Venice Group Files Appeal Against City, County for Allowing ‘Hazardous Waste’

By Sue Pascoe

On November 3, the Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) filed an appeal brief in its lawsuit against the City and County of Los Angeles for maintaining a dangerous public nuisance along the Venice Boardwalk and Venice Beach Recreation Area.

The complaint specified that governmental officials are allowing health and safety hazards to exist in open public spaces, including trash, drug paraphernalia, blood, human sewage, sleeping bags, bed rolls, tents, tarps, hammocks, camping equipment, umbrellas, canopies, furniture, canvases, bikes and carts.

VSA contends in the appeal that the city has stated that the material is “hazardous waste” and admits that the materials found on the Venice Boardwalk regularly include “human waste, needles, vermin and drug paraphernalia.”

Trash left uncollected by the City constitutes a public nuisance, according to the Venice Stakeholders Association. Photo: Sharon Kilbride

VSA contends that the city is not performing cleanup other than emptying trash bins on Friday, and that the hazardous waste, defecation and urine are not cleaned up.

The city and county dispute this, saying they are keeping the area reasonably clean, but the VSA has submitted evidence to contradict this claim, according to the appeal.

The VSA also alleges the city allows other nuisances, such as regular drug use, crime, excessively loud noises, harassment, vandalism of surrounding properties, illegal camping on public property and blocking of sidewalks by bulky items.

In its original complaint, filed in 2014, the VSA maintained that during the previ- ous five years, “on almost a daily basis,’’ the city and county had “failed to control and maintain’’ the Venice beach area and surrounding areas by allowing “transients and other individuals’’ to bring baggage, camping gear and personal belongings to the area at “all hours of the day and night.’

The complaint faulted the city for failing to enforce an ordinance that restricts people from setting up encampments to sleep overnight at the beach area, which is considered a park owned by the city and partly managed by the county.

When the lawsuit was filed in 2014, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the area, said he also was frustrated by the “deplorable conditions on and near Venice Beach’,’ but that the city’s own attempts to manage vending, sleeping in public areas, camping and trash in the area had all been stymied by the courts.

In 2015, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon ruled against the City and County’s effort to have the lawsuit dismissed, but that decision was later overturned by the Second District Court of Appeal, and this appeal to that court is an effort by VSA to keep its lawsuit moving forward.

The November appeal is specific: [VSA] “is not telling the City or County how to abate the nuisances. They just want the city and county to abate nuisances, including removal of what the city itself characterizes as ‘hazardous waste’ accumulating on the city and county’s properties.”

“The verified complaint does not demand stepped-up law enforcement, arrest of homeless people, or any other particular method of eradicating the nuisances. It merely seeks to have the city and county abate the nuisances, including ridding their property of dangerous hazardous waste.”

The appeal further clarifies: “The case was clearly not about requiring the City or County to provide additional law enforcement nor about arresting homeless people. It was about whether the City or County must clean up hazardous waste and abate other traditional nuisances they maintain on public areas of their property.”

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