The recent murder of an Italian tourist on her honeymoon in Venice Beach by an enraged motorist seemingly out to injure people has prompted a swift response from City Council members and the new Mayor – stating desires to implement changes to the boardwalk immediately so that misdirected tourists and reckless drivers can’t endanger the thousands of visitors that pack the Venice Beach boardwalk each day. Ask many of the residents that live in the famous beach community however, and they are frustrated that it took the death of a tourist to wake lawmakers up to one of the many issues plaguing the high volume tourist destination. The infuriating part is that the issue of barricades on the Boardwalk has been brought up before – many times by residents and LAPD. The Council Office response (Rosendahl): They IGNORED it … and the answer to replacing and improving street signs… “no money”.
“People take the name Speedway literally”, says Leila M. who lives 1/2 block from the boardwalk. “Cars drive the wrong way, they drive down the boardwalk, people drive, ride bikes and park wherever they want whenever they want, and unfortunately many of the local offenders live here, they want shortcuts, it is part of the entitled Venice Beach attitude.”
Reports of residents removing parking signs, painting over red curbs add to the additional problem of disappearing street signs. “Traffic accidents will destroy a sign, and it is never replaced,” she says. “The rules of the road and the rules of the beach are so disregarded, any crowd will just follow the flow of what is going on around them – and in Venice it seems that the first rule to follow, is to break all the rules. If you can get home faster driving half a block in the wrong direction down Speedway – people do it. I see it every day.”
Gary M. who lives on Alberta has sent us several photos and notices about a homeowner on Venice Blvd who has painted over the red curb and put their own “tow” signs and “Tenant Parking Only” on the curb in front of their home which is city property. They did this to extend the area of their garage so they can park two cars there. The City was called several times. Nothing has been done. The bad signage, small signage and lack of signage and painted arrows on “one way” streets is just the beginning… for many it is the attitude that they arrive with when they come to Venice Beach that is the seed of the problem.
Venice Beach is on just about every bucket list for tourists visiting Southern California, but the attraction as most locals know, can be far from attractive. What was renown as an “artists community” where “free speech” was an anchor attraction, changes have crept over the contentious community through recent years making it more of a destination for homeless hustlers and marijuana enthusiasts looking for “one stop shopping” for drug use, rather than artists. The boardwalk is littered with “Doctors offices” in violation of zoning laws, and one out of every 5 boardwalk shops sells bongs. A daily scan of people tweeting about visiting Venice Beach usually contain references to smoking weed. Visitors comment on the constant smell of Marijuana. Locals are well aware of the related crime that accompanies everything “medical marijuana” brings with it… from petty crime, to graffiti, to straight robbery. Many come to Venice Beach to catch a buzz, smoke some weed, and revel in the lawless atmosphere. With the volume of tourists and myriad of issues for law enforcement to juggle on any given day – the environment is perfect for the lawless attitude to prevail in an area where it is easy to get lost in the crowd.
Despite Neighborhood Council focus groups, Council Office monthly meetings, Community Police Advisory Board meetings – and no shortage of at least half-a-dozen Venice Beach resident and business owner related “meetings” – implementing change is slow if not impossible. Every issue is “complicated” to the point that no one office can do anything it seems. Citing the lack of budget and funds for even basic maintenance – residents have implored with City officials to not only protect the boardwalk, but add resources and rules that make the beach and park area safe, clean and enjoyable for everyone. People come to Venice and to the beach to have a good time and have fun. Their mindset is not about following rules or respecting the area. They expect we will clean up after them. While there never seems to be a buck in the coffers, every department seems to want to pass the buck on to the next when it comes to shouldering responsibility. The issues are just too big for any one department to deal with effectively. We need a PLAN that is comprehensive and Venice has no organization to provide that – and The City is not going to step up to the plate.
“The City doesn’t care about us,” says Kahlil G. who owns a market on the boardwalk. “People don’t come here to spend money. What do you buy in Venice? They come to see a crazy spectacle, hiding their wallets, and they leave. It is so dirty, they don’t want to stay and spend time, and the atmosphere that the marijuana shops and transients bring to the area make people want to leave.”
Nobody knows what to do about Venice Beach, so they do nothing – and it only gets worse. The bathrooms are filthy and full of needles. No soap, no supplies. The homeless steal it all. How can the City call this a park? The “vending” which is a litigious subject is a mess. Although LAPD has more than enough reason to write to the Board of Recreation and Parks to request that the “display only” clause in vending ordinance 42.15 be changed as it allows for open abuse to sell banned items – nothing has been done and enforcement is too spotty and lax to be a deterrent. That atmosphere breeds violations. Do it until you get caught. Getting caught is not a deterrent – it is part of the cost of doing business.
There has been specific talk over the past few years of making Venice Beach a “line item” in the City budget for Parks and Recreation so we would have specific funds allocated for sanitation, bathroom cleaning and maintenance. Right now Venice Beach shares whatever funds are available with the “general fund” for all parks, which isn’t much. Special destinations that are also parks like Griffith Observatory have their own line item budget which guarantees them funds to deal with their maintenance needs based on their visitor traffic… but for some reason Venice Beach can’t pull it together enough as a community to make that happen…. and it isn’t going to happen by itself.
While a tourist was killed and a dozen were injured in a senseless act of violence on the boardwalk – EVERY DAY there are multiple drug overdose calls, assaults and crimes in Venice Beach that impact the quality of life in the area. Of the entire Pacific Division of LAPD – Venice Beach is the focal point for a large majority of the crime. While our crime numbers are not getting worse statistically, issues at the beach get attention on a response driven basis – and much of the worst that impacts quality of life goes unreported. The problem is, the majority of the crime on the boardwalk is between the homeless, transients and drug dealers themselves – and they are not apt to call LAPD. As a matter of fact, they make it a point to elude LAPD. The tourists and residents just get caught in the crossfire.
This is what needs to be done:
- Venice Beach – A City Park – Needs to be its own city budget line item within Recreation and Parks. Residents. With Coastal Commission regulations and mixed commercial and residential zoning, the area fails to justify a City Business Improvement District like Hollywood and Koreatown. We need help from The City to grow.
- Venice Beach is a special area. We have special needs that need to be redefined so our area has a path for successful growth. The Boardwalk needs special zoning and municipal codes that are up to date, make sense for businesses AND residents… and recognize what is fundamentally special about our area so it can be PROTECTED.
- Now that the Supreme Court stated that Cities can write and enforce laws applicable to their area dealing with medical marijuana issues – The City Council needs to implement and ENFORCE land use ordinances and revised municipal codes regulating the DISTANCE and NUMBER of medical marijuana and smoking paraphernalia shops within specific distance of parks, schools and churches. That door was just opened, and Venice needs to take the Boardwalk back from the drug hustlers – “legal” and otherwise. I have never known anyone that smokes weed, before it was legal and after that ever had a problem getting it. Get it out of our parks and away from our schools because it is EASILY ABUSED. I live one block from two dispensaries. Our red zoned curbs are filled with people who leave their cars to get their “prescription”. They don’t look like medical patients, they look like gang-bangers who want to cop a high. The City Council needs to step up and work with residents and the local Chamber of Commerce to implement these changes. This is NOT a statement against medical marijuana. If you live in Venice you would know the gross majority of people visiting these clinics are not interested in medicinal use – they want to get high. Period. With that, they bring reckless behavior with them.
- Venice Beach needs more comprehensive LAPD enforcement. The volume of visitors each day is varied and there are multiple specific issues that need special attention. Vendors, drug dealers by the bathrooms, gang activity, burglary, assaults, and rampant bicycle and traffic violations. Entitled residents want to violate rules, and savvy hustlers know how and when to avoid LAPD. It needs a blanket approach to snap the area back into shape. More cops, more patrols – as the rubberband is about to break. “Crime suppression” presence falls short of decisive action to rid the area of these now embedded issues.
- The residents need to stop living in the neighborhood with a sense of entitlement, and recognize some respect for the area. Don’t ride you bike like a jerk, don’t drive down one way roads the wrong way as a shortcut to get to your parking space faster, and don’t paint over red curbs. You live in a major tourist zone – deal with it responsibly.
- HELP our local businesses flourish. Archaic and arcane Municipal Codes that serve the City of L.A. hamper Venice Beach. We can’t “build up” per Coastal Commission rules, and we can’t grow more parking lots. There is a lack of appeal for improving or growing new business in the area. New businesses and Boardwalk restaurants can’t get space or seating permits because they have to provide a specific number of parking spaces for customers – and there are NONE. We are a special area, we have special needs – and we need to grow and flourish as a community.
We need our beach back. We need our park back. There are enough legitimate vendors, artists and performers at Venice… but the character changed from a lively place with roller skaters and art, to a place where the drug hustle dictates how everyone does business, right down to the local pizza shop that accepts EBT cards for a hot slice.
Venice Beach is like a daily major event. A rock concert, sports competition and county fair all happening at the same place at the same time. We need more police. We need security. We need better traffic signage. We need information for the ten million that come HERE each year. The spirit of this community has eroded in local bickering and a haze of pot smoke. It is going to take responsible politicians and city departments to recognize our area for the major tourist attraction that it is, the special neighborhood that it is – and provide the recognition, support and services to protect Venice Beach and help it to flourish – as opposed to spiraling into the litigious, lawless campground for the misguided.