Beck, Bonin & Venice Beach – Litigation Paralyzes Progress And Doesn’t Guarantee Results

Some of us are no strangers to the struggles associated with actually caring about your neighborhood. Things don’t always go YOUR way. Communities are made up of different people. Different people have different ideas, opinions, priorities and concerns. We all can’t get our way. At some point you may have heard of a law that is so outdated or mundane you can’t believe it is still an active law. Laws change over time, but one thing you can count on when it comes to changing existing laws or creating new ones… the process is SLOW.

We have suffered a few blows this year with several laws relating to the homeless. Frustration has hit a boiling point between laws, rights and litigation that impact what The City of Los Angeles and LAPD can do to uphold and enforce things that impact our safety and quality of life. So guess what, scavenging for recyclables in garbage cans in The City of LA is against the law. Against the law! It is a crime. A law, on the books. You don’t get to decide, I don’t get to decide… it is a law – that is it. Do people scavenge every day? Is it THOUSANDS of dollars that should go to The City? Yes. Do some people think it is ok? Yes. Does law enforcement enforce that law? No. I hear some people call the police when scavengers go onto their private property and dig through their cans. I have never, ever heard of an arrest being made or a citation being written. So imagine if someone sued The City of LA because they don’t enforce that law, and the money from recycling the thousands of bottles and cans that should go to The City shouldn’t go to line the pockets of the scavengers that pick the items illegally. There is BIG money there and goodness knows The City could use it. Why isn’t there an uproar? Because nobody really cares apparently. My point is, sometimes given the scope of our resources – not everything gets enforced…even when some ask for it to be, and if just a few people care chances are nothing may ever happen. That is just how it is. Although technically LAPD could enforce that law, the care and concern of the citizens and the overall impact of what it would take away from other issues does not warrant it getting much attention. That is just one example.

When LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Councilman Mike Bonin visited the Venice Beach Boardwalk Wednesday night, residents and business owners dished an earful about the homeless, the criminal transients, violent crime and those using Venice to hustle under the radar. Nearly every issue involved a lawsuit, which either impedes or stops LAPD or The City from maintaining effective management of a situation. For instance, asking for more officers to deal with the abundance of visible misdemeanor crime. The answer is “it isn’t a situation we can arrest our way out of” … meaning that arresting those people gets them off the street for a few hours, and they are right back out to do a crime again. The system doesn’t allow for the punishment for the crime to stop the crime from happening…. so a different approach is needed and sometimes the answer isn’t easily definable.

Let’s take camping at the beach. LAMC 63.44 has language regarding camping in the park. That is an existing law. BUT – a more recent lawsuit has allowed the homeless to have “personal belongings”. Well, what if those belongings are camping supplies? History has shown that a judge is not going to rule against another judges ruling especially when things are not specifically defined (i.e. vague) and are more recent that possibly old and outdated decisions, and they also recognize social trends. So given the most recent ruling, that the homeless are allowed to have belongings… the law will probably bend towards that favor. Given the litigious nature of the situation a more creative solution needs to be created… and the reality is maybe there is no remedy. Remember, The City of LA LOST the ability to clean up skid row based on health and environmental reasons – allowing the streets to be piled in stinky rotten squalor. A court decided that and also denied the appeal.

Although it was frustrating, Chief Beck and Mike Bonin suggested recognizing that we are going to have to realize the issues aren’t going to just go away with tickets and arrests. We are going to have to work WITH The City to figure it out. Pending litigation and existing laws have to be developed, generated, vetted, lobbied for and voted for to be put in place. That is a process that starts with us, migrates through the Council Office, develops into law…or doesn’t and is voted into place… NOT what anyone wanted to hear but that is the process. That is how our democracy works. No quick answers. Sometimes no right answers. To be specific, when it comes to The Jones Settlement The City already knows that if they meet the number of shelter beds required to meet the settlement… another lawsuit will be filed immediately because we still won’t have adequate space or facilities to house the homeless so not much will change. The homeless will be able to sleep in the streets for the foreseeable future until we (meaning the people who live in The City develop and vote for a new solution). Mind you, almost TEN years later The City wasn’t able to generate 1,250 shelter beds…so what would that reasonable magic number be? How would it be calculated? You see how complicated this is…

What has The City learned? Sometimes in order for things to change, we need to change. It is better to negotiate than to litigate (not every time but sometimes).  We all want what we want… but the reality is we aren’t all going to get what we want. But maybe if we are all willing to compromise a little… we will move forward a little. The council office changes. LAPD command staff changes. Everything changes and sometimes you don’t make headway with one person but you eventually will with another. For instance, we wanted the bong shops off the beach. There is existing clear law that has to do with children, schools, how things are displayed and advertised…etc. Well, given the new lax laws regarding medical marijuana… we were advised that those laws trump the pre-existing laws about bongs and such… and those things are legal now. Although our focus was the influence of bad drugs on kids… overall because of legal uses we’d never win. Similarly efforts to form a BID in Venice have been attempted several times and they run out of steam for several reasons, usually because of hitting a legal roadblock that makes things just not work out given our local layout. But, new people come in with new creative angles of getting things done and all of a sudden things move forward again.

When lawsuits are filed… things STOP. My preference is to work with LAPD and work with The City Council, learn and compromise if I have to – and if it is something you really care about, prepare for a long fight. I have learned a tremendous amount asking questions and while the answers as to why some laws aren’t enforced are astonishing, at the end of the day the complicated reasoning winds up making sense, it just isn’t obvious unless you ask and take the time to understand.  People sue The City every day. What has impacted Venice so much in the last year is existing law being undone because it is determined that people have rights, or that laws are vague. Creating  defensible laws isn’t easy… but if you are going to sue The City of Los Angeles … at least put some strength behind your assertion that won’t be easily trounced by very recent, very strong rulings. You’d be better off putting your money towards a legal expert to write new laws. In the meantime….while litigation is pending… as history has shown any and all efforts surrounding the topic come to a complete halt.

So, while the spirit of recent lawsuits filed on behalf of “Venice residents” give the implication that people just aren’t going to accept conditions in our neighborhood anymore…. a lawsuit isn’t necessarily going to fix it. In fact, it just might make things a lot worse. The burning question stands, what will you do when you lose?

In LA, the trend is clear. If you want the cops to take the blight off the streets, YOU might have to provide a place for them to put it first. Figure that one out.

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LAPD Chief Beck & Councilman Bonin Address Concerns Over Venice Beach Boardwalk

Today at the behest of City Councilman Mike Bonin, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck paid a rare visit to the Venice Beach Boardwalk area to hear from residents and business owners about the state of squalor and the lack of safety along the boardwalk. After taking a quick minute to be photographed with the LAPD Venice Beach detail, a crowd of French tourists literally rushed in and bombed the photo. It was actually pretty funny and lightened the mood if for but a moment. As the group began their walk from the LAPD substation over to the main boardwalk, snake-charmer and boardwalk performer Solomon began screaming about brutality and brought us right back to the reality and state of weirdness and fear that has become the status-quo in Venice Beach.

The primary concern was the “trash-campments”. Large hoards of literally everything piled onto the grassy knolls along the boardwalk where the homeless keep their “belongings”, which often include entire sectional sofas, broken 50 inch large screen TV’s and king mattresses & box springs, recliners, etc. The City of LA struggles to balance the quality of life issues for the residents with the laws that allow the homeless to keep personal belongings on the street. Issue #2 was the violence. Nobody seems interested in the regurgitated “crime is down” statistics that are usually tossed out when the subject of violent crime is brought up. If you live here, all you need to do is walk down the boardwalk or through Oakwood / Abbot Kinney in broad daylight and you will easily understand that it doesn’t feel safe. Nighttime is without question scary. As we all stood talking, local gang members, drug dealers and criminal transients just hung around like they were staring into a fishbowl.

Where the plea was for more officers, the pushback was that these are issues that you can’t “arrest your way out of”. Heard it before. We get it… but there is no doubt we are spread thin on police resources and just need more cops. Response: So does every other neighborhood in LA…. so push politicians to approve budgets, blah blah blah. Meanwhile in the background of this conversation, police tape was going up as a suspicious package was identified and a perimeter was being set up. In the distance, amber lights from an ambulance, a man had just beat someone and sent them to the hospital. Just another night at Venice Beach. In the end, the most salient solution that was offered up was the idea that the residents and business owners need to work together to create solutions to help solve these problems – like proposing less “comfortable” areas for people to encamp… etc. ( on City property ).

The residents and business owners that had the opportunity to speak with the Councilman and Chief Beck were clearly fatigued. The City of LA is as frustrated as they are. Semantics aside, more police officers would help the sorely stretched thin resources that we have. We should know shortly if the safety of our residents, local businesses and the millions of tourists that visit our Beach each year are worth the investment of some additional LAPD resources. With the complexity of the legal issues associated with solving the social issues… it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Thanks for the visit Chief Beck. We aren’t asking for a miracle. Hollywood had a transient murder a girl on Hollywood Blvd because she didn’t give him a dollar. They have a detail of 50+ permanent officers assigned to Hollywood Blvd now. We had a transient go on a rampage with a car and kill a tourist and injure dozens of others that same year. We got nothing. In fact, we have less officers than we had a year ago. We aren’t asking for a commitment forever. We just need focused additional resources and a beach team that doesn’t revolve supervisors every DP until we can get a BID in place and work with the Council office to make the situation stable.

Please?

LAPD Pacific Beach Detail & Local Business Owners with Mike Bonin and Chief Beck

LAPD Pacific Beach Detail & Local Business Owners with Mike Bonin and Chief Beck

Photobomb Francais!

Photobomb Francais!

Councilman Bonin points out the Market St. Meth area

Councilman Bonin points out the Market St. Meth area

Westminster encampment area.

Westminster encampment area.

Councilman Bonin & Chief Beck

Councilman Bonin & Chief Beck Listen to concerned business owners

Local riff-raff stare at the cop-party

Local riff-raff stare at the cop-party

The bomb threat....

The bomb threat….

Driver Flees From Flipped Car On Pacific, Passenger Taken To Hospital

Last night an out of control driver flipped the car he was driving after hitting a parked car at Sunset & Pacfic. When the vehicle came to a stop the driver apparently climbed out of the car and fled on foot, smelling of booze and narcotics. The passenger in the car was injured and taken by ambulance to the hospital. As of 12:48 p.m. the driver of the car is still at large. Evidence in the form of a car with license plates and a super injured person left behind will more than likely lead to the fool who fled the scene.  Thanks to Andy Sternberg for the tweets!

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UPDATE: Today at 11 A.M. – LAFD and ATF National Response Team Media Availability at Site of Venice Storage Facility Fire

NEWS RELEASE ATTACHED

ATF National Response Team Joins LAFD Fire Investigation at Venice Storage Facility

LOS ANGELES – In the wake of a Major Emergency structure fire in Venice on Saturday, October 25, the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section requested the assistance of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) National Response Team (NRT) to aid in the cause investigation.

Shortly after more than 365 LAFD firefighters extinguished the Major Emergency fire at Extra Space Storage, 658 Venice Blvd., on Sunday morning, LAFD Arson units began their investigation. Due to the extensive damage to storage items inside the building and the potential for significant monetary losses, the LAFD asked the ATF to activate the NRT. As a result, approximately 20 ATF agents and specialists arrived in Los Angeles to join LAFD Arson investigators and local ATF special agents at the scene on Tuesday morning.

“The LAFD is committed to using all of the resources available to help determine the cause of this fire,” said Battalion Chief Robert Nelson, head of the LAFD Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section. “We thank the ATF for activating their National Response Team and look forward to conducting this investigation together.”

Carlos A. Canino, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division said, “We will work together in partnership and provide our expertise as a force multiplier to determine the origin and cause of this fire.”

The intense and exhausting blaze inside the two-story, 81,000 square-foot storage facility took more than 14 hours to fully extinguish after firefighters first arrived on scene around 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Eight LAFD firefighters were treated at the scene for injuries ranging from heat exhaustion to minor burns. Five firefighters were transported to local hospitals for evaluation. All five have subsequently been released from the hospital.

The estimated total monetary loss of the fire is still pending. This is the second activation of the NRT in Fiscal Year 2015 and the 762nd activation since the inception of the team in 1978.

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to investigate in partnership with Federal, State and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant arson and explosives incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to work jointly with State and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in onsite investigations.

In addition to investigating hundreds of large fire scenes, the NRT has also been activated to scenes such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, and the 9/11 Pentagon crash site, as well as explosions at explosives and ammunition manufacturing plants, legal fireworks factories and illegal explosive device manufacturing operations.

The teams are each composed of veteran special agents who have post blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise; forensic chemists; explosives enforcement officers; fire protection engineers; accelerant detection canines; explosives detection canines; intelligence support; computer forensic support and forensic audit support. The teams work alongside State and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to bombing/arson incidents.

Further complementing the team’s efforts are technical, legal and intelligence advisors. Moreover, a fleet of fully-equipped response vehicles strategically located throughout the United States is available to provide logistical support.

ATF is the federal agency with jurisdiction for investigating fires and crimes of arson. More information on ATF can be found at www.atf.gov

More information about the LAFD can be found at www.lafd.org and specific information about this fire can be found at www.lafd.org/news.

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“Serving with Courage, Integrity and Pride”

Public Service Officer
Emergency Public Information (EPI) Center
Los Angeles Fire Department
500 East Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

EPI-Center (213) 485-5162

Home Page: LAFD.org
News & Info: LAFD.org/blog

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LAFD and ATF National Response Team Media Availability at Site of Venice Storage Facility Fire

Los Angeles – Members from the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section will join officials from The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to hold a media availability on Tuesday, October 28, at 11:30 a.m. at 658 Venice Blvd., Venice 90291. Carlos A. Canino, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division, will discuss the status of the investigation into the cause of structure fire at a storage facility at that location on the night of Saturday, October 25.

At the request of the LAFD, due to the extensive damage to storage items inside the building and the potential for significant monetary losses, the ATF activated their NRT to assist in the ongoing investigation. The LAFD is committed to using all of the resources available to help determine the cause of this fire. The ATF team of approximately 20 agents and specialists will begin their work on site Tuesday morning, joining LAFD arson investigators and local ATF agents already involved in the case.

When: Tuesday, October 28
11:30 a.m.
Where: Extra Space Storage
658 Venice Blvd.
Venice, 90291
Who: LAFD Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section Battalion Chief Robert Nelson
ATF National Response Team Officials

Media Contact: LAFD Public Information Director Peter Sanders (213) 359-7141

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Please See Attachment: MA For ATF NRT Venice Media Availability.pdf

Do You Follow LAFD on Social Media?

https://twitter.com/LAFD @LAFD (breaking news)
@LAFDtalk (conversation & casual inquiries)
@LAFDChief (the Fire Chief’s thoughts)

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Final Fire Update Until Cause Is Released

*UPDATE: 658 Venice Blvd* KNOCKDOWN; 365 LAFD personnel worked
relentlessly through the night on a rotating basis to hold direct fire
damage to approx 1/3 of the (unk #) rental storage units in the 80,874
sq ft two-story building; The bulk of active flame was controlled within
6 hours, with full extinguishment at 9:56 AM (14 hrs 19 min); Eight LAFD
personnel suffered non-life threat injury; 3 of them required hospital
care, and were expected to be treated & released today; $ loss and fire
cause are TBD; We do NOT anticipate that business patrons will be able
to safely access their private storage units until Monday – Brian
Humphrey###

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