The Venice Neighborhood Council made waves last week with a 12-2 vote of support for asking city officials to lift the ban on topless sunbathing by women at Venice Beach.

Many believe women should have equal rights as men when it comes to catching some rays.

“It is a gender equality issue, but it is also about starting a conversation to get people involved in their community and in local politics,” said Melissa Diner, the neighborhood council member who introduced the idea.

Topless women were once relatively commonplace on Venice Beach until the L.A. City Council enacted new citywide nudity regulations in the 1970s. For the neighborhood council’s proposal to move forward, the city council would have to change an ordinance that specifically requires women to keep their nipples covered.

L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents the Westside, said he has other priorities.

“While I appreciate the idea, right now my priorities for Venice are increasing public safety, housing the homeless and protecting affordable housing, reining in overdevelopment, enhancing mobility and improving the delivery of core city services,” Bonin said.

Other local reaction has been mixed, but largely supportive or indifferent:

“Who’s it going to hurt? I don’t see a single victim here. If anything, [topless sunbathing] will encourage more people to come to our beach, which is one of our biggest revenue generators. And it could bring more interesting alternative people to the community, which is what Venice is all about.”
— Real estate agent Laura Alice

“Those of us who have lived here for over 40 years remember the topless beach. It was 1973 and I was there in less than full gear. But when men in trench coats started lurking around on the sand, it was time to call it quits for me.”
— Retired high school teacher Gail Rogers

“I think it’s kind of a cool idea. People talk about keeping Venice hip and real — well, this is about as cool and real and funky as it gets. And if it draws more attention to Venice, why not?”
— Venice Ale House owner Tom Elliot

“There is so much to discuss and work on in Venice beyond this obviously important women’s issue that has turned into a silly circus.”
— Longtime Venice Beach homeowner Jack Hoffman

“It’s issues like this that make our community so interesting and fascinating.”
— Venice Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Lasman

— Compiled by Gary Walker

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