Social Control

Teresa Skinner of the LAPD helps give insight on issues of social control in the community of Venice. She is a 14 year veteran of the force and describes a part of her position as a liaison between the community and police officers. Venice, once plagued with gang activities in the 80’s and 90’s, gang crime is now not at the top of the reported social control problems. Instead, she confirms that “95% of the issues that she oversees are with regard to the homeless”. Some of the homeless refuse shelter even if it is available because some are concerned about their animals which shelters and transitional housing cannot always accommodate. With regard to gang intervention, the Vera Davis McClendon Family Center, staffs gang interventionist specialists that help in intervening with vulnerable youth.

According to the Venice Community Housing Corporation, it is illegal convert space into homes without strict inspection, a practice referred to as bootleg housing. Inspections are made of every rental unit every few years and inspectors order owners to remove the converted living spaces even though there is a shortage of affordable housing in the community. Affordable housing is becoming scarce on the Westside, especially Venice which is experiencing gentrification like many other communities in southern California. Venice is the last remaining beach front areas on the Westside to transition to million dollar property values located between pricey Santa Monica and Marina del Rey. In addition, much of the new construction requires space available for parking and thus, decreases the ability to develop affordable housing. Also, the Mello Act requires that a portion of development projects within 1 mile of the coastal zone include affordable housing, however, this state law is not being enforced by the City of L.A.

Parking has been a topic of great controversy in the Venice community. The great debate has been between homeless individuals who park their RV’s and cars filled with their personal belonging and between the some of the residents who simply do not want them parked in front of their properties and homes because they are aesthetically unpleasing. Theresa Skinner (LAPD Senior lead officer in the area) said that the police department receives numerous complaints about homeless individuals parking in front of their homes for days. Continuous protesting by community members have led to new ordinances that state that a vehicle cannot stay in the same area for longer than 72hrs. People such as the officer Skinner who are there to serve are torn between residents who do not want homeless individuals in the area and the homeless individuals who do not have no where else to go and are not harming anyone by parking their Vehicle in the street. In reality, all individuals have to do is move their vehicle 6inches and technically they get another 72hrs in the spot. Easy said than done when one takes gas into consideration, which can be an expense many of these homeless individuals cannot meet.

Walking through Rose Ave. all the way down to the board walk one sees the diversity in this community. Everything from the trendy shop/home to the vacant uncared for lot. This community is mixed in their feelings about the homeless population. Some residents are very generous and feel compelled to help. Others simply do not want anything to do with the individuals and have done anything in their power to get ordinances adopted to make the lives of the homeless population in the area more difficult. Maybe it is because they feel that the growing resources for homeless individuals will attract more to the area and thus deteriorate the neighborhood and bring down property value? It’s a tough call to generalize whether the community really minds homelessness in the area. An example is William, a homeless man who lives a few yards away from the entrance of the Venice family clinic. In William’s case it seems by accounts, (from officer Skinner who know him very well )that he is embraced by his neighbors who bring him Starbucks coffee everyday, food, and even take his clothes home and wash it. In visiting this community one sees that there is no clear answer on how the majority feel only about the homeless in the area. The boardwalk itself gives a feel of the culture of its own Venice has. There, one can find many homeless individuals camping out, local residents enjoying a stroll down the boardwalk, or people dining at very nice restaurants. At the same time, there are abandoned graffiti filled boarded up buildings next to million dollar developments, next to mom and pop shop, followed by a campsite set up by someone homeless. What’s more interesting is that the boardwalk is home to the Phoenix house, a rehab center for drug users. After visiting this community one should realizes that Venice is what it is. Different from any other community in the city yet one that gives condenses all the different lives of Angelenos.

From an outsider perspective, Venice is known for its Beach with eclectic t-shirt vendors, souvenir shops, boardwalk, muscle beach and cafes to the trendy shops and cafes along Abbott Kinney Drive (founder of Venice). Venice was also the setting for the film “American History X” that describes the story of gangs on the Westside. Locals in the Southern California region are often cued to the thought of gangs on the Westside with the Venice 13 and Culver City gangs when mentioning Venice. This activity has been brought under some control in recent years as confirmed with Officer Skinner. None the less, persons who have purchased million dollar properties here in recent years seem to have become desensitized to the gang activities with the on going sounds of police helicopters overhead. The new residents building there million dollar homes have erected very high walls that fend off these issues.

However, as Mona Davis, a life time resident and activist in Venice suggests, “you may wonder what these affluent people are doing behind their big walled in properties”, properties that set next to small California bungalows owned by lifetime Venice residents. Inside the community, one observes the profound proportion of homeless that reside in Venice. Venice has agencies already mentioned in this blog that are committed to helping the diversity and socioeconomic status of residents of Venice. While walking along Rose Ave. the first day of Community Immersion, one could not deny noticing the number of police and emergency vehicles called to a situation of a citizen on this day. There were nearly two dozen emergency and law enforcement personnel on scene for this crisis.

submitted by: Tim Fischer and Cynthia Martinez

No comments: