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Venice Residents Sue LA City, County For Failing To Enforce No-Camping Rules On Boardwalk

LOS ANGELES ( — A residents group sued the city and county of Los Angeles Thursday, claiming public officials have allowed dangerous conditions and nuisance problems to continue in Venice by failing to enforce no-camping rules on the beach and boardwalk.

"It has long been evident that the city and county enforce 'no camping' laws in all of their parks, except the Venice Beach Recreation Area," said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.

He compared the "pristine condition of the park next to City Hall or Grand Park next to the Hall of Administration" in downtown Los Angeles with that of the Venice Beach Recreation Area, which he said has been getting "unequal treatment" from city and county officials.

The City Attorney's Office declined to comment on the lawsuit, which also names Venice residents and property owners Gary Harris, Jack Hoffmann, Arthur Kraus, David Krintzman and Brad Neal as plaintiffs. County officials also declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

The plaintiffs say that, for the past five years, the city and county has failed to control and maintain the Venice Boardwalk and surrounding areas by allowing transients to bring baggage, camping gear and personal belongings to the area at all hours of the day and night. Ryavec compared Venice Beach's recreation area to a "lawless Skid Row encampment," where drug sales and use, public inebriation, urination and defecation are permitted.

"Venice residents, as well as visitors, are precluded from enjoying a stroll along the boardwalk, from walking their dog along the boardwalk or on the adjoining grass areas, or from sitting quietly under the pagodas or on the benches by the skate park, for fear of the danger presented by the constant presence of mentally ill and/or drug or alcohol-addicted individuals," the lawsuit says.

Attorney Rob Glushon said state law requires property owners to keep their property in a condition that does not cause harm to others.

"Both the city and county need to take action to abate the intolerable conditions at Venice Beach, which are a serious threat to public health and safety," Glushon said.

Ryavec said the city and county have not responded to demands they clean up the area.

"The lack of enforcement of existing laws makes the hundreds of campers living along Venice Beach feel they can do anything they want with impunity," Ryavec said. "The result is that harassment, intimidation, trespass, vandalism, home invasions and burglaries are common."

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck and Councilman Mike Bonin -- who represents the area -- were in Venice Wednesday to discuss public safety issues with local residents and property owners.

In a Facebook post, Bonin said Beck came to see firsthand the public safety challenges of an area that is a neighborhood, as well as a park, a business district and international tourist attraction.

"The chief spoke with weary residents and business owners who pleaded for more cops, got screamed at by a snake charmer, witnessed an arrest, had his path blocked by police tape due to a suspicious package, and got photo-bombed by scores of French tourists," the councilman wrote.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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