After learning of the possibility of having logos of corporate donors that have given money to Los Angeles park facilities placed in city parks, Venice residents are mobilizing to counteract the plan.
The Los Angeles Parks Foundation has approached the City Council regarding a proposal to assist the city’s Recreation and Parks Department by having corporations donate funds to the department. Each donor would then receive a logo or banner in one of the city’s recreation facilities, thanking them for their donation.
The Argonaut first reported on the foundation’s proposal in March. It includes an extensive proposal for signs and logos along the Venice Boardwalk, which has been rejected by a number of Venice Beach residents.
“With generous donations from our sponsors there is an opportunity to have their name displayed,” Los Angeles Parks Foundation Executive Director Judith Kieffer explained in the March story.
But some logos or banners that would be installed in Venice Beach, which is in the coastal zone, might require a permit from the California Coastal Commission.
Charles Posner, an analyst at the commission, said his agency had not seen a proposal to install any corporate logos at the beach, and each instance would be reviewed individually in the event that the city approves of any signs.
“We would have to look at what is being proposed before we could make a definite determination,” Posner told The Argonaut.
Kieffer said approved images that might be placed in the city’s many facilities include, but are not limited to, the Recreation and Parks Department’s aquatic centers and pools as well as the department’s dog parks.
“These facilities offer high visibility and a diverse demographic, reaching the entire population of Los Angeles city and beyond,” Kieffer added. “The Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the top tourist destinations in Southern California.”
A parks foundation video entitled “Venice Beach Sponsorship Opportunities” lists sites where a corporate donor could install its logo. Locations include the Venice Beach Skate Park, benches, trash receptacles, bleacher signs, basketball courts, the walls of the recreation center and restroom doors. An eight-block stretch along the boardwalk is detailed in the sponsorship opportunities for the potential sites.
On its website, the parks foundation describes its mission as one to “embrace, preserve and expand recreational opportunities and facilities of our over 400 city parks that serve all the people of Los Angeles.”
Posner said painted signs on existing structures like bleachers or trash receptacles would not require permits. But banners that extend over a basketball backboard might need to be regulated, and anything that would qualify as an addition to an existing structure would need a coastal permit as well, he said.
“It is the development that is regulated and that would need a permit, not the advertising,” he explained.
Most development within the coastal zone requires permits from the city as well as from the commission. Structures such as the aforementioned, as well as bus benches and kiosks, known as street furniture, also must be permitted.
Currently, none of the street furniture in Venice has coastal development permits, Posner said.
Under a provision called governance speech, government entities are allowed to erect signs that thank a donor for a financial gift. But there are rigorous regulations that govern this provision, including that the governmental entity control how the sign is erected, as well as its design and what is placed on the sign.
In addition, they must not include anything that resembles advertisements.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice, said the city must consider a variety of options to bring in additional revenue to the city’s coffers. “The idea of a public/private partnership is a very good one,” he said. “The reality is, we have to look for ways to bring in more revenue.”
But Rosendahl also stressed that before approving any plan for corporate sponsorship at the beach, Venice residents would have an opportunity to participate in any discussion regarding the foundation’s proposal.
“Whatever might be done, it would be fully vetted first by the community,” the councilman said. “It’s too early to discuss something until after the (municipal) budget hearings are over, but I don’t want to do anything on the beach before discussing it with my constituents.”
The Venice Neighborhood Council, reacting to a flurry of letters and verbal pleas from its constituents, has voted unanimously to oppose any plans for banners, signs or logos from corporations on the beach. Several residents pleaded with the local board to endorse the motion, which was brought before them by resident Gail Rogers, who lives on a walk street near the boardwalk.
Ira Koslow, a member of the Venice council, said most Venice residents with whom he has spoken do not want to see commercial signage when they go to the beach. “My feeling, especially regarding parks and beaches, is that I can look at advertising practically anywhere within the city, so I don’t want to see it in the parks and beaches,” he said.
Dennis Hathaway, who has worked alongside Rosendahl on reducing the number of billboards on the Westside and in crafting a city ordinance outlawing new digital signs, said he believes that the city councilman is becoming convinced that the corporate sponsorship plan could have some benefits.
“Councilman Rosendahl has drunk the Kool-aid of public private partnerships, and I’m urging people not to drink that Kool-aid, because it means going hat in hand to corporate entities to provide basic services for many years,” Hathaway, the director of the nonprofit Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, told the Venice council.
He was referencing a conversation between Rosendahl and Barry Sanders, the president of the board of commissioners of the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission, at a council committee meeting last month regarding new methods of generating revenue to maintain the city’s recreational facilities.
Barbara Duffy of the Venice Beach Merchants Association also spoke against corporate logos on Venice Beach. “We oppose the commercialization of the Westside in any form,” she said.
Koslow said he has talked to other merchants on the boardwalk who claim there are already a number of illegal signs on the boardwalk. “We don’t need anymore,” he said. “This is not art; it’s privatization.”
But the neighborhood councilmember said he understands what Rosendahl is faced with at the city level, given the city’s financial difficulties.
“He’s under tremendous pressure from the City Council because they’re broke,” Koslow said. “The fact of the matter is that we don’t want any more signs here.”
Kieffer said there are no sponsorship proposals for any city parks, including Venice Beach, at the moment.
Posner said the commission would look at each proposed logo or sign if and when the foundation makes an official proposal. “They will be evaluated on a case by case basis,” he said.
The Del Rey Neighborhood Council is scheduled to consider a motion similar to one supported by its Venice counterpart at its monthly meeting Thursday, June 9.