April 19 ‘Vexit’ town hall contemplates independent cityhood

By Joe Piasecki

If Venice split off from Los Angeles, would residents reap more essential public services from their tax dollars or wind up paying the same for less? Would local control empower Venice to halt gentrification in its tracks, or allow moneyed interests to completely take over? Is the average Venetian (if there is such a thing) dissatisfied enough with the status quo to try and figure all this out?

After more than a year of research and discussion by the Venice Neighborhood Council’s ad hoc Venice Cityhood Committee, the VNC’s Outreach Committee is putting these and other questions to the public during a ‘Vexit’ town hall discussion from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 19, at Ánimo Venice Charter High School (820 Broadway St., Venice).

Organizers emphasize that the town hall is not intended to advocate a particular point of view, but to increase community participation in the discussion and feel out whether there’s enough interest to continue exploring the idea.

VNC Outreach Officer Hollie Stenson will moderate a discussion panel expected to include: Paul Novak, executive officer with the county committee that handles cityhood petitions; Fred Gaines, mayor of Calabasas, which incorporated in 1991; VNC member Jim Murez; Isaac Simpson, who wrote about Vexit for Curbed Los Angeles; and Joe Piasecki, managing editor of The Argonaut.

Venice started off as an independent city in 1905 but merged with L.A. in 1926 amid struggles to maintain public infrastructure at pace with population growth and impacts of tourism. Its unique community identity, however, remains alive in the public consciousness.

“People who live in Venice think of themselves as Venetians, not Angelenos. A lot of people think Venice is its own city because in terms of character and style, it already is, only it doesn’t have its own government,” says longtime resident Nick Antonicello, who runs the ad hoc committee but is stepping back from the panel because his views are pretty widely known: “Home rule, in my mind, has powerful value,” he says. “You’d have a local government comprised of Venice residents whose only interest is Venice.”

To contact town hall organizers, email outreach@venicenc.org.