Venice, Burning to be Restored

July 1, 2014

By Jim Smith

July is the month of revolutions. The American colonists did it on July 4. The French did it on Bastille Day, July 14. Many more nations celebrate their revolution, or liberation from an occupying power, in July. They include Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Mozambique, Peru, Venezuela and many more.

And so it is with Venice. We celebrate our founding as taking place on July 4, 1905, when Venice of America had its grand opening. For the next 20 years, inhabitants of Venice – Venetians – basked in independence as a free city of California. 

This is not the place for a recounting of the machinations that Los Angeles performed in order to annex Venice (they have been told in other Beachheads and in books). Ever since Venice lost its independence, Venetians have been struggling to regain it. 

This spring, while most eyes were focused on the Ukrainian crisis, the city of Venice, Italy, held a referendum for total independence from Italy. It passed with more than 89 percent in favor. The voting was organized by the people of Veneto (the Venice region) giving the powers in Italy an excuse for not recognizing the results. But at the very least, the issue of the rebirth of the Serene Republic of Venice, after more than 200 years, is back on the table. 

Should Venice, California do any less to regain its cityhood? Holding a referendum might be the first step to independence. A resounding vote in favor of Venice cityhood would show the legislators in Sacramento – who have the power to ease the process to cityhood – that there is broad-based support for an independent city. 

The failed vote in 2002 for San Fernando Valley cityhood is often brought up as somehow justifying a lack of activity in promoting Venice cityhood. Yet, what is not well known is that a majority of voters within what would have been the new city, cast votes in favor. It was only outlying areas of Los Angeles that voted no after a fear-mongering campaign by L.A.’s 1 percenters.

In order to head off the fear mongering, advocates of Venice cityhood should assure low-income tenants that rent-control will not go away, but will become stronger as absentee landlords lose power. New development schemes will be decided by people in Venice who have to live with them, not by city hall bureaucrats who never set foot in Venice. And unions, should be assured that their representation rights for city workers within Venice will be recognized. 

The city of Venice, along with Berkeley, can be the most progressive place to live in California, where people’s rights, regardless of their wealth or lack of it, are recognized and celebrated. 

Yet, there seems to be a peculiar lassitude among Venetians, even activists, in taking the needed steps to restore cityhood. Perhaps it’s the chem trails, or maybe the GMOs that are making people passive. In any case, if civil rights activists had been as passive, there would still be segregation in the South. And if the American colonists, who were among the world’s elite in the 1770s had not roused themselves to endure terrible hardship at Valley Forge and elsewhere, this would still be a British colony. And, yes, some of us would still be demanding independence.

For those who are still not convinced that they should put their shoulders to the wheel of Venice history, perhaps the words of Venice’s greatest poetess, Philomene Long, will convince:

Venice, city conceived in imagination for imagination
With body intact –the canals, the welcoming houses
The people came. It happened – the magic – unexplainable
Venice becoming the city imagined
A city like no other city on earth
Its community of Venetians giving her a soul
Bright. Transcendent. The soul of Venice
A gift, which cannot be bought nor stolen
This is the gift out right, freely given 
To those open to receive it; for those who listen
But Venice transcendent still needs a body
It can be, has been, wounded
It can die; live on only in history
So we here today, as with previous Venetians
Welcome all as neighbor, loving freely
At the same time preserve and protect our radiant city 
With magic and practicality 
And with the hope of a pale green egg
That resolve passed on from those that have gone before us
For them as for ourselves, and for those that will follow
Will stand here where we stand today 
And who will walk upon our footsteps into the next century
That the light of Venice not be extinguished 
Nor diminished, nor simply be maintained 
But that light burn, burn, burn into a boundless Luminosity! 

***

 


L.A. Living in Vehicle Law Found UnConstitutional

July 1, 2014

By Peggy Lee Kennedy

To me it’s a sweet, but sad victory. This recently overturned unconstitutional Los Angeles City law, LAMC 85.02, has been used over the years to harm many more people than the four plaintiffs in the Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles appeal.
Harassment, arrests, tickets, vehicle tows, pets taken to the pound, stay-away orders, intimidating city attorney hearings, unnecessary court appointments, warrants for those who could not show up each time, inappropriate hate mongering by the city and homeless hate groups – these are some of the injustices connecting the victims of this unconstitutional law.

The hope is that this win results in more overall justice for all those affected.
Sometimes being a leader means taking the responsibility to make amends and create some form of reconciliation. Not just using our tax dollars to pay for the mistakes of the City. We have a systemically broken system in Los Angeles that criminalizes poverty and our elected leaders need the guts to honestly try to fix it. Our City Attorney took a first step. But people, it is much more than just this one unconstitutional law.  

Carol Sobel, the civil rights attorney who won this important case, believes that “Not only is this a victory for unhoused individuals, but it is also a very important step in the judicial recognition of the  need to address any legitimate issues the City seeks to remedy by some more humane means than criminalizing poverty.” And she is so right. There are plenty more humane means to addressing homelessness than ticketing, arresting, towing, and police harassment.

The story of this unconstitutional law is not new, but the lawsuit starts with Councilman Mike Bonin’s mentor and predecessor, Bill Rosendahl. He was champion for pushing through the OPD (Overnight Permit District) LA City law, specifically used to remove anyone living in a vehicle from a street – very often on streets with no residents, like by a park or a golf course.

It basically backfired. While we were fighting OPDs at the California Coastal Commission, because Venice is in the coastal zone and parking equals access, OPDs were going up all over LA and the vehicle housed people had less and less places to park. More people were becoming homeless and vehicle housed at the same time. Not such a smart move for Bill Rosendahl, considering the resistance. Mike Bonin, the current council person, was Bill’s chief of staff at that time.

Not one parking space in Venice was offered to the vehicle housed in order to offset this push. But plenty of big talk from Bill about a safe parking program along with the money spent on some ridiculous consultant to create one. Not to mention how Bill was going to amend LAMC 85.02 so people could have a place to park! The law is gone, where the hell are those safe parking spots? It was all a bunch of S.H.I.T. and the City keeps putting up more “No Oversized Vehicles from 2-6am” parking signs everywhere. But I digress.

Anyway, Bill Rosendahl and his criminalize-the-homeless posse lost their battle for OPDs at the Coastal Commission again in 2010. Then began a never seen before war waged on anyone in what even looked like a live-aboard vehicle in Venice. Don’t try to drive through, either. That is exactly what led to the Desertrain lawsuit. Very nasty stuff.  I encourage everyone to read the 9th Circuit decision on line at: http://1.usa.gov/1nnGEyz. It is an easy nineteen-page read that might open your eyes a wee bit.

We are waiting for it to turn around. The money spent on these crazy homeless “clean up” sweeps and defending the other laws used to target homeless people in Venice is more of the same costly insanity, now led by Mike Bonin. Saying you are against criminalizing homelessness is not enough. In fact it is Orwellian to say the words when outrageous city recourses are used for inhumane, non-solutions at the same time.

The City writes laws, often called Quality of Life Laws, and continues to enforce laws in a discriminatory way that affect homeless people disproportionately. Mike Bonin recently announced that his council district budget for prosecuting these types of laws had been increased. Not exactly the change we were hoping for.
 
The court determined that LAMC 85.02 was written and enforced in such a vague way that it encouraged arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Ninth Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in his conclusion, “For many homeless persons, their automobile may be their last major possession — the means by which they can look for work and seek social services. The City of Los Angeles has many options at its disposal to alleviate the plight and suffering of its homeless citizens. Selectively preventing the homeless and the poor from using their vehicles for activities many other citizens also conduct in their cars should not be one of those options.”
 
Calvin Moss, with the Venice Justice Committee, commented that “The Judges just nailed it on this one, a classic historical constitutional decision.” Our Justice Committee does not enjoy catching the City violating civil and human rights. People are being harmed. We are looking for real change and real solutions.

Art RV

RV

RV - Move or Die

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Letter

July 1, 2014

320 SUNSET UPDATE – IT’S YOUR VENICE – HAVE YOUR SAY

By Roxanne Brown – member: Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset (CNS)

Rose Avenue continues to produce more and more upscale restaurants with liquor licenses and late-night hours. And now, it looks like Sunset could become the next Rose. Here’s a quick update on Rose and Sunset, and how to get your voice heard.

THE ROSE CAFÉ: Gift shop is closing to make room for a late-night wine bar.

FIESTA BRAVA at 5th and Rose: Proposed upscale restaurant serving alcohol with late-night hours

THE MARKET at 5th and Rose: See Fiesta Brava above – it will be part of this new development.

609 ROSE: Another upscale restaurant with alcohol and late hours is in the works here.

320 SUNSET: This is our current big fight. We learned in the April Beachhead that owner Fran Camaj, Gjelina’s owner (1427 Abbott Kinney), had proposed development of a bakery with accessory retail at 320 Sunset. And, we learned that he and former Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) 320 Sunset case manager, Jim Murez, had failed to mention the proposed off-site beer and wine sales.

Camaj appears to be doing a bait and switch. Now, instead of a bakery, he is proposing a restaurant with 30 employees, serving 20 inside and 65 on an outdoor patio, 12 – 20 feet from residential dwellings. Construction on the “bakery” isn’t complete – it hasn’t opened and Camaj wants to convert it to a restaurant? Was a bakery ever even on the radar?

LUPC April 16th: Many neighbors spoke out against this. One resident had taken pictures revealing that rather than a bakery; it appeared that a full-blown restaurant had been built.

April 26th: Camaj hosted a tour and outreach meeting, sharing with the 60 neighbors gathered that when he applied for 320 Sunset’s conversion to a bakery, it presented less than 10% increase in usage (this falls within the constraints of a maximum 10% increase in intensity per the Venice Specific Plan). Camaj told the community that the prior tenants at 320 Sunset were six architects. A restaurant with 115 people is nearly 20 times that usage – a 2,000% increase in usage.

How can this happen? It seems this kind of “case splitting” is a loophole in the system, which allows developers to apply for one thing and then slip through a very different thing – all allegedly legal – through the city.

Camaj said patrons would be allowed to eat in 320’s parking lot, seated on milk crates. 320 Sunset has a parking lot that could maybe hold 15 vehicles. But, if people are eating on crates there, is it still a parking lot? Where is the real parking? Where will deliveries be made?

With proposed opening hours from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. (19 hours), noise and traffic will likely be 24/7.

Camaj repeatedly insists (LUPC and April 26th) that he has a seven-year track record as a good neighbor at Gjelina’s. But, the LA Times, Grub Street, Eater LA, the Beachhead and other media have reported on Gjelina’s seating over capacity city code violation and interfering with street parking regulations on Abbott Kinney. Media has also reported on neighbors continually complaining about loud music from the patio being heard in their residences, congestion and noise from pedestrians and vehicles, and lack of residential parking.

Camaj has a permit for a bakery at 320 Sunset. He proposes to obtain a variance for the zoning of 320 Sunset from light manufacturing (M1-1) to commercial. The 300 block of Sunset is currently home to a large, quiet artist community, as well as to senior citizens, families and young couples with children.

Traditionally, restaurants have been on commercial streets like Rose, Main, Abbott Kinney, and Lincoln, not in residential areas. If 320 Sunset gets a commercial variance, what’s next? Other buildings in M1-1 zoning and residential streets in Venice will become vulnerable to similar zoning variances.

No wonder many Venetians believe our community’s unique quality of life is under attack by developers and look-the-other-way political representatives. If there is going to be change, we want what is right for Venice. If you agree, now is the time to be heard.

HAVE YOUR SAY: The easiest way to be heard is to join a community organization. They inform you of what is going on via email or Facebook. You can get information regarding 320 Sunset from: CONCERNED NEIGHBORHOODS of 320 SUNSET (CNS) by emailing us at concernedneighborvenice@gmail.com. And/or go to Facebook – SPIRIT VENICE
More community organizations on Facebook: Venice Community Unity Coalition and Stakeholders of Venice.

Learn what The Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character (VCPUCC) is doing (see June Beachhead).

Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC)- Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC): LUPC reviews proposed developments and gets residents input. VNC represents Venice’s voice to the city of Los Angeles. The Venicenc.org website posts their agenda. 320 Sunset may be on July’s agenda.

Go to that meeting and sign up to speak. LUPC meets at the Oakwood Community Center on the first and third Wednesday evenings every month at 6:45 – corner of 7th and California. VNC meets once a month on a Tuesday at Westminster Elementary School at 6:45 – corner Westminster and Abbott Kinney. Your presence makes a difference-no need to talk. There is power in numbers and unity.

TELL CITY HALL: All of these developments, liquor licenses, improprieties, code violations, zoning variances, change of use – way over 10%, case splitting, late hours, and inadequate parking are happening on City Council Member Bonin’s watch. He wants to hear from you. Write him at Council Member Bonin, City Hall Office, 200 N. Spring St. #475, Los Angeles, CA 90012 or email councilmember.bonin@lacity.org Keep a copy – give it to your organization.

Now, you know there is something simple and easy you can do. Join an organization that will represent your views, your voice. You can be heard. Every voice counts.


California Coastal Commission’s Decision to Demolish 8 Homes Demoralizes Venice

July 1, 2014

By Krista Schwimmer

The superstitious believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day. One reason is because King Philip IV ordered Jacques de Molay and theFrench Templars to be simultaneously arrested on a Friday the 13th in1307. Many Templars were then tortured and executed, including their leader, Jacques de Molay. Although the King claimed it was for their idolatry, in reality, the king simply needed to fill his empty coffers with the Templar’s vast treasures.

On Friday, June 13th, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) ruled in favor of another form of gold: Venice real estate. With little debate, the Commissioners approved eight new demolitions of residential homes in Venice for so-called cutting edge, oversized architectural projects posing as family homes. They also gave the green light to the restaurant, “House of Pies”, setting a new, unfortunate precedent that significantly lowers required restaurant parking in the Venice coastal zone.

It was only a few years ago, when Venice was fighting OPDs, that the Coastal Commission heartily had her back. In fact, more recently in March, they made the decision to stop di minimus waivers in Venice, causing enough of a halt on development that architects, developers, and even Councilman Mike Bonin came pleading to them to reverse their decision. One such architect, David Hertz, argued that change can be beneficial, and asked the commissioners not to “let people who are afraid of change – which is a vocal minority – use bureaucracy as a process to slow things down.” Easy to say when he himself would not only benefit from the project he represented that day, but the many others he is involved in, including the Abbot Kinney Hotel.

As each of the individual projects were heard, Jack Ainsworth, Senior Deputy Director, Los Angeles County, South Coast District, gave the impression that the Coastal Commission’s hands were tied, particularly around the protection of affordable housing in the coastal zone. In 1981, Ainsworth stated, the legislature removed the provisions for preservation of low cost and affordable housing in the coastal zone. As a result, the
CCC had “no regulatory authority over affordable housing” and could only encourage it. He did say that other coastal areas were having a similar problem with the loss of affordable housing because of gentrification.

During his lengthy explanation of how the City’s own coastal program works, however, Ainsworth did claim that the CCC could assess “whether or not the project is compatible with the area.” This one comment alone should have been enough to stop the projects being proposed that day. Testimony from real neighbors living near the different projects proved it. One heart wrenching moment came when Debra and David Blocker, 25 year residents of the Venice Canals, spoke against the three story mansion that was being proposed 30 feet from them. “I don’t understand how anyone could say this is the character of the city,” she said. “They are creating white box neighborhoods.” His voice shaking, David added that some neighbors had already moved out because of the mansionization of the canals. Over the last five to ten years, he continued, the canals were losing their ducks, geese, and other bird residents. Wasn’t the CCC created in part to protect them?

Project after project, Venetians cried to the commissioners to protect them against the City of Los Angeles. The CCC did nothing, despite the fact that several Venetians showed that the city was breaking building codes, as well as using loopholes to push through big development. During the hearing on the restaurant, “House of Pies,” Mr. Aronson, involved in planning for the last 20 years, spoke strongly against the restaurant. Why? “What I’ve seen in the last few years is that the city is chipping away at our local coastal program. They’re increasing density and reducing parking at the same time. This is one of several examples. The city changed their policy. The policy conflicts with your policy.” In this instance, Aronson was referring to the fact that any restaurant in Venice should provide MORE parking than elsewhere in the city. When calculating the number based on Service Floor area, the applicant did not include the “path of travel”, something contrary to what the CCC has done themselves in the past. In any other area of LA, this same restaurant would be required to provide 37 parking spaces rather than the proposed 20. In spite of his and other people’s pleas, the CCC unanimously approved this restaurant, setting a new precedent in Venice that LOWERS required parking.

Even when presented with a blatant disregard for legal process, the CCC did nothing. Agenda item 10(d), requesting the demolition of a single family home at 2413 Wilson Avenue, had ALREADY been demolished without the proper coastal permit. After Ainsworth publicly admitted that this was a violation, the commissioners nevertheless unanimously approved the application.

Towards the end of the day, one lone commissioner, Martha McClure, began to speak up for Venice. She even asked if all of her “yes” votes could be changed to “no”. Even if this had been possible, one vote would not have been enough.

As Lydia Ponce said in her testimony before the Commission: “Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re being bamboozled.” The City of Los Angles needs to “know the law, apply the law,” Ponce continued.

What will happen to Venice now? Like the Knight Templars, some residents such as the 5th generation, young family who testified at the June meeting, have already fled. Unlike the Templars, such families are forced to leave their treasure behind.

Venetians, don’t let government bodies erode the character of Venice. Don’t let money force change. The “architectural renaissance” promoted by developers here in Venice is an architectural sham. Let’s get together and create the next vision of Venice, one that embraces all of its relations – from human to insect. Let’s get together and free Venice from the self-made kings and queens who lust after her remaining treasures.
Save_Venice! copy


Bonin Walks From Meeting

July 1, 2014

By Mary Getlein

A community meeting was held on June 18th, at the Boys and Girl’s Club in Venice. It was hosted by “Venice Life” to discuss the “livability” of Venice. The spokes-people included Mike Bonin, Peggy Thusing, Steve
Waller, Marc Saltzberg, and Sarah Blanch. The subjects ranged from “A Vision for Venice,” Crime, Homelessness, Livability and Substance Abuse and how these things impact Venice.

Mike Bonin started the meeting with a speech about where Venice was at, right now, and where he would like it to go. He said Ocean Front Walk was not “community friendly” and not artistic any more. His goal is to create a “Board of Venice” and address the problems of homelessness. He wants to create a data base of affordable housing. He said he wants to take away controls from the state and have a local “coastal plan” to protect the coast.

His plan for traffic and parking was to limit the amount of space in the road for cars, and increase the size of the sidewalks and bicycle lanes. This idea is not feasible, anyone can go out any day in Venice and be overwhelmed by the amount of traffic. Just ask commuters trying to use Ocean Park Blvd. — they put in huge bike lanes and now traffic is backed up much worse than it was before. It’s good to urge people to walk and use bicycles, but it is not “do-able” for most people.

After announcing that the meeting would be a conversation between all of the spokespeople and the audience, Mike Bonin left. So no one got a chance to ask him any questions. His last words to the audience were: “Define yourself by what you believe in,” “people love Venice,” and then he left.

The next person to speak was Peggy Thursing, who is a senior cop in LAPD. She has spent 28 years in LAPD, 20 years in Venice. She said most crime in Venice is property crime, with people breaking into cars and houses. She urged people to lock their windows and homes when they left their homes.

She mentioned the Jones Act which says you can sleep on the sidewalk between 9 pm and 6 am, if no housing is provided. She linked the fact of homelessness and crime together. They have a new technique of arresting people, called predictive policing where they take data which predicts crimes and put extra police in that area. She said that the Pacific Division covered an area of 26 square miles with 8 cars.

The next spokesperson to speak was Steve Waller, pastor of the Venice Foursquare Church. He told touching stories of trying to get people off the streets, but they have to be sober and willing. They focus on young people and elderly people. He asked the audience to have compassion and extend mercy to the homeless. He said they can only manage one case at a time, so it’s very slow going.

Marc Salzberg, the Vice President of the Neighborhood Council, got up next. He had a list of things that make Venice “un-livable”. Tourists were high on the list. 16 million tourists go through Venice every year, which impacts traffic, and produces mountains of trash. Alcohol outlets which affect Venice in a negative way, drunk drivers making the streets and people unsafe. Short-term vacation rentals are turned into “party houses”, which impact the neighbors with noises and loud partying.

He also mentioned concerns about the amount of development going on in Venice. Developers would get waivers for building their houses, in exchange for including affordable housing in their buildings, which never happened, or were such a small amount that it didn’t really help.

The LA city budget has been cut 6 years in a row. When someone from the audience mentioned that we need more bathrooms on the beach, and port-a-potties for the homeless, he just referred to the budget crisis and said until the budget crisis is resolved, there will not be any new bathrooms in Venice. The bathrooms in Venice are rundown and ugly and are hardly ever cleaned. They are really disgusting to use, and for the amount of taxes LA gets from Venice, it seems the least they could do is give us new toilets.

Sarah Blanch, the last speaker, got up to talk about substance abuse in Venice. She said LA county has a high level of alcohol, which leads to traffic deaths, violent crime, and drunk driving. There are 108 liquor licenses in Venice, which is a higher number than other parts of LA. She is in favor of putting limits in place and have liquor store owners “card” the buyers of liquor, many of whom are underage and at risk.

The question and answer portion of the meeting was next. They asked questions about how to get more cops in Venice — write to the chief of police. Restrooms. They want more lighting on the boardwalk. They wanted to know how to get an ordinance against over sized vehicles.

Marc Saltzberg said people need to advocate and organize. “We need people to participate in local government. The more you need, the more you participate.”

It seemed like a whitewash and not real. It ended early — it wasn’t a conversation, it was like a press release. It was supposed to go until 8:30, but they cut off the questions and the so-called conversation at 8:05. There was a big turnout, and the people did not get the information they needed.


A Historytelling: Last Run

July 1, 2014

by Delores Hanney
Research by Samara Jacobs

It was ghastly! Young race guy around town, Hal Shain, was zooming along with an alarming absence of due diligence, even by daredevil standards. As he drove too close to the top of the cup-shaped track – known as the Dare Devil Race for Life – his 2500-pound Haynes automobile smacked into a post and reared backward. It threw Shain down 20-feet to the cup’s bottom, falling on top of him, leaving him horribly mangled.
But it took two hours for him to die.
Three members of the audience that had been keenly watching the spectacle from a spot on the observation platform at the crown of the track were injured by flying bits of rubble from the shattered post. Like Shain, they were taken to St. Catherine’s Hospital, prizefighter Luther McCarthy gallantly stepping forward to assist with the transpo.
This was back in those times when Venice was virtually amusement zone central on the West Coast, famed far and near for its breath-sucking attractions and other crowd-pleasing enjoyments. Entertainment mogul, Tom Prior, had arrived from Chicago in 1911 – where he was the promotional kahuna for Chi-Town’s two big amusement sectors, White City and Riverview Park. His first project in Venice was the ginormous Race Through the Clouds rollercoaster erected alongside the now long-gone lagoon. Built on Windward Avenue across from the St. Marks Hotel, Dare Devil Race for Life was his second.
A small-scale motordrome, only 80-feet in diameter, the wooden track of it angled upward at a 72-degree angle; a red danger line a foot from the top urgently warned, “go no higher!” The attraction wasn’t exactly a race, per se, but rather an exhibition of very fast driving six times a day. Still, Hal Shain set several speed records that year as he tore around the track he had all to himself. The Race for Life was a big draw with the public but its original driver hadn’t fared so well either. Only two days after taking up the high-velocity employment he was mooshed when the crane lifting his car out of the cup-shaped arena dropped the vehicle on top of him. Though he wasn’t killed, he was badly hurt and never again returned to racing.
Venice was then at the front end of its lust for hosting racing events that would come to include, in just the next few years, the Junior Vanderbilt Cup Races of 1914, a Grand Prix race and the Grand Prize International Motorcycle Race in 1915. The Dare Devil Race for Life might – with a little stretch – be considered the birth of the trend.
In the days prior to Shain’s death, it was noticed he was driving even more wildly than usual, a factoid that apparently aroused no more interest than a sneeze. On the fateful day of his death, he seemed almost suicidally resolved to propel his car to the very upper edge of the track. Alas, for inquiring minds that want to know, there was no psychological autopsy, no tidying up with an explanation for his especially heedless driving that Saturday afternoon and in the days before. Had he just learned he had a terminal disease process cooking away inside his 28-year old self? Did he have gambling debts that a throng of no-nonsense thugs was out to violently collect on or punish? Had his wife run off with an itinerant tinker taking Shain’s seven-year-old son along with them? Or had a foolish sense of invincibility simply disabled the caution button in his brain?
The coroner ascribed Shain’s cause of death to his own utter carelessness: a thrill junkie’s overdose, one might say. The Daily Outlook of Santa Monica purveyed a different opinion holding, instead, that a bloodthirsty hunger for daredevil antics was the problem. Right there in its December 30, 1912 issue it unequivocally laid the blame slap dab on the consumers of such life-threatening displays. “The public puts a premium on dare devil feats by patronizing them and the public really has most of the responsibility,” the newspaper maintained.
Scads of guys were all hot to fill the vacancy left by Shain’s death but management chose his former mechanic, Bert Hall, for the job, giving orders for him to drive no more than half way up the track. The minor damage visited on the facility by Shain’s rash jockeying of his car was quickly fixed allowing the hyper adrenalin-feed in both driver and spectators to resume just five days after it ceased.
Delores Hanney - Last Run

Deores Hannye - Last Run


The Raft

July 1, 2014

By Cal Porter

Poling a raft down a waterway to get to school? Sounds like something right out of Mark Twain. Maybe Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer did it. But in more modern times? Not very likely. But the fact is my friend Bob and I did it; and we did it many times to reach our elementary school in Venice, California in the early 1930’s.

Venice-CA-Canal-1909(1)
Above: A Venice Canal, the Early Days

When I was a kid growing up in the 1920’s Venice was a town based on canals. They ran just inland from the beach to all parts of the city. These many waterways with romantic names like Venus, Coral, Altair and Grand Canal culminated at the large Venice Lagoon in the center of town. This is where thousands of spectators would gather in the grandstands to watch swimming and boating races and to see lifeguard Jake Cox perform high diving stunts from a lofty platform in the middle of the lagoon. The lagoon was surrounded by hotels, restaurants, boating concessions, a miniature railway and an amusement park complete with roller coaster. This is where the popular gondola rides set out with a gondolier standing in the stern singing and poling the tourists through the colorful waterways. Excavation had started on the canals in 1904 and they were finished and filled with ocean water by the grand opening of Venice, California on the
Fourth of July, 1905. All of this was under the vision and supervision of founder Abbot Kinney who had dreamt of a Venice of America ever since he had seen the other Venice on his travels to Italy. Bungalows, cabanas and homes were built along the canals. Colorful plant life and trees were introduced and flourished. The canals became an attraction where people wanted to live and tourists wanted to vacation. But there was only one little problem with these picturesque canals; they never really worked very well. The flow of fresh ocean water that came in and out with the tides from a distant inlet down the coast a couple of miles never circulated properly. The water level became low and stagnant in some places, there were occasional sewage overflows, mosquitoes thrived.

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Above: Filling in the Canals, 1929

Twenty years later as the 1920’s started to draw to a close and automobiles had multiplied and crowded the few roads in Venice, the canals had gradually fallen into disrepair and a decision was made to fill in the major ones and pave them over. Dump trucks were soon busily discharging load after load of dirt into the waterways, followed by paving equipment to finish the job. Few of the streets retained the colorful names of the canals beneath them, but Grand Canal became Grand Boulevard. The circular Venice Lagoon where so many exciting events took place in earlier years became a traffic circle, with the Venice Main Post Office built on the west side where the roller coaster once stood. The only canals that escaped the fill-in were the minor ones on the south side of town beyond Venice Boulevard. I have only sketchy memories of Venice in those glory days with all the gondolas and gondoliers plying the waters through the heart of Venice since I was a very young kid at the time. My memories are mostly of the six smaller canals that escaped the fate of the others and are still there to this day. Which brings us to the point of this story of the early 1930’s.

Venice canal map
Above: Original 13 Canals. Only the Six Small Canals on the Right Remain Today.

Our School was at Far Right on Grand Canal.

My friend and classmate Bob lived in one of the original bungalows on the waterfront of Carroll Canal, fourth from the right on the map. I lived on the beach in Playa del Rey a few miles south of Venice. Our school was the Florence Nightingale Elementary School built on the sand near the corner of Washington Boulevard and the beach. We attended there from 1929 to 1935, kindergarten through sixth grade. On school mornings I often made my way to Bob’s house from my house on the big, red Pacific Electric Streetcars that ran along the coast, or by being dropped off by my father on the way to his office. Bob and I would then journey to school together. The usual method was to walk the half mile or so to school, but we devised another method that was surely more fun but took a good bit more time; we built a raft. We gathered up boards and planks and scraps of lumber from the neighborhood and managed to put them together with ropes and nails into quite a seaworthy craft. A couple of sturdy bamboo poles were utilized for forward propulsion and we were ready to go. To reach school we would pole toward the ocean on Carroll Canal and under the car bridge at Dell Avenue, and then under the foot bridge just before we took a left turn on what remained of Grand Canal. Down Grand Canal we would continue poling until we passed Linnie Canal, and then under another foot bridge before reaching Howland and Sherman Canals. Grand Canal then passed directly behind our school toward its final destination beyond Marina del Rey (which was then a swamp) and on to Ballona Creek where it flowed into the ocean. All we had to do was beach our raft on the muddy bank behind school and we were there.


Ray, Leland & Cal  on the raft(4)
Above: An Example of Expert Raft Construction, 1929

Nightingale School was unique in that it was built on sand. Our playground was sand. All games were played on sand: baseball, kickball, dodge ball, touch football and all the rest. It was here that I achieved fame and glory by capturing the school championship in high jumping by catapulting myself off the concrete walkway and over the cross bar at an unheard of height and landing in the sand beyond. Because of this sandy environment it was commonplace for some of the kids who lived along the beach to come to school barefoot. My mother saw to it that I always wore shoes to school but one time it was fortunate that the above custom was acceptable. Not far on our journey down the canal from Bob’s house one morning my bamboo pole got stuck in the muddy bottom and would not come loose, and by not letting go of said pole I ended up in the water with it; and with my school clothes on. Back to Bob’s house we went in order to doff my wet clothes and don some borrowed duds from Bob. I looked ridiculous since he was much taller than I. But as for his shoes, none would stay on since they were many sizes beyond my proper fit. Thus I became a barefoot school boy, albeit temporarily, but I realized then why so many of my classmates preferred this way of life.

All of this was over 75 years ago. The school is gone, hasn’t been there for some sixty years. The area is now completely crowded with shops and restaurants and high-rise condos, and the boat marina itself. Bob’s original bungalow is still there on Carroll Canal, but it is alone and surrounded by large, beautiful, modern homes with luxuriant landscaping. This is considered to be one of “the” places to live on the west side. Even the star and his son of the TV series Baywatch lived on the canals in the show.

One thing hasn’t changed much, and that is what’s left of the Grand Canal itself, beautiful and spruced up in the residential section but not looking so grand at all in other places. In fact it hasn’t changed a bit where it flowed behind Florence Nightingale Elementary. We could easily beach our raft on the very same muddy bank today. There the canal looks much the same as it did in 1905 when the gates were first opened and water rushed up the dry bed on its way to join and fill the dozen other canals in the heyday of Venice of America.


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