Following the intensification of homeless interventions on the Venice Boardwalk, an increasing number of tents have appeared on the adjacent Santa Monica beaches.
Both the Santa Monica Police Department and local service providers are aware of the shift and have doubled down on outreach efforts in the area.
On June 27, LA City Councilman Mike Bonin’s “Venice Beach Encampment to Home” program launched with a promise to connect nearly 200 people to housing and restore the Boardwalk to public use. Two weeks prior to this, Sheriff Alex Villanueva began independent homeless interventions in the Boardwalk with a publicly announced goal to clear the area by July 4.
These two dates align with the uptick in homelessness on local beaches as documented by the SMPD’s Homelessness Liaison Program officers, who regularly patrol the beach. Upon first contact HLP officers conduct an interview to advise people on the laws against camping on the beach and offer them resources. On the second contact HLP officers may issue misdemeanor citations.
From June 22 to June 27, prior to the start of Bonin’s program, HLP officers issued three citations and conducted four interviews on Santa Monica’s beaches.
However, from July 5 to July 8, after the Sheriff’s deadline and Bonin’s program launched, HLP officers issued nine citations and conducted 21 interviews in the same area.
“Starting early last week (week of June 28), we began to see an increase in the number of tents in the south beach areas by the border,” said SMPD Lieutenant Rudy Flores. “We have increased the number of officers working on the beach. We will continue to monitor the activity in the area and make the necessary changes when needed.”
Flores expressed confidence that the HLP teams were well equipped to deal with the influx of individuals camping mainly on the southern end of the beach. This is due both to the City’s ability to enforce ordinances as well as its network of service partners including West Coast Care and The People Concern.
From the perspective of Zachary Coil, who is the Director of Westside Outreach in the People Concern Mental Health Department, the onrush of homeless individuals in Santa Monica is more of a trickle than a flood.
“We see a few people who seem to be moving across the border, but for the most part, people are staying on the Venice side of the sand,” said Coil. “They know better than we all do about what they can do and can’t do in each area. Santa Monica has municipal codes that are able to be enforced, so I believe that does reduce the flow of people.”
Unlike Venice, which is in the City of LA, Santa Monica has adequate shelter beds to legally enforce ordinances against public camping and having tents on the beach. These municipal codes result in misdemeanor penalties, which will not lead to an arrest without repeated infractions or prior crimes, but can serve as a deterrent to the growth of encampments.
The People Concern leads outreach efforts on the Santa Monica Beach five days a week through the C3 team, which is one of the City Council’s initiatives to address homelessness. Coil said he had expected unhoused individuals to come to Santa Monica’s beaches in response to the ongoing initiatives to clean up the Boardwalk.
“With the extensive outreach that’s being performed, there are going to be some people who are going to avoid the area and get out of the area, just to avoid the scrutiny or because they’re not interested, or they feel like they are not wanted there,” said Coil.
Both The People Concern and SMPD have an eye on the area and will continue to conduct their respective outreach and enforcement efforts.
“It’s not as large of a problem as we were expecting, and we’re prepared to handle whatever will be coming our way along with our other partners in the city,” said Coil. “The energy of both sides of the equation (law enforcement and service providers) is focused in this area and we’re going to do our best to not just maintain the status quo, but improve the situation as it is.”