Only the kind of local control that comes with cityhood can tackle homelessness, gentrification and crime
By Nick Antonicello
Given the spike in crime despite soaring home values, extreme gentrification thanks to the proliferation of short-term rentals and an overall sense that Venice is ignored and forgotten downtown, the argument in favor of cityhood needs to become a serious public policy discussion.
I recently submitted to the Venice Neighborhood Council a resolution seeking that a standing committee be appointed to study the benefits of this urban beach enclave becoming a standalone municipality of Los Angeles County.
Unlike the failed secession effort launched years ago in the San Fernando Valley, a movement for secession by some 38,000 Venetians would represent only about 1% of the entire population of the city of Los Angeles.
By any rational standard, smaller communities are more governmentally effective, accountable and responsive to the needs of residents and citizens alike.
Communities such as Santa Monica to the north, Culver City to the east and Manhattan Beach to the south all offer their residents local government that is accessible, accountable, productive and far cheaper to manage on a day-to-day basis.
As a community of some three square miles, organic new revenues in the form of a Visitor’s Retail Tax and local control of a Transit Occupancy Tax would provide an economic windfall to Venice’s financial coffers based on the 16 million tourists that come to this international destination every single year.
The economic impact would be in the billions when you consider that Santa Monica has less than half that number of visitors (7.3 million) and a population 59% larger (92,000).
With home values surging, Venice can take advantage of shared services when it comes to police, fire and public schools. Venice can collaborate with Los Angeles County for police and fire services while either merging with the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District or seeking any other educational partner than the woefully bureaucratic LAUSD. In the end, a brand new school district could be developed and tailored to the needs of a school population far smaller and much more educationally manageable. Administrative costs would decline and per pupil costs would tumble, meaning more dollars for classroom excellence and instruction.
A directly-elected Venice mayor and City Council would expand upon and improve the current neighborhood council system we have today. Venice would, for the first time since 1926, have a government elected by and for Venetians. Venice
would be the emphasis each and every day, not the political afterthought we are now.
And because Venice is unique in so many ways, renters would find themselves with newfound political clout, as 68.8% of all Venetians are tenants. The issues of homelessness, gentrification, spiraling crime and short-term rentals could finally be properly analyzed to provide solutions necessary to unify this fractured community.
No matter where one lies on the issues that face Venice, almost all of us should agree that greater local control would strengthen our community and offer far greater accountability and productivity as it applies to essential services and the human considerations that are required to address the issues of homelessness, gentrification and high crime.
Managing the challenges of a community of 38,000 is far less complex than running a city of more than three million. Likewise, directly electing a local governing body is far more productive and accountable than getting to elect a single council member in a sprawling district that represents hundreds of thousands of residents.
Getting to invest 100% of our financial resources back into our community rather than having them spread throughout this dysfunctional and fundamentally flawed city called Los Angeles is smarter, better and the right thing to do for this incredibly unique, passionate and diverse citizenry.
I urge residents of Venice to weigh in on the serious topic of cityhood and potential secession from Los Angeles by sharing your comments with the Venice Neighborhood Council at Secretary@VeniceNC.org.
Nick Antonicello is a gadfly, government watchdog and member of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Outreach Committee. He’s lived in Venice for 22 years.