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John Hamilton Part 1

John Hamilton Part 2

30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

Free Venice Beachhead archives selected articles 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice (from Beachhead)

Windward Avenue Articles from Beachhead

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

1914-1916 Part 1

1914-1910 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard

Lions and Gondolas

Poem about Venice Beachhead

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar



30 Years Ago in the
Free Venice Beachhead

From January 1981 #133

Blowing it on Windward?

a minority point of view by Rick Davidson

too often we separate
the creative process
from the created form
accepted we have
the viewing of art
in the emptiness
of the museum room
taking without question
as an art that is real
some finite object
representing as it does
the indefinable process
of creation
yes all to often
we miss the transformation

of thought
of desire
of love
of hope
of will
of time

without which there is no

The political-art process in Venice the 19 years that I've lived here has been an ever changing one. Some call this change "forced relocation" and the struggle to combat it. The political aspect of this process has been the evictions of poor residents in order to make room for a newer, wealthier class: the New Venetian. The art of this process has been to plan the evictions so that those of us allowed to remain don't feel the pain of eviction, don't feel the reality of eviction.

As many of us know, Venice was built at the turn of the century. It had a wild, stormy, starry-eyed beginning, but with the combination of the Crash of '29 and the discovery of oil in 1930, the bright new beach colony was transformed into a poverty center on the Westside for the elderly, minorities, artists, drop-outs of all sorts, and just plain poor folks. The population explosion that hit Los Angeles after World War II by-passed Venice because the beach was quarantined due to contamination from the sewer plant to the south. Thus the strange mixture called Venice continued to enjoy the beach.

It was not until the late 50s and early 60s that the greedy eyes of speculators turned to Venice. What they saw was a gold mine: the widest beach in LA; close proximity to LAX, but not too close; close proximity to two freeways, but not too close; old buildings ready to be torn down; and an out-cast population without representation in the halls of government...a combination that made Venice the most speculative land in California.

What to do with all those poor people living around the gold mine was the problem. In fact, the question wasn't even "what," but "how." Everyone, everyone speculating that is, agreed that poor people didn't have a right to live at the beach, but not everyone agreed as to the best way to get rid of them. Then someone suggested that they work with and through the City. What a great idea! so they were off and running.

First came the City Code Enforcement Program. That worked pretty good; 25% of the Ocean Front was destroyed. Next came a plan for the City to "improve" the canals. This plan dovetailed with the Community Plan the City was also designing as a blueprint of the change from Venice of America to Miami Beach West. Of course the Community, through its many organizations, fought back. The fight was not a winning one, only a slowing of the onslaught of the "progress" that was destroying the community. Still by the end of the 60s things looked bright for speculators and City alike.

Yet, my calendar says it's 1980 and the City's plan for a final solution has not been completed (some of us are still here.) No, the City didn't get to finish its code enforcement program; nor did they get their new canals. Along with these projects the Community also stopped the plans for a freeway through Venice - three times running. Development along the Ocean Front has been either stopped, slowed or modified.

But times they-are-a-changing; many friends have been forced to leave Venice; many of our funny looking homes have been torn down to make room for new condos; and cars with impatient drivers have replaced neighbors who used to walk and talk around the community.

1980: speculators are now zeroing in on Windward Avenue (just a little behind schedule.) A major element of the City's plan is the development of a Windward Mall. Windward Avenue is to be closed to auto traffic from Ocean Front Walk to the traffic circle. Pacific is designed to tunnel under the Mall. The Mall itself is to become the focal point of Miami Beach West. The City, having learned form its past mistakes, doesn't want to take up the Mall issue directly. We only see it coming project by project. The Ace Gallery transforms the ol' Bank of America into an art center. Next local merchants begin their move to "clean up" the Ocean Front Walk. The City wants to move the bus center to Venice Blvd. And now speculator/artist Robert Graham enters the scene with his project to build himself a studio; plus a few other little extras, such as subterranean parking, commercial shops on the 1st floor, more parking on the 2nd, and artist studios on the 3rd. Of the 55,600 square feet, Mr. Graham needs 6000 square feet for his own studio. The project will only cost 1.4 million according to Mr. Graham. As an architect, it looks more like 2 to 3 million to me. Whatever the cost, Mr. Graham agrees that the project will have to pay for itself, so that the rents will reflect that reality. What will such rents to to surrounding rent space?

Now some people say that this project is not part of the City's Windward Mall plans. Yes, no, yes, no, the arguments go on and on. Unfortunately, when truth comes to light many more of us will not be around to say, "I told you so."

There have been many Town Council meetings on this project and you may still find some old leaflets that lay out the pro and con arguments. That's all history now. At the last meeting, after the various arguments were presented in a good democratic fashion, a vote was taken which was binding on the Town Council (as far as arguing before the Coastal Commission). The body voted to support the project with the changes suggested by the Coastal Committee of the Town Council.

The significance of this process around the Windward project, i.e., the many meetings, arguments and voting is a true life contradiction, a typical double-edged sword. On the one hand, the radical approach, fight the project all the way, and even the middle of the road approach, subsidized housing must be included in the project, lost to the co-opted approach of supporting the project with only minor changes. While this is a loss from my personal/political point of view (I was on the losing side), it is a plus for the concept of the Town Council. A true Town Council has within it all the various and contradictory points of view of a community. The past few years the Venice Town Council has gained the image of being more a :left" organization than a "town council." The vote on the Windward project clearly shows that the Council is not a "left" organization, but offers a democratic forum for left, right and center points of view.

The basic philosophy of the Town Council has always been to protect the Venice Community which includes the low - and -moderate income residents. In speaking out for the rights of Venice's poverty community, the Town Council puts itself in an adversary role with speculators, city planners, and elected officials. In fact, the Council should stand up against anyone who is threatening the less fortunate residents of Venice.

Who and what is threatening Venice is becoming a fuzzy question. The transition for ol' Venice to Miami Beach West is creating some hard political problems for the Council. As the New Venetians move into town, the character of the Town Council will naturally begin to reflect the attitudes and values of the Newcomers.

In 1973 when Councilwoman Pat Russell created the Town Council, the Free Venice organization was in the process of reaching out to the community for more activists. Since the principles of democracy and the right of self-determination were the basis of both organizations, Free Venice decided to put itself on the shelf and become active within the Town Council. I don't know if the time is right to take Free Venice off the shelf, but I do feel that there needs to be a radical grouping within the Council, a left minority if you will.

Viewing the Council in terms of left, middle and right is not a divisive way of thinking about the group. I see it as a positive acknowledgment of reality. If we are to survive the 80s our thinking and actions will have to be based on a clear understanding of reality. Free Venice!





Venice Summer Festival
full-page ad from the June
1984 issue - see a very
enlarged version of this
intricate piece of work
PDF 1.23 MB




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