A device authorities believe was designed to look like an explosive was found at the site of a controversial homeless shelter that’s under construction in Venice, prompting several hours of street closures and the evacuation of nearby residents on Thursday evening.
After a report was made to police at around 6 p.m., the LAPD bomb squad arrived and conducted a nearly five-hour investigation of the device before determining that it and two other devices reportedly found were facsimiles. At around 10:30 p.m., residents were allowed to return to their homes.
The threat came amid ongoing controversy over the homeless housing project, which is being built in a three-acre abandoned bus yard at Sunset Avenue and Main Street. Part of the city’s A Bridge Home initiative, which aims to create temporary shelters in all 15 council districts, the 154-bed tent shelter has been protested by some Venice residents who say it will “act as a magnet” for homeless individuals in the community, increasing the number of encampments near homes and schools.
In January of last year, the Venice Stakeholder’s Association sued the city to halt the project, but a judge rejected the lawsuit in December, allowing development to proceed. The shelter is expected to open in January or February.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Venice Councilman Mike Bonin expressed concerns that Thursday’s false bomb threat could have been motivated by the controversy.
“If it was meant to slow or halt progress on providing bridge housing, it failed,” wrote the council member, who has been a vocal proponent of the bridge shelter. “We will not be intimated, and we will not back down from providing solutions to our homelessness crisis.”
Police said that an investigation into who planted the devices is still ongoing. They have not found a connection to the project. “We don’t believe it’s related to the homeless shelter construction,” said Officer Bob Long of the LAPD Major Crimes Division.
Individuals with information that could assist the investigation have been asked to contact police at 1-877-527-3247.
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