Rose Ave. and Penmar Ave. has long been a hotspot of homeless issues in Venice, but a string of recent RV fires and the city of Los Angeles’ failure to remove a burned out bus for over a month has many residents at their wit’s end.
The vehicle in question exploded on Jan. 20, waking residents from their sleep and filling the surrounding area with toxic fumes. Thirty-eight days later it sits in place filled with trash, bottles, and needles, directly facing a public park where many children gather.
Sprawled across its side, neon yellow lettering displays a stark message: ‘BONINVILLE!’
The graffiti artist is unknown but the sentiment expressed is one shared by many local residents, who point fingers at CD-11 Councilman Mike Bonin for failing to address rising rates of homelessness and crime in Venice.
After a spate of fires and crimes in the fall, residents began counting the number of RVs on the roughly 0.4 mile strip of land on Rose Ave. between Penmar Ave. and Walgrove Ave. and along Penmar Ave. from Rose Ave. to Lake St.
On Nov. 4, the first count recorded 11 vehicles. On Feb. 24 the latest count reached 27.
The ‘Boninville’ RV is the third vehicle to catch fire by Penmar Park since September 2020. In the same time period there have been numerous encampment fires across Venice including a Jan. 13 incident that drew 116 firefighters and consumed a nearby commercial building.
Residents said that after five weeks of reporting the burned RV to CD-11 offices, a tow truck was dispatched to remove the vehicle on Wednesday.
When the truck arrived trash had been stuffed under and around the RV and a woman was sitting in front of the truck, appearing to protect it, said local resident Chie Lunn, who witnessed the tow truck drive away without attempting to remove the RV.
Councilman Mike Bonin said the tow company is responsible for failing to remove the RV.
“The Department of Transportation has reported it to the tow company that has the contract for the City and the company has not done it,” said Bonin. “If this company doesn’t get its ass in gear I want to explore severing the contract with them, because they are not providing the service the people of Los Angeles are paying them for.”
Residents said the slow response is reflective of local authorities’ typical attitude towards illegal campers.
Although parking by Penmar Park is banned between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., many RVs avoid enforcement by removing their license plates and vehicle IDs.
“This means that LADOT claims they cannot ticket them so they point the finger at the LAPD. LAPD points the finger at Bonin, Bonin points the finger at LAHSA last points the finger back at LADOT and around they go,” said local resident Philip Lunn. “All the while every night they park illegally and the lawlessness grows and grows.”
Residents reported that their quality of local life has seriously decreased in the past year — needles are consistently found in the park, break-ins have become more frequent, fires spread toxic chemicals, and parents fear for their children’s safety.
“It’s been insane. When the RVs blow up there is a huge boom and my kids are woken up and startled each time. I’ve had to deal with my daughter crying in my bed, petrified the whole night,” said Chie. “You can smell it through your windows. The air fills with horrific toxins that we should not have to deal with.”
The situation has been especially challenging for Chie, as her 7 and 10-year old children have been cooped up during the pandemic and she sorely wishes she could let them bike around the house safely or play in Penmar Park freely.
She said several of her neighbors have chosen to leave their homes either temporarily or permanently in recent months, rather than stay and live with the ongoing issues.
“This is what you call a societal breakdown,” said Philip. “Where the quality of life declines to the point where you just don’t want to live in the city you once loved.”