Screen Shot 2020-11-18 at 1.20.43 AM

By Angela McGregor

On the heels of Councilman Bonin’s Town Hall on Public Safety, held Monday night, Tuesday night’s VNC Meeting opened with an extended Public Safety Report from several Venice Beach Senior Lead Officers.  Officer Acosta cited a recent 10% increase in residential burglaries — disturbingly, mainly “hot prowls”, where residents are home when the break in occurs.  He also mentioned that a massive encampment near the corner of Lincoln and Flower was being moved in order to make way for the demolition of the old Antique Mart on the site  — something he pointed out was for the safety of the campers themselves.

OFW SLO Monique Contreras stated that she was meeting with the Councilman’s Office this week to discuss providing services and outreach to the encampments there, and was looking to connect with small, nearby community groups to figure out how best to address crime on the Boardwalk.  Jim Robb, Chair of the Ocean Front Walk Committee, recommended that she meet with the BID as well.

Venice Deputy Report

Nisa Kove, Venice’s Representative from the CD11 Office, typically gives the Board brief, monthly updates on what the Councilman’s Office is doing in response to their various recommendations and motions.  Tuesday night she instead launched into a polemic primarily aimed at CD15 Councilman Joe Buscaino (who was scheduled to speak to the Board later in the evening).

She began by pointing out that the SLO’s had talked a lot about enforcement, despite Councilman Bonin’s having said that we “cannot enforce our way out of this [homelessness] crisis”.  She described the Town Hall as “really successful” and said that Chief Moore had been “really vocal” about “reimagining public safety”.  Then she began to selectively quote from Twitter Feed coverage of a recent hearing before Judge Carter regarding a lawsuit brought by The L.A. Alliance for Human Rights against the City over the City’s failure to promptly address homelessness.

She quoted Carter as saying “Where’s my housing” and, apparently incensed, insisted that he “would not allow anything unless housing is there” — apparently referring to Buscaino’s recent motion before the City which would forbid encampments near Bridge Housing and under freeway overpasses, of which the Board would be considering its support later in the evening.  After she had lectured the Board for over 30 minutes with (what appeared to be ) prepared remarks, three different Board members finally spoke up to remind her that Mr. Buscaino was not present to defend himself, and that the Councilman’s office should instead address the ways in which he has failed to respond to the Board’s motions.  Ultimately, Board President Ira Koslow advised Ms. Kove to take any questions from the Board off line so that they could move forward with the meeting.

Buscaino Report

Councilman Buscaino was unable to attend, but his Policy Director, Dennis Gleason, spoke for roughly 10 minutes about a motion the Councilman was putting forward to resume CARE and CARE Plus Cleanups.  He began by stating that Buscaino had been meeting with a panoply of homeless organizations, and that his chosen approach to the issue was “all of the above”.  Part of that comprehensive approach includes clean ups.

Gleason then described what those clean ups would entail.   No unhoused person would be forced to leave their encampment, and services such as Covid testing and showers would be offered to those affected.  He pointed out that Covid is not the only public health threat to the City; allowing the unfettered buildup of trash and human waste around encampments can result in outbreaks of waste-borne illnesses such as typhus.  He concluded by stating that Buscaino was hopeful that this motion would be presented at the same upcoming meeting — November 24th — at which his other motion, CF20-1376, would be discussed.

Earlier this month, the November meeting of the Homeless Committee was shut down by online agitators from a group called StreetWatchLA, who overwhelmed the meeting with often obscene and abusive comments, eventually making it impossible for the committee to continue its work (including the consideration of a motion which would have called for immediate housing solutions for the unhoused of Venice).

On Monday, in response to the announced presence of Mr. Buscaino (who, judging from their angry comments they apparently consider Public Enemy #1), they were back at it, this time raising hands to comment on every motion, primarily chastising the Board for not building bathrooms or housing for the homeless instead of whatever the motion they were commenting on was calling for.  At times their vitriol was much darker, including referring to Board members as “Nazi’s” and telling Outreach Chair Sima Kosvetsky, who was attending despite a bad cold, that it was clear she “had Covid” and they hoped “she dies from it”.  As they had with the Homeless Committee meeting, anytime they were cut off they screamed that the Board was in violation of the Brown Act.

The Votes

Despite the group’s best efforts to shut down this meeting,  the VNC Board labored on until late in the evening, managing to consider and vote upon a broad range of motions, including:

  • A lengthy motion from LUPC to protect the rights of tenants who are displaced by new construction under SB330 (dubbed the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019”) passed unanimously, with one abstention.
  • A motion brought forth by the Parking and Transportation Committee which would mandate Oversized Vehicle Restrictions between 6pm and 2am in Venice west of Lincoln Blvd (a motion to modify it so that it would cover all of Venice up until Walgrove, brought by Mark Ryavec,  passed).  This was fiercely debated.  Jim Murez, who had authored the motion, pointed out that Santa Monica and various other coastal communities already had such restrictions in place.  Sima Kosvetsky felt that the motion should include a demand of the City to provide safe parking alternatives.  Other Board members, including Ira Koslow, felt it amounted to “government overreach”, and that the current rules wherein individual neighborhoods can request such restrictions on a case by case basis are adequate.  In the end, the motion failed — 6-9-1.
  • The Board also declined to pass a motion which would have given them a month long holiday recess next month. Board Parliamentarian and Election Chair Ivan Spiegel was adamant that a December VNC Board meeting will be essential to approving adequate funding for the upcoming 2021 VNC Board elections.
  • The Board passed a resolution in support of CF20-1376, calling upon the city council to keep the area around the Venice Bridge Housing site clear of encampments, much to the chagrin of the online protesters, some of whom termed the measure “genocide”. Board members regarded it as a simple request to the city to fulfill the promise of added security and sanitation they made to Venice residents prior to Pacific Sunset’s opening.
  • The Board also passed a motion requesting that Councilman Bonin conduct a Crime and Safety Town Hall specific to Venice, in collaboration with the VNC, who would be tasked with choosing moderators and reviewing questions in advance.

The meeting adjourned at 1:47am.  The December, 2020 meeting of the VNC Board will be held on Tuesday, December 15th.