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Free Venice Beachhead
Archives 1984

Webslave's note: Each month, back when I lived in Venice, someone from the Beachhead Collective would drop off a bundle of a hundred copies at my door, and I would distribute them house-to-house around Oakwood. My way of continuing to be a Beachhead volunteer is to resurrect and re-type selected articles from its past (pre-computer) issues, for which the Beachhead has graciously granted permission.

January 1984 #169

Venice Christian Community
by Elizabeth Elder

When the likes of Ed Meese and other Paleolithic politicians begin making obscene rumblings to the effect that there is not a genuine hunger problem in America, and when Ronald Reagan packs a commission to study the non-problem with a gang of his own sycophants who (predictably) echo his lack of concern for a burgeoning problem, I can faintly hear the Ghost of Marie Antoinette entering stage Right with the now infamous one-liner about the cake. My fury is mixed with real sadness at the unspeakable ignorance of one like Mr. Meese, who, no doubt being thoroughly unfamiliar with hunger himself, can remark publicly that so many people are eating at the soup kitchens and getting handouts of surplus food because it's "easier than cooking at home." Can he have seen* any of those food lines and still believe that most of the people in them have cozy little homes and fat little refrigerators? Or homes at all with even empty refrigerators? It's unbelievable: the blind pig-people have taken over the country.

While too many folks who read this daily insanity may deplore it or ignore it, or perhaps even cheer it on, it renews a flagging faith in humankind to see some others doing something about it. Whether out of a sense of religious commitment to "feed the hungry", a feeling for simple fair play, or whatever gets you outside you own ego for a moment, there are groups of people who, without much fanfare, are taking direct action. The Venice Christian Community is one such group, having fed holiday meals to 525 people on Thanksgiving and more on Christmas Day. They also distribute surplus food through a government program. And they're the ones who run a yard sale almost daily for whatever donations people can afford. They are Christians who do more than spout theology, a refreshing departure from the Jerry Falwells and James Watts and others who claim the label of Christian and don't seem to have read Christ's 2nd Commandment: "to love your neighbor as yourself."

The Currently Operable Commandment as we approach the Orwellian New Year seems to be "Sell your neighbor if you can; nuke him if you can't." I'd like to think that enough conscious and well-intentioned people of whatever stripe just might be able to pool energies and turn that one around.


Parking a Trojan Horse
by Moe Stavnezer
March 1984 #171

Trojan horses didn't often look like apartment buildings but, then again, neither were they built by Werner Scharff. The proposed 40-unit apartment house on Paloma Ave. for poor elderly peope may be our own horse-of-a-different-color is fome of the loose ends are not securely fastened in the real world.

As someone who has worked very hard in support of affordable housing and more parking in Venice, it is strange to feel so apprehensive about a development that includes both. But there are some good, solid reasons for my dkepticism. Werner Scharff wants a zone change on Paloma which would allow a development 10 times greater than current zoning permits in order to house 40 of the elderly poor. He also proposes to provide 75 parking spaces, far more than are needed for the building, at least 40 of which he claims would be available to local residents (at a fee, of course.).

The increased density of the building does not, in itself, trouble if if* used for the purpose Scharff has stated. I am more troubled by the ramifications of the parking proposal. Both aspects of the project must be considered. Questions abound - who will choose the tehants? Who will set the income standards and see to it that only the poor become tenants? How will the rents be subsidized after Mr. Scharff, now in his 70s, is no longer with us? The government usually performs these tasks but, remember, this is to be privately financed and most of us have never dealt with such a proposal. But I think Scharff will answer these questions and make satisfactory legal arrangements for them because I am fairly sure that what he really wants is the parking!

Werner Scharff has a dream of his own. It involves redeveloping Venice in a mold that clearly resembles the 1970 plan for Miami beach west scaled down to meet current realities - renovation of existing buildings along Ocean Front Walk instead of the grandiose plans for knocking all the buildings down and constructing new hotels, condos and other accoutrements of the wealthy (e.g. Werner Scharff). He owns a whole bunch of the property along OFW including the recently acquired Cadillac building where a court order stands as the only impediment to his eviction of the current elderly residents of that building. Strike one! Werner has concrete plans for the Cadillac, a building transplant that will convert it to a 45 room "Bed and breakfast" hotel which will include a posh Harry's Bar & Grille and require more parking than is now available on cacant land in the area. So, Scharff wants to be able to use the parking at Paloma to satisfy, on paper, the parking requirements for the Cadillac. Strike two! What are the details? The hotel and restaurant will require 63 parking spaces, the Paloma building a mere 10 totalling 73 of the 75 spaces at Paloma. Scharff, however, claims that most of the Cadillac parking will be satisfied in the Rose Ave. lot and will leave empty spaces available to residents on a more unofficial basis. In the meanwhile, on paper, the precedent of allowing commercial parking on a residential street, to satisfy the needs of high priced businesses on OFW, will be established! Strike three! So far, the only non-negotiable factor in the proposed Paloma building is the parking - Werner will not agree to set aside even one space for community parking if that space *might be required for the Cadillac. Hint, hint?

A number of Venetians have met in the past few weeks and discussed these problems. At present our position is that if the questions raised earlier about the administration of the apartments is legally resolved we will support the project if the following limitations on the parking are legally required and enforced. All* of the parking spaces are reserved for residential use! The spaces be made available to residents who live between Speedway and Pacific Ave. Lastly, some type of audit be conducted yearly to verify the residential use.

The whole matter came before a hearing examiner for the L.A. City Planning Commission in late January. Many of the issues raised above were aired at that hearing - as well as many flatly opposed to the project no matter what compromises could be reached. The hearing examiner, John Parker, caught most of the hints and concerns of the residents. His recommendation for total denial of Scharff's proposal listed 9 major reasons why the Commission should deny both the zone change and the coastal permit. Traffic, density, inconsistency with the current plan and zoning were the most compelling arguments raised in Parker's recommendation. The commission is scheduled to consider the matter at its March 1st meeting in Rm 305 of LA City Hall (some time after 9:30 a.m.). Since it is rare that the commission opens such meeting to public testimony, there may be no reason, except perverse curiosity , to attend that hearing. Rest assured, however, that no matter what the outcome of the commission meeting, the matter is not closed.

Meanwhile, on a personal level, it is a sad commentary that I feel so distrustful of something I want to support. Experience tells me that people who won't agree to "putting it in writing" don't really intend to do it.

The ball is in your court, Werner.


May 1984
Is the Beachhead Camp?
by Carol Fondiller

Playwrights have typecast Cassandra as an anorexic type, big eyed, her artistically tattered clothes hiding yet revealing her tiny titties as she warns in lyrical schizophrenic voice about freebies from people who have never given anything away for free.

So, what the hell am I doing, fat, big-boobed, my voice harsh from saying "It's gonna happen!" and rising to a high note when I squawk, "I told you so!"

It's all happening again. What business had we in Vietnam? Did I really watch a Donahue show where men who avoided the draft confessed to guilt feelings about not "fighting for their country" in Vietnam? I did. We topped England's invasion of the Falklands by invading Grenada.

Women fought for the right of controlling their own bodies, and it seemed for a while in the 1970s that women won that right. Now it seems that a group of people as reactionary as the Ayatollah Khomeini are trying to make us nothing more than brood mares, trying to tell us about getting government off our backs and into our bedrooms.

And, didn't we have hearings or something like that ten years ago about some President or other who tried to abrogate the Constitution of the United States, sabotage the electoral process, and use investigating agencies to discredit and silence those people and groups who disagreed with him, and didn't he resign? And didn't I just see him on the Tee Vee coming on like some charming rapscallion of an old uncle grumbling, who said, "Well, I resigned, isn't that apology enough?" It only took a year and a half of constant threats of impeachment and revelation of a complete blueprint--and now that old geezer who ten years ago was bitching about his poverty now got five hundred thousand dollars for being interviewed by a friend and employee? I checked with some friends and they claim they saw it too, so I guess it really happened.

Seven, eight or nine years ago, I wrote an article called "Invasion of the Afflu-Hip". There I stood, my big, flat feet gripping the sand, looking to my ever-lasting sorrow like Emma Goldman and feeling like Emma Bovary, saying "Hey, hey, look it, these sweet soft folks who are telling us to be objective, reasonable and act polite and the rich have a right to live in Venice also, and this would be such a wonderful place to live in if only we'd get rid of the "undesireables," and I said, "Hey, they mean poor people." People who aren't pretty. And they took pictures of us folks and our quaint native customs. They wrote articles filled with premature nostalgia about cute townsfolk fighting for their right to look at sunsets, started restaurants without parking, yet refused to give up the lifestyle of suburbia--the two-or-more car family. A map of Venice came out leaving out Oakwood, the area that is predominently Black. Venice became like Marijuana. When the middle class discovered Marijuana, it became a whole connoisseur culture from outlaw drug, where it has become almost too costly for dishwashers and jazz musicians, to a tiny "bud" that the Young Upwardly Mobile Afflu-Hips have transformed into the same mystique they used to reserve for imported wines. It's a fact. When the middle class "discovers" something be it grass (thank goodness, cocaine is replacing grass in trendiness), the Farmworkers, the Women's Movement, or Venice, they "improve" it. They improve it so much that it bears little resemblance to what attracted them to the substance, movement or locale in the first place.

Heck, maybe I'm feeling grumpy and out of sorts because one of my lovers criticized one of my articles for not being objective without reading it. And while I'm off the subject, when I am speaking of "I", I've been very much aware that other people have been putting themselves on the line and heroically working their buns off to preserve, support and fight for the same things I believe in.

Maybe I'm pissed because I was told at a meeting that my writing was "pleasant."

Maybe I'm angry because some of the new folks who are moving into Venice feel that they're improving the neighborhood just by deigning to live here. Maybe I'm angry because the same things are happening over and over again. Doctor's offices being torn down to become parking lots. Committees formed to rid the Ocean Front Walk of vulgarity, i.e., cheap entertainment, sunglasses and clothes, and efforts to replace cheap trash with rich trash. The Cocaine and Croissant set replacing the Ripple and Hot-Dog crowd--Bongo players replaced by expensive suitcase stereos that blast out manufactured music.

Some time ago at a Venice Coastal Committee meeting, an upwardly mobile movie industry type wanted the Venice Coastal Committee's support for some project he had. In return, he said with a boyish smile, he would do community work, like edit and proofread the Free Venice Beachhead. The smarmy condescension of the man still rankles.

No, the Beachhead is not pretty. Its purpose is not to sell advertising. Its purpose is to disseminate a point of view. And the Collective members are not experts. Goddess knows, we want it to look nice, but not at the expense of community input. If the Beachhead became cosmetically pretty, there'd be no place for me. I laid out page three in the April issue, I'm ashamed to say, and I tried to do a good job. I didn't. Most of the time I do better, but I'm never great. But if the Afflu-Hips got hold of the paper, I know I'd be aced out. I don't even know if I'm speaking to anyone out there. Whether there's anyone out there who really loves this town because things look like they've been here for a while, because there are people who I've known for years living here. Venice is not just a party pad to me. It's my chosen home with good bus transportation, narrow and mysterious alleys and letter carriers who know you. I'd rather have another hardware or shoe repair shop than another caviar-and-champagne bar. So the Beachhead might be camp to all those gentrificators and artrepreneurs whose "expertise" and professionalism and style has succeeded in moving out the scruffy, dull and non-artistic types who've made Venice what the "Winners" want to take over.

I hope the Afflu-Hips and the YUPs still read me with an air of patronising amusement.

I'm not talking to them anyway--is there anyone else out there I'm talking to?

Or am I just this fat, crazy Cassandra standing out there yelling into the wind and getting sand in my throat?


June 1984 #174

Imperialist Juggernaut Rolls On and On and On and

by Arnold Springer

Developer-speculators have opened their 1984 offensive against Venice. This time it is not residential condomania but commercial-retail-office space that is the chosen vehicle.

Another difference is that this time the attack is not coming from the Peninsula by way of the Marina, or from the Canal area, but from Ocean Park in the north, along the Pacific Ave. Main St. corridor. There is also significant development proposed for the north end of the Ocean Front Walk.

The objective consequence of these new developments is potentially staggering. A dramatic increase in the amount of commercial office and retain space built along a line from Main St. in Ocean Park, along Main St. in Venice, to Brooks Ave. and West Washington Blvd. - will create a Venutian Berlin Wall between North Venice and the Oakwood neighborhood. Once this salient is seized, occupied, and fortified with new construction goodies, the gentrification of both neighborhoods can then proceed apace quite independently of each other. If the scenario is successful the entire socio-economic-political structure of the Venice community will be profoundly changed.

Liberty Fish Project:

This is a very large project located partly in Ocean Park and partly in Venice. The principles involved include: Al Ehringer who runs the Oarhouse in O.P. and is a national class restaurateur; Bob Skoura who, like Ehringer owns a lot of property on Main Street and the owners of the Fish Enterprise restaurant on Neilson Way in Ocean Park.

The Liberty Fish project is a monster. It will cover the entire block bounded by Pacific Ave. on the west, Marine St. on the north, Main St. on the east, and Navy St. on the south. When completed it will contain three buildings, one of which will be in Venice. That structure is 40 ft. high, contains first floor retail, and office space on the second and third floors.

The larger of the two Ocean Park structures is located on the corner of Marine and Main Sts. It contains a 1,850 sq.ft. restaurant on the first floor, and 3 additional floors of office space. It will be 52 ft. high. The third building, located on the corner of Marine and Pacific, will be 27 ft. tall and contain office space on the ground floor and four residential condos on the second floor.

This project will provide 156 parking spaces most of which are hidden beneath the project on 1 1/2 floors of underground parking. That portion of the project which is situated in Venice meets Coastal Commission parking guidelines for our community' that is one parking space per each 250 sq. ft. of office and retail space. The rest of the project is however, only designed to satisfy the more permissive Santa Monica parking code for that area. The developer has promised to provide 15 replacement parking spaces for residential users only in Venice, and that about replaces half of the total number of parking spaces no existing on the undeveloped site as surface parking.

Representatives of the Ocean Park Community Organization oppose the project on a number of grounds. Noise, congestion, cooking odors, insufficient parking and failure to meet Coastal Commission parking guidelines are of most import- but they also oppose the large restaurant and the serving of alcohol.

At its May 21 meeting, the Santa Monica Planning Commission approved the Liberty Fish project but provisionally restricted the restaurant to 50 seats. (The applicants had requested a 130 seat restaurant. For comparison, the Fish Enterprise restaurant contains 180 seats.) The Commission did not however require the developers to reduce the 1,850 sq ft set aside for a restaurant, and only such a reduction can insure that the eatery will remain small.

This project can be appealed to the Coastal Commission.

Flinkman Project:

A large steel and glass high-tech structure which the Flinkman family proposed to build next to the Carlton Apartments. One Life Natural Foods, the Meyers Restaurant, and some galleries are also located in the Carlton. This project was also heard by the SM Planners on May 21 and was rejected. That came as somewhat of a surprise since the project appeared to meet all Santa Monica building and safety requirements for height and bulk, and because it appeared to provide sufficient parking.

Neighbors of the project living on 2nd St. in Ocean Park complained to the Commissioners that the building would vastly increase the number of cars using 2nd St. A traffic study produced by the Flinkmans and Liberty Fish (the two projects are catty-cornered) was introduced to ostensibly show that both projects together would have no negative impact on the area. This study was passed over by the Commission which, in rejecting the project, asked bureaucrats to take another look at potential traffic congestion and noise problems on 2nd street. It appeared however that of equal import to the Commission was the building's design, which many said was completely inappropriate for the Main St. site.

It is probable that the Flinkmans will return to the Commission with a redesigned building. Regardless of the design, the building will be 4 stories or about 40 ft. high, above one floor of subterranean parking It is exclusively composed of retail and parking space.

The two projects together will have a great impact on traffic and traffic congestion at the intersection of Rose and Main, and Rose and Pacific Ave.

Safran Project:

Meanwhile Tom Safran is back with another, even more terrible project for the site he owns (with the help of an $800,000 short term bailout loan from the City of Los Angeles!!) on Ocean Front Walk between Navy and Ozone. This time he wants to construct a monolithic building over the entire site, towering 46 ft. above the Ocean Front Walk.

The project is mixed commercial and residential with about 102,000 sq. ft. of floor area. It will contain, if approved, 68 condos, 21 of which will be for seniors, and a 2,370 sq. ft. restaurant, over one floor of subterranean parking.

Although the site has been used for parking for as long as anyone can remember, and is a developed and legal parking lot, Mr. Safran is refusing to provide any replacement parking. This in spite of the fact that in two previous projects which he has presented over the years to the City and the Coastal Commission, he has been ordered (by the Commission) to provide replacement parking in addition to meeting the Commission's strict parking guidelines.

A hearing on the Safran project was held in West Los Angeles on May 22. The hearing officer from the Office of Zoning Administration was Rbt. Janovici, who questioned the applicant as to why, when the City Council had previously permitted him only about 26 residential units on the site (above a restaurant which they also approved) why he now thought he merited 68? Janovici also questioned the building's bulk and height.

The owners of some condos east of Speedway (Navy Street Homeowners Assoc.) were represented by a lawyer named Fox who argued that the parking situation and traffic congestion in the immediate area were so bad that a full environmental impact report should have been prepared, and especially a study of parking shortfalls and traffic congestion from any new development in the neighborhood ought also to be prepared.

Many interested people from the neighborhood also showed up to voice their strong opposition to the Safran project. Objections included: the building was too high, too dense, the restaurant was too big and would create too much noise along with the alcohol related social problems, that the neighborhood was parking impacted and that replacement parking should be provided on site.

Representatives of the Venice Coastal Committee (formerly the Coastal Committee of the Venice Town Council) opposed the project. The most important precedent here is replacement parking, although there are many other things which are just plain unacceptable to the members of the Committee. If the Safran project is approved without replacement parking than the eventual parking shortfall in the North Beach neighborhood will be so great that eventually the pressure to open up the walk streets will become irresistible to the City, speculators and developers, and even to renters with no place to park their transportation.

North Beach residents should look out for their own self interest on this issue and contact the city to express their views. For your information as proposed that Safran project exceeds the 30 ft. height limit set by Coastal Commission guidelines for the neighborhood, and it also violates the height limits in the draft North Venice Specific Plan. It proposes residential uses in this area along Ocean Front Walk, a use which is presently not encouraged by the Coastal guidelines. It also exceeds the recommended number of lots which can be consolidated for any project. Coastal guidelines specify two, Venice Specific Plan for North Beach calls out 5, and the Safran lot has 7. It does not speak to the issue of replacement parking. If no such replacement parking is required on this site, better kiss replacement parking for north Venice good-bye. And if there is no replacement parking that will mean the end for this neighborhood as we know it.

Antique Car Lot project:

Project site is at 340 Main St. in Venice, just south of the Rose Cafe parking lot on Rose and Main. Applicants propose a large, 57,000 sq. ft. building containing small retail shops on the first floor and offices on the 2nd and 3rd floors. The building is 30 ft. high above two levels of subterranean parking which will hold 237 cars. The strict parking ratios of the Coastal Commission for this area of Venice are being met by the developer. So far, with the exception of the Rose Cafe, no retail business has been allowed on this section of Main St. If approved this project will provide the first such new retail uses and will set a precedent for the area. The land is zoned for light industrial (M-1) uses, not for residential or commercial or retail uses.

Applicant is C. Gregory Walsh, although the project may be owned or planned by the Richlar Corp and perhaps Frank Gehry, a world class architect both of whom were principles in a failed project (the famous Rose and Main Tombstone project of Venutian oppositional legend) several years ago.

Quietly, stealthily, under cover of myriad bureaucratic agencies, Werner Scharff, grey eminence supreme, has struck again. Ye Gods, it's the Cadillac.

Without any public notification, he makes use of all the favorable nooks and crannies that have been specially placed in books of regulations and administrative procedures for the sole purpose of expediting the projects of people who want to develop their properties (development: a euphemism for profiteering.)

So, without anyone who might have opposed him knowing it, Werner has gotten
1) an exemption from the Coastal Unit of the City of LS for any earthquaking renovation of the Cadillac Hotel
2) an exemption from the State Coastal Commission which says ditto.

He is expressly forbidden to put shops or a restaurant or to change the actual use of the ground floor commercial space.

Janna Zimmer, who is providing the legal defense for the elderly living in the Cadillac, told the Beachhead that if people in the Venice community intend to save the Cadillac and save the housing for the elderly, they better start getting off their duffs, AND QUICK.

The Building and Safety Commission of the City of Los Angeles has scheduled a hearing for June 7 to take evidence in a matter brought up by Zimmer. She charges that the City of LA has been violating the state law that regulates changes of use and occupancy along the coastal zone. This legislation is called the Mello Bill. It says, according to Zimmer, that when a city agency is considering a request on the part of a developer to change an existing residential use to any other, (say, hotel or commercial use) the city must first certify that other equivalent housing opportunities (low rent, for instance) are available in the area. And if they are not available, the city must tell the developer, under certain conditions, to recreate a portion of those units in the area. Zimmer says that the city has not been enforcing the Mello Bill and is permitting conversions of low rental apartments without conducting the proper hearings and making proper legal findings.

For its part, the city is relying, in this case, on Werner Scharff's official statements to the effect that he is only "Renovating an existing apartment house. Ms. Zimmer claims that he is on the record stating that he wants to convert the Cadillac into a hotel, based on public statements made in the conventional media by Mr. Scharff. Originally the Cadillac was a hotel.

Ms. Zimmer would like the help of interested Venetians. Her office phone number is ------. Anyone with knowledge of Mr. Scharff's intentions as to the transformation of the Cadillac into a hotel should call her. She says that if you want to save the elderly now in Venice and the Cadillac elderly and their housing in particular, the time to act is now.


August 1984 #176

Venice Land-Rush Continues
by Moe Stavnezer

Things are poppin' all over town!

Not since the late '60s early '70s have there been so many plans for Venice coming into public view, at the same time, which will have an enormous impact on the community.

The Ocean Front Walk, which many people equate with Venice - especially media people - stands on the brink of great change: The Bath House building, at Breeze Ave, nearing completion, signals the success of developers providing virtually underwater parking for large OFW developments (water is continually pumped out from the ground under the underground parking to keep it and the foundation relatively dry); Werner Scharff's proposal to conver the Cadillac building into a bed and breakfast hotel brings to the most northern part of the Walk a far more affluent vision than its recent past; Tom Saffran's plan for a combination of residential condos (the first on a large scale on OFW) and affordable housing for seniors, possibly with some commercial space included, will take another private parking lot away and hasten the gentrification of north Venice. There is also a trend toward converting marginal businesses into indoor vending stalls. In one case a restaurant and in another a former market have made this transition. Along with the general increase in vending activities, these will encourage more traffic because they are not so affected by changes in the weather. They may also prove more profitable than, say a convenience market, and play a role in forcing the few quasi-community oriented businesses off the Front.

(If all this doesn't yet stimulate your little "Venice" button, consider the juicy rumor that the surveyors lately seen along Speedway are making jokes about turning our infamous alley into a freeway - gasp!)

Main St./Hampton Dr are also poised on the edge of rapid change. Beachhead fans will remember the June issue's outline of the 3 projects, in this area, already approved at the City level (mainly office and retail), and that more are in the works. There are ominous signs of potentially drastic change on Hampton - the street parallel with Main, one block to the east. Buildings that until recently housed local industries (Tasty Spuds and Jason Cosmetics) are up for sale. It is unlikely, given current land prices and interest rates, that these buildings will continue to be used for manufacturing. More likely we can contemplate some type of office or retail use. The same is true of the old Hammond Lumber lot, until recently a movie studio for the Roger Corman group. Now it's been sold to a group of attorneys whose plans for the site are as yet unknown. Along with the imminent departure of RTD (see story in Beachhead) these goings-on portend an escalating gentrification at the eastern edge of Oakwood and the western edge of north Venice.

Continuing southeast from Hampton Dr. along Electric Ave., we can expect a number of changes on the railroad right-of-way since Southern Pacific has begun selling off parcels of that land. I suspect the new uses will be as varied as the new owners and will include parking, new buildings (commercial is most likely), and the expansion of existing businesses. On Washington St itself, the emergence of a Merchants Association, which sponsored the recent street faire) appears to indicate that people doing business there are beginning to have a more unified idea about what they want to happen on the street. Indeed, the group's latest newsletter broaches the idea of another event. Many merchants also want to change the name of the street to Kinney Blvd. (our "founding father") which would help end the confusion of having 4 streets named Washington in the community. Many of these same merchants have long cast envious glances toward Main St. in Santa Monica where chi-chi ships come and go with more regularity than Ex-Lax and a parking space can be more difficult to find than the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Enter Venice Blvd. The City has sent out an RFP (Request for Proposal) concerning the median strip of Venice from Ocean Ave. to Lincoln Blvd. An RFP is bureaucratese for "make me an offer." The City is asking an entrepreneur to make an offer to turn the strip, from Ocean to Oakwood into a parking lot the revenue from which would go to the company that got the contract. So will responsibility for maintenance. Given the heavy parking demand, especially during the summer, and the fact that much of the land is already, de facto, a parking lot, having it paved and landscaped seems on OK idea. Of course, none of the truck/bus people living on the land will mind at all. Councilwoman Pat Russell's aid Dave Granis indicated that the parking would either be metered or attendant. If it's the latter, it will be possible for businesses in the area, on both Venice and Washington Blvds, to validate parking and, therefore, satisfy some of their parking needs using this land. It seems to me that a potential conflict will exist on summer weekends when parking demand for the beach fills this stretch of land already. There haven't been any public hearings on the proposal as yet - we'll try to keep you informed.

Continuing, slightly to the west, along Ocean Ace., and taking a right at any number of streets brings us to the Canals - the land of $400,000 homes, More than 70% of the area's property owners have voted to fund an assessment district to repair the sidewalks, clean the bottoms of the canals and lint the banks with some kind of non-dirt substance. An assessment district is when property owners "tax" themselves to pay for various kinds of repairs. Only property owners, not renters, can initiate this mechanism. A number of tenants, especially those who've lived at the Canals are not too happy because they know that rents will be raised to pay their owners share of the assessment. Also, a number of owners, the 25%+ who did not sign the assessment petition will be forced to pay for an "improvement" that they don't approve of. The new sidewalks etc. proposed will be a double edges sword - on one hand they will increase the property values (gasp!) in the area on the other they will allow more visitors/tourists into the canals. They will also, at least partially, destroy the natural look of the banks and the canals themselves.

A hop, skip and a jump brings us to the Peninsula. Seems the CIty has chosen the "logical" time of an Olympic summer to bar parking on its vacant lots, just east of Pacific Ave., which allow some access to the Peninsula beach. One rumor is that a land swap is in the offing. The City will trade its buildable lots, of which it has 50 on the Peninsula alone, to landowners along the western edge of the Ballona Lagoon where the lots are unbuildable. The City, the story continues, would then put strip parking on the narrow strip between, say, Lighthouse and Topsail streets. It's a pretty good idea in order to increase use of this very under-utilized beach where lack of parking is the primary reason for the sparse crowds. One needs to question, however, if in a lot for lot trade the City isn't getting the short end of a very expensive stick.

Lastly, and in general, you may have noticed that again and again I seem to mention parking in this article. Parking has become the linchpin of development in Venice. Developers and the City have finally understood the very direct relationship between the two with a little help from community activists and the Coastal Commission. (It is a sad commentary that the center of discussion about new development in Venice used to be providing affordable housing - now it's affordable parking!) Most developers now recognize that new development, especially if it's commercial, will not fly lacking sufficient parking. Almost everyone also understands that private parking lots heavily used by beachgoers (almost as much a part of Venice as the residents) cannot continue to disappear under new development without having an impact on everybody. Two years ago there was a shooting over a parking space in my neighborhood. Tempers have cooled a bit since then, but if we don't pay a whole bunch of attention to the parking part of any development we will contribute to the outbreak of a full scale war!

A final tidbit. The huge lot at the corner, northwest, of Rose & Main is now for sale by the Southern Pacific. Along with the RTD land, this is a crucial piece of property on Main St. It would make a wonderful site for some affordable housing and some parking.

 

 

 

 

 

Scrounging Your Next Meal
The New Venice?

January 1984 #169

Last Friday morning in that old Venice landmark the Lafayette Cafe' on Ocean Front Walk a young man came in. Walking to a table just vacated with some food still left on the plates he attempted to pick up some food.

Amid laughter and smug smiles he was firmly seized by the owner and pushed out the door.

The pretty blonde waitress, saying something about needing a bouncer proceeded to remove the plates and throw away the food.

"I saw the young man you threw out," I said when I went to pay my check.

"Yes," he replied, "Many here are hungry."

"Then why," I replied "did you throw out the hungry young man and throw away the food?"

He shrugged.

The Lafayette is becoming "respectable."

Has Venice's "bedroom community" of apartment dwellers who work in LA made Venice more "respectable"?

Does "respectable" mean respecting money but not respecting the needs of people?

I will never forget the smugness on those faces.

L.N.


The Homeless Economy
by Rhonda Ridabot
March 1984 #171

How many people are living on the street? Laundromats? Bushes? Parking lots? Beaches? Behind trees and buildings?

How many people are living in their automobiles, including vans?

How many are living with their friends?

AND DO WE CALL THIS LIVING?

Is there any way of actually figuring out how many there are and how rapidly they are increasing?

Some ideas:

The unlawful detainer office records evictions: only completed cases, settle, will provide that answer. We do know that the property owners are winning eviction cases, 99% to 1% tenants. Those figures were approximate in Oct. 1983. But as to the number of tenants put out into the street from these, many times, illegal evictions, those figures are not available.

In some areas, particularly Venice, an obvious increase of street people is occuring. Backpacks, cars, vans, transients, and a lot of them.

And where do they go for food and shelter?

Not to Ronald and Nancy's house to be sure.

As far as food for the homeless - there is about 1/2 of what there was available 6 months ago. The food bank has been low and food distribution agencies have been forced to reduce the size of the bags of food down, just to make sure that there's enough to go around.

As far as clothin for the homeless - your better cities garbage can is probably the best bet. We prefer to either trash it or the thrift store.

And don't get caught being homeless either. You could end up in jail. But they are crowded too, so that isn't a good answer either.

You would think a supposed improved economy would mend some of the above mentioned problems.

As a result of higher rents, certain agencies report that as many as 10 people are living together in one bedroom apartments. What is the solution?

GOVERNMENT INTEREST AND AWARENESS OF A GROWING PROBLEM, NEEDING ASSISTANCE AND STUDY.

I don't imagine the homeless would ever unite and revolt, or would they?


The Deane Dana Desert

June 1984

by Raphael

COMMUNITY ALERT!!!

This article is to inform you that the strip of grass and palm trees bordering the Ocean Front Walk between Rose Ave. and the Venice Pier is being allowed to die by LA County Supervisor Dean Dana.

Despite numerous complaints to his office, the supervisor for the Venice/Marina area has completely neglected to maintain the costly automatic sprinkler system in this area, without which the lawn and trees cannot live.

As of this writing over 2/3 of the lawn has died. What remains has been kept alive only by the valiant efforts by a handful of local residents.

When Dane took office he inherited a completely healthy lawn with well repaired and functioning sprinklers and a brand new automatic sprinkler-timer which was working perfectly. It would have been cheap and easy to maintain this expensive and valuable community resource. Instead, for no good reason, Dana has knowingly allowed it to fall into a state of terminal neglect and disrepair.

It has been nearly two years since the LA County Dept. of Beaches (under Dana's supervision) has repaired or replaced any broken sprinkler heads. The automatic timing system was shut off a couple of years ago and has never been turned back on. Only rain and local residents manually turning on individual sprinklers overnight have kept the grass alive since then. Sparse rain and attrition among interested locals has resulted in the current"Dana Desert." We are told that there just isn't enough money while at the same time Dana just built a $Million-plus park (bike path, lawn, exotic plants and flowers, benches, exercise course) in the Marina which practically no-one uses but which is none-the-less maintained like the White House lawn. At the same time we see the all-too-infrequent county work crew come to the beachfront and stand in one spot for six hours, leaning on their shovels and "looking busy" while wasting our money and their time doing nothing.

In fact, the Beach Dept. has done much more to sabotage the system than to maintain it. Examples are sending crews to bury the sprinklers and local flow-boxes in sand so that they soon overgrow with grass and disappear, failing to put up wind-fences in spots which lets the sand blow over and bury the lawn, pouring concrete in flow-regulation boxes to prohibit locals from turning on the sprinklers, removing key sprinklers at hilltops so that those sections die even when the sprinklers are turned on, etc. Apparently the idea is that if there is no lawn there is no work to do maintaining it.

They have a million excuses. Beach dept. jobs are 20-30 year positions. They get expert at devising excuses which they repeat to each successively elected supervisor. Example--they say they shut off the timer because sand has turned the lawn into hills and they want to let the grass die, remove the hills and then re-plant flat lawns. The fact is that only about 1/3 of the lawn is hills and since the extremely expensive timer has switches for each section of lawn, they could switch off water to the hills only while continuing to keep the rest of the grass alive. One of Dana's assistants said that she was told that some of the sprinklers were buried in sand and therefore if the timer was switched on, they would "blow up or something."!!! Then there's the old standby that they don't have the money. The truth is that the started with a perfect system and lawn and it would have taken very little money to keep it in shape.

The truth may be that a dead beachfront means more Olympic Tourist Money gets spent in the Marina, or maybe no grass and trees signals phase one of a new row of construction on the front where the park was or maybe just influential Marina-types were jealous of Free-Venice attracting so many people Whatever the reason, LA's most heavily-used free recreational facility is being put to death, thanks to Dean Dana.

Maybe a new supervisor (Alex Pope) would give us a better break.


July 1984 #175

Fables and Foibles

"Who said democracy would be easy?"
John Haag at the first Venice Town Council meeting

There she (if we must personalize a structure) sits all right, though I think squats would be more accurate in 5-1/2 acres of some of the most valuable beach-front property this side of Miami. It's owned by the City/County of Los Angeles, i.e., us and through a series of mishaps, bad planning, gerrymandering boondoggles, pork barrels and other politically bad karmic catastrophes, the focus of this 5-1/2 acre gold mine is useless. The interior of the pavilion is useless and has been for at least 9/10ths of its 23 years of existence.

In 1961, Councilman Rundberg had a dream. He saw a way to "upgrade" Venice and do some favor for some friends and make a little money on the side. An open-air theater called "Theater-by-the-Sea" was constructed. It was advertised, I remember, as going to bring people to the area. It was run by a private organization. Among its offerings were the "Seven Year Itch" which starred an ex-Playboy bunny. I didn't see that one, but I did see most of "Othello." The title role was played by that King of Hammond Organ-like tones that resonated through his head, William Marshall. It was cold at night. The wooden backless benches were hard and planes zoomed over, drowning out the heavily-miked actors. Even at that time in Venice, there were actors, artists, playwrights, audience, etc. that were cordially invited NOT to take part or contribute to the theater. One of the puff pieces in the Independent Journal comes to mind - fine theater and "Security guards to escort patrons to their cars." Theater-by-the-Sea never got off the ground artistically or financially. Councilman Rundberg was found to have received $10,000 from the lessees and owners of Theater-by-the-Sea. Rundberg left for sunnier climes (Mexico, I believe) and was indicted in absentia. Timberlake became caretaker-Councilman of the 6th District. The 6th District was captured by Marvin Braude, a fairly Liberal conservationist. At one time, he was asked to put a roof on the Pavilion. Somehow, the City did just that, but neglected to take care of the acoustics. The 6th District was rearranged to insure the Democratic stronghold on the West side. Pat Russell was elected Councilperson and has been since the early 70s. Attempts were made by various Venetian groups to make the Pavilion part of the community. Now, I am only talking about the Pavilion. The other parts of the 5-1/2 acres, including the downstairs Bocce Ball and meeting rooms, the weightlifting pen and paddle tennis courts and children's play area were well used by Senior citizens, organizations, youth groups and church groups who gave out free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the homeless and/or poor. But I shall confine my personal recollections to the Great Flying Saucer, Blown Up Delores Drive in style architecture, the definitive, deco drecko City Council architectural candidate Draconian style architecture, the Pavilion - it/her/himself.

During the early 70s, several theater groups tried to use the theater. I remember being in a play that was supposed to last 1-1/2 hours. But, because of the acoustics, we had to speak very slowly, to combat the echoes, and the play lasted 2-1/2 hours, longer than most of the audience.

I must tell you that when I read this article at the Beachhead Collective, much discussion and controversy ensued. Some of the Beachheaders leaped in with valuable and fascinating informational tidbits. I welcome their amplifications on certain points, and look forward to seeing their articles (and yours, too, please!) in the Free Venice Beachhead. However, as I told the Collective, these memories and recollections are my recollections trashed from the muddled files of my mind, with my very own biases and lapses of memory, and if they and you don't like, well tough tacos. Don't grab me on the Ocean Front Walk or at Chipperwich's and beat yer chops. Refute, recollect, correct in writing! Anyway, doe to cutbacks in staff and maintenance, the Pavilion fell into a sad state of neglect.

Charles Feick, 3-year resident of Venice, was interested in getting the Pavilion renovated and re-starting the Venice Town Council. So on Summer Solstice, June 21st. About 100 people showed up to find out what could be done.

Now, the City had put out a call for Requests for Proposals from interested parties. I remember seeing the plans of a local artrepreneur about 2 years ago that involved tearing up the lawn area in front of the Pavilion and putting in underground parking and then replacing the lawn. Of course, there were to be boutiques, booktiques, quichetiques, sushitiques, artiques, but no tackytiques or videotiques in the Pavilion and outside picnic area. And nothing, I'm sure, for under $15. The Venice Beach Associating, an organization of ocean-front businesses, wanted to tear the Pavilion down. This proposal was again brought up by Rose Qualey of the Venice Chamber of Commerce. But seriously, folks, what happens to the Pavilion affects the surrounding area which is paid for by all the Los Angeles County and City residents. So how the Pavilion is used and by whom, could well affect public access to the 5-1/2 acres that include the Pavilion.

Charles Feick researched and got together a Venice Pavilion Revitalization Committee. A local architect and an acoustics engineer both said that to renovate the Pavilion so that it could be used would cost at least $50,000. Osah Harmon who had performed in the Pavilion in a fundraiser for Los Angeles Artists for Survival, an anti-nuclear group, said that it could be renovated for much less, "about $10,000."

A rock group impresario wanted to do a fundraiser for Mr. Feick, using rock groups and amplified music. This was met with a resounding lack of enthusiasm. The universal query of "Why is Venice always the lowest of priorities?" was given the universal answer by City and Councilman representatives. Venice is not lowest on the list. SO there. Stories of muggings, shootings, stabbings, urination, dope dealing were told. My mind wandered. The businesspeople want the chance to lease or rent the Pavilion for some profit-making venture. They don't want to pay a lot of money, or suffer too much control from the City and County, and they didn't want to have to provide much in return for free public access. The residents were apprehensive about parking, more noise, more people, etc.

Actors wanted acting. Mary Lou Johnson asked about using revenues from the movies that were shot in Venice that disrupted the existence of residents and visitors. She also asked about Quimby funds that come from "large developers that rip off the public by taking away public lands and recompense the public by putting in a certain percentage of the cost and/or profit of the developments into the Quimby funds. She also wanted a "Venice Historical Museum."

Pearl White wanted to re-install the day-care center, Senior Citizens activities and other community-oriented services that had been cut since Prop. 13 and Reagan's metrophobic budget cuts.

A local minister wanted to open the kitchen and feed the poor. Someone else proposed that some of the Pavilion and surroundings be used to house the homeless.

A nearby resident complained that the Pavilion was not lit, and stated that the Pavilion was one of the greatest magnets of crime and he came from New York City. There was talk of drugs. Where? Where? Where? My mind whined. John Stein wanted to know what the City would do if they decided not to improve it. "Just padlock it? What is actually being thought of?"

Ed Pearl pointed out that in order to use the Pavilion, the community had to be involved and for the community to be involved, it had to have some control over what it was to be used for and the City has never asked the community for input.

Lee Babbitt declared the Pavilion and surrounding area"one of the great resources of the City," and liked the "Joyous confrontations in Venice of all kinds of people." About two years ago, he had submitted a proposal that included aerobics, the Heart Association, a sport center and skating exhibition center. I visualized the Venice Beach Association rising Phoenix-like to protest as they had in the past when a skate dancing area was provided, screaming "Gangs! Gangs! Gangs! Drugs! Drugs! Drugs! They don't spend money! Money! Money!"


The Electric Cafe

by Moe Stavnezer

How does the idea of going to a local "cafe" and having a little tete-a-tete with some folks sitting in their favorite place on the other side of LA grab you? How 'bout if you could see those people and, maybe, draw a picture with them even though you're 15-20 miles distant from them. Maybe a friendly game of tic-tac-toe? Well hang on folks, the Electric Cafe is coming to Venice!

Actually it's coming to LA at 5 locations, one of which is Gunter's on West Washington Bl. Electric Cafe', the brainchild of Sherrie Rabinowitz and Kit Balloway, will connect 4 eateries in various LA communities as well as the LA Museum of Contemporary Art using computers, video cameras, electronic writing tablets and speaker phones. The idea is to communicate, to connect with other people in other places using the kind of technology usually only available to "the powers that be" whether corporate or military or... (fill in the blank). Commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, Electric Cafe will be open from July 18 through Sept. 6th mainly between the hours of 2 pm and 8 or 9 pm.

In addition to Gunter's, Electric Cafe is Ana Maria's Restaurant in East LA, the Gumbo House in South LA, and the Eighth St. Restaurant in Koreatown.

"Electric Cafe will be a network for creative conversation - a forum for shared ideas and exchanges of art, cultural concerns," Kit and Sherrie feel. "It is a vehicle for expressing and sharing diverse cultural influences and images that make up Los Angeles," they continue. With lots of animation, they talk about the velocity with which information is exchanged at upper levels of society and feel that the Electric Cafe concept is a way for more ordinary people to be able to make use of technology to keep up with things that concern them - from art to politics to a friendly conversation to a meeting across town without ever leaving one's neighborhood.

But what will happen when Electric Cafe pulls up stakes and leaves town? Will people feel ripped-off? Will they try to raise funds to keep it going? Will anyone care at all? And will some people be reminded of George Orwell's 1984 and view Electric Cafe as a testing ground for spying with TV? Kit and Sherrie fully expect all of these, and many more, questions to arise at Electric Cafe. "That," they say, "is the whole point."

Gunter Hiller makes the most outrageously wonderful cheesecake in the western world. "Gunter's" fits right in with the Electric Cafe concept, blending as it does food and conversation as an essential item on his menu. Gunter's current involvement is with the Planetary Initiative (a worldwide effort promoting peace and peacefulness.) "If electronic devices can help build a better world, I'm all for it," he says. "But," he cautions, "it can be a gimmick, it depends on how it's used, it's simply a tool." Gunter's parents died in a concentration camp and feels that, though Hitler is dead, the mechanisms he created are still in place. He sees his restaurant as a statement about improving the world we live in and welcomes his role in Electric Cafe as a way to bring people of different ethnic, social and economic backgrounds together. (Gunter's is located at 1009 W. Washington Blvd. in Venice.)

Electric Cafe will be free for people who want to use it, whether to hold computerized conversations about virtually any subject, or to hold meetings or forums between and among the participating cafes. Each location will have a "bulletin board" so that patrons can see what's been going on at all the cafes.

Electronic Cafe (Excuse us, folks, we've been calling you Electric all this time) is a complex of equipment. Each cafe will have a set-up that includes: a computer; a slow-scan, still image video system; a digital writing tablet; and a hard copy printer. There will be a main computer at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Communication is via telephone lines. The system allows many ways to communicate. For instance, using the electronic tablet, you can write a note or draw a picture that will appear on the video screen where you are and also at the cafe you're in contact with. The person(s) at the other end can add to your message or help create the drawing.

 

 

 

 

 

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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