By Greta Cobar
A bigger-than-usual crowd showed up to the June 19 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting to hear City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich.
His opening speech exemplified his job duties of defending the city in lawsuits, of “representing the people of California,” as he put it. He went on to flaunt his job performance by claiming to have removed all illegal billboards in Venice, to have won many lawsuits that saved the city millions of dollars, and to have overall increased our quality of life. What about the illegal electronic billboard on Lincoln and Washington?
A question-and-answer session followed, with Linda Lucks, President of the VNC, asking him to clarify the terms of the Jones Settlement (Jones vs. City of L.A., 2007). Trutanich stated that because of the aforementioned ruling, the city cannot enforce prohibition of sleeping on any sidewalk between the hours of 9pm and 6am.
As far as personal belongings, Trutanich did not agree with the consensus in the room that the city cannot seize them. However, because of another lawsuit, Lavan vs. City of L.A., there is a restraining order in effect prohibiting the city from seizing or destroying property from homeless camps.
According to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, “if someone claims that items in the streets are their personal belongings, the city cannot remove those items without risk of legal repercussions.”
This is not the first time we heard conflicting statements coming from supposedly trusted officials. During the January 23 VNC meeting Lieutenant Paola Kreefft blatantly misinformed the public that the Jones settlement, allowing people to lie on the sidewalk between 9pm and 6am, is valid only on Skid Row as a result of a recent re-interpretation by a judge. During the January meeting neither she nor Arturo Pina, who was making similar claims, was able to provide further details as to what case, when and where.
The remainder of the question-and-answer session was dominated by Venetians who spoke up to voice concerns more so than to ask questions. Trutanich provided no solutions or answers, but used each opportunity to flash his victories in different lawsuits.
Because both the public and Trutanich did not observe time limits, not everyone who turned in a card to ask a question was able to speak. The Beachhead reporter, amongst others, was not given that opportunity.
When a Beachhead reporter approached Trutanich as he was leaving the VNC meeting and asked about the legality of the beach curfew now in effect midnight to 6am on Ocean Front Walk and the beach, Trutanich responded that it is in effect due to public safety concerns, such as someone drowning.
A Beachhead reporter challenged Trutanich’s statements by quoting Charles Posner, Coastal Program Analyst with the California Coastal Commission (CCC), who had previously stated that “the city does not have any approval from the CCC to implement the curfew.”
In a phone conversation with the Beachhead in January, Posner went on to say that under the Coastal Act the city needs a permit for “any sort of curfews or restrictive ordinances that have such a negative impact on coastal access.” The curfew is in clear violation of the Coastal Act of 1976, according to which “the public should have 24 hour access to the beaches.”
Trutanich was somewhat at a loss for words when challenged with these statements, and walked away while authoritatively stating that public safety supercedes everything else.
We all know by now that the curfew was established to rid OFW of the homeless population, in violation of the Jones settlement. Saving people from drowning in the middle of the night not only was never a concern, but it is a poor fabrication on the part of a city attorney.
Happily, Trutanich’s efforts of replacing Steve Cooley as our county district attorney failed during the June 5 election. Sadly, we are still stuck with him as city attorney.