June 11, 2010

Coastal Commission backs away from settlement agreement on Venice Beach

By Coastal Commission backs away from settlement agreement on Venice Beach

Author:  Luke A. Wake

The California Coastal Commission has voted against approval of a settlement agreement that its staff proposed with the Venice Beach Stakeholders Association weeks ago.

For years, the streets of Venice Beach have been clogged with nonresident vehicles who camp out for long periods in their cars. These rental cars, trucks, campers, and vans have blocked the streets, prevented residents from parking near their homes, and undermined beach-goers' access to the ocean. Worse, many of the vehicles have been used as living quarters for transients, giving rise to crime, litter, public urination and defecation, and giving the neighborhood a cramped, unpleasant, and even dangerous atmosphere.

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To address these problems, Venice residents sought the establishment of Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs). These are used throughout the City of Los Angeles and other areas to regulate parking in residential neighborhoods during early morning hours - in Venice's case, from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. The City agreed and established OPDs in those areas of Venice within its jurisdiction; with the support of Commission staff, the City also established OPDs in Venice areas subject to the dual jurisdiction of the City and the Commission. But the California Coastal Commission, in a typical grab for increased power, characterized the OPDs as "developments" and proceeded to set all OPDs aside.

A group of Venice residents filed a suit last fall challenging the Commission's power grab, and Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys joined the effort as amicus. PLF's argument is that an OPD is not a "development," and therefore falls outside the Commission's purview. Jurisdictional laws are not elastic. They do not stretch to encompass whatever meaning the Coastal Commission would like to give them.

After suit was filed, and after one brave legislator threatened to remove the parking decisions from the Commission's jurisdiction, Coastal Commission staff, City staff, and Venice residents reached a tenative settlement agreement that would have allowed the OPDs from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. The City of Los Angeles approved the settlement, but on Thursday, Coastal Commissioners rejected it. With the Commission's decision, the lawsuit will likely move forward.  

Paul Beard, speaking on behalf of PLF's Coastal Land Rights Project, said, "The Commission is showing contempt for the legal limits on its power and contempt for the homeowners at Venice Beach. The Commission is standing in the way of the safety and security of homeowners in Venice, who are being victimized by a really ugly situation."

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