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Venice Residents On Edge After Another Fire Breaks Out At Boardwalk Encampment

VENICE (CBSLA) — Cellphone video shows flames once again erupting on the Venice Boardwalk over the weekend from one of the hundreds of tents that line the iconic space.

Venice Encampment
Venice residents say they are sympathetic to their unhoused neighbors living on the boardwalk, but want something done about the violence and fires that have broken out. (CBSLA)

"I worry about the people out there," Geno Quaid, a resident, said. "I mean, those are people, they're part of our community."

Quaid lives in a house that overlooks the boardwalk and the sprawling encampment. He said the fires happen all the time.

"There's violence, I'd say, every night: screaming, yelling, people creating anarchy," he said. "Used to be a beautiful place to have friends over. Now, no one wants to hang out on Venice Beach."

This weekend's fire was just one in a string of blazes and violent incidents reported in recent months. One blaze from January spread to nearby buildings, causing massive amounts of damage. The incidents have started to take a toll on residents.

"I'm worried," Emma Kazarian, a resident, said. "Around here, it's a very bad situation. Nobody cares about nobody. I mean, police officers just go, they don't give any attention."

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Fire Department launched a new fast response paramedic and fire unit — known as FR-9 — devoted to calls from along the boardwalk. Personnel have even introduced themselves to the unhoused who live on the boardwalk in an attempt to ease tensions and increase safety.

The new unit was formed after dozens of fires and violent incidents were reported.

"I certainly don't want to accept this as the norm," Tom Elliott, a business owner said.

Elliott owns Venice Ale House along the boardwalk. While the business was closed due to the pandemic, he allowed unhoused residents to take shelter in the outdoor area of his restaurant.

He said he wants to help, but he also wants solutions.

"Yes, we've had people get up and say, 'I'm sorry I'd rather go somewhere else,'" he said. "So we've definitely lost business. There is no question about it."

Councilman Mike Bonin, whose district includes Venice, said his office was working to temporarily relocate those living in the encampment to other areas within the district. Longer term, he said his office was working to get folks into more permanent living situations.

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