Venice leaders clash with chamber over bringing family-friendly attraction to the boardwalk
By Gary Walker
Despite an all-hands-on-deck call from the Venice Chamber of Commerce to its supporters, plans to bring a temporary public ice-skating rink to Venice Beach hit a wall on Tuesday.
The chamber was pushing the Venice Neighborhood Council to reconsider its November vote opposing the operation of an ice rink along the boardwalk for three months each year.
Supporters say the rink would provide a family-friendly activity for residents and tourists alike while also generating revenue that could be used to help clean and maintain the boardwalk.
Venice Neighborhood Council members voted 11-6 to oppose the rink last month and deadlocked Tuesday on whether to reconsider that decision — eight votes for bringing the issue back, eight votes against and one abstention. A two-thirds majority is required to reconsider a previous vote.
Opposition to the skating rink puts the neighborhood council at odds with not only the chamber, but also L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
Bonin, reached while traveling on his honeymoon, remains determined to pursue the concept.
“Positive, family-friendly programming at Venice Beach would be a boon for local businesses and can help make our neighborhood safer for residents and more welcoming to visitors. I am in the process of considering the input and suggestions from neighborhood stakeholders and the Dept. of Recreation and Parks regarding an environmentally-responsible winter ice rink near the boardwalk, and I remain very excited about moving forward with this project,” Bonin said.
The California Coastal Commission, which must approve changes on the state’s beaches, rejected an ice rink proposal by Bonin’s office in September but is expected to reconsider the issue next year.
Venice Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Donna Lasman said her members were disappointed that neighborhood council members chose not to reopen discussion.
“We are generally in favor of anything that will make Venice Beach a cleaner, safer place for families to come and enjoy. We really saw the skating rink as another rung in that ladder,” Lasman said after the meeting.
Opponents of the ice rink argue that there is already an 8,000-square-foot outdoor skating rink at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Fifth Street in Santa Monica, less than five miles away.
Currently in is eighth season, ICE at Santa Monica has been very successful.
“It has become a beloved community tradition for locals and those who live on the Westside. We had just over 51,000 skaters last year,” said Kevin Herrera, spokesman for Downtown Santa Monica Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps manage services and operations in the downtown area.
As to its economic impacts, “anecdotally we have heard from skaters that they do visit stores and restaurants downtown,” Herrera said.
Venice neighborhood council member Ira Koslow, who lives a block away from the boardwalk and voted against the ice rink, rejected the notion that bring a skating rink to Venice would attract more families.
“I see families coming to our beach all the time. They come in cars and in buses,” said Koslow, who has lived in Venice for 40 years.
“I think Venice Beach should stay a beach. It’s the only beach where you will find the diversity of the world,” he said. “You don’t need to put something [on the boardwalk] to get people to go there. It’s the people’s beach.”
Lasman believes fresh offerings can spur economic growth and attract new visitors.
“In order to evolve, Venice Beach needs to attract the type of tourists that we already have, but also families. The chamber believes that we need to be a strong, progressive, open-minded voice for the community,” she said.