Venice Beach: The Purgatory Progressives Built
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. In iconic Venice Beach, California, it is also paved with feces, structure fires, knives, needles, tarps, and tents. My guide through this dystopian underworld, my Virgil, is named Soledad Ursua. Ursua is a native Angeleno who spent much of her professional life in New York. When she returned five years ago, she wanted to live in a walkable neighborhood similar to her adopted home of New York. Venice, with its mixture of historic bungalows, pedestrian-friendly walkways between them, and its proximity to the beach and restaurants, seemed like a perfect fit. It wasn’t.
On the start of my walking tour, with an ironic smile (there were many more of those to come) Ursua points me to a sign posted by the City of Los Angeles that says “Special Enforcement and Cleaning Zone.” The sign explains that sidewalks will be cleaned and cleared of encampments, waste will be removed, and unclaimed possessions taken to a storage facility. The irony, of course, is that directly behind the sign sits an unbroken, block-long train of homeless encampments. (Since the start of COVID-19 measures, the city of Los Angeles suspended anti-encampment ordinances; but now that the pandemic has abated, the encampments remain.) Some sanitation workers try, in a struggle of Sisyphean proportio
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