May 25, 2024 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Deborah Keaton, a Consensus Building Candidate for VNC Community Officer!

Creative director, global brander and private business owner seeks a general consensus on what’s best for Venice moving forward. 

By Nick Antonicello 

Deborah Keaton is a delightful and well-rounded local who tackled the problem of homelessness and encampments in her neighborhood by taking the bull by the horns and imposing true citizen action in cooperation with others to correct this complex problem that is slow to solve. 

Now Deborah wants to share that experience and problem-solving skill set as a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council. 

Admitting she rarely travels east of Sepulveda, this small business owner, wife, parent and homeowner wants to apply this senses of self-success in getting things done for the greater community of this neighborhood we call Venice. 

Deborah and her husband Bob, a senior project manager have resided in Venice for more than three decades and have a 13-year old daughter who attends Mark Twain. Deborah has volunteered in the past with Broadway Elementary and is a strong advocate for our public schools. 

Deborah is a graduate of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and a lifelong Angeleno who also attended University High School in West Los Angeles. 

Her professional career has seen stops along the way at Rubin Postaer Advertising as a Senior Art Director, Creative Director at FOX Home Entertainment, Creative Director at DISNEY as well as NBC UNIVERSAL as a consultant in the same capacity. Her impressive background also includes stints with OGILVY, Bright & Associates, DDB WORLDWIDE, and work with The Honest Company, HERBALIFE and DIRECTV. 

For if Venice is in search of an individual that can course correct this community’s current brand and standing, they have a unique candidacy in Deborah Keaton. 

With the announcement future VNC meetings will be live and in-person beginning April 18th, Keaton believes in community consensus and action, that same strategy that saw encampments in her neighborhood cleared, cleaned and removed. 

“The neighborhood has become peaceful again with new construction and planters. We took it upon ourselves to make it happen,” offered the first-time candidate. 

Deborah credits the leadership of Councilwoman Traci Park (CD-11) and is committed to not letting things back slide to the way that they were. Deborah and her neighbors also worked with private security consultants to remove the encampments with the exception of a few RV’s that still remain. 

The stark difference in leadership at the council level is that with Park, she has a positive working relationship that is moving the ball forward and getting things done. Prior to Park, she never once got the opportunity to speak to the former incumbent, Mike Bonin. 

“He never returned calls, he just didn’t listen.” 

“I want to offer consensus leadership proposals and ideas. Nothing extreme about me. I want to offer long-term, versus short-term solutions that result in a general consensus that results in a vibrant Venice.” 

“Let’s discover the things we agree on,” offered Keaton in an optimistic and positive tone. 

I spent an hour or so on the phone with the candidate and here are her responses to questions submitted prior to our conversation about Venice’s past, present and future: 

Why are you running for VNC and why did you select the position of Community Officer? 

I am running for VNC because it feels like the next logical and natural step for me. I’ve lived in LA my whole life. I’ve lived in Venice for over 30 years. When I moved here, I was young, single, and fearless. I bought a place in Venice because it was full of artists, and it was (at the time) the least expensive beach neighborhood in LA. Abbot Kinney featured only a couple of shops. And there was Hal’s, The Roosterfish and The Brig. Most of the other buildings were boarded up or they were artists’ studios. When I bought my place, my own mom told me that if I moved here, she would never visit me. It was that scary to her. I loved it right away. 

Since that time, I’ve witnessed a lot of changes here in our little beach town. Some good and some bad. First there were the riots, then the anti-gentrification movement,­ followed by the GQ article calling Abbot Kinney “The coolest block in America.” 

There have been some major changes in my own life as well. I fell in love, got married and had a child. So now… I am not as young, not single, and not as fearless. 

We live near the intersection of Electric Avenue and Venice Boulevard. For the last seven years my family including our young daughter grew up with huge encampments just feet from our front door. There were multiple gangs running the camps fighting for territory. There were shootings, fires, and drug dealing in broad daylight. There were naked women screaming in the night being beaten and raped by the dealers and the clients. The pimps would turn up their music to drown out the sound of the beatings. The women would jump our fence in the dark to get away from the beatings. We called the police, but they either never came or when they did it was too late to do anything. 

No one could help us. We called Bonin’s City Council office (Former Councilmember Mike Bonin) over and over with little result. The commercial property owners didn’t care. The LA City Council was deaf to our pleas and the LAPD had their hands tied. 

We were “on our own.” 

There were a lot of scary situations, but the most terrifying was when my husband’s life was threatened by the de facto encampment leader who told me to my face on camera (our Ring was recording) that Jesus was telling him to kill my husband, and I decided enough was enough! 

I grew up believing I could rely on the system for help. I counted on that. I trusted it. So, when I saw things getting really scary and bad, I thought… “I’ll just call the police or the City Council. They will help us”. Well, I was wrong. They couldn’t help. No one was stepping up. So, I stepped up. 

I reached out to other residents that had created grass roots groups and had been effective in change. Chie Lunn, a member of the VNC and now a friend, had handled a similar situation on Rose Avenue. She and her husband were extremely helpful. I met other people that had stepped up, the most wonderful people. We have a great community here. I fell in love with my town all over again and I wanted to help save it. I got busy. I got my neighbors involved. I formed a group called the Venice Electric Group. We raised money and together we made things better.

Along the way Traci Park called me. She showed up every single time we called. She supported our efforts when no one else would. We worked as a group badgering Bonin’s office over and over demanding that they address the issues negatively effecting the neighbors as well as the people living in the camps. Bonin’s office finally came around.  They offered some services and support. After five scheduled and cancelled cleanings we finally got the camp cleaned out. But we knew they would return. Our group kept the area clear through our own efforts with little support from the city. Today the area that was once a scene out of a post-apocalyptic movie is now filled with drought tolerant landscaping. 
Now, It’s peaceful, quiet, and beautiful. 

Knowing that this was only a start, I put my efforts toward helping to elect Traci Park for City Council. I designed materials for her campaign, helped with fundraising, canvased neighborhoods, and posted on Social Media. Thankfully she won. I saw through Traci and her tireless team how rewarding this work is. 

Now, I am proud to say that through my own personal action I have made a positive change in our neighborhood.  It feels good.  Now I’m ready to take on a more formal role as a member of the VNC to help make Venice a better place to live, grow up and enjoy for everyone. I have a lot to learn. That’s why I chose to run for the role of At-Large Community Officer. I picked this role because there I can cut my teeth in local politics. Get involved in various committees, learn the local government process. After that… who knows?

There are nearly 40 candidates running for 13 slots as a Community Officer, but voters can only cast a single vote. Would you support a revision or amendment to the voting guidelines that would allow stakeholders to select all 13 positions? 

I think it’s crazy that you can only vote for one person. I’ve heard talk about changing the rules and I think that would be a good thing. I’d like to see an amendment (BY-LAWS change) to the voting guidelines. There should be candidates from specific sections of Venice. Say… 2-3 from each area are in each election. North Venice, The Canals, Marina etc.… We would change the rules so you would be able to vote for 3-5 people. I think that would be a good change.

Homelessness remains a universal issue for most Venetians. How has homelessness impacted you and what ideas or recommendations do you have to improve this situation? 

I covered my personal experience in my answer to the first question. I agree with the “safer inside” approach that Mayor Bass and Councilwoman Park are implementing. But they know that that is just a start. There should be areas where the RV’s can park that are not on the streets. RV Parks must be created in the areas around the airport and other districts in the city. They should have hook ups for safe sewage disposal and group bathrooms etc… Traci outlined in her campaign a lot of interesting ideas including group homes for younger people. We need to tailor the answer to the individual. Some of the homeless need mental help or rehabilitation services. 

There are still pockets of Venice with large encampments such as Venice Boulevard between the Library and the beach. What can the VNC do to eliminate that particular encampment? 

The VNC can make recommendations to the city but it’s my understanding that we can’t “move people.” Many groups have paid for private security to keep their areas clear. This is what you do when you have no other options. We worked with the Helper Foundation to keep our area clear. They offered alternatives to the people living in the camp. They came in with options like drug treatment, reunion with family, and housing. I think it would be beneficial to see how we might include them in the budget for the VNC. 

What is your position on Bridge Housing? Should the site be closed and converted to a permanent housing solution? 

I was approached by Bonin’s office when the Bridge Housing was being proposed. They wanted me to hold some get togethers to encourage people to support the plan. They expected me to tell them it would be a great thing for Venice. Everything I had seen from Bonin told me that he wouldn’t keep his word about making sure the neighbors around the Bridge Housing would be safe. I declined. People were burned. I am not sure what more to say about this. 

Do you support or oppose the Median Project before the California Coastal Commission? 

Totally oppose this project. It’s been forced down our throats by Bonin. He lied to everyone to get it approved. He got the LA Council to vote with him. It’s over scale for our town. It’s in a Tsunami zone. It’s over a million per door. It’s ugly. I could go on and on…

The VNC is an advisory community board that makes recommendations, not decisions. How would you make those recommendations heard by the LA City Council?  

Work with others to learn more about the issues and then write up a proposal to submit to the committee and then pass that along to Traci Park and CD11.

Are you supporting a candidate for President of the VNC? If so, who and why? 

I am supporting Brian Averill. I heard him speak at the “meet and greet” for new candidates. He is smart, knows how things work, kind and levelheaded. He has my endorsement.

What are the three things you would like to accomplish should you be successful? 

First, I want to get much more knowledgeable about the process of the VNC. Then I want to see what I can do to make things better for everyone in Venice. Have us work together instead of against one another. I want to maintain the funky, fun creative character of Venice and integrate all the wonderful new things too. I don’t want to say yes to every development, but I also don’t want to always say no. I know that the VNC has a budget to use to add value to Venice. I want to see it used well and not wasted.

The number one issue in Venice is the homeless, and I will continue to educate myself on the work being done by others and see what new solutions we can come up with. Homelessness is not the only issue in Venice. 

I support nurturing the colorful history of Venice. The Venice Boardwalk has historically brought huge revenue to Venice. When I moved here it was a colorful vibrant destination. It was the second largest tourist attraction in Southern California. Revitalizing the famous Venice Boardwalk and supporting the vendors and the visitors is top on my list. 

We also need to uplift the Venice Pier. It’s so plain and sad. I am proposing that we look at options to revamp the pier with a large arched entry sign welcoming visitors. This could include attractive elements like decorative street lights and benches, perhaps a gazebo or stand of some kind at the end. Dress it up with string lights (see attached).

To speak with the candidate, e-mail Deborah at debkeaton@mac.com.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering these biannual Neighborhood Council elections. Election Day is Sunday March 26th and the polls open at 10:00 AM. The voting location is the Oakwood Recreation Center, 767 California Avenue, Venice.  Have a take or a tip? E-mail Antonicello at nantoni@mindspring.com.

in Opinion
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