Venice California has been listed in many guides as being only second to Disneyland as Southern California’s largest tourist draw. One Venice web site claims that Venice has now exceeded even Disneyland as a visitor attraction. With this reputation in mind, the Venice Neighborhood Council held a Town Hall meeting on December 2 to ask residents how they felt about Venice, what impact tourism is having on the area, and what needs to be done to make Venice a better place to live (or visit).
Major complaints included toxic waste-in the beach water and on the streets; waste from the beach that the wind blows eastward to Speedway where refuse crews don’t go to clean it up; public urination in front of homes; traffic; parking, not enough lavatory facilities on the beach (and not enough maintenance of the ones available); beach closure for maintenance during holiday periods; billboards on the sides of buildings; too many commercial vendors on Ocean Front Walk driving out the local artisans; and allegations of constant harassment of the homeless by the police.
A man wearing a sign reading “On the Air” tied to his head made a cogent point when he said “The homeless bring you the attraction you came to Venice for.” In other words, some of the eccentric people, who may or may not be homeless, are part of the ambience that people visit Venice to see, yet these same people have been struggling to stay in Venice when they have to live on the street or in vehicles.
One speaker demanded “housing for artists and others. You are not going to have a creative community if you take it away.”
While a couple of VNC members wrote down the grievances on one whiteboard, another VNC member took down possible solutions. Residents suggested: building a parking structure some distance from the beach that could be used for visitor parking without overcrowding the beach; building more restrooms and having local artists decorate them; opening senior centers at night so seniors and disabled do not have to sleep on sidewalks; using empty lots to create RV parks; collecting funds from movie shoot permits, parking funds, sales taxes, and Venice surplus property taxes to pay for Venice improvements.
The question was raised as to why Bill Rosendahl, whose Los Angeles City Council district includes Venice, was not in attendance at the meeting. Rosendahl was not asked to attend, said a VNC spokesperson, because the idea was to allow people from the community to speak their minds without having to concede time to an elected representative. However, Rosendahl aide Arturo Peña was present and was taking notes, as were VNC members. The feedback, they promised, would be presented to Rosendahl and future meetings would be held during which suggestions could be moved forward as concrete projects.