Venice’s battle to prevent RVs from camping on its streets took a new turn this past week, when the Venice Stakeholders Association filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the California Coastal Commission for denying Venice’s bid to create overnight parking districts (“OPDs”). The OPD plan would have prohibited parking on certain Venice streets for several hours in the middle of the night. The main goal was to prevent RVs from camping on these streets for days, weeks, and months on end. Venice residents have complained for years that these RVs dump raw sewage and create other sanitary and safety problems in the neighborhoods. However, the Coastal Commission, in what used to be termed a “cosmic wimpout,” decided in June that it didn’t want to wade into the “social problem” of homelessness, but its decision voting down the Venice OPD plan had the effect of taking a side against Venice residents on the issue anyway.
The lawsuit by Venice Stakeholders Association alleges that the Coastal Commission has no business being involved in the OPD decision at all. The OPD plan is considered “development” under the Coastal Act, which requires Coastal Commission approval, but, as the lawsuit points out, the OPD plan doesn’t involve any “development,” just a few new or changed street signs. The lawsuit also alleges that the Coastal Commission, by permitting the RVs to remain on Venice streets for long stretches of time, is failing to do its duty to protect the ocean from raw sewage which is allegedly being dumped from these RVs and which works its way into the water via storm drains.
I think the Venice residents have made some good points in their lawsuit. I also found the argument on which the Coastal Commission based its June decision — that requiring RVs to park in designated parking areas that were closer to the beach somehow threatens access of people to the coast — completely upside down. The Coastal Commission ignored the fact that, in the current situation, the constant presence of so many RVs in public street parking spaces hinders coastal access by visitors to Venice (who, by the way, spend lots of money at local Venice businesses), including people visiting the homeowners, since they have more trouble finding street parking.
Advocates for the homeless have shrewdly but cynically convinced people that anyone who wants to prevent RVs from camping permanently on Venice residential streets is a cold-hearted bastard. That’s a false choice. The OPD plan specifically provided for alternative (and arguably better) parking for the RVs, close to the beach. Councilman Bill Rosendahl wants to go further and set up local safe parking zones with facilities for the RVs. But even given that many people are homeless and struggling in this Depression 2.0 and we must come up with good solutions to help them, turning Venice streets into the world’s free beachside RV campground, with no facilities, for homeless and voluntary off-the-grid people is not the solution. If I were a Venice homeowner, I would be steamed at what the Coastal Commission did in June, and I would eagerly have joined in this lawsuit.
It appears that this issue is going to continue to be a hot one.