There’s a chance that visitors could soar to new heights at Venice Beach this summer.
But instead of from a 175-foot-high Ferris wheel, it would be while riding a 750-foot-long zipline, similar to those found in rainforests and other exotic locales.
A three-year plan for a giant observation wheel near the Venice Boardwalk has been shelved in light of concerns by residents of parking, traffic and changes to the boardwalk atmosphere. However, Ocean Front Walk may yet add a new amusement ride – albeit a much more temporary one – that residents believe could bring some benefits to the area in the near future.
The Venice Neighborhood Council voted narrowly, 8-6 with three abstentions, May 15 to support a plan to install a zipline attraction for three months near the Windward Plaza along the boardwalk.
Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl said the controversial Ferris wheel project would have taken months to go through the community vetting process, but he believes the zipline would be easier to install, provide a thrill for the public and create a funding source for needed services on the boardwalk. In meetings with city Department of Recreation and Parks officials, they have proposed to allocate two-thirds of funds raised through the attraction toward cleaning beach restrooms and emptying garbage cans, Rosendahl said.
“It becomes a win for the beach to keep it clean and for the people who want to enjoy flying like a bird,” the councilman said.
While the temporary addition could help generate money for various maintenance needs and give visitors another summertime amusement, Rosendahl said he would only endorse the project if Venice residents were in favor of it.
“I said (to Recreation and Parks) that it would be perfect for the summer assuming Venetians would go for it,” Rosendahl said. He told the neighborhood council audience, “It’s important that you buy into this if you think it’s worth having on Venice Beach, and know that a piece of it will go into cleaning up the area that we don’t have enough money for in Rec. and Parks.”
The zip ride project is proposed by Greenheart Conservation Company/Flightlinez, a Canadian company that designs, builds and operates conservation based canopy walkways and other nature-based attractions around the world including Las Vegas, the Amazon and Rwanda.
The plan is to install a 50-foot-high launch tower with a 44-foot takeoff platform on the northern edge of Windward Plaza, allowing harnessed riders to soar 750 feet to a 24-foot-tall landing tower near 17th Avenue and the basketball courts. Rides would operate between 11 a.m. and sunset and cost $20 per person, with some discounts offered.
Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of Recreation and Parks, said the department is proposing to issue the project a special event permit to operate for three months and the structure would be removed after the end of the pilot. The California Coastal Commission must also approve the zipline attraction, which Greenheart hopes to launch July 1.
In addition to giving visitors the thrill of ziplining at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour over the beach, the project is intended to support the maintenance of the park, said Ian Green, president and co-founder of Greenheart. The company works with parks and protected areas to enable them to generate revenue, creating “sustainable and profitable public parks,” Green said.
“We wanted to develop something over three months that really fits into Venice,” he said. “We hope to create a model project and showcase it here in Venice over these three months that will be a lot more than what people think of a ‘yahoo’ zipline.”
According to Greenheart, a key element of the Flightlinez plan would be regularly scheduled classes and workshops on aerial acrobatics, juggling and hooping specifically targeting at-risk youths. The aerial attraction would also feature periodic evening performances involving lights such as an installation held at the Burning Man event. Funding for the classes and shows will be raised through the zipline tickets.
“We all just want to bring something positive back to the community,” said Alicia Schultze, a Venice artist and aerial acrobat working with Greenheart.
Rosendahl said the programs focused on disadvantaged youths and acrobatic performances add “another dimension” to what the project can bring to Venice.
Some residents at the neighborhood council meeting voiced concerns over impacts to beach views with the two towers. With the zipline following the controversial plan for the great observation wheel, others expressed opposition to commercializing the beach.
“Parks are public property; parks are not something for people to make money off of,” resident Nick Antonicello said.
Addressing some of the concerns, Regan said, “We’re not trying to do anything to rob Venice; we’re trying to make the park better.”
Some residents and neighborhood council members pointed out that the project would just be up for three months and it’s something worth testing out for its revenue opportunities and other benefits.
“We’ve got three months. If we don’t like it, then it will be gone, but it might be a wonderful change for us,” said Clabe Hartley, owner of the Cow’s End caf/. “They will cater to us and our environment with what they’re doing.”
Neighborhood council Vice President Marc Saltzberg said he believes the project is acceptable because it will initially be for three months, and in the meantime the city will be able to take care of boardwalk maintenance issues.
Prior to the council’s support, the Visitor Impact Committee recommended approval with conditions including that the attraction be dismantled at the end of the three months; be subject to Coastal Commission review; night-time security be provided by at least two people; and that the operator invite local artists to decorate the towers.