Venice is one step closer to ending its de facto recreational vehicle campground status. According to the Los Angeles Times, the staff of the California Coastal Commission last week recommended that the Commission establish so-called “overnight parking districts” (OPDs) throughout five areas in Venice, in which parking between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. (or 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. in some of the OPDs) without a resident permit would be prohibited. According to The Argonaut, the Coastal Commission will hold a public hearing and will vote on the OPD issue on June 11, beginning at 8 a.m., at the Marina del Rey Hotel, located at 13534 Bali Way in Marina del Rey.
This latest development comes after years of controversy in which Venice homeowners were frequently pitted against advocates for public access and the homeless, since it is widely agreed that a significant portion of the people who sleep in their RVs and cars overnight on Venice streets are otherwise homeless. How did Venice become a mecca for these vehicle campers? According to one such driver, who appeared in a televised news report that I watched recently, Venice is attractive because of its pleasant climate and its “lax parking restrictions.” And by “lax,” she didn’t mean the nearby airport.
What isn’t completely clear is where the vehicles displaced by the new parking restrictions, if passed, would go. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice, has been quoted as favoring the possibility of designated overnight parking lots for these vehicles, based on a model used in other cities, such as Santa Barbara, CA and Eugene, OR. Presumably, these parking lots would be free to users. However, according to the Times article, the current Venice OPD proposal would not automatically establish such overnight designated parking areas, but rather, would merely keep several existing public pay parking lots near Venice Beach open 24 hours a day, which obviously would present a financial issue that the drivers did not have to face before on those free Venice streets.
As with other laws and regulations, however (can you say, hands-free cell phone law?), overnight parking restrictions in Venice will not mean a thing unless the police enforce them. Astonishingly, according to the Times article, overnight sleeping in vehicles on city streets in Venice is already prohibited. If that is true, and if such restrictions had been enforced all along, Venice would not likely have become the car campground of Los Angeles. Likewise, it is not clear whether vehicles with handicapped tags would be exempt from the overnight parking restrictions. If so, given that a signficant number of the RVs that camp in the Venice area have such tags, that could be a loophole big enough to drive a Winnebago through.
As they say, the devil is in the details.