By Nick Antonicello
With COVID-19 now slowly in the rearview mirror, it is time to restore the purpose of the Venice Boardwalk as the world renowned destination for both Californians and tourists around the United States and around the world.
There cannot be any more tolerance for bureaucratic government roadblocks or excuses that will prevent OFW from being rehabilitated and restored and that starts with a face-lift and most importantly, removing all human encampments that are illegal, illogical and the prime source for drug use, crime and destruction of public and private property at the boardwalk.
For under the likes of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA Councilman Mike Bonin and LA Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Venice has become a national tragedy, an embarrassment for what was once a crown jewel of urban beach living, local artists and eclectic dining, entertainment that all could afford and enjoy!
Currently crime-ridden, gang influenced and dangerous, needed steps are required to ensure investment, redevelopment and a renewed maintenance and upkeep that revitalizes an important source of commerce to our local economy and community.
Here are 10 ways we can make the Venice Boardwalk Venice Strong:
1. Re-open the Muscle Beach pit as soon as possible. One of the prime attractions of OFW is the weight-lifting pit and the events around that facility. This will be the third summer this locale has been closed. It doesn’t take three years to fix anything and the re-opening of this popular tourist venue is necessary.
2. Transform the Venice Pier into more than just a place to fish. This iconic tourist attraction can be so much more. What about creating a band shell similar to the Hollywood Bowl and having concerts and other events that draws people back to the beach? What about a fireworks display that can seen from this location? What about food trucks and live music that makes the pier the envy of other communities?
3. Bring a full-time public safety presence to OFW. The current police substation is underutilized and not deployed in a fashion that could respond timely to criminal activity or crisis. The structure needs to include garages for public safety vehicles and LAPD and LAFD should have a 24-7 presence that is obvious including boots on the ground patrols with cops walking the beat and having a strong and visible presence so that locals and tourists alike will feel safe.
4. Mandatory violations enforcement of scooters and motorized vehicles. No scooter should be on the boardwalk as well as any bike or vehicle. We need mandatory ticketing and “geo fencing” to ensure pedestrians are safe. The scooter companies should agree to a public/private investment of a new and separate lane west of the bike path that begins at the Venice Pier and ends at the Santa Monica Pier so that the co-mingling of bikes, scooters and motorized vehicles ends as soon as possible.
5. Construct family-style entertainment at the beach. Why not a 2,500 seat baseball park that is affiliated with the LA Dodgers and serves as another place to see professional baseball at an affordable cost? Day games will drive traffic to the beach and create new customers for restaurants and other businesses that are hanging on for dear life in lieu of the pandemic. The more family-friendly entertainment, crime will decrease and revenue will soar for the local economy bringing back the tourists we need so much.
6. A state-of-the-art volley ball facility. Why doesn’t Venice of all places have a beach volley ball venue we call all be proud of that hosts tournaments and with the Olympics coming to LA, what investment is being considered for Venice that are part of these impending summer games?
7. Turnover management of the boardwalk to an independent, public/private entity that can generate revenue and build a long-term plan for success. Recreation & Parks has demonstrated time and time again an inability to operate and manage OFW. The maintenance is non-existent and a complete overhaul of the current compliment of recreational resources and facilities is necessary. With the millions of tourists that come to the beach, outdoor advertising and other revenue-generating initiatives need to considered, and new management is necessary and required to get things done. A national professional search should be conducted to find the leadership needed to be successful.
8. Landscaping and Streetscape investment is required to restore the image of the boardwalk. Once the encampments are removed, more trees, green space, restrooms and improved lighting must be considered so that the boardwalk can thrive day and night. More efficient lighting from solar sources on the bike path, panic polls along the boardwalk and signage that is inviting must replace the ugly and unsightly placards you see today. Replicate the “hanging style” Venice signs at each street that intersects with the boardwalk for a more historical and tourist friendly atmosphere. Install a children’s spray pool or a salt water pool for adults as just another amenity at the beach.
9. Construct an indoor, multi-purpose facility that can host dancing for people of all ages as well as conferences or conventions at the beach. Another way to boost revenues so that facilities management and upkeep is consistent and constant.
10. Create a permanent “free speech” zone that allows activists and artists to present and perform in safety and peace. The current situation at the boardwalk has all but decimated that important aspect of the culture of Venice that has been lost in lieu of the pandemic. This needs to return and be part of an impending renaissance at the beach.
The time has come for bold ideas, collaboration and action that transform the boardwalk into an urban tourist destination by the sea that is eclectic, cool and fun.
That can be achieved if the proper planning is inclusive and strategic. Coming out of COVID-19 allows for the kind of master plan Venice so desperately wants and desires moving forward.
The author is a member of the Oceanfront Walk, Outreach & Parking Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org) and 28-year resident. He can be reached by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 621-3775.