Shops and visitors along the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.
Shops and visitors along the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

A residents group filed a lawsuit Thursday against the city and county of Los Angeles, alleging public officials have allowed dangerous conditions and nuisance problems to continue in Venice by failing to enforce no-camping rules on the beach and boardwalk.

“It has long been evident that the city and county enforce ‘no camping’ laws in all of their parks, except the Venice Beach Recreation Area,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.

He compared the “pristine condition of the park next to City Hall, or Grand Park next to the Hall of Administration” in downtown Los Angeles with that of the Venice Beach Recreation Area, which he said has been getting “unequal treatment” from city and county officials.

The City Attorney’s Office declined to respond to the lawsuit, in which Venice residents/property owners Gary Harris, Jack Hoffmann, Arthur Kraus, David Krintzman and Brad Neal are also named as plaintiffs.

County officials also declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The plaintiffs contend that during the past five years, “on almost a daily basis,” the city and county “have failed to control and maintain” the Venice Boardwalk and surrounding areas by allowing “transients and other individuals” to bring baggage, camping gear and personal belongings to the area at “all hours of the day and night.”

“Venice residents, as well as visitors, are precluded from enjoying a stroll along the boardwalk, from walking their dog along the boardwalk or on the adjoining grass areas, or from sitting quietly under the pagodas or on the benches by the skate park, for fear of the danger presented by the constant presence of mentally ill and/or drug or alcohol-addicted individuals,” the lawsuit says.

Attorney Rob Glushon said state law requires property owners to keep their property in a condition that does not cause harm to others.

“Both the city and county need to take action to abate the intolerable conditions at Venice Beach, which are a serious threat to public health and safety,” Glushon said.

Ryavec said the recreation area at Venice Beach resembles a “lawless Skid Row encampment” where “open drug sales and use, loud late-night noise and public inebriation, urination and defecation is routinely permitted.”

Public officials have not responded to the group’s demand to clean up the area, he said.

“The lack of enforcement of existing laws makes the hundreds of campers living along Venice Beach feel they can do anything they want with impunity,” Ryavec said. “The result is that harassment, intimidation, trespass, vandalism, home invasions and burglaries are common.”

Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, said he, too, is frustrated by the “deplorable conditions on and near Venice Beach.” But the city’s own attempts to manage vending, sleeping in public areas, camping and trash in the area have all been stymied by the courts, he said.

“The courts have repeatedly told the city of Los Angeles what it cannot do,” Bonin said. “While the source of the (Venice Stakeholders Association’s) ire is more appropriately aimed at the courts, if this lawsuit results in a ruling that tells the city what it can or must do, I would welcome it.

“We’re all interested in making Venice safe, clean and welcoming, and I trust that we are all also interested in marshaling the services and building the housing we need to end the crisis of homelessness in our city,” Bonin added.

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Bonin were in Venice on Wednesday to discuss public safety issues with local residents and property owners.

Bonin, in a message via his Facebook page, said the chief “spoke with weary residents and business owners who pleaded for more cops, got screamed at by a snake charmer, witnessed an arrest, had his path blocked by police tape due to a suspicious package and got photo-bombed by scores of French tourists.”

In a March blog post on his website, Bonin promised to “do a helluva lot more to make Venice safer and cleaner for residents and visitors, for poets and artists, musicians and performers, surfers and skaters, basketball players and volleyball players, kids and seniors.”

The City Council also budgeted $500,000 this year for the Bureau of Sanitation to clear up abandoned trash in the Venice area.

— City News Service

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