With its famous boardwalk, beach lifestyle and eclectic population, Venice is generally found on the list of must-see destinations in Los Angeles.

Whether for its attractions such as Muscle Beach, the beach basketball courts and skate park, the boardwalk street performers, or shopping and restaurant locales like Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice consistently ranks among the top areas to visit in Southern California for tourists and residents alike.

“Venice has always been a top destination attraction for visitors,” said Robin McClain, senior director of media relations for the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, LA Inc.

“Certainly Venice is iconic, in terms of what people’s expectations are of the boardwalk and area. It’s unique in comparison to other beach destinations.”

For years, Venice has had the distinction of drawing the second highest number of tourists in Southern California behind Disneyland, and according to the Venice Neighborhood Council, one source recently had Venice overtaking the top spot with approximately 16 million annual visitors. McClain said she has not seen reports of Venice being the top visitor destination, but confirmed it “certainly ranks up there” with places like Universal Studios-Hollywood, the Getty Center and Hollywood Boulevard.

The coastal community’s identity as a top tourist location tends to have a trickle-down effect with a variety of benefits to the community and local businesses, said Venice Chamber of Commerce President Alex Rosales.

“First and foremost, we see that as a great asset and something that we want to continue maintaining at a local level with how the businesses will benefit from it directly,” he said.

But some note that the millions of local and out-of-town visitors coming to Venice has placed a great deal of stress on the community, with long lines at the beach restrooms, overflowing trashcans, increased gridlock and reduced parking where it is already limited. The Venice Neighborhood Council decided to address this issue by hosting a town hall meeting Dec. 2 asking if Venice is prepared to deal with the impacts of being a major visitor destination.

In addition, community members were asked to offer any solutions to the problems that result from the many crowds, and if there are any actions the city could take to improve the situation.

Resident Nick Antonicello suggested that infrastructure-related improvements be made, saying that the boardwalk needs to be widened and the beach bicycle path needs to be redone because most of it is in disrepair. He added that federal stimulus money should be provided specifically to the Venice area for enhancement projects.

Referring to an ongoing problem for the community, resident Will Schubert said many people who come to Venice can not expect to find a place to park and the city needs to have adequate facilities to deal with the parking issues, which costs money.

“Parking is the huge issue here,” he said.

One potential solution, Schubert said, is for the city to purchase the former U.S. Postal Service annex property at Windward Circle where a parking structure could be built. Another suggestion offered at the meeting was for parking attendants to communicate via walkie-talkies to inform motorists where parking is available on busy days.

Resident Elizabeth Wright spoke to concerns of bathroom maintenance, saying that Venice should strive to have the same clean facilities as other communities down the coast.

Former neighborhood council land use and planning committee chair Challis Macpherson said, “It’s the city’s responsibility to help us maintain a tourist attraction.”

McClain noted that tourism and hospitality is the number-one industry in Los Angeles and the city hopes to accommodate the concerns of not only the millions of visitors but residents as well.

“We certainly want to be welcoming to the visitors here but we also want the residents to be able to enjoy the surroundings and all that L.A. has to offer,” she said.

In regards to concerns of litter accumulated from tourists and residents, the Venice Chamber of Commerce has pushed for the city to acquire eco-friendly trash receptacles in certain areas that are easy to maintain, Rosales noted. The chamber has additionally proposed a “clean up your neighborhood once a month” program, starting with the Windward Circle area, he said.

“We take great pride in our local community and everyone gets involved,” Rosales said.

Following the town hall meeting, neighborhood council President Linda Lucks said the council will look to appoint an ad-hoc committee to focus on the tourism impacts.

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