Homeless in America. Photo is example of the problem, not necessarily from Venice. Photo via Pixabay
Homeless in America. Photo is example of the problem, not necessarily from Venice. Photo via Pixabay

Venice residents fearing increased homeless crime in their neighborhoods are squaring off against a Los Angeles city councilman’s plan to build a storage facility in which homeless people can stash their belongings.

The councilman, however, says he’ll move forward with the plan for the time being, and residents opposing the new facility are engaged in a “misguided attempt to deny services to the homelessness.”

Just as the proposal was moving through the various avenues of bureaucratic approval, an attorney for the Venice Stakeholders Association alleges that such a storage facility would be prohibited under a 65-year-old court order.

Venice Stakeholders Association President Mary Ryavec said the park where the storage site is being planned “has been a crime generator for years,” and Councilman Mike Bonin’s proposal “to attract hundreds of transients to the site to store their stuff would have just exacerbated the problem.”

“Residents are relieved to hear that the deed prevents this inappropriate use in their residential neighborhood,” Ryavec said.

Robert Glushon, attorney for the Venice Stakeholders Association, said the city is prohibited from converting the Westminster Senior Center, at 1234 Pacific Ave., into a storage facility, under a 1950 restriction in a court order that condemned the property to the city.

The site was strictly intended for public use as a playground or for recreation, according to the deed, Glushon said.

Bonin said in a statement that while city attorneys are looking into the issue, city officials will continue to take up a series of measures he proposed to address homelessness in his district, including “expanded storage that provides a real solution to the problem of growing encampments on neighborhood streets.”

But in a letter to Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, chair of the Arts, Parks and River Committee, attorney Glushon wrote that, “It is well settled California law that where land is conveyed for a specific limited and definite purpose, the subject of that conveyance cannot be used for another, different purpose.”

Glushon called on the city to halt consideration of the project.

In April, Bonin proposed turning the center into a storage site for the property of as many as 160 homeless individuals, saying the facility is necessary to reduce the amount of encampments along public streets.

However, the effort by the Venice Stakeholders Association to block the project is working against that goal, Bonin said.

“We have a choice between the status quo of allowing sidewalks and streets full of encampments, or offering people a safe place to keep their personal belongings while getting them connected to the services that will get them off the street permanently,” Bonin said.

“The VSA is fighting to keep clutter on neighborhood streets in a misguided attempt to deny services to the homeless. That is a status quo that I, and many neighbors in Venice, find intolerable.”

Bonin also wants to build affordable housing at a city-owned parking lot in Venice and identify public restrooms that would remain open 24 hours so they can be used by homeless individuals during off-hours.

–City News Service

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