Venice residents want city officials to crack down on people living in RVs, dumping sewage

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Brian Watt/KPCC

A Chevy Van and an RV serve as homes in Venice

VENICE - Venice activists are calling on city officials to accelerate plans for prohibiting overnight parking and crack down on people living in recreational vehicles who illegally dump raw sewage.

Tensions boiled over last week when it took activists several days to get city officials to summon cleanup crews to three alleged dumping sites.

"Don't dump on Venice is our demand,'' said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association. "We are asking that the city post signs against oversize vehicles parking in front of our houses, and we want the cops to finally start enforcing the city ordinance that prohibits sleeping in parked
vehicles.''

Venice has long been a beacon to free spirits, but the burgeoning number of people living in RVs in recent years has tested the town's reputation as a live-and-let-live zone.

When the municipal parking lot on the beach at Rose Avenue closes around sundown, dozens of RV dwellers fire up their rigs and limp a few blocks inland to find overnight parking -- along Venice Boulevard, off Rose Avenue at Fourth, Fifth and Sixth avenues and throughout the Oakwood neighborhood.

And now, people are living in as many as 250 RVs around Venice, according to Ryavec.

Members of several Venice community groups formed a consortium and will hold a news conference today to decry what they say is a lack of action by the city of Los Angeles and the state Coastal Commission to reduce the number of people living in vehicles.

The arrest of 28-year-old Lindsey Estilette, who was booked on suspicion of illegally dumping sewage but initially released without being charged, became a rallying point for activists who want the RVs banned.

Once City Attorney Carmen Trutanich realized how outraged Venice residents were, he promised to prosecute the woman.

Venice-area City Councilman Bill Rosendahl announced the formation of a working group to develop better protocols for reporting, cleaning up, investigating and prosecuting anyone caught dumping human waste.

While some beach areas are set up to accommodate RVs -- such as Dockweiler State Beach, where overnight camping is allowed and holding tank pump-out stations are available -- Venice is not.

Ryavec's group has been working to ban the overnight parking of oversize vehicles on residential streets, but he claims city officials have been dragging their feet, while Rosendahl scrambles to set up an overnight RV parking program modeled on a successful one in Santa Barbara.

"We have studied this to death,'' Ryavec said.

His group has sued the California Coastal Commission, which declined to assert its jurisdiction over the parking issue, saying it was primarily a social problem.

"We have raw sewage running onto the sand at Rose Avenue, and if the Coastal Commission cannot see that to be an effect on the coast, then they have a problem,'' Ryavec said.

"They said we didn't have evidence of a problem,'' he said. "Well, how's this for evidence?''

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