City of L.A.

Open letter to Councilman Mike Bonin

By Mark Lipman

As you have stated on several occasion, homelessness is a very important issue that you want to help find a solution to. To that, I would like to bring to your attention that today, a friend (who I shall not name) and long time Venice resident has become homeless and tonight will spend his first night on the streets.  His situation came about through no fault of his own, but rather due to systemic flaws in our government.  In short, he was made homeless due to yet another 5% rent increase.

As you may know, Los Angeles is the only city in the entire country to maintain a mandated minimum 3% rent increase every single year.  That, along with “pass down” laws, which allow landlords to pass down utility hikes to their tenants, has meant that for the past several years the tenants of Los Angeles have had to face 5% increases in their rent with no relief in sight.  Rents are already too damn high and we’re just expected to pay more and more and more, until we can no longer afford it and wind up on the streets.

Ask any doctor and they will tell you, if you want to save the patient, you must first stop the bleeding.  Likewise, if you want to solve homelessness, you must first stop the hemorrhaging of bodies onto the streets.

Over the years, we have seen the City Council reject, time and again, a rent freeze for Los Angeles, with renters and landlords sided up against each other in council chambers.  This is not a question of tenant versus landlord, but rather that both groups are being made victims of a system that profits over dividing us, while relentlessly impoverishing us all through incremental measures.

It is wrong for our populace to be expected to pay higher rents and higher fees every single year, while the directors of DWP cash in on extravagant salaries and benefits, and city officials feed at the public troth.  It is wrong that the price of our water should be doubled in order for the governor to siphon off our precious water supply (during the worst drought on record) to the oil and gas industry, in the guise of trying to save the Bay Delta, while making Los Angeles rate payers flip the bill.  It is wrong that we are all nickled and dimed into poverty at every turn, while all the fat at the very top goes unchecked.

To halt this, I am calling on you, as an ally and as the most progressing voice on the City Council, to stand up and take the lead in correcting this situation.  Eliminate the 3% floor on rent increases, stop the fee hikes for our basic services and freeze the rents, so that finally we can stop and catch our breath and reverse the epidemic of homelessness that is plaguing Los Angeles.

Secondly, as I’m sure you are also aware, on January 18th, a coalition of groups and individuals held a “sleep out” at Windward Circle in Venice, to rally public support for a Homeless Bill of Rights.  In response, and I’m sure very coincidentally, yesterday, the LAPD started posting “No Trespassing” at Windward Circle and began issuing tickets.

It would appear that suddenly, out of the blue, Windward Circle is no longer “public property” but under the jurisdiction of Waste Management. How Orwellian!  Suddenly, when a space for public gathering becomes too inconvenient for the powers that be, it is “discovered” that the space “is, and always has been” closed to the public.  This is an outrage.  This is exactly what the city did to Ocean Front Walk (in violation of the California Constitution and the Coastal Act) when over-night it implemented a curfew.  It is the same thing the City Council did when the public, under the constitutionally protected rights of Freedom of Assembly, became too much of a nuisance on the lawn of City Hall.  And it is what our city government does every single time the citizens stand up and demand answers.

This strong arm behavior by our government – the criminalization of our basic civil and human rights – will in no means shut down dissent.  It will only make us louder and ask more questions.

So, as your constituent, I ask you, What are you going to do about it?

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