Friday, March 17, 2017

A Great Read from Tony Bill

From The New Yorker quoting a Venice activist:

 “Snapchat has been changing the face of Venice, pushing a vibrant beach community into a corporate tech campus to support their 1800 employees...when there is a viable corporate tech area in Playa Vista just a few miles away.”

“Market Street, once a jumble of restaurants and artists’ studios, has become a ghost town, vibrant and accessible only to those who can enter buildings with corporate I.D.s and eat for free.”
From Tony Bill, famed director and long-time Venice resident:
Dear Snap Protestors,

Welcome to Market Street! You certainly livened up our normally quiet little block 10 days or so ago. It was fun to see you; all several dozen disgruntled, distressed (to say nothing of disdainful) neighbors complaining about the end of the world as you know it…twice turning out in your clown outfits, shorts and silly hats, and toting your skateboards, surfboards and placards, performing for yourselves and Channel 4. (It’s no surprise these days that loud, colorful, outrageous and insulting claims get press attention, no matter how ill-informed they may be.)

But, really…Snapchat is “changing the face of Venice”? What “face”? Certainly not The Boardwalk’s. Surely not Abbot Kinney’s. And you can’t mean Market Street’s, which for the 40-plus years I’ve been there, has never had a face. In fact, with the exception of the solitary restaurant that operated, in all three of its iterations, almost without signage, there hasn’t been a visible or public space on the street since Aaardvark’s Used Clothing Store closed two years after the owner, Joe Stromei, died in 2008.

I could walk you down Market, both then and now, and point out that there are few windows open to that street; that the 18 spaces are occupied by people who work in private, in tolerant proximity. On Market, we’ve been doing our thing(s) behind closed doors and plain walls for decades. So what’s new? Do you know the history of our street? Doesn’t sound like it:

1) Nikki’s bar. 4 years ago, Nikki’s business was marginal, they were at the end of their lease and, frankly, were bad tenants and neighbors…unless you enjoy 2 AM street fights, drunks breaking bottles and arguing, guys peeing or puking in your doorway and defecating in your alley. It was the site of vice-squad busts, neighbor complaints, and numerous Health and Fire Department penalties. It was poorly maintained, and the kitchen was in shambles (food was hardly their forte.) The bar equipment barely functioned. On their closing night, their regular (and not atypical) customers expressed their affection by trashing the interior, breaking windows, and inscribing their initials in walls and bathroom mirrors. (I know, I know…some of you thought it was fun.) Nobody on Market misses it for a minute.

It’ll open again in the future as 72 Market Street, the Venice pioneer restaurant from which it sprang. That’s because Snap stepped up and invested more than their landlord could afford to restore it. It’ll again be a clean, classy, civilized joint you can enjoy. (If you still yearn to get wasted, dance on tables, pick fights, and puke on the sidewalk, I know a couple of places on The Boardwalk.) Until that day, Snappers get to eat there for free and you don’t. Get over it. (Or go to one of the shelters that enjoy the same food Snap donates every day via

2) The so-called “Private Crosswalk” on Pacific and Market. For decades, long before Snap, this previously unmarked intersection, one of the busiest between the beach and the rest of Venice, has been a treacherous contest between drag-racers from the Windward traffic light and unwitting pedestrians who correctly, but naively, assume that California pedestrians have the right of way. Snap pushed it through when no one else would or could. But it’s not private; it belongs to everyone. (Thanks, Snap.) Nevertheless, you demonstrators blocked it, and Pacific traffic in both directions. Well, you sure showed us! (Thanks, demonstrators.) If you still want to boycott it, try crossing Pacific one unmarked block north, at Horizon, where your chances of survival are about 90/10.

3) And, speaking of traffic: how about the parking and traffic calamities ascribed to Snap? Did you know that most of their Market St. employees don’t drive to work? Didn’t think so.

4) Security. And what’s the problem with Snap’s security men and, please note, women…except for those goofy Smoky the Bear hats? Until 4 years ago, we had to clean the sidewalks, gutters and alleys of Market ourselves. Daily. Trash, bottles, needles, vomit, (thanks, again, Nikki’s!) doorway piss and poop, vagabonds and their leftover junk…daily. Does anyone find that scene attractive enough to lament its passing? Snap keeps it clean now, and safe. Is that a problem? Not for us. Several years ago, one of our residents was – and this is not a misuse of the word – literally carved up, standing next to his studio, by a homeless guy he had befriended and helped. And is anyone naïve enough to expect tech companies, architects, filmmakers, et alia to open their doors to passers-by? The last time you tried to stroll into Google, didn’t they have security? Did you peek in their windows or hang around their front door? In fact, has anyone, uninvited, been inside our studios and workspaces on Market Street? No? Well, that’s why we moved there.

5) Displacement. Behind those locked doors on Market St., Madonna and Basquiat cohabited; Randy Newman and Dudley Moore and Andy Summers composed and recorded; Costa Gavras, James Brooks, Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Frank Pierson, Barry Levinson, and many others wrote, edited and screened their movies. (Google them, kids.) I ran into Bob Dylan coming out of 73 one night. Major artists have come and gone, but…contrary to such uninformed depictions (a “jumble…”) as in the recent New Yorker article quoted above…there hasn’t been a gallery there in well over 10 years. The last major artists on the street were Robert Graham, who died in 2005 and Larry Bell, who happily found a larger and cheaper space nearby around 2012. The L.A. Louver moved out over 20 years ago. Notice all the closed doors and blank facades? Our little street is not the Hollywood Bowl; you can’t buy a ticket to watch us. People have always been quietly and privately creating their own things there: things that have later become famous and appreciated.

Sort of like what Snap is doing right now.

Let’s check again in 2 or 3 years, when all Snap’s leases have expired (they’ve bought almost nothing…two small spaces that I know of; another myth.) By then, they’ll probably have moved their entire operation out of Venice to the Santa Monica Industrial Park at the airport. You remember the airport?…before the traffic gridlock created by that city’s slickers who retired on the payola they exacted from real developers…guys who knew how to build ‘em big and tall. It’ll soon be another Playa Vista…right in our own back yard. Full of tech companies and the jobs and customers and taxes they’ll be sending to another town. Just like you wanted.

Oh…and the “face” of Market Street? It’ll look almost exactly like it did thirty and twenty and ten years ago. And today.

Thanks for reading this,

From the oldest guy on the street.

Boardwalk Trending Cleaner but Rec. and Parks not Cooperating in Enforcement

At the suggestion of a VSA supporter I walked the Boardwalk from Windward to Marine this morning and was surprised to see that some of the persistent "stuff" had been removed.  I also spoke with one of the Watershed Protection team that was doing the cleanup today and found that they were aggressively removing all but the 60 gallon limit of stuff that each person is allowed to have with them.  I even saw the LAPD arrest a Boardwalk dweller who interfered with the Watershed team's removal of excess stuff, some of which was destined for storage for 90 days.

As I discussed the current protocols it became clear that the Watershed Protection team is rigorously enforcing LAMC 56.11 but is not enforcing the parallel parks ordinance LAMC 63.44:

(1) No Person shall Store Personal Property in any Park
(2) All Stored Personal Property remaining in any Park after closing may be removed by the City.

It also bans:   any item that is too large to fit in one of the City's 60 gallon trash containers with the lid closed, including, but not limited to, a mattress, couch, chair or other furniture or appliance.

The weak link in getting the Boardwalk and grass areas finally cleaned up is the Recreation and Parks Department.  The City has left enforcement of 63.44 to Rec. and Parks and they are not enforcing either the ban on items larger than the limit during the day or the right of the department to remove everything from the Boardwalk, grass and sand areas after park closure at 10 PM.

So, some progress has been made but there is a ways to go before Venice Boardwalk looks as clean as Santa Monica's.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Calling All Volunteers!

The principal of Westminster Elementary School 
is recruiting volunteers to help 
paint the classroom doors at the school.

Saturday, February 4th, 2017    

9:00 am  –  3:00 pm       

       Please wear appropriate clothing.           

Snacks, drinks, and all supplies provided.

Parking is available on the school playground 
(enter off of Main Street).

 RSVP to Barry Cohen at

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

City’s New Vehicle Camping Ordinance Fundamentally Flawed

 Amendments Needed Immediately 
to Protect Residents

Los Angeles’s new vehicle dwelling ordinance (LAMC 85.02) is fundamentally flawed, failing to protect thousands of residents from the burden of car campers living on their front curb. 

"Venice Stakeholders has long asked for the City Council to adopt a new version of the car camping ban to protect residents,” said Mark Ryavec, president of Venice Stakeholders Association, a non-profit group committed to neighborhood safety.  

“Unfortunately, the new ordinance is flawed in both the drafting and in implementation,” Ryavec said.  

“The first problem is that the definition for “residential” is based on zoning, not on the actual existence of residences on a street,” Ryavec said.  “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of single and multiple-family residences on commercially zoned streets that under the new ordinance will have to host car camping on their front curbs.”  

“The ordinance also lacks a setback from residences where commercial zoning meets residential zoning,” the VSA leader said.  “So where these meet, car dwellers will still be able to park within a few feet of residences.”  

“Then there is the odd creation of a third category of restrictions – No Vehicle Dwelling Overnight 9 PM to 6 AM – which is not contained in the ordinance.  Marked on city maps in yellow, it will legally allow car camping during the day and evening in roughly one half of the city’s residentially zoned properties.  These streets will quickly turn into overnight car camping zones due to the shortage of police officers to enforce 85.02.”  

“We urge the city to immediately change all yellow striping to red and pass amendments to 85.02 to extend the ban on car camping at any time to within 100 feet of any property in a residential use,” Ryavec said.  

For further information see:

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Backward Policy for Hiring of City Workers

This is an alarming new City law.  While I subscribe to the notion that everyone deserves a second chance this new ordinance goes way too far.

"It will target for hire as City workers: (1) the homeless; (2) formerly incarcerated, including those on parole or probation; (3) "former" gang members; and (4) troubled and "disconnected"/fostered youth. 

These individuals will be recruited to replace the 46% of current City employees eligible for retirement within two years." 

Veterans are fifth on the list!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

MRSA Not the Only Public Health Risk for Homeless Campers, Teen Project Founder Says

Lauri Burns, the founder and president of The Teen Project in Venice, reports that antibiotic resistant bacteria are not the only health threat incubating in the homeless encampments along Venice Beach.

Image result for lauri burns teen project image
Lauri Burns and some of the young women her Teen Project has helped get off the street and off of drugs.
Alerted by the recent report by Lava-Mae of six – and possibly nine – apparent MRSA cases at 3rd and Rose, Ms. Burns called the VSA to tell of her own experience with insects carried by the population.

“I took a young homeless woman into my home for one night on an emergency basis and it resulted in an infection of sand mites that took over half a year to eradicate,” She said.

“Both I and my boyfriend received bites for months, which were very painful,” she said.

“We tented the house, we had exterminators back regularly, we washed the bedding every day,” she said, “but it still took a long time to eradicate the mites.”

“I don’t think the public understands that the unsanitary conditions in which these people are forced to live, and in very close proximity, are a very favorable breeding ground for disease and insects.”

“It’s a ticking time bomb and should drive more sanitation measures than we are currently seeing and quicker re-housing where the homeless can get away from these unsanitary conditions and get treated,” Burns said.  “The homeless people want a chance at life. They don't want to stay homeless.”

Burns, who was homeless herself as a young woman, notes that eradicating disease and infection is the first priority for her clients at FREEHAB, the free drug treatment facility for homeless young women that she opened in 2014 in Sun Valley.  Burns says the facility has hosted 442 women with a 90% success rate at getting them off drugs and keeping them off the street with both drug treatment and vocational training.