By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Some of the mobile residents, opponents complain, get stoned and deal drugs, sometimes lash out violently, scare children and use public gutters to empty septic tanks.
"I'm not heartless," says Abraham, who has lived in Venice for 21 years. "If I had a huge packet of my excrement and threw it on your front door, what could be worse than that? I don't get where that's okay. If someone decides to pull up to your house and have a party, you can't do anything about it because they know where you live."
Mark Ryavec, who lobbied hard for permit-parking zones that would have locked out many RV dwellers, says his opponents romanticize a population that brings down the quality of life.
"The left here in Venice doesn't want to see any rules," he says. " 'Keep Venice free' and all this crap. They think there's something romantic about people living in RVs. This is a marginal existence."
Kennedy says the Safe Parking idea first arose in 2003 at the Venice Neighborhood Council. Rosendahl's office picked up the idea later, as part of a three-pronged approach to RV-parking complaints. His strategy included resident-only "overnight-parking districts," since shot down by the California Coastal Commission, and limits on overnight parking for oversize vehicles.
Safe Parking is modeled after programs in Santa Barbara and Eugene, Oregon. In Santa Barbara, people who initially opposed the idea have warmed to it. It provides 103 spaces nightly, some at businesses where owners now appreciate the temporary residents serving as night watchmen, and RV dwellers relish the newfound responsibility. More than 30 in the last year were placed in permanent housing. "A lot of people were opposed" at first, says program coordinator Nancy Kapp.
After traveling to Santa Barbara and Eugene, Rosendahl hired Sophia Heller to identify potential lots and draw up a "request for proposal" — essentially a Help Wanted ad for a nonprofit to run the L.A. program. The locations could be anywhere in Rosendahl's sprawling Westside City Council District 11, but Venice is the focus.
However, Venice isn't Santa Barbara. Many RVs here don't seem to be running, and most dwellers seem too marginal to keep a schedule, DMV registration and other rules of behavior. It's hard to envision success.
On a recent afternoon, a young woman with a black eye skateboards outside her old Pace Arrow on Fourth and Vernon avenues. Arms in the air, fast-talking and animated with stories of being robbed and beaten, she's clearly high. Confronted with the prospect of having to drive to a special lot at night, she blows a gasket, grabbing a reporter's notebook, walking away and attempting to tear it in half.
"I need that," the reporter says. "That's my work."
"This," she says, waving the notebook at her RV, "this is my life."
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