Inspired by the Venice Community Plan

By Ansley Weller

For the last few months, I have had hundreds, possibly thousands of conversations with Venice citizens and stakeholders all across Venice Beach. The largest perceived weakness of Venice is, without a doubt, the homeless crisis. The greatest perceived strength is the creative resolve and artistic resilience of our community including entrepreneurs and technologists.
I have also studied, meticulously, The Venice Community Plan that was adopted in 2000 and amended five years ago in 2016 created by Los Angeles City Planning. I want to address the lack of Venice voices heard and represented in the Westside community plans and survey responses.

First off, Venice had the lowest response rate across the Westside for the Venice Community Plan and the grand majority of the 539 responses were white middle-class homeowners that, by the way, strongly disagreed with the vision put forth by the city of LA.

It is therefore our duty to come up with our own authentically Venice vision for our future.

The most popular aspect of the Venice Community Plan was the Windward Pedestrian Promenade. It was touted as being a great opportunity for a proper entrance to Venice, to showcase the artistic talent in Venice, and to enhance circulation for the surrounding areas.

I will be commenting specifically on this and casting a vision for how the Windward Promenade can support the dignity and holistic welfare for Venice Beach performers, artists and creative stakeholders while opening up multiple pathways for the homeless in Venice to be given lifelines and opportunities to properly and productively engage with the larger Venice community.

Imagine an entrance to Venice that embodies creative panache, corporate responsibility, environmental sustainability, inspired design and compassionate practicality for artists in need of affordable housing. The principle title behind this space will be “Creative Connections: 21st Century Community Stewardship Models.”

The immediate need for artisans, creatives and performers are basic: affordable housing year-round. Seasonal support to weather distinctions between summer highs and winter, autumn lows. Incubators and accelerators to support the growth and scale of entrepreneurial activity beyond small-scale projects and performances. Universal income similar to what has been successfully implemented in Long Beach; however, the parameters will slightly differ based on the specific needs for the Venice community.

1. Fully paid housing for one year in apartments or properties in the immediate vicinity of Winward (.25 miles or .40 kilometers).
2. A monthly payment of $1,000 per month for selected artists that work full-time on Ocean Front Walk and on these programs.
3. Full-time enrollment in the first-ever Venice Arts & Technology Accelerator program with corporate sponsorship and mentorship from established local artists and businesses.
4. Commitment to an annual pitch competition hosted and run by the Venice Neighborhood Council for all of the participants in the accelerator to promote and engage with the larger spirit of entrepreneurship, investment, equity, equality and inspiration that is the ideal realization for Venice.

The homeless crisis needs to be addressed — but not through bloated bureaucracies and political agendas. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Artists and art are Venice’s greatest strengths. So what if our community hired “artists in residence” to come up with art and programs that specifically addressed the homeless epidemic?
We would set up specific regions of Venice with programs and themes developed by artists that will generate productivity, community service and long-term solutions to joblessness.
Enrollment and engagement in these activities will develop meaningful relationships and purpose for those in the community facing homelessness.

If homeless individuals are not willing to engage in these creative programs, they will be asked to remove themselves from the community. If they are unwilling to remove themselves, they will be removed from the limits of Venice by the police and sheriff’s departments including private security solutions.

I am confident that the infusion of creative solutions to the current Venice Community Plan will not only help to drive more direct community involvement from Venice stakeholders in the Westside community plan, but will also leave a lasting legacy that is distinctly Venice, for both a political and artistic renaissance in our neighborhood for decades to come.
Together, let’s ensure that we are on the right side of history.