LA Times: “In Venice, a battle over the boardwalk”

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From Martha Groves in today’s LATimes:

A crackdown on Venice Beach homeless encampments and renegade vendors is pitting longtime residents and merchants against homeless advocates and younger transients.

Venice Beach boardwalk

The Los Angeles Police Department enforcement efforts, begun almost two months ago, were spurred by mounting complaints from waterfront residents and business owners who said aggressive, intoxicated transients and violent disputes over vendors’ spaces had made the boardwalk an increasingly lawless, frightening place.

Longtime Venetians have expressed delight at having a somewhat sanitized Venice — more “Beach Blanket Bingo,” less “Mad Max.”

“The way it was going, no one was enjoying it, absolutely no one, including the tourists,” said Brad Neal, a landlord on Ocean Front Walk.

But the clampdown has its critics.

The California Coastal Commission has argued that enforcement of a curfew violates state beach access rules. The city of Los Angeles should have sought a coastal development permit before beginning the action, said Deputy Director Jack Ainsworth. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office says it is on firm ground, having determined that Ocean Front Walk was part of Venice Beach park and therefore subject to an overnight park curfew in effect since 1989.

Others say the city runs the risk of taming the wild and woolly atmosphere that has made Venice a destination that attracts 16 million people a year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if this area became a little Santa Monica, with corporate businesses forcing out the independents,” said Kenneth Karl, 40, a homeless man who occasionally slept at the beach before the curfew enforcement. “You wouldn’t want that. The performers and entertainers are what people come to see.”

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