Where affluence meets poverty, leadership from City Hall has been hard to find

By Nick Antonicello

A displaced homeless man removes his belongings from Third Avenue in Venice during the city’s January cleanup of the persistent encampments there.
Photo by Ted Soqui

The writer is chair of the ad-hoc Venice Neighborhood Council committee reviewing the possibility of independent cityhood for Venice.

The Argonaut’s Feb. 16 story on the Council District 11 race (“From Venice with Angst”) accurately describes the frustrations of a changing Venice. It is no coincidence that the incumbent is being challenged by not just one but two Venetians who believe that fundamental change in leadership is required.

Under the incumbent, Venice has become a tale of two neighborhoods.

On one side there is the vast affluence of new residents employed in the surging high-tech sector, replacing traditional beach bungalows with new sleek-glass architecture and a ushering in a less-bohemian and eclectic lifestyle.

As the new rapidly replaces the old, longtime Venetians find themselves gentrified out and unable to retain their roots, with no help against the hard economic reality of skyrocketing rents and home prices.

In a race that has been quiet (likely destined for single-digit turnout, given the lack of competition for mayor), Venetians seem to be the only segment of L.A. that has a reason to vote on March 7.

While Venice accounts for only 20 of the council district’s 124 precincts, the angst that has taken hold in this urban beach enclave could translate into a larger-than-usual voter turnout here.

For the stakes are high. While some Venetians contemplate outright secession, others are simply frustrated by deteriorating conditions at the beach (both the bike path and Ocean Front Walk), crime, homelessness and the lack of a plan to fix these things after four years under Councilman Mike Bonin.

The incumbent has made a boatload of printed promises in his direct-mail reelection campaign, including: Safe Neighborhoods, Green Neighborhoods, Beautiful Neighborhoods and Thriving Neighborhoods.

But Venice has not realized this plethora of political promises from a career politician who is rarely seen and hardly heard.

Venice is not safe in many locales, traffic continues to be stifling and the boardwalk is in worse shape today than it was four years ago.

For where is the day-to-day maintenance for a tourist destination visited by more people a year than attend all NFL games in a given season?

For where are the “smart investments” to improve Venice that were promised four years ago, other than allowing it to become a social welfare dumping ground for the rest of the council district?

For where is the plan for Venice’s future?

This race has so far been about debating about debates and unfairly characterizing one challenger as an ally of Donald Trump, when in fact all three candidates are registered Democrats — all left-of-center in their general approach to local governance!

If Mr. Ryavec is this evil twin of Mr. Trump, why is it that it is Mr. Bonin, not Ryavec, who has accepted a multitude of developer campaign dollars?

And where was the incumbent when his other challenger, Robin Rudisill, in many ways led the fight to control overdevelopment and built her reputation as an advocate for coastal concerns?

Weeks before the election the incumbent is calling for more police, the same way he did four years ago with little or no results. By his own admission he called for lower business taxes for hi-tech firms that are barely part of the Venice fabric, as L.A.’s inability to provide essential services led exhausted business owners to seek out Business Improvement Districts (BID) because they can’t rely on the downtown culture to put Venice first, second or even third?

The winner of this election gets five and half years on the council instead of the normal four-year term of office, and the hard reality is that most L.A. residents have little reason to vote other than this scam of realigning council terms in the name of encouraging greater voter turnout.

The reason no one votes is simple: Residents without a vested stake as a city employee, developer or some other special interest receive little if anything in terms of essential services, and quality of life needs taken for granted in other cities go unaddressed.

Yes, Venice is angry and rightly so.

The question is: What will it take to awake the rest of Council District 11 from its slumber?