee for pennies on the dollar, so that millionaires could move in.

This was just a year after 900 low income families had been illegally evicted en masse from Lincoln Place, so that a rich developer could convert our affordable housing to rents of over $3K per month.

This was at the same time as the big battle in Venice was over people sleeping in their vehicles, when the organized money of this community was riling people up to demonize those who were living in their vehicles as a last resort for not having to be literally on the sidewalk – organizing neighborhood watches and vigilantes to work with the police to enforce another unconstitutional ordinance that heartlessly targeted those who had nowhere else to go.

Do we start to see a pattern here, where the millionaires of Venice use their money and influence to stoke anger and divisions between the rest of us?

Then 2011 rolls around and Google is given an 80% tax break to move into Venice. To put that into perspective, that’s over $2 Billion that Google hasn’t paid in taxes – and why you have to pay for Prop. HHH funding today. And what did they do with our money? They imported thousands of high paid employees and gave them bonuses for living locally so they could drive bikes to work for their green image, creating rent wars with existing tenants and the tripling of rents overnight.

At the same time people like Carl Lambert, who is currently under indictment by the City Attorney – began illegally converting Rent Stabilized Units to hotel rooms – short term rentals by themselves accounting for the loss of over 2,000 affordable housing units in Venice alone.

Add to this all the hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal Ellis Act evictions and Mello Act violations and all of this combined is the root cause of all the homelessness that we see today – and those who profited the most from this here in Venice, all have one thing in common – they are all members of the Venice Chamber of Commerce – whose key leadership is represented on this very council – who are playing the rest of us for fools.

Now they want you to think that it’s Bonin – but Bonin’s just a puppet sold to the highest bidder. The real ones behind the scenes pulling the strings is the Venice Chamber of Commerce, whose very mission statement is to use their money and influence to subvert our democracy to shape government policy for their own economic benefit.

Now, I know a lot of you have come here tonight angry about homelessness and you have every right to be, but while you’re venting that anger and frustration just make sure that you’re directing it towards those who are truly responsible for blowing it up to the conditions that we see today, just to line their own pockets.

And just to be clear, the key representative of those profiting the most from creating the homelessness we see in our community, the president of the Venice Chamber of Commerce, George Francisco, is sitting right in front of you tonight. May you use your time wisely.

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