What's Behind the Venice Push for OPDs (Overnight Permit Parking Districts)?
By Peggy Lee Kennedy

Rubber Tramps, Gypsies, and Hippie Busses are nothing new to Venice. In fact, Venice is known worldwide for embracing different lifestyles. When the circus came to town, Venice is where the Gypsies stayed. Beat poets and anarchists hung out. Misfits fit in. If you were odd, you were cool in Venice. And we had more streets to park on then.

For much of its existence, Venice has been home to low and extremely low-income people. But as property value has increased with gentrification and the accompanying NIMBY movement. Venice has grown less accepting of the misfit and some are full of hate for street people or for those who might take a stand to defend them. Even though some still see Venice as eclectic and diverse, it is more a facade based on lingering history, and then there are those of us who simply refuse to leave.

As Venice gentrification has raged on, Venice property owners (quite often the newer ones), people with business interests, developers and the City of Los Angeles have worked increasingly to get rid of poor and homeless people living in vehicles. Now, with the loss of so much low-income housing to new development [unaffordable housing] along with the mortgage crisis and wide scale layoffs, many of the people living in vehicles in Venice  used to be renters or even homeowners in Venice. The homeless population is rapidly changing and growing.

Those working to rid Venice of homeless people and homeless services have formed groups, such as the "Rose Avenue Working Group" (which eventually managed to move the St Joseph's homeless center off Rose Ave) and the city formed groups using the Community Police Advisory Board (C-PAB) like the debunked "Homeless Outreach Committee." The groups wanting to remove the people living in vehicles in Venice worked directly, and still do, with the City Attorney's office and the LAPD.

One group, calling itself the "Venice Stakeholders Association" recently organized in favor of using the Overnight Permit Parking (OPD) law to remove people living in vehicles from Venice. The OPD, or Overnight Parking District, is a special permit-parking zone regulated by parking enforcement during the hours between 2AM and 6AM and only the people who qualify under the definition for resident can get permits.

The "Venice Stakeholders Association" hired a high priced attorney named Sherman Stacy to fight in favor of overnight permit parking at the California Coastal Commission. Members of the group include Mark Ryavec and Georgeann Abraham. Records gained through the Public Records Act reveal that these people have been working with the City Attorney's office for years trying to use the OPD permit parking system to remove homeless people from Venice.

Throughout the years, the different groups have come and gone, but they all have basically worked to get rid of homeless people. They worked with the city's Department of Transportation, with the help of the City Attorney's office or the City Council, to put up many restrictive street signs in Venice  street signs that are originally intended for other traffic reasons  but have been used in Venice to remove access to nighttime or daytime parking for the unwanted homeless person living in a vehicle.

Maybe you got one of these signs on your street and wondered why. They say "no overnight parking" or "2-hour parking." When there is a neighborhood complaint that someone is living in a vehicle, the city might even organize a community meeting in which the Department of Transportation gives a presentation of all the parking measures that can be employed as a removal "solution" to homelessness using street signs and permit parking. No kidding, I went to one at the Penmar Park community room.

The parking enforcement and the police ramp up enforcement on the street to target vans and RVs, which they assume are lived in, with 72 hours tickets or other parking tickets. The police will often bang on the RVs and the vans, leaving dents on doors and conduct other forms of harassment.

One of the obstacles to removing homeless people living in vehicles with the existing parking measures has been that most of the restricted parking signs are exempted by disabled placards or disabled license plates. A very large percentage of homeless people are disabled, especially due to the decrease in affordable housing and other safety nets during the Bush administration. Another problem that surfaced was that almost all of those restrictive street signs put up in the Venice Coastal Zone (west of Lincoln Blvd) also restricted coastal access and were done without California Coastal Commission approval. That is not legal.

The NIMBYs, the developers, the homeless haters, and the city needed to come up with some way to get rid of the disabled homeless people living in vehicles in this want-to-be exclusive beach town  in some way that the Coastal Commission would allow.
Then one day in 2003 Alan Willis, Transportation Engineer, with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, sent an email to City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski's Westchester office saying that he had found the answer to the Venice RV problem. It was California Vehicle Code 22507.5, a law meant to restrict commercial vehicles from parking on residential streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. - a law from which disabled plates or placards are not exempt.

Violating the intent of a law had not stopped the city from using them on homeless people before  so away they went to work on getting input from the residents who hate homeless people. This input included meetings, emails, and a motion from Cindy Miscikowski to have the City Attorney write the draft ordinance.

Interesting thing is that the very names on those July 2004 follow up emails from the May 2004 "community" meeting about using overnight permit parking to get rid of homeless people living in vehicles in Venice (with the City Attorney and City Council employees at the Council District 11 Westchester Office) are the same people running Venice Neighborhood Council committees today! Jim Murez (now chair of the VNC parking committee), Mark Ryavec (chair of the VNC homeless committee  God help us) and Georgeann Abraham (chair of the OPD committee) were all working with the City Attorney's office and the City Council office in 2004 behind the backs of the legally elected progressive Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council. These meetings did not comply with Brown Act requirements of public notice and the topic was specifically to put in the Overnight Permit Parking law using California Vehicle Code 22507.5 to remove those living in vehicles.

Why California Vehicle Code 22507.5? Because the disabled RV people are not exempted from that law and they thought that the California Coastal Commission would just allow it to go in.

Bill Rosendahl, loving homeless people as he does, kept the OPD ball rolling forward once he got in office and he signed the motion to enact the OPD law. The OPD law  Los Angeles Municipal Code 80.54  was adopted by the Los Angeles City Council on July 20, 2005, the month Bill took office.

The progressive Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council was successfully eliminated by the city through a phony arbitration process that was conducted for a challenge against the June 2004 neighborhood council election. Another very interesting fact is that the person then employed with the Los Angeles Human Relations Department and charged with the non-arbitration process (which took the Progressive Venice neighborhood council out) is now the Venice Deputy for the City Council, Mr. Arturo Peña.

DONE (the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment), who oversees neighborhood councils, created an election committee of Venice people more likely to follow the NIMBY agenda and a new Venice Neighborhood Council was elected. Rosendahl encouraged them to create an OPD committee, which first met in April 2006. The co-chair of the OPD committee, Stewart Oscars, worked with the Department of Transportation and the Council Office as if he was the representative for all of Venice on creating the Venice OPDs. Many emails from the city, gained through public records requests, assumes that Venice wants this or Venice wants that  in reference to what Stewart Oscars was saying in his emails to the city. Unfortunately, most of Venice did not know.

The Venice OPDs in the Coastal Zone go from the north border of Venice to the south border, from Lincoln Blvd to Speedway, but they forgot the Venice peninsula and it was too late to amend it by the time Stewart Oscars figured it out. These OPDs that cover almost the entire west side of Venice already exist and they have existed since December 2006.

The city thought that this would just fly through with the approval of the California Coastal Commission, but the Commission required a complete Coastal Development Permit (CDP) application process. Maybe it was because they already had received multiple complaints from the community about all the illegal street signs that had been installed in Venice (to get rid of the RVs), or maybe it was because the City wrote a law closing the beach at night, without going through the Coastal Commission.

Now stuck with doing a CDP, the Council office asked the L.A. Department of Transportation (DOT) to do the CDP, but they were not qualified. Then the Council Office asked the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering (BOE) to do the CDP, but they were not adequately staffed to expedite the CDP process. If the Council Office wanted the CDP process expedited, it would have to pay the BOE to hire an outside independent contractor  for $75,000. So Bill Rosendahl used the Venice Surplus Property Fund to pay to get those CDP applications done.

Venice people have protested each step of the way  once they knew. Many of us knew nothing about this overnight parking scheme until the new Venice Neighborhood Council created the OPD committee. Only those who support the OPDs were notified by Bill Rosendahl's office that this law was coming up in the city council for a vote. Some are still finding out.

There was a hearing in Venice last June 26 to which hundreds of people came out in opposition, but the Bureau of Engineering rubber-stamped it and sent it off to the Board of Public Works, where 103 appeals were rejected and the city sent a letter of intent to the California Coastal Commission.

Venice submitted 38 appeals against that decision and in February 2009 the California Coastal Commission took jurisdiction over the matter. Now this will be heard June 10-12 at the California Coastal Commission meeting at the Marina Del Rey Hotel.

If you want to know what you can do to oppose the Venice OPDs, please stay posted by checking <www.NoPermitParkingInVenice.com> or call 310-398-7192 for updates.

Visit the FAQ page on that web site to find out the shocking facts about how much this permit system will soon cost you. Initially the resident permits start off at only $15 each, but the city forecasts the cost to soon be $34 and there are so many restrictions. One main point that should be stressed is that the city is not giving us more parking, so you will just be forced to buy a hunting license to park in Venice.

East of Lincoln, one of the streets in the only existing Venice OPD east of Lincoln, Indiana Ave, just finished a petition to remove the OPD from their block because they hate it. And the city does not seem to be rushing to take the action required to remove the permit parking signs, which takes only a letter from Rosendahl sent to DOT.

It is a mess and all because some property owners, developers, and the city that bows to them all wants to get rid of the poor in Venice so property values can go up. Not to mention the city can use all the permit parking revenue it can get.