Questions fairness of Venice boardwalk space allocation

To the Editor:

I attended the Venice Beach Boardwalk lottery last Tuesday morning [July 21st], as an observer. A fascinating eclectic mix of people stood around chatting, drinking coffee, and waiting, waiting for their chance to claim a ten-by-ten spot on the Venice Boardwalk for the coming week or weekend. Each person put their seller’s card into a green tumbler and, precisely at 8:30 a.m., the drawing for the weekend began.

As the official from the Parks and Recreation Department drew the cards from the tumbler 15 at a time, talking would hush as he announced the vendors’ names through a speaker system. The chosen vendors would then go sign up for the available spaces.

There are 100 “I zone” spots and 100 “P zone” spots on the boardwalk, each zone with different vending rules, and each with a separate lottery. About 300 people were gathered for the “I zone” lottery and perhaps 200 for the “P zone” — seemingly not very good chances for either one. But, at least everyone has a fair chance. Just like Abbott Kinney, back in 1902, when he won his half of the ocean front property we now call Venice with a coin toss.

But as time went on, the rumblings of frustration began in the crowd. I walked around and listened in. Many of the venders are disheartened with the lottery process for two main reasons.

First, apparently, there are people cheating to get a spot. Some people are supposedly getting their family members seller’s permits and then entering all of them in the lottery to improve their chances of getting a spot.

And then there are apparently people who don’t plan on selling anything on the boardwalk who enter cards into the lottery. When they get a spot, they then sell their spots to others for cash.

But, most frustrating to many, is the commercial vending. In one block, there are several different spots selling the same mass-produced, made-in-China necklaces, bracelets or plastic encased insects. These items are obviously inexpensive, easy to get, and sell well. They are a quick and simple way to gain income in a down economy. So, what’s wrong with that?

According to a group of local artists, it is not only against the ordinances of the boardwalk to sell these items, but it is also offensive to the “spirit” of Venice. They feel that the boardwalk is becoming a “flea market” or “swap meet” instead of the free speech zone it was intended to be. They’d like to see local artists with handmade items get priority in the lottery, over the commercial vendors. They would like to see the ordinances enforced by someone, and they would like to see those who “cheat” in the lottery, banned.

When the lottery ended, and this group of about eight artists had not received spots for the upcoming weekend, they formulated a “Painters Protest” for Saturday, July 25th. They gathered at 8 a.m. in the Rose Avenue parking lot, and set up their booths west of the bike path — in the sand. It was a classy display of well made, unique, beautiful artwork by about 12 local artists. They had a few protest signs and one black banner that simply said “Painters Protest.”

The police showed up around 12:30 on a complaint. There was a small meeting of the group of artists and the five officers. Two artists took down their work as the officers tried to decide if any laws were being broken, or if any permits were needed. The artists were merely showing their artwork, and not selling anything; selling being the main offense the police could unquestionably cite on the beach.

A captain from the beach patrol was called out. He didn’t have any answers as he wasn’t able to access the ordinance book since it was a weekend. So instead he took pictures of the event with his phone so he could consult with Los Angeles County Beaches on Monday in regards to the displays.

The police left, and the remaining artists packed up around 4:30, pleased with their protest. They hoped they were able to bring more attention to the boardwalk problems, and that they showed the shoppers along the boardwalk the quality of work they were missing by supporting commercial vending. They haven’t planned a repeat protest, nor do they feel setting up on the beach is a permanent solution.

So, what is the solution here? Ask any Venetian, or vendor, or tourist, and each will have a different idea: more enforcement, less enforcement, petitions, marches, protests, walk outs, meetings, lawsuits, letters, or a new system for selecting vendors. But how about a cultural revolution instead? How about finding your own spirit of Venice. If you are lucky enough to get a boardwalk spot, access your own creativity and inspiration and become an artist. Inspire us!

Everyone can create and it is about time for another Renaissance. Put Venice back on the map for culture instead of crap. Maybe we will produce the next Michelangelo right here in Venice.

Barbara Ransom, Venice

Claims current gas company has no empathy for residents of PdR

To the Editor:

Nothing is worse than losing good neighbors, such as the case when Sempra took over The Gas Company. The Gas Company, who for years was a “community asset,” went the way of corporate greed and now we have all the evidence of their total lack of empathy for the residents of Playa del Rey.

As a longtime Playa del Rey homeowner (35 years), I can remember sitting in meetings when some nice guy from The Gas Company would describe their community efforts, ball fields, etc. The conversations always included discussion of the future of their considerable land holdings in Playa del Rey (which earlier housed drilling rigs) and how they intended to maintain these now empty lots for the community.

Recently they erected a fence on their property on 79th Street that resulted in the “dog park fiasco.” When there was no fence we walked that area with our kids and dogs with no problems. Maybe the fence was put in to assuage the developers that purchased the lots across the street to cram with new homes.

Then there were the new signs everywhere that The Gas Company promised not to build, for example, the lot on 93rd Street near Delgany and the lot across from the church on 93rd. It goes on and on. They sold the lots, the trees — they sold us out.

Ken George, Playa del Rey

Solution for those disturbed by people going through the trash

To the Editor:

In response to the letter writers discussing “homeless going through the trash” in The Argonaut issues of July 2nd and 16th:

Why not use a plastic bag or cardboard box for your empty cans and bottles? When full, set this on top of your trashcan. It worked for me.

My trash is rarely molested anymore. I thought of this solution when I considered how these working people must feel, walking miles to gut bag after smelly bag, digging through the discards of the more fortunate, hoping to find bottles and cans.

Salina Aragon, Inglewood, (formerly Westchester)

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