THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:
With swelling transient encampments abutting seven-figure homes, the beachside enclave has emerged as a flashpoint for the inequality shaping Los Angeles — and a real-world test case for the liberal ideology of the area’s showbiz residents.
After the first attack, Randy Osborn figured it was just his turn. Tire slashings in his east Venice Beach neighborhood had become commonplace. But when his vintage Land Rover was hit a sixth time in the course of a few months, Osborn, who runs a small virtual reality company and has lived in Venice for seven years, began to worry he was being singled out.
“It may have been random, but it sure felt targeted and concentrated,” says Osborn, who now protects his tires each night with a jury-rigged plywood-and-chain contraption that has so far deterred the assailants. Every time he takes his family out of town, he worries about his house being robbed. “It’s not a very fun way to live,” he says. A lot of residents within Osborn’s 15-block area just east of Lincoln Boulevard — where actor Viggo Mortensen owns a home and director Jon Favreau is opening a production office — have similar stories. And though they can’t say for sure, Osborn and others suspect the crime is tied to several homeless encampments that have sprung up nearby in the past 15 months.
Los Angeles is grappling with a homeless epidemic. “It’s the worst human catastrophe in America,” says Andy Bales, a pastor who runs the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. Faced with a growing crisis, city leaders last year budgeted more than $100 million for affordable housing, addiction treatment, job placement and mental health services. And yet, as L.A.’s real estate prices soar, so does the city’s homeless population. And nowhere have the twin forces of inaccessible housing and inequality created a more explosive mix than in Venice Beach, a hotbed of entertainment executives and talent where the median home price is $1.9 million. Many of these residents are now grappling with a quality-of-life issue that defies their own liberal ideals.
Sleepless in Seattle and Community producer Gary Foster, who moved to the area two years ago from Westwood and works with the homeless advocacy group The People Concern, says he was surprised by the number of residents who expressed exasperation with — if not outright disdain for — the transient population. “They tend to be liberal, they want to do good in the world, but they’re balancing their beliefs with how that might impact the value of their real estate,” says Foster, who began his activism after producing The Soloist, about a journalist who discovers a musical savant living on Skid Row.