Opinion: Do we end homelessness to help people or to improve quality of life for housed residents?

Mike Bonin speaks into a microphone. Eric Garcetti stands behind him with one hand on Bonin's back.
Councilman Mike Bonin, left, and Mayor Eric Garcetti attend the opening of a bridge housing facility in Venice on Feb. 25, 2020.
(Los Angeles Times)

Editing the letters page of a daily newspaper gives me some insight into the intractability of chronic problems. Everyone agrees these problems must be solved, but good luck finding consensus on how to solve them, or even figuring out for whom they’re truly problems. There will often be agreement on an obvious, overriding point, but the conversation might deadlock on fundamental disputes over which side is more deserving of immediate solutions or sympathy.

So it goes too with homelessness in Los Angeles, which everyone agrees deserves attention, but few (at least on our letters page) agree on the nature of the problem or the solutions: Do we focus on assisting unhoused residents solely because they need the help, or do we think of homelessness primarily as a quality-of-life issue for housed residents? In response to a Times editorial praising City Councilman Mike Bonin for his proposal to study a wide range of solutions, including temporary campsites on beach parking lots, and admonishing the constituent groups pushing back on his efforts, letter writers hailing primarily from West L.A. came down almost unanimously on the quality-of-life side.

To the editor: Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades is owned by the state of California, for the recreation and relaxation of all people of Los Angeles and beyond. Palisadian Will Rogers gave this beach to the public for this purpose, not for housing. We’ve always welcomed everyone to the beach.


Years ago, when homeless people started camping on this beach, Palisadians organized to offer a variety of services, including housing. That successful Pacific Palisades volunteer effort continues with compassion and action.

Public beaches need to be protected and ensured safe for all, housed or unhoused, to use but not to live at.

Los Angeles County, which operates Will Rogers, prohibits overnight dwellings on the beach. The California Coastal Commission protects open access to the beach. Firefighters use this beach for emergency command, staging and evacuation, as they did for the Palisades fire and others.

David Card, Pacific Palisades

The writer chairs the Pacific Palisades Community Council.


To the editor: I swim at Playa del Rey every day. Along with my other friends who live in the neighborhood, we have over the years seen more tents and garbage on the beaches. We have also seen an uptick of makeshift fire pits, have been subjected to theft and seen naked men using the showers.

I do not understand how placing shelters or allowing camping in public parking lots, where families and groups come to enjoy a day at the beach, solves the problem. As the editorial states, there are abandoned and unused blocks of land that would work and be closer to offices that could offer healthcare and counseling for homeless people.

I strongly agree we can’t look away at this problem. I honestly don’t have an adequate answer, but I do not feel that being homeless entitles one to have privileges over others, and that is how the public will see this so-called solution.

Cynthia Lerner, Los Angeles


To the editor: What you fail to mention is that Bonin’s promises to the community in which he has put one such facility have not been realized.

In Venice, where there is currently bridge housing on a former bus yard, Bonin and Mayor Eric Garcetti promised to clean up and step up law enforcement in the area. Take a look at your own paper and how you referenced this very site in an article last November:

“Between late February, when the shelter opened, and last week, the LAPD said there had been an 88% increase in violent crime in an area surrounding the shelter compared with the same period last year.”

Allowing unhoused individuals to camp near our public beaches only encourages more people to come. Bonin and others have said that you do not need to be sober to stay in these facilities. Are we going to turn the rest of our coast into a mirror image of Venice Beach, but this time with taxpayer-funded beachfront shelter?

Josh Levy, Santa Monica


To the editor: Probably 80% of the people residing in L.A. County wish they could live at or near the beach, but they don’t because they can’t afford it, or their employment location makes it impractical.

Bonin’s suggestion that beach parking lots and the boat launch area at Marina del Rey should be considered for sheltering homeless people is ridiculous.

I recommend that Bonin go to the Marina del Rey launch ramp on a sunny weekend, or any day during the summer, and simply observe. I think he’d agree that the heavy vehicular traffic makes this a dangerous environment for children and thus unsuitable for sheltering families.

Parking at most beaches is already in short supply, so if shelter for homeless people is added, it will make beach parking and access even more difficult for those living inland.

Don Smith, Torrance


To the editor: The homelessness issue is a difficult one to solve. The Times Editorial Board criticizes people who do not want encampments or shelters established near their homes.

The solution is for The Times to allow homeless people to camp on its property, since the editorial board is so critical of others. I am sure you would have a hundred excuses to prevent this from happening.

Flora Perry, Los Angeles