Bus Yard Homeless Shelter Lawsuit

A rendition of how the shelter would look from Main Street. Photo: Courtesy Councilmember Mike Bonin.

Venice Stakeholders Association takes legal action against the City of Los Angeles.

By Sam Catanzaro

The Venice Stakeholders Association (VSA) has filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission (CCC), challenging their approval of a 154-bed homeless shelter in Venice Beach, in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Coastal Act and other laws.

“The City and the Coastal Commission jammed this project through the system and bypassed the environmental laws and the Coastal Act,” said Mark Ryavec, president of the VSA, a non-profit corporation dedicated to protecting Venice residents and their neighborhoods. “No government or project is immune from these laws.”   

The homeless shelter in question, which was approved by Los Angeles City Council in December and part of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s A Bridge Home program, is planned for the 3.15-acre former MTA bus yard that takes up an entire block between Pacific Avenue and Main Street south of Sunset Avenue.

MTA closed the lot in 2015 after receiving multiple offers from developers interested in the site. The property can be used for housing for the next three years; however, because there is no deal in place.

The Council vote in December, in addition to approving the construction of the shelter, exempted the project from a full California Environmental Air Quality Act review, which lawmakers say will expedite the building process.

The VSA lawsuit contends that the City refused to do any environmental review for the project under CEQA, and the Coastal Commission granted the City a waiver from the usual requirement of a Coastal Development Permit, thereby avoiding any analysis of the impacts of the project on coastal resources such as parking and water quality.

“Just because the City and the Coastal Commission think this project will benefit the public doesn’t mean they can avoid considering its impacts under the environmental laws and the Coastal Act,”  Ryavec said.

Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Venice and has been an outspoken advocate for the bridge housing center, responded to the filing of the lawsuit by saying legal action will make the issue of homelessness in the area worse.

“It is disappointing how consistently VSA will fight to prevent solutions to homelessness. We face a stark choice between providing housing and shelter or allowing the proliferation of sidewalk encampments in our neighborhoods. By fighting against solutions, VSA perpetuates the problem and makes it exponentially worse,” Bonin said.