Mirror Staff Writer
The Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council’s (GRVNC) Land Use and Planning Committee has unanimously voted to support a chain store ban on Abbot Kinney and Ocean Front Walk.
A movement to preserve the unique character of these streets began two years ago when 17-year Venice resident Dawn Hollister co-founded Venice Unchained after reading how the citizens of a San Francisco neighborhood were organizing to ban chain stores after a Wal-Mart moved in. According to her organization’s fact sheet, Hollister had been watching the homogenization of America’s main streets over the decades with dismay and wanted to take “pro-active action – BEFORE my neighborhood shopping district becomes indistinguishable from so many others.”
Hollister and Venice Unchained co-founder Melissa Bechtel placed a petition on their website, www.veniceunchained.org, 20 months ago to support their cause. As of June 2, 2006 2,475 people had signed the petition of which 1,660 are Venice residents. Bechtel emphasized, “The website has given Venice residents the opportunity to speak out for their community.” One resident who signed the petition commented, “We need to keep Venice from becoming a ‘Third Street Promenade South.’ ”
The petition defines formula restaurants and retail stores “as businesses that are required by contractual or other arrangements to be virtually identical to businesses in other communities including, but not limited to, businesses with standardized architecture, signs, decor menus, food preparation policies, uniforms or products.”
In an interview with the Mirror, Abbot Kinney shop owner Amanda Dugan stated she chose to open her shop, Brick Lane, in Venice 15 months ago because she wanted “to be part of the resurgence Venice has been experiencing over the last few years.” She supports the proposed ban because she doesn’t want her shop, which specializes in fashions from the United Kingdom, “to be run out of town” by stores “like the Gap.” She, like other ban supporters, is concerned that as the neighborhood becomes more upscale “the more upscale big retailers will want to come in and we won’t have enough different anymore.”
Venice’s Chamber of Commerce signed a statement of support for the chain store ban on June 8. Hollister is now working on getting approval from the GRVNC’s Ocean Front Walk Sub-Committee. If they support the ban the next step will be to get the nod from the GRVNC’s Board.
The petition, along with the support from the GRVNC and other groups, will give Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl the documented support he requested to present an ordinance for the ban to the Los Angeles City Council for their approval. Hollister told the Mirror, “The petition will remain on the website until the ordinance is passed.”
Other California communities that approved banning chain stores include Arcata, Calistoga, Carmel, Coronado, Pacific Grove, San Francisco, Sausalito and Solvang. Also considering the ban is the San Diego community of Ocean Beach.