Local activists fight to save tower from demolition by LA County
The fate of the iconic Venice Lifeguard Tower located at 2300 Ocean Walk has become the source of a battle between local activists and Los Angeles County officials that continues to unfold.
For the past six months, Robin Murez has been working tirelessly to save the tower from demolition after the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbor successfully petitioned for a de minimis waiver in 2022, which granted permission to demolish the tower section of the Venice Lifeguard Station. The waiver streamlined the demolition process, leaving many longtime Venice residents like Murez unaware of the plan to demolish the tower.
While the county alleges that it has reached its developmental life span and is not structurally safe, proponents of saving the tower argue that it can still be repaired and repurposed into a community center or lifeguard museum.
“Before demolishing the iconic Venice Lifeguard Station Tower, and leaving our beach with the surrounding ground floor eyesore, we’re asking the County for the opportunity to evaluate repurposing the tower to be a public site such as for a Lifeguard Oceans Museum. It’s a phenomenal observation tower. Let’s save it!” reads Murez’s petition. “The Tower provides a phenomenal and unmatched expansive view of the entire Santa Monica Bay. If destroyed, it could never be replaced. It has been the pride of our lifeguards for the past 50 years. The County has disregarded the Tower’s unique outstanding qualities, its history, the scarcity of public buildings in Venice and has failed to consider alternative uses. We are asking for the opportunity to evaluate repurposing the Tower for use as a public venue such as a Lifeguard Oceans Museum. Private not-for-profit funds are available.Repurposing the Lifeguard Tower as a community asset would create an exceptional cultural, environmental and educational venue for everyone, young and old, residents and visitors, to enjoy.”
The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) voted unanimously to ask the city attorney to submit a letter to invalidate the waiver. In their petition, they argue that the Department of Beaches and Harbor never had the right to seek the waiver because they do not own the building, which is owned by the city of LA. They also take issue with other sections of the waiver, which inaccurately state that the tower was an addition to the property.
Located on Venice Beach’s boardwalk, this iconic structure was constructed in 1968 as the administrative headquarters for LA’s Lifeguard Division. However, when departments merged years later, headquarters were moved farther down coastlines. Since then, it has fallen into general disrepair with sections succumbing to dry rot.
From the LA County Department of Beaches and Harbors’ perspective, it is required in their lease agreement with City Hall since 1975 that they conduct projects as they see fit to maintain their leased property – demolition included. Repair estimates range from $450K-$3M while demolition costs are expected to be significantly lower than repair costs.
Despite receiving more time from Parks and Recreation officials until the August 5th deadline for public outreach before demolition could take place; however, there is no stay on demolition according to recent statements made by county officials who claim that any assertion waiting for activists’ plans is completely false.
“There is no stay on demolition. We’re continuing internal communications so we can get the further approvals we need before we can tell the contractor to start demolishing the tower. Any assertion that (the Department of Beaches and Harbor is) waiting to give activists time to give us a plan is completely false,” the County told the Argonaut in a statement. “There has been some speculation that the tower portion could be used as a community center or for a lifeguard museum … right now, it’s not something that would be appropriate to open to the public. It would be like putting a museum in the middle of a construction site.”