While Venice residents await the world’s best coffee shop, they are dealing with a more bitter tasting issue. As the Los Angeles Times reported last month, the problem of overnight camping in recreational vehicles (“RVs”) in Venice is boiling over. Los Angeles Metblogs has covered the issue of overnight RV camping in Los Angeles area neighborhoods for some time. The latest development in Venice is the proposal, credited to City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, to create so-called “special zones” away from the neighborhood streets, where people would be able to spend the night in their vehicles. According to the Times, Santa Barbara, CA and Eugene, OR have such parking zones.
Without going into the history of the RV camping problem in Venice, suffice it to say that there are two competing interests. On one hand, it’s likely that many of the people living in their RVs and cars on Venice streets are otherwise homeless, and the country’s economic recession, or depression, is only making the problem worse. Obviously, no sane person wants to throw these folks out of their vehicles and literally on the streets. On the other hand, many Venice homeowners say that the RV campers not only take away parking spaces from Venice residents, they are also a threat to public safety, health, and property values. In last week’s local Argonaut newspaper, Venice resident Georgann Abraham, on behalf of the Venice Stakeholders Association, took out a near-full page ad in which she related that “I … heard my neighbor yelling at a woman, who had been living in an RV in front of our homes, as she was about to dump a very large bucket of urine and feces in front of our homes.” Abraham points out that such raw sewage dumped from RVs onto the streets eventually makes its way into the Santa Monica Bay, where it threatens the health of swimmers and local residents.
This Saturday, February 21st, from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM, Venice voters will be able to vote in a special election being held by the Venice Neighborhood Council at the Venice Public Library. The election consists of two ballot initiatives on whether Venice residents may continue to establish “Overnight Parking Districts” which restrict overnight parking to residents and public safety officers. According to Abraham’s ad, currently, Venice residents may establish such parking restrictions in their local “blocks” by a 2/3 vote, and the first of the two voting initiatives, if passed, would take away this right.
I’m not enough of an expert to know whether the special zones proposal, in conjunction with the continued right to establish overnight parking restrictions on Venice streets, is the best solution. However, I do know that RV camping in Venice is a problem, and, amid all the accusations and name-calling on both sides, the special zones idea is the only actual proposed solution that I have heard.