Many new people have moved into Venice and don’t know who is living on their block, much less next door. What’s the easiest way to break the ice? Get involved with a neighborhood group!
Here are some ways that two Venice neighborhoods get to know their neighbors.
NORTH OF ROSE AVENUE — When Inga Mueller and Doug Morris moved into their home north of Rose Avenue five years ago they were inspired by an annual Labor Day block party on the nearby Marine Street alley across the border in Santa Monica.
“We were sitting in our backyard listening to the music and then wandered up there,” says Inga. “It was such a nice event and they were so welcoming that we thought, one day we’ll have a block party on our street.”
It took neighborhood issues to first bring people together on Inga and Doug’s street. The group meetings started small and then expanded to other streets in the area. Inga knew it was time.
“It was like we have such cool people living in the neighborhood,” she says. “Why don’t we have a block party?”
This is the third year for the North of Rose block party. What makes it unique is that they rotate blocks each year. The area goes from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue and includes Machado Avenue, all north of Rose Avenue to the Santa Monica border line. Each block will have its turn. This year it was Sixth Avenue’s turn.
“We’re really just getting started,” says Doug. “We hope to see it in its tenth year, its 20th year.”
Donations from residents cover decorations, drinks and food to grill. Potluck dishes provide the rest of the food.
Children have fun on a “bouncy” and with face painting and sidewalk chalk drawing.
Because last year’s deejay, neighbor Ken Millen, who did a fabulous job, has a paying gig this year, a resident’s friend, DJ Kerry, brought the music.
The day is also an opportunity for resident artists to display their work.
Inga acknowledges Rose Avenue businesses within the neighborhood — Groundwork Coffee, Ranch Market, Santino’s, Baby Blues Barbeque, DNA and Bob’s Market — that have been supportive of the block party. She feels that it is important to patronize businesses nearby too.
“The block party is a great neighborhood event,” says Sheelagh Cullen. “We are acknowledging that we like each other, we’re good neighbors and we’re there for each other. Life takes us all in different directions and it’s good to touch base every so often.”
For those who might want to have their own block party, street closure information is on the “Special Event Permit” section of the Bureau of Street Services Web site, bsspermits.lacity .org/spevents/.
First, a petition has to be signed by at least 80 percent of the residents. An application is then filled out. The paperwork work is submitted to the local City Council office and then has to be approved by the full council for expenses to be waived because the event is nonprofit.
Residents pass a hat for the insurance fee. It is recommended to start the process at least two months before the event.
INLAND WALK STREETS — Three years ago issues — again — brought neighbors together to form the Venice Walk Streets Neighborhood Association, which includes Amoroso Place, Crescent Place, Marco Place and Nowita Place, with alley-abutting streets Linden, Oakwood, Shell, Superba and Venezia Avenues and the north side of Palms Boulevard between the 700 and 900 blocks.
While the initial goal of the association turned into other connected ways to focus, the aim of preserving the ambiance of the neighborhood was achieved.
“It is an area where neighbors know each other and neighbors do socialize with each other and support and help each other out,” says association moderator Sue Kaplan.
Communication is the key to building participation. Monthly meetings, held either at Beyond Baroque or at someone’s home, features a speaker or a theme.
A Neighborhood Watch is now up and running and periodic get-togethers are held when a Los Angeles Police Department senior lead officer is invited to talk about issues going on in the neighborhood and to give tips on what can help.
Neighborhood wants and needs and alerts are broadcast through an e-mail list, basically a notice board — someone is looking for a babysitter or a cat sitter or is having a garage sale or wants to report a crime and needs to get the word out. A Yahoo group provides a smaller subset for discussions, and Sue would like to see an association Web site.
The association is still growing.
“We want to get more involvement to represent more of the neighborhood,” says Sue. Right now there is a working committee of 15 to 20 people. “People are appreciative of what we are doing,” she adds. “Support is there.”
It’s the little things, too, that are helping to foster cohesiveness, like doggie bag dispensers that have significantly cleaned up the area and “movie night,” when residents bring their own chairs and popcorn.
Coming to a consensus has perhaps been the most difficult part of the association’s work. Some issues have become contentious.
“We know about Venice’s reputation,” says Sue. “We’re working hard to build something else by building a neighborhood comfort level.”
She feels that they have been successful because people listen to each other and are respectful of each other.
“People have to let go,” she says. “Everybody has to let go of something. It’s important. The group dynamic is one of excitement about what we are doing.
“I love where I live. I love my neighborhood. That’s what we’re working on.”