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L.A. May Ban Overnight RV Parking in Venice

September 22, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Amid outrage over RV dwellers allegedly dumping raw sewage on the streets of Venice, the Los Angeles City Council will consider calling for an “urgency ordinance” today (Sept. 22) that would prevent oversize vehicles from parking overnight at certain locations, the Daily Breeze reported.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice, called for prohibiting or limiting the parking of oversize vehicles on the area bounded on the east by Lincoln Boulevard, on the south by the Los Angeles County line, on the west by Ocean Front Walk, and on the north by the border with the city of Santa Monica.

He said the restrictions should kick in between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

“Venice Beach is a residential area consisting of single- and multi-family homes with inadequate parking,” Rosendahl said. “This is a problem exacerbated by the parking of oversized vehicles resulting in the inability of residents to find parking on their blocks as well as other issues adversely impacting their quality of life.”

The California Coastal Commission has twice denied the city’s attempts to establish resident-only “overnight parking districts” in Venice.

The council responded by passing an ordinance prohibiting vehicles of a certain size from parking overnight in Venice. Such a law does not require commission approval.

Tensions boiled over this month when it took activists several days to get city officials to summon cleanup crews to three Venice intersections where raw sewage had been dumped.

Venice residents are currently circulating petitions to ban oversized vehicles from parking on their specific blocks overnight.

While some beach areas are set up to accommodate RVs — such as Dockweiler State Beach, where overnight camping is allowed and holding tank pump-out stations are available — Venice is not.

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Councilman May Solve RV Parking Spat

August 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Residents of Venice, Calif., who want restrictions on overnight parking for oversize vehicles can now move forward with petitions that would get city signs in place on their blocks, the LA Weekly reported.

Responding to criticism that his office has been slow to make moves when it comes to dealing the beach community’s “mobile homeless” issues, which include recent reports of sewage dumping, Councilman Bill Rosendahl this week opened his own floodgates for no-oversize-vehicle zones that would take effect overnight.

Residents would have to get two-thirds of their blocks to sign on in order to get the restrictions, which would apply to vehicles taller than seven feet or more than 22 feet long. They would be prohibited from parking on a block from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

“For too long, residents of Venice have sought relief from the proliferation of RVs, campers and other oversize vehicles in front of their homes,” Rosendahl said. “The California Coastal Commission has wrongly denied Venice the same parking restrictions other communities have. This is one of the few tools we have at our disposal.”

The city council would still need to re-approve the parking zones, however.

The move comes amid an epic battle over deeper parking restrictions, called Overnight Parking Districts (OPD), rejected by the California Coastal Commission. The city of Los Angeles has filed suit arguing that the commission doesn’t have the right to restrict such resident-only zones in the municipality.

The OPDs have split Venice largely among the pro- and anti-homeless and, arguably, between old-school liberal residents and more moneyed newcomers who want the RV dwellers to go away.

Rosendahl, who has claimed the middle ground, has launched a program, called “Streets To Homes,” that would provide lot parking for RVs overnight while providing the rig-dwellers social services and eventually finding them more permanent digs.

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Debate Continues Over Venice’s RV Dwellers

August 17, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

​Supporters of special parking lots in Venice, Calif., where RV dwellers would be able to stay overnight issued an “action alert” Monday (Aug. 16), calling out opponents for allegedly disseminating “propaganda” regarding the issue, the LA Weekly reported.

“Most outrageous have been claims of increased crimes such as arson, prostitution, drug sales, home invasion burglaries and even murder perpetrated by people in RV’s,” states the alert by the Venice Action Alliance. “The LAPD acknowledges that there has never been one shred of evidence to support these claims. To the contrary, an RV-dweller was the person who identified the Venice arson suspect to the LAPD.”

The city’s “Streets to Homes” program is a go, with Councilman Bill Rosendahl funding it to the tune of $750,000. The idea is to allow RV dwellers in his Westside district, specifically Venice, to park overnight in specified lots. Officials hope to have the program off the ground in late fall.

Opponents have been hammering the concept, saying that such rig-dwellers often bring crime, drugs and even prostitution with them wherever they go — and that putting them in lots near residential neighborhoods overnight is not going to solve the problems they create.

Indeed, the city of Los Angeles officially deems the RV issue in Venice “blight,” at least according to a recent filing by the city attorney’s office that seeks to overturn the California Coastal Commission’s denial of residential permit parking for Venice.

But proponents of “Streets to Homes” say it’s a humane way to retain and eventually house people who have a stake in the community without sweeping them under the rug.

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Fox News Tracks RV Parking Issue in Venice

August 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Click here to watch a recent Fox News broadcast on the ongoing RV parking problems in Venice, Calif.

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Showdown Looms for Popular California RV Park

July 9, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

Aerial view of Lawson's Landing, Marin County, Calif.

California state officials joined the battle for Lawson’s Landing on Thursday (July 8), as the California Coastal Commission toured the 940-acre site at Dillon Beach, home to the largest stretch of sand dune habitat in private ownership on the coast — as well as the region’s biggest coastal campground and trailer park.

Commissioners appeared at the sprawling complex for a whirlwind, 90-minute visit, arriving two hours late after a bus scheduling mix-up forced them to carpool from Santa Rosa, where they were meeting, to the blue-collar Pacific beach resort on the lip of Tomales Bay, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

They were greeted by about two dozen environmental activists and campground advocates who tagged along as Charles Lester, senior deputy director, and John Dixon, a staff ecologist, talked about the land, its history and a master plan of improvements approved by the county.

After a commission edict in 2006, Marin officials curbed the campground operation in 2008, cutting camping space in half. Partisans on both sides of the fight are now girding for a showdown before the commission that could come as early as next month when the panel meets in San Luis Obispo.

Dixon gave a wide-ranging overview of the area’s sensitive sand dune and wetlands habitat, home to endangered red-legged frogs and snowy plovers along with meadows “chock-a-block full of native wetland plants.”

Commissioner Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor who had visited the area before, asked the staff to provide reports on the demographics of those who come to the resort, as well as determine how many of 213 trailer sites existed in 1965, before the Coastal Act was approved. “The math is important,” he said.

“We have a natural collision of a pre-Coastal Act practice with a modern-day assessment,” Mirkarimi said in an interview.

Other commissioners had little to say of substance, with several merely indicating the area was unique and the field trip educational. “I don’t have enough information to lean one way or the other,” said Commissioner Sara Wan of Malibu, noting commission staff has not yet filed an analysis of the issues.

A commission attorney warned those joining the tour that the event was not a public hearing and that no public testimony could be taken. The Lawson’s Landing plan has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Earlier, two campground advocates rose at open time as the commission convened in Santa Rosa. “This is the only public campground in Marin County available to low- and moderate-income families,” said Cindy Whitley of Dillon Beach.

Mike Lawson, whose great uncle and aunt, Howard and Winifred Lawson, launched a pier operation in 1929 and later joined with family members in buying land, said he advised advocates “who could have been here by the busload” to stay away, because the commission had a busy agenda and it was not a time for public testimony.

Generations of blue-collar Californians have fled the heat of the Sacramento Valley and flocked to the area to fish, swim and frolic since the Depression. The complex developed without permits into an affordable coastal recreational oasis sporting rows of old aluminum trailers and an expansive meadow that hosts a summer-time surge of recreational vehicles and tent camps.

But environmentalists have sounded the alarm for years in a county otherwise noted for strict building rules, saying the operation tramples sensitive dune and wetlands habitat, wildlife and plants.

A county master plan seeks to protect sensitive areas while maintaining public access to the coast and providing a profitable business for owners Lawson and Carl Vogler. The plan calls for a new septic system, a new store and gateway improvements. It eliminates use of wetlands and reduces camp areas near wetlands from 57 acres to 16 acres.

The county board eased several regulations imposed by planners, saying campers could use sensitive “buffer” areas near wetlands for five years, rather than only three. At the time, Lawson’s attorney, former Coastal Commissioner Gary Giacomini, argued for 10 years, saying the campground could sell a conservation easement eliminating camping in the buffer area altogether — and get money to proceed with improvements. Because camping in the buffer areas can produce income of about $500,000 a year, a 10-year easement could be marketed for “real money,” Giacomini noted then.

Another opportunity for the campground to raise money is under consideration by Caltrans, which is weighing acquisition of a conservation easement at sites including Lawson’s to make up for loss of habitat for the red-legged frog during planned freeway improvements through the Novato Narrows.

As it stands, the county plan under review by the state commission allows 513 camping plots, including 213 travel trailer sites, as well as a limited but undetermined number of sites in an upland area. Currently, the campground has 1,233 camping sites. The county also limited trailer owners, who pay rent of $400 a month, to three months of occupancy a year. The area is not zoned for residential use, and county officials said occupancy rules boost tenant turnover and thus public access to the area.

Both trailer owners and environmentalists appealed to the commission.

Timothy Kassouni, representing trailer owners, said Thursday his clients take issue with regulations including the 90-day occupancy rule. Lester, the commission staff deputy, noted the panel could make occupancy regulations even tougher by imposing limits on tenancy during peak summer use.

The issue, Lester added, boils down to “Is it consistent with the Coastal Act?”

Catherine Caufield, a member of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said the county plan is at odds with coastal regulations in a number of respects, including failure to protect wetlands and buffer zones.

Co-owner Lawson hopes the commission will allow him to continue operating a resort that has been part of the landscape for almost a century, but worries that piling on restrictions “will only lead to our business failure,” as he told county supervisors two years ago when flanked by consultants, including Rusty Areias, a former state parks director and former Coastal Commission chairman.

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Venice Seeks Overnight RV Parking Resolution

April 2, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Trying to determine how an overnight parking program for recreational vehicles might work in Venice, Calif., some community leaders are looking to a coastal community less than 100 miles to the north for some answers, according to the Marina del Rey Argonaut.

As Venice continues to explore solutions to its ongoing issue of RVs and other vehicles lining the streets for extended periods of time, one proposal has been to locate vacant lots on which the vehicles could park overnight.

With overnight parking districts having been denied by the California Coastal Commission and an ordinance on oversize vehicle parking still being reworked, overnight lots could offer some relief to the problem, some community members believe. But exactly how such a program would fit in with the eclectic community of Venice is yet to be determined.

To help get an idea, two Venice residents, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl and some staff members, along with Venice area police officers, paid a visit in late February to Santa Barbara, where an overnight parking initiative has been in use for six years. Under the direction of the social service provider New Beginnings, Santa Barbara has implemented a program that officials say has improved its RV parking problems and accommodated those living in the vehicles.

Gary Linker, New Beginnings director, told the Venice visitors that 21 lots are currently in use with 105 vehicles parking on them between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. In addition to offering a temporary place to park on empty lots of churches, non-profits, businesses and on city property, the program helped 45 people transition into housing and 20 people into jobs last year, he said.

“The program has obviously been very successful and it has expanded over the years,” Linker told The Argonaut. “Our goal is to get people into housing and into jobs.”

Santa Barbara was facing similar issues to Venice with an increased number of campers parking on the streets and the city initially considered banning living in the vehicles but homeless advocates filed suit. The safe parking program was created as a result of a settlement agreement, and Linker said it has been a way to show that homeless in the community are cared for.

The project keeps people off the streets where they may be vulnerable and provides outreach to those participating, directing them to a number of resources such as housing, jobs and medical care, he said.

“This provides a lot of people a very safe and secure place to park every night,” Linker said.

David Ewing and Stewart Oscars, the two Venice residents who took part in the visit with Santa Barbara city officials, gave a presentation outlining the program details at the Venice Neighborhood Council’s meeting last month. They noted in a report that program participants are required to follow 14 rules of good behavior and must obtain a permit with a valid California driver’s license and vehicle registration.

Case managers visit the sites twice a week to check compliance and meet with the clients, but participants are not forced to be involved, the report said.

“We learned that everything is based on relationships and building trust,” Ewing said.

While the effort has not been an outright solution to the RV problem, officials believe it is helpful to clients who are involved, Ewing and Oscars said.

“They consider it a success because it does give help to people who need it,” said Oscars, adding that residents are also given a tool to help protect the streets. “It’s got something for everybody and I’m happy about that.”

The proximity of lots to residential areas has been a concern for some but under the program, lots must be at least 50 feet away from residences.

Referring to concerns of city liability, the report said that New Beginnings covers the total insurance costs of $4,200 per year. Roughly half of the $125,000 annual project costs are funded by the city with the remainder privately funded.

Rosendahl said he was pleased with what he learned during the visit, noting that the safe parking program has been effective for people who choose to take part.

“I was very impressed that they have implemented a program that allows people to be in safe places with their cars and campers with dignity. It gives a carrot to those who want it,” the councilman said.

Those studying the Santa Barbara initiative say that it has similarities to another program in Eugene, Ore., which has a strong success rate of placing clients into housing and can also be a model for Venice.

“Santa Barbara doesn’t set a limit on how long you can stay on the lot but Eugene does, and they have a much higher placement rate into housing,” said Mark Ryavec, a member of the neighborhood council homelessness and vehicular living committee.

Any overnight parking program considered for Venice would have to go through the same learning curve that Santa Barbara experienced and it would need to distinguish those who are seeking help from those who may be choosing to live in their vehicles, he said. Some Venice community members insist that the effort must not be limited to their community but rather citywide.

“We in Venice have to realize that it has to expand beyond the borders of Venice,” Oscars said.

Rosendahl said he is confident that the program could be effective locally and he has assigned his chief of staff to begin looking into the process, including interviewing stakeholders and locating possible sites. Linker agreed that his organization’s program could succeed in Venice if outreach services are provided to ensure that relationships are formed with the participants.

“I think if the program is properly implemented and case management services are given, then absolutely it can be successful,” he said.

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Venice Sues California Commission Over RV Parking

August 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

california-coastal-commission-logoA residents group in Venice, Calif., on Monday (Aug. 10) sued the California Coastal Commission over its denial of the city of Los Angeles’ request to create permit parking districts in five areas near Venice Beach where residents have complained for years about the presence of recreational vehicles.

The agency’s staff had recommended that the parking zones be approved, but commissioners in June denied the request, saying they were concerned they were being asked to resolve a social issue rather than a beach access issue, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The coastal commission has a legal mandate to protect coastal waters,” said Mark Ryavec, a longtime coastal activist and an officer of the Venice Stakesholders Association, which filed the suit. “However, despite hearing of repeated instances of the owners of recreational vehicles leaking and/or dumping their sewage directly into yards, streets and storm drains, which drain directly to the ocean, the commission failed to act to protect the coastal water.”

The suit contends that the commission does not have legal authority over the overnight parking districts and that no coastal development permits are required to restrict overnight parking.

The Venice Stakeholders Association said RVs belong in proper campgrounds with sewer connections, not on residential streets.

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Ruling May End 12-Year-Old RV Parking Battle

May 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The staff of the California Coastal Commission has recommended that the agency approve permit parking zones in five areas near Venice beach, delighting residents aggravated by the constant presence of recreational vehicles and provoking anger from public access and homeless advocates, according to the Los Angeles Times.

If the so-called overnight parking districts are approved in June, it would mark the end of a 12-year battle by residents, said Mark Ryavec, a Venice activist.

“This is a struggle for residents to be able to secure their neighborhoods and secure parking in their neighborhoods and to stop what too often was a public nuisance,” Ryavec said Tuesday.

Many who live near the beach complain that people living in campers take up precious curb spaces and pose health and safety problems.

In a letter to the commission, Nikoletta Skarlatos said she came home from a hearing in February to find her street filled with campers and their occupants.

“One was dumping raw sewage and urine directly into the storm drain,” she wrote. She said she walked to the back of her house and “saw a pile of human fecal matter against my house wall.”

Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corp., expressed disappointment in the recommendation. Restricting parking, he said, is part of a “pattern of denial of public access” to the beach overnight.

Other opponents also challenged the proposed restrictions, complaining that they would displace people who now live in campers and cars.

“That is a big issue,” acknowledged City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice.

Rosendahl said he was studying programs in Santa Barbara and Eugene, Ore., that have designated overnight parking lots for RV dwellers where they can also take advantage of social services. Rosendahl said his office has contacted the Obama administration to plead for federal stimulus money for such “wraparound services” for RV occupants staying in designated areas.

Municipal code prohibits overnight sleeping in vehicles on city streets, but police have fought a losing battle to enforce the law, Rosendahl said.

“If the commission votes in favor,” he said, “it becomes the kickoff of an overall process that will take several years before all aspects are met.”

Of the five permit parking zones proposed by residents, two extend to the coastline. In those areas, the staff report said, street parking for individuals without permits would be prohibited from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Three public parking lots near the beach would stay open 24 hours a day. Visitors could prepay for four hours of parking. Three other inland areas would restrict parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Residents could buy three annual permits for $15 each and two visitor permits, good for four months, for $10 each.

A permit, however, would not guarantee a parking space, said Yadi Hashemi, the acting senior engineer responsible for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation’s parking permits division. He added that permit prices were expected to remain the same for “the foreseeable future.”

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