2017 was a horrible year and a wonderful year for Westside communities
By Joe Piasecki
Perhaps the best description of last Friday’s eerily beautiful Space-X rocket launch came from Elon Musk himself: “the biggest Rorschach test ever.” Nuclear war, alien contact — considering the events of 2017, who could blame people for jumping to conclusions?
These are interesting times. And as the apocryphal Chinese curse in our headline implies, interesting does not mean easy. But chaos and uncertainty also bring potential for growth and, ultimately, a better world.
Westside communities, for those who can still afford to live here, experienced a mixed bag of good and bad news in 2017. The only constant, to borrow another saying, was change — or, in some cases, resistance to it.
Women’s March & #MeToo
The day after the inauguration of grabber-bragger-in-chief Donald Trump, women took to the streets of Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and hundreds of other cities worldwide to send a message that women’s rights would not be a casualty of national politics.
Organized by two Westside women out of the WeWork Playa Vista co-working space on Jefferson Boulevard, the march drew several hundred thousand people to downtown Los Angeles and set an intention for 2017 that would later manifest itself in the #MeToo response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors donning Wonder Woman headbands while ordering a renovation of the Marina del Rey Fire Station to accommodate female firefighters, and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Marina del Rey) joining hundreds of women in calling out sexual harassment in the state capitol.
The Scourge of Homelessness
In Venice, 2017 began with widespread alarm over county-refuted claims of a MRSA outbreak among homeless encampments on Third and Rose avenues (aka Skid Rose). It ends with that encampment all but disbanded due to increased city enforcement and cleanup efforts in the face of a very real Hepatitis A outbreak among San Diego’s homeless population.
Longtime Venice homeless activist David Busch went on a hunger strike in March demanding greater hygiene access for the homeless, and earlier this month the L.A. City Council decided to deploy mobile restrooms in Venice and open up beach bathrooms 24/7 in 2018. In March, L.A County voters decided to tax themselves $350 million per year to expand homeless services, but the impact of those funds won’t be felt until the coming year.
Meanwhile, LAX officials stepped up outreach to the hundreds of homeless living in Manchester Square, who must leave in January to make way for the airport’s new ground transportation hub.
Road Diets & a Recall Campaign
The three most-viewed argonautnews.com stories of 2017 each had to do with the road diets implemented this summer in Playa del Rey and Mar Vista. These traffic lane reductions (reversed in Playa but still in effect along Venice Boulevard) prompted enough sustained community outrage to establish tinkering with commuter drive times as the new third rail of Los Angeles politics. They also spawned a concerted effort to remove L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin from office, but only 2018 will tell whether that campaign can collect enough signatures to get out of the slow lane.