Venice Beach residents blast Los Angeles officials over crime, homeless encampment safety concerns
Venice Stakeholders Association says LA could be liable if fires from camp spread through neighborhood
A group of Venice Beach, California, residents warned city leadership they could be liable for multimillion-dollar lawsuit payouts for not enforcing laws banning overnight homeless encampments.
An attorney for the Venice Stakeholders Association sent a letter to several City of Los Angeles offices last week on behalf of residents concerned that "transient-related fires" could once again jump to personal properties, KABC-TV reported. Residents fear the fires could spread to their homes or businesses, causing damage to structures and tenants’ belongings and posing a serious risk to personal injury or loss of life.
"There will be no question that the city had been warned of this danger," the letter states, arguing that should a fire spread to homes, the city could be liable if it continues to fail to enforce the overnight curfew order and remove tents, encampments and other personal items.
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"We’re putting the city on notice that if there is a loss of life," Mark Ryavec, president of the association, explained, "they are clearly already negligent and they already face a huge settlement."
His remarks come as Los Angeles is set to host the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Two homeless men were caught on surveillance cameras last week allegedly lighting fire to 15 trash cans along the boardwalk overnight and setting a cardboard box on fire, destroying a park bench. Since then, residents have grown increasingly concerned of a repeat of a January 2021 incident where a fire at a homeless encampment spread to an unoccupied two-story building. The massive blaze took more than 200 firefighters to put out, the structure was destroyed, and the owner is suing Los Angeles.
"We're very, very concerned that one of these is going to jump to a building, and God forbid it jumps to a building that has people living in it," Ryavec said in a separate interview this week with KTLA. "A lot of these second stories here are all apartments, and many of them are old, wooden structures."
More than 200 homeless campers were cleared from Venice Beach in a major operation this summer, but the Venice Stakeholders Association says about 70 people remain living on the boardwalk.
"They never finished the job," Ryavec told KTLA of city leadership. "They never got the last 70. They never got them either in psychiatric care or the meds, the rehab, the housing, whatever it is they still need, they just gave up and declared victory, and it wasn’t over."
A December poll conducted by the Los Angeles Business Council and the Los Angeles Times found nearly four in 10 voters said homeless people in their neighborhood made them feel significantly unsafe.
Ryavec admitted the boardwalk has improved during the day, but at night it remains a different story.
Los Angeles Police Department and sanitation crews come every Thursday to clear out campers, KABC reported, but Ryavec argues the current situation warrants them to come more frequently, at least three times a week, in order to reduce the safety concerns posed by overnight campers.
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"It's illegal to camp on Venice Beach," Ryavec said. "And we want that message established by enforcement of the rules that exist."
In addition to the homeless encampment, crime associated with the boardwalk has remained a concern.
A tourist from Florida was shot in a leg and robbed Wednesday when a group of masked men approached him and his girlfriend as they walked from Venice Beach back to their rental car, Fox 11 of Los Angeles reported. The thieves made off with his watch and fled in another vehicle. The man was taken to a hospital, but his condition was not immediately known.