The Progressive Destruction of Venice Beach, Proxy for the Nation

Behind the lawless mentality that has informed rampages across the nation over the past week are progressive roots. The riots aren’t about what remains of racism in America, neither are they nurtured by pugnacious tweets from President Trump. Instead, the impetus for the anarchy we are seeing is the decades of progressive indoctrination that have corrupted a generation.

The destruction of the Venice Beach community in Los Angeles typifies the way the progressive agenda has evolved from trying to save the disadvantaged to trying to destroy those who are not disadvantaged. In the process, the progressive movement has been overtaken by plutocrats and tyrants, who find personal advantage in the corrupt parody of what was once a sincere ideology.

In just a few years, progressive power, abetted by big money and co-opted bureaucrats, has turned Venice Beach from a bohemian gem into a lawless hellhole. The streets are overrun with drug addicts, drunks, sexual predators, petty (and not so petty) criminals, and psychopaths.

Worst of all, Venice Beach is also overrun with otherwise normal youth who have made a rational choice to go on a perpetual binge because there is no accountability, no expectations, no law and order, and, wherever possible, the government provides them free food and shelter.

While the citizens endure a COVID-19 lockdown, the “unhoused” of Venice Beach continue to go anywhere they like, anytime they want. It’s gotten so bad that even when the lockdown eventually ends, Venice residents will remain besieged in their own homes.

The scam that alleged “progressive” governance has perpetrated on Venice Beach, replicated in blue states and municipal enclaves across the nation, centers on doing the bidding of what might accurately be termed the Homeless Industrial Complex. This alliance is controlled by powerful nonprofit corporations and their for-profit affiliates, who use paid-for activists and paid-for politicians to advocate and approve “supportive housing” for the homeless.

These boondoggles are built by the Homeless Industrial Complex against the wishes of residents and at a staggering cost. Acting as a magnet for more homeless, yet accommodating a mere fraction of them, they waste money, solve nothing, and sow chaos wherever they’re built.

Los Angeles city officials have already imposed several of these housing projects and shelters in Venice Beach. The most recent is a “Bridge Housing” complex, a shelter two blocks from the famed Venice Beach Boardwalk that opened in February. This “temporary structure” nonetheless cost an estimated $8 million. And at operating costs estimated to consume an additional $8 million per year, it offers the “unhoused” 154 beds, along with free meals.

You’d think that at least the so-called progressives who built and operate this shelter would have the slightest respect for the residents of Venice Beach, who must daily contend with more than 1,000 permanently encamped homeless on their streets. At the least, you would think some sort of behavioral conditions would be placed on those who enter the shelter—sobriety, job training, counseling, a criminal background check, and a curfew.

You’d be wrong.

As reported shortly after the shelter opened:

In the week since officials celebrated the opening of a new Bridge facility at the old Metro bus maintenance facility on Main Street in the heart of a residential neighborhood three blocks from the Venice boardwalk, people have reported and documented dozens of crimes and public disturbances. The incidents occur at all hours of the day and night and include assault, sexual assault, fights, vandalism, graffiti, illegal camping, public defecation, drug use, and disturbances of the peace.

And since around that time, Venice Beach residents have been on “lockdown.” But the activities surrounding this shelter continue unchecked.

To understand just how powerless ordinary workers are when up against the Homeless Industrial Complex, consider how they were treated at a recent virtual “town hall” where local residents spoke up in opposition to a 40 unit “safe place” planned on a block with three elementary schools in proximity, and sited next to one of them, St. Mark School. Already this school has endured a lockdown and placed dozens of calls to law enforcement because of disturbances caused by the homeless who are using the nearby Bridge Housing complex as their base.

As one resident responded to the new proposal (see the video at 1:16:00):

250 parents of St. Mark’s students wrote personal eloquent letters to you expressing their genuine, experience-based safety and security concerns for their young children, with the developer’s proposal. They recounted many disturbing incidents of harassment and intimidation against our children by clients of the developers that are being ignored or dismissed by their supporters. Many of our children continue to struggle with actual trauma from those incidents and we have every reason to believe they will increase with this proposal.

One after another, residents explained to no avail how such a project cannot coexist with an elementary school. The project remains on track, with no planned security, and no announced criteria governing who gains admittance, at an estimated cost of $500,000 per unit. And this four-story structure will be erected in complete defiance of local zoning laws, for which it received automatic waivers.

There is big money in being compassionate in progressive California, especially if you don’t solve anything.

How much of the homeless crisis will be solved, for example, if another of the proposed supportive housing projects is approved, the 140-unit “Monster on the Median“? This proposed concrete abomination, reaching over 60 feet in height at a construction cost of well over $100 million, is planned to occupy and wipe out the last place in Venice Beach where ordinary workers living in Los Angeles can drive to the beach with their families and park their cars for the day. If the land were to be purchased by a commercial developer, it would be worth another $100 million, making the total project cost for this ridiculous scam over $1.4 million per unit.

None of these figures are outliers. The average cost in California’s coastal counties for affordable housing, i.e., studio and one-bedroom apartments, currently runs around $600,000 per unit.

Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Progressive Ideology Has Been Corrupted

What’s happening with the “unhoused” in Venice Beach, and across California, epitomizes progressive dysfunction.

In the name of compassion, no conditions are placed on receiving assistance. Intravenous drug use is a lifestyle to be respected. Theft and vandalism are pathologies that will subside when the perpetrators are made free of material want. Hard work to get ahead is futile unless you are privileged, and the affluent are obligated to provide for the indigent as an act of atonement.

If this preposterous approach to managing a society weren’t bad enough, modern progressive dogma adds what’s termed “inclusive zoning,” the theory that if low-income people are given subsidized or free housing in the middle of high-income neighborhoods, through a process of social osmosis, they will become industrious, sober, and law-abiding.

In reality, when you teach people they are victims who should not aspire to anything apart from entitlements, you destroy their character. It doesn’t matter where they live.

None of this common-sense matters to the developers, however, who make billions building housing to serve a fraction of the “unhoused” on some of the most expensive real estate on earth. And against whoever may object to the entire charade, howling mobs of progressive activists are unleashed, bellowing accusations of racism and classism.

Operators of private shelters don’t get a dime from any level of government because they demand sobriety and job training as a condition of admittance. When asked what policy would best apply to manage and treat those unhoused who will not submit to sobriety and job training, every one of them, every one of them, said we need new forms of incarceration. Indeed we do.

A Nihilistic Disease

What if the unhoused were given a choice: They might either accept free or subsidized housing—not on the beach, but in, for example, a less cost-prohibitive inland industrial park—in exchange for sobriety and job training, or they can go to a minimum-security prison, perhaps on a ranch in the central valley, where they will dry out, do wholesome work, and submit to counseling and job training. In both cases, they would recover their dignity, if not their freedom. And just imagine how many of the unhoused would suddenly find friends or family if presented with this option.

Progressive ideology in America today is bankrupt. People do not respond well to being told they are victims. In the aggregate, it is a lie. The primary reason groups of Americans log differing levels of academic and economic achievement has more to do with the failures within their own culture than with external prejudice. There are far too many examples of successful “communities of color” to believe otherwise, and even if there is a shred of truth to the victim narrative, it is an unhealthy attitude for any individual to embrace, and an utterly futile, destructive principle upon which to organize a society.

No wonder America is in flames. The members of these mobs, millions of people, have been told for their entire lives that they live in a hostile nation. They don’t want to work, they don’t want to study and earn marketable degrees or learn a lucrative trade, and they’ve been taught to dislike people based on their age, income, and skin color. They’re taught to not recognize the right to private property. They’re even taught that verbal offenses are indistinguishable from physical violence. This is socially conditioned insanity.

Progressive ideology today is a perverted inversion of everything it once stood for. In a joint venture with corporate behemoths and implacable bureaucrats, progressive ideology has become a nihilistic disease. The infection now reaches into every burning city; the road to a cure will be long and difficult.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

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