Jim Bickhart testimony before the California Coastal Commission, 6/10/10

I’m Jim Bickhart, a resident at 31-1/2 Breeze Avenue in the Venice North Beach neighborhood. I am a 41-year resident of the dual permit zone. I was a resident of the dual permit zone before there WAS a dual permit zone and I have always welcomed the public to the public’s beach in Venice.

I am also an employee of the City of Los Angeles on furlough today, and not here representing that entity.  I have to say, with heavy heart no less, that I strongly feel that the mission upon which my colleagues in the City family are before you today is one not befitting a great 21st century city or its leaders. It is an exercise in bad faith and crass political expediency, a colossal failure of imagination and an even larger failure of public policy.

Today you’ve heard, among other things, that current conditions hinder beach access. A simple review of the majority of complaints and City enforcement actions would reveal that they are occurring primarily 6-12 blocks inland. The notion that these are prime beach access parking areas after 2 a.m. is obviously off-base. And, if the idea actually IS to block beach access parking during daylight hours, then there is a clear public access impact with overnight permits.

The City has listed a multitude of problems, from defecation and crime to clogged streets, that OPDs will allegedly solve. So would enforcing existing laws and using the oversized vehicle restrictions that are currently pending before the City Council. There is no need for OPDs in order to address them.

(undelivered portion)

You also just heard from Mr. Henning a claim that people in buses and RVs parked on these streets somehow wouldn’t be regulated by the “untried experiment” represented by the oversized vehicle regulations. That is absurd on its face.

In stark contrast to the debate here in Venice over the homeless and sleeping in vehicles, a recent article in the Sacramento Bee noted that the Sacramento police and city officials actually encourage people to sleep in vehicles rather than on the sidewalk. What do they know that we can’t seem to figure out? Why can’t we figure out how to accommodate what is clearly a superior arrangement for someone living without a roof over his or her head than sleeping on a sidewalk? No one opposing OPDs in Venice is advocating that Venice be the location for all such vehicular dwellers in LA. And indeed it already is not.

In the end, the reasons you should once again deny these applications are clear:

1.  The City of Los Angeles has failed to follow the Commission’s June 2009 guidance to try to solve the problems itself and instead has wasted the year acting in bad faith, pursuing litigation and legislation to circumvent the previous decision and erode the Commission’s fundamental authority in the area of public access.

2.  The City of Los Angeles has failed to follow the Commission’s November 2009 guidance to use a regulatory and environmentally less impactful alternative and instead folded it into a sequence of events that will inevitably lead to the imposition of OPDs.

3.  The Commission has the legal high ground regarding the question of its jurisdiction over permit parking based on more than 30 years of precedent, and this proposal surrenders it unnecessarily and to the detriment of the integrity of the Commission and the Coastal Act.

You did the right thing last year by turning down the City’s application. Do the right thing again and turn it down today. If the matter ends up in court, you should be as confident as we are that 35 years of solid legal and legislative precedent will be upheld.

Karen Wolfe Testimony
Section 30253 of the Coastal Act states that new development shall, where appropriate, protect special communities and neighborhoods that, because of their unique characteristics, are popular points for recreational uses.
Section 30116 requires protection of special communities or neighborhoods which are significant visitor destination areas. Areas that provide existing coastal housing or recreational opportunities for low-and moderate-income persons.
Venice is a unique and vibrant and baffling community and it has always been diverse and tolerant. That was the vision of its founder Abbot Kinney. He started with the black craftsmen. He left his black chauffeur a house. The white neighbors didn’t like that and so the house was moved in 1926 to the Oakwood neighborhood of Venice where he lived and where the house sits today.
Venice was a center for the beat poets. One of our pubs was recently named a landmark because they congregated there and created poetry that transformed a generation.
Venice has always been a place for the strange and wonderful. People from all over the world come to see the artists, the art, architecture and, yes, the freaks. When people from East LA come to swim, they don’t go to Pacific Palisades. They come to Venice.
Many of us residents take it as a responsibility to be stewards of the largest tourist destination in California, to balance our own desires and those of our families and our businesses, with the rights of the public.
A small number of people, cleverly named but organized with the sole purpose of restricting parking in Venice, funded by who knows who, backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, has spent the last year dividing our community with the goal of finalizing total gentrification.
You see, this is not about parking problems because many alternative solutions exist. The safe parking program gets these RV’s off the streets, it provides waste management. Therefore it’s an important mitigation that hasn’t been tried. Our LAPD has said this will be an effective tool.
For decades, Venice has resisted urges to become an exclusive enclave. Over 60% of Venice residents are renters like me. Many spaces in the lots set aside for mitigation are currently used by renters. Eliminating their parking will eliminate this class of housing in Venice.
The only thing standing in the way of Venice Beach and Miami Beach is the Coastal Act and you commissioners. Please consider Sections 30253 and 30116 when you determine our fate today.