The “Cleaning Up” of Venice

November 1, 2014

By Deborah Lashever

If we wish to honestly “clean up” Venice we need an expanded storage program, an adequate number of trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms. The current city program of criminalizing unhoused people does not solve anything and wastes hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Cleaning up” cannot and should not equal criminalization. That is discrimination, and is illegal. The act of being without housing is not a crime.

If citizens are bothered by piles of belongings, trash or refuse, the solution is to demand adequate Venice storage facilities, trash cans and 24/7 bathrooms when and where they are needed. That would actually solve these problems. The clean-up “sweeps” on OFW will not fix them. Neither will police. These are basic human concerns and they have obvious, basic solutions. Criminalization of situations people cannot help – like urination in alleys when there are no bathrooms, or having stuff on the sidewalk when there is no storage – can never solve these problems.

The Council office admits that each clean-up “sweep” on Ocean Front Walk costs a minimum of $7500. One a month comes to $90,000 a year. In September the city conducted essentially four. That’s $30,000 for just one month. If this trend continues the city will spend $360,000 per year on something that must be repeated ad infinitum. This program obviously does not work and, in addition, too easily violates people’s civil rights so the city, rightfully, keeps getting sued, wasting more hundreds of thousands of dollars that could obviously be better spent.

Councilman Mike Bonin is the only person every official is looking at to resolve the issues in Venice. He needs input from compassionate Venetians and support for real solutions – not to criminalize people who are down on their luck – but to spend our resources on getting them the help they need to get their issues addressed so they can get off the street.

If we had an expanded storage program and adequate public hygiene, like they do in other communities, like Costa Mesa, Bonin could accomplish his goal of “cleaning up Venice” without being punitive or harassing vulnerable people. He could actually help them. He could help all of us! It would cost the city far less and be a huge win/win for Venice.

Costa Mesa has a low cost program that includes adequate full time storage, bathrooms, trash cans, and once a week mobile showers/washing machines for unhoused people. Workers and volunteers interface with unhoused clients daily, building trust and connecting them with services. They have had wonderful success. Residents, businesses, law enforcement and civic leaders are extremely pleased. The community has been transformed! Unhoused people are clean with clean clothes and only a day pack, just like any other community member. They are free to access services to help procure employment, housing, counseling and health services. And they do.

People regain their dignity. The entire community benefits. And it costs pennies compared to what we are now spending on punitive and barbaric measures that help no one and must be repeated forever.

Why not try? Bonin has been made aware of this inclusive program but has not seen fit to implement one yet. He needs to feel public support because he evidently does not believe that Venice is still a community of Heart – not only money – and that Venetians will overwhelmingly support compassionate solutions. Tell him.

The bottom line is that unhoused people in Venice are not being assisted, but instead are being summarily discriminated against, marginalized, maligned, and penalized for things they cannot help. They have no bathrooms much of the night yet get harassed for ‘going’ in alleys or yards. They aren’t allowed adequate storage but are subject to having their only belongings confiscated and thrown out by the city. They have no dwellings so must sleep outside, where they are constantly harassed by irate citizens and police, and ticketed/arrested, with the city ever seeking to put in more laws against them. The city can insist that people get off the sidewalks all they want. The problem is they have nowhere else to go.

The money is available to help at least with basic needs until we can figure out housing. Bonin has been given $500,000 specifically for homeless issues in Venice. That is over and above the $5,000,000 Los Angeles has been given through the Operation Healthy Streets program. If we are to have actual solutions, Bonin needs to understand that Venetians will politically support him only if he implements positive, win/win solutions for everyone in Venice and stops the criminalization process..

Please watch this short video on the Free Storage Venice program. Besides housing, of course, this program is a healthy chunk of what we need to start really solving the immediate issues in our community:

Fighting OFW sweeps


Above: Fighting Ocean Front Walk Sweeps
venicesweep2Above: One of the many $7,500 useless Ocean Front Walk sweeps

Venice to Newcomers: Spare Me!

November 1, 2014

By Greta Cobar

There are many white, clean beaches up and down the Coast. Yet people choose Venice for its bohemian vibe, artistic spirit and creative element. Ironically, though, the latest wave of arrivals have had the effect of killing the very things they moved here for.
The art heart of Venice is about to be ripped out, tossed, and replaced with condos. Artists Ned Sloane, Bill Attaway, Alberto Bevacqua and Ara Bevacqua received eviction notices to leave their 334 Sunset Studios.
Ned Sloane has been making pottery there since 1967. He’s currently trying to sell and give away most of the stuff in his studio, and he does not think he’ll ever be able to work with clay again. “The most important thing is that I find a place to live. I’m praying for a miracle. I would really love to stay in Venice, but I have no hope of that at this point. It’s time for me to let it go,” Sloane told the Beachhead.
Bill Attaway, who’s been doing ceramics since the early ‘80s in the studio neighboring Sloane, credits Sloane with helping him grow as an artist. Attaway is taking a more optimistic approach in dealing with his eviction, saying “Whatever they build over me will be a beautiful blanket for my studio.”
Attaway’s awesome studio and gallery has been the center of all Art Walk and ARTBLOCK events, and without it these happenings are in danger of not happening anymore.
The property is and has been owned by the Webster Group, and although they have been good landlords to the artists, are now changing the zone from manufacturing to residential in order to build condos.
The newcomers, Google-type hipsters who will be able to afford to move into those expensive and sterile condos without personality were in the first place attracted to Venice because of its strong personality. So was Google.
The first building on that block to change the manufacturing zoning code and to evict the artists was Gjusta, the new eatery opened at 320 Sunset by the owner of Gjelina. It didn’t take long for that greedy virus to spread next door.
Before Gjusta moved in the entire block was nothing but art studios. The remaining ones are now at huge risk of being invaded by the greed virus as well, and transformed into condos also.
Interestingly, the new sterile condos that were built across the street are not at full capacity, and have rented out their garages as exhibit spaces to artists during past Art Walk and ARTBLOCK events.
Are these new condos going to find occupants? And how long will those occupants stay once all the artists are gone and there’s a trendier area to move to? Will anybody stay for 47 years, like Sloane did, and create the studio and the artwork that he has? And when it’s all done, everything these artists have dedicated their lives to destroyed, who will be responsible for the enormous loss to the community and the art world at large?
“I would like the people moving here to realize that by default they’re causing people to move out – they are eliminating what they move here for,” Alberto Bevacqua told the Beachhead. “How do you get people to see that this is valuable and it needs to be preserved?”, Bevacqua continued. He’s been in his 334 Sunset studio for eight years, doing photography, steel sculpture, lighting and furniture.
“The new generation is not getting a chance. My twenty-two year old son Ara, who’s been living in Venice for 17 years, has been working on silver sculpture in my studio. Now he’s being run out of his hometown. It affects me emotionally more about him than myself,” Bevacqua told the Beachhead.
“I keep thinking: ‘Oh My God, what am I gonna do with all this stuff?’”, Sloane told the Beachhead. And what he’s talking about is a life-time of prized acquisitions as well as knowledge and talent. All of it about to disappear and make room for the bulldozers to come in and make space for cubicle-looking condos that won’t be worth a dime once the artistic foundation that they are built on is gone.
Sloane would like to find good homes for his vast collection of glazes and clay, two kilns, pottery and trimming wheels, and press molds. “Somebody will get a kick out these molds, I tell you,” Sloane told the Beachhead. If you are interested, call him at 310-396-2694.
“Venice is muerto, bought and sold,” Attaway told the Beachhead. “I will keep making art, no matter what. Venice is in my heart, and anywhere I go, Venice will be in my heart. But I’ve seen the whole place change,” Attaway continued.
“It doesn’t matter – everyone who came here to get that energy, the freedom, back to the ‘60s, the poets and further back, they already had it inside of them. Venice is just a flower garden – it shows you how beautiful you can be and the different things you can be. You could be a rose bush,” Attaway told the Beachhead.
Because the space they’re getting evicted out of is commercial space (as opposed to residential), none of the artists will get any relocation money.
“After the initial shock wore off, I just figured I gotta take it day by day,” Sloane told the Beachhead. It must not be easy to be uprooted at 77 years old from a space that you’ve been in for 47 years.
What can we do? We need to stop praying for help from City Hall, because it’s not happening. The anti-mansionization proposal that was unanimously approved by City Hall November 4 does not even include Venice, even though Venice is one percent of the city of Los Angeles and yet home to twenty percent of the development currently taking place in L.A. The only hope for Venice and its vibe is cityhood.
Every time a new development, yuppie establishment or another take-over comes to town, don’t turn around thinking: “Thank God it’s not me” or “It won’t affect me, I got rent control.” Sooner or later it will affect you, and your rent control will be torn down in the blink of an eye. Mike Bonin is our representative in City Hall, but he didn’t even bother to include Venice in the anti-mansionization proposal. It would be nice if calls to his office produced results.
Venice cityhood is our only option, organizing towards it our only hope.

Art meets Eviction - By Carrie Loppicolo

Above: Where Art Meets Eviction - artwork by Bill Attaway

Bill Attaway

Above: Bill Attaway in his studio, beside his artwork; Photo: Greta Cobar

Ned in his studio

Above: Ned Sloane in his studio; Photo: Greta Cobar


Above: Pottery by Ned Sloane

Alberto Bevacqua

Above: photography, steel sculpture and lightning by Alberto Bevacqua

condos on SunsetAbove: Cookie-cutter condos across the street from 334 Sunset; Photo: Greta Cobar


November 1, 2014

Bonin’s Bollards – By Nick Antonicello
Bird Totems of Venice – By Doug Fay
Thanks – By Barbara Langlois d’Estaintot
Dear Editor:
Your story on cameras and Oceanfront Walk should have been more appropriately titled “Bollards & Bonin.”
The so-called changes at OFW had nothing to do with community input or outreach, but rather a sense something was done in the face of the death of Alice Gruppioni, an international traveler murdered by the act of a maniac behind the wheel of a car while on her honeymoon!
For this political practice of bollards, cameras and alike will do nothing to change the unpleasantness that exists at OFW. It is an overreaction to a tragedy that in all probability could not have been prevented if bollards existed at every corner from Santa Monica to the Venice Pier.
For what we have at OFW is an unbridled mess of mismanagement with no one seemingly in charge. As mattresses burn into the midnight hour a sense of brokenness and no one being in charge remains on a day-to-day basis despite promises by Bonin to have someone responsible.
The physical condition of OFW continues to deteriorate at a rapid pace and those who have pointed out these obvious deficiencies continue to be ignored by the 11th Council District Office’s bureaucratic and distant way of dealing with problems that forever mount at the beach.
For how can anything change when you have this unbending elected official who does not listen to the concerns of the community?
While the grassy knolls that separate OFW and the bike continue to fall apart, the 11th Council District office wants to install an ice skating rink at a time of the year when the days are shorter and the propensity for crime at night more probable! Who would bring their kids to Venice at night to a temporary rink when a very successful private/public partnership on 4th Street east the 3rd Street Promenade is safe, secure and popular?
For other then the 11th Council District Office, who believes the construction of this ice rink makes sense?
This detached and distant governance that occupies Venice is disturbing and more importantly ineffective.
Embedded political insiders like Bonin doing as they please with little or no community input is the norm rather than the exception.
Is it any surprise that Oceanfront Walk remains in a state of deterioration and rotting from within because of the lack of political will and governmental leadership?
Bonin in his prior capacity as chief of staff to his council predecessor has had over a decade to figure it out.
How much more time are people willing to give him based on this record of consistent mediocrity?
Nick Antonicello

Nick, thanks for writing to us. Yes, the city of Los Angeles continues to ignore Venice and fails to pro- vide basic services while collecting the tax money that tourists and residents pour into Venice. Latest such gross example is the anti-mansionization bill passed by L.A. City Council November 4, offering some pro- tections to 14 L.A. neighborhoods. Surprise: VENICE WAS NOT INCLUDED! Bonin joined the unanimous vote in favor of the proposal, but did not advocate for the inclusion of Venice.

Venice constitutes one percent of the city of L.A., yet twenty percent of the development (mansioniza- tion) of L.A. is taking place in Venice. Plus, Venice has some of the most historic, worth-preserving archi- tecture in the city of L.A.

Instead of stepping up to save Venice, Bonin is wasting all of our time and money with useless bol- lards and Ocean Front Walk sweeps that have not pro- tected or helped anyone so far, and will continue to be just as useless and meaningless in the future.

Since L.A. City Council, including our represen- tative, refuse to offer Venice any type of representa- tion, our only option is to strengthen our efforts to- wards Venice Cityhood.
Only through local governance in our own city of Venice will we be able to preserve our architecture, community and ourselves.

Greta Cobar
Bird Totems of Venice
Dear Krista Schwimmer,
Thank you for sharing your love and knowledge of birds. Did you know that I am currently involved in litigation with the County of Los Angeles and California Coastal Commission to save our 10.7 acre Bird Conservation Area a.k.a. the Duck Pond on Washington Blvd? Yes, the birds need us.

One of my father’s greatest success stories was saving the Brown Pelican. Go to YouTube and type “Hero of the Coast Don May on Rim Fay” to watch two of my father’s good friends talk about a man from Venice. He was following the work of Professor of Nature Studies Roland C. Ross, who slept in the Ballona Wetlands and was instrumental in creating the Marina Del Rey Bird Sanctuary/Refuge that will become a public park and urban runoff detention basin in perpetuity if we don’t get organized.

For the birds and our children,
Doug Fay
Dear Beachhead,
Thank you for this amazing paper! You guys are awesome and I wanted to thank you for your work!

Barbara Langlois d’Estaintot


November 1, 2014

By Romero Matzalán

(MARINA DEL REY) -780,000 square feet of asbestos-containing material is being demolished with no protection for residents or workers, and no safe removal processes followed as required by California Air Quality Management District’s (AQMD) regulation 1403, among others. Workers are seen tearing apart asbestos-laden Transite roof material with their bare hands, cranes are knocking down apartments, smashing the asbestos floor tiles and wall material, releasing thousands of micro fibers of asbestos in the air. The site manager for Driver Urban, Incorporated, David Hulber, when asked about why his company has not followed the extensive lawful procedures required by California law to prevent asbestos from going into the air replied with a laugh, “We know what we are supposed to do; but my Boss doesn’t want to spend the money.”
By money, he means what is known as legal and lawful remediation, or removal. This project, at 4242 Via Marina in Marina del Rey, the old Bar Harbor Apartments and Marina, is not being demolished legally in regards to asbestos. According to AQMD rule 1403 and others, including the California Health and Safety Code, 29515-29519, and numerous CAL-OSHA regulations, not only the residents in the area, but also the workers are supposed to be protected from asbestos dust and fibers. The workers are required to wear at all times special HazMat suits, gloves, and respirators, and all the asbestos-laden material must be disposed of in special containers, bags, and trucks. The asbestos is supposed to be removed using containment, special reverse-air HEPA filter systems, and is supposed to carried off and loaded onto trucks and disposed of at the right kind of landfill. This is not being done. The asbestos is being disposed of as quickly as possible into open-air trucks in violation of the law. Also, the trucks removing the asbestos are supposed to be following a planned safe route approved by the California Highway Patrol. Attempts by residents to prove the existence of such an approved route and permit have turned up nothing. Arrow Trucking, Inc., was seen carrying away asbestos-laden debris in an open-air truck, in clear violation of the law.

John Anderson, of AQMD, had visited the site and in a voicemail message stated that it contained “780,000 square feet of asbestos-laden material” and in reference to proper asbestos removal procedures, said “we trust the contractors to be on the honor system”. This means that the AQMD lets the contractors decide how much of the law they wish to follow regarding asbestos remediation procedures. Reports viewed submitted to the AQMD are inconsistent, and inaccurate with what is actually happening at the site. They appear to be fabricated so that all appears in compliance, but in actual practice, the site is loaded with asbestos-containing material (ACM) and presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM) that is not being handled or disposed of in accordance with the law. Los Angeles County holds the responsibility for issuing permits for construction, but no one has seen these, nor has anyone seen the supposed 300-page asbestos lab report that the contractor, Driver Urban, Inc., and its asbestos remediation subcontractor, USA Specialty, Inc., claims to have. John Anderson has stated that the existence of this report was claimed by David Hulber
of Driver Urban, Inc. on site to him, but when asked to produce this report, Mr. Hulber stated that he did not have it with him.

According to California law, any site that has more than 100 square feet of asbestos-containing material (ACM) or presumed asbestos-containing material (PACM)
that contains more than 1% asbestos must follow California’s strict laws regarding
removal and disposal for the health and safety of the general public in the area, and the
health and safety of the workers handling the material. Asbestos is classified by the EPA
as a hazardous material and must be handled as such. AQMD is supposed to enforce these laws.

According to Karen Selby, R.N., of the National Advocacy Center for Mesothelioma, there are three types of illness related to asbestos exposure. The first is ‘sick building syndrome”, where breathing of asbestos fibers causes the tiny breathing sacs in the lungs to get infected and irritated. The second is asbestosis, where the infection progresses, causing the tiny breathing sacs to develop scar tissue and not work properly,
and the final stage is mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, where the sacs will barely work at all. The person suffocates to death. According to, a medical site related to asbestos related illnesses, even short-term exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to mesothelioma and death.

Construction and real estate development projects are big business in Venice, Marina del Rey, and the Southland. Our local, State and Federal governments owe it to us to make sure that the laws related to asbestos removal are followed properly and thoroughly to safeguard the public’s and workers’ health and safety. Within the next few weeks, another project right next to Bar Harbor will start, at the Villa del Mar Apartments and Marina, and there is no indication that any detailed plan has been proposed to remove the asbestos in that remodel and partial demolition. Finally, a few months after that, there will be a complete demolition of the Neptune Apartments and Marina, right across the street from Villa del Mar. In all of these projects, the public and construction workers have the right to insist that the current State, Federal and County laws be enforced regarding safe asbestos removal and demolition in order to safeguard our health and the air we breathe. Call Governor Brown at 1-916-445-4571 to stop this nightmare.

Gjelina’s 320 Sunset Update

November 1, 2014

By Roxanne Brown – Member, Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset
Hopefully, you’ve been following the Beachheads’ monthly updates on Fran Camaj’s (owner of Gjelina’s) proposed conversion from office to bakery to restaurant project at 320 Sunset Avenue, in Venice.
Here’s the latest. On October 3, stated: “Gjusta, the anticipated bakery from Venice’s popular Gjelina’s, is near completion, with an opening slated for October 13.”
On October 9, posted: “Gjelina Group is currently seeking qualified Prep and Line Cooks to join our team in our new location, Gjusta, in Venice.”
Gjusta, the “bakery” didn’t open. Because, it appears a full-blown restaurant has been built (using a bakery building permit) at 320 Sunset. It seems the “fakery” is lurking behind brown paper covered windows at 320 Sunset – recruiting prep and line cooks.
The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) and Venice’s Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) denied 320 Sunset’s proposed conversion from bakery to restaurant. Next stop is the Zoning Administration.
In the Zoning Administration’s document of September 4, 2014, they note: “The zoning administrator indicated her concern with how the applications were filed and concurred with speakers who felt that there was a lack of transparency involving the building permit application process in which the project was described as a bakery with retail and now it was described as a restaurant serving alcohol with a baker and retail component.”
“On July 28, LADBS issued a Certificate of Occupancy (permit No. 13106-10000-07038) for a change of use from office to a 4,116.2 square-foot bakery with a 559 square-foot retail use.”
“There have been three site plans submitted as part of the subject application, but the Master Land Use application and findings of fact have not been amended. The plot plan submitted for the VSO and building permits differ from what was submitted with the MLUA making it impossible to reconcile what has been approved with what is currently requested.”
Residents within a 500-foot radius of 320 Sunset should have received a NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING.
This hearing is regarding the change of use from bakery “to permit the sale and dispensing of a full line of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption and the off-site sales of beer and wine only, in conjunction with a 5,008 square-foot restaurant, with service area of 717 square feet, with seating for 87 patrons total (22 indoors, and 65 with outdoor patio on private property) and hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight Sunday through Thursday, and 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday through Saturday.”


TIME: 10:30 A.M. – Please note – “The exact time this report will be considered during the meeting is uncertain since there may be several other items on the agenda.” While waiting, you may want to review a typed copy of what you want to say, and give a copy to the Zoning Administration.

ROOM 763

Reference: CASE ZA 2013-3376(CDP)(CUB)(SPP)

REMEMBER: Correspondence must be received prior to November 13. All correspondence must reference the case number and the address, 320 Sunset. Note in your letter that you “request my letter be printed and placed on record in the file for CASE ZA 2013-3376(CDP) (CUB)(SPP). Keep all copies of your correspondence and/or give a copy to your neighborhood association. We need to have a record.


Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset believe that the Zoning Administration is aware of the alleged deception and alleged bad behaviors that have taken place at Gjelina’s Abbot Kinney location over the past seven years, documented in the press and a 150 plus page lawsuit.

The focus at the hearing must be on why a restaurant does not belong at 320 Sunset. Many people have outlined that in their letters to the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board. It’s been outlined in many of the previous Beachheads.

It appears Camaj, Gjelina’s and Gjusta’s owner, wants to basically make Gjusta in Gjelina’s image with a bit of a modification that would significantly and negatively impact the residents near 320 Sunset.

Gjelina’s restaurant on Abbott Kinney seats 65 inside and 25 outside. Those 25 outside have kept neighbors up in arms and complaining about the noise, nuisance, and disruption to the peace and quiet of their neighborhood for the past seven years. Knowing that 25 people in an outdoor area can do that much damage, Camaj wants to put 65 on an outdoor patio at 320 Sunset.

Gjusta at 320 Sunset will be 12 feet 6 inches from residents – much closer to residents than Gjelina’s on Abbot Kinney. 320 Sunset is in Oakwood – a residential neighborhood with more children, more elderly residents. Sunset is a narrower street than Abbott Kinney and a coastal access route.

VNC and LUPC recommend 320 Sunset adhere to its present Certificate of Occupancy – Bakery with Retail – No Seating. That fits with the neighborhood, since the last tenants at 320 Sunset were 6 architects. Camaj’s application for Certificate of Occupancy claimed there would be no increase in occupant load, vehicle trips or increase in parking.

A restaurant seating 87 – plus 30 customers getting take out – plus 30 employees – plus more people waiting to get in – plus vendors, maintenance, delivery people – plus all their vehicles certainly is a HUGE and VAST increase in occupant load, vehicle trips and increase in parking congestion. It certainly will change the character of the neighborhood and create a nuisance with lots of noise accompanied by bad behavior when you add alcohol, disturbing the environment and peace and quiet of Venice’s historic Oakwood neighborhood.

Attend the Zoning Administration meeting – write to Zoning. Let your voice be heard.

P.S. Last minute update to the update: We hear Gjusta’s parking lot will now enter/exit on both Sunset and the alley between Sunset and Vernon. Yes, that’s the 12 foot 6 inch alley with blind corners, next to residents’ homes.

The Art Tiles of Venice Beach: a Graphic History, 1904-2001 Latest Book Acquisition by the Venice Library Book Signing Celebration November 15, 3-5:30pm

November 1, 2014

By Kay Brown

What do a local actor, artists, teacher and councilmember have in common? They have all read and recommend our reading of the “Art Tiles at Venice Beach – a Graphic History: 1904 – 2001.”
The book magnifies the public art tiles that represent scenes from the history of Venice, 1904 to 2001. Each tile bears the name of the street on which it is located and has the date of its scene at the top of the design, which was inspired by historic and modern photographs, drawings, memory, and imagination. They consist of a suite of 22 handmade ceramic tiles, 12 inches wide by 13 inches high, constructed of high fired clay and glazes. The tiles are inlaid into the concrete ends of each of the eleven benches on the Ocean Front Walk from Horizon Ave. to Dudley Ave., and are located where the streets end at Ocean Front Walk.
The benches are deteriorating and are being removed and destroyed by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Venice Arts Council Endangered Art Fund is working to protect and rescue these tiles and the benches that house them.
Published by the Helicon Nine Press and the Venice Arts Council, all donated proceeds are used to rescue and protect these tiles.
What is not evident is the back story on the tiles themselves. A nude beach in Venice? See page 32 on the Park Avenue bench. Oil wells in Venice? See page 18 on the Clubhouse Avenue tile. Blackouts during WWII? See page 22 on Wavecrest Avenue caption. As a matter of fact, these little captions serve as a teaser for all of Venice history and invite the readers to refresh their history buff butts into our local bookstores and libraries to bone up on what we’ve been wondering about!
What do you know about Venice?
As actor Matt Malloy is quoted on the back of the book, “Want to love Venice even more than you do now?”
You can see the book at the Venice Library, where a book signing will take place at the Venice-Abbott Kinney Library, 501 South Venice Blvd., on Saturday, November 15, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served.
Venice Art Tiles

Above: The Venice Arts Council donates its newly published book “The Art Tiles of
Venice Beach: a Graphic History 1904 – 2001” to the Venice Library Senior Librarian and Branch Manager, Dr. Rachel Bindman.
“This book showcases the historical development and diversity of Venice.We are pleased to include it in our library collection.” – Dr. Bindman
Photo by: Regina Barton

Bird Totems of Venice: The Pelican

November 1, 2014

By Krista Schwimmer

What a marvel it is, indeed, to witness the effortless glide of the American White Pelican, coasting along Venice, even turning at times to soar with prehistoric presence over Ocean Front Walk itself. Or, say, to witness the plunging, precise dive of the Brown Pelican, falling from as high as 70 feet above the Pacific, to land its fish supper of the day. Since the first time I saw one of these birds when I arrived in Venice seventeen years ago, the pelican has never ceased to surprise and amaze me.

Although the United States is home to just these two pelican species, there are actually eight living species today. Four are white-plumaged that nest on the ground; four are either brown or grey plumaged that nest largely in trees. Pelicanus erythrorhynchos, or the American White Pelican, and Pelicanus occidentalis, or the Brown Pelican, are seen here in Venice, California: the first, as a visitor, the second, as a resident.

The White Pelican is the largest of the two, with its white and black tipped wings measuring up to 114.2 inches. This species likes shallow lakes and coastal lagoons, does not dive for food like its cousin the Brown Pelican, and is highly sensitive to human disturbances in its breeding colonies. A visitor here primarily in the winter months, the White Pelican is known for its graceful, soaring flights.

The Brown Pelican differs from the White Pelican in a number of ways. Two distinct ways are both visual: through its brown plumage and its method of fishing. In his book, “The Bestiary of Christ,” Louis Charbonneau-Lassay says the word pelican comes from the Greek pelekus, or ax, “because the opening of its enormous beak, widening out in the shape of a fan, recalls the ancient axe head when the bird drops from the sky onto the fish swimming near the water’s surface, on which it chiefly feeds.”

It wasn’t long ago that the Brown Pelican was almost driven to extinction by by the insecticide dichlorodiphenyotrichlorethane or DDT. In the late 1960′s, Rimmon C. Fay, Ph.D., an activist, scientist, and lifeguard who became renown for his vigilance over the California coastline, gave data for a lawsuit against Montrose Chemical, the maker of DDT, that stopped them from dumping DDT into the sewers and thus, the ocean itself. Dr. Fay also filed the paperwork to have the Brown Pelican declared an endangered species at the time. In 2009, it was taken off the list when the West Coast population reached 150,000.

With fossil evidence reaching back 30 million years, it is not surprising to find the pelican represented in Egyptian lore. As Henet, the pelican is associated with death and the afterlife. The pelican was believed to be able to possess the ability to prophesy the safe passage in the underworld for a person who had died. The Egyptians also view the pelican as a protector against snakes.

In Christian symbolism the pelican is associated with purification, redemption and resurrection. One legend is that the father pelican pierces his own right breast after finding his chicks lifeless in the nest. His blood brings the chicks back to life. Another version of this legend appears in the 18th degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, the Rose Croix degree. The main symbol of the jewel for this Masonic degree depicts a mother pelican pecking her breast to feed her babies. In this legend, it is the father pelican who kills the young in a rage when they misbehave. The mother, then, brings the chicks back to life, symbolizing, of course, the resurrection.

As a bird totem, then, pelican points to unselfishness. Because of its buoyancy, created by the air sacs under its skin, the pelican also teaches how to rise above one’s emotions and life’s trials. Simply observing a flock of pelicans flying in V formation above Ocean Front Walk certainly lifts my spirits.

One afternoon, my husband and I were walking along the Venice canals when we spotted a lone pelican resting at the end of a canoe. We watched as the pelican then began to do what looked like a kind of yogic breathing technique. He first pulled his head completely back, opening his large bill and revealing his tongue. Then, he stuck the bill straight up in the air. We watched in amazement as he slowly completed what appeared to be a yawn.

Whether it is the White Pelican, Brown Pelican, or any other pelican species, like many other creatures, this stately being still needs protection. Oil spills, fishing lines, and destruction of habitat still threaten the pelican. In fact, the most recent survey by UC Davis showed a drastic plunge in the population of the Brown Pelican’s breeding pairs. As for the White Pelican, the Audubon website states that “because of pesticides, human disturbances, and the draining of wetlands, the species is in decline. The number of active colonies has dropped sharply in recent decades.”

Luckily, we need only look to the pelicans to teach us just how to protect them. We need only learn to cherish charity over commerce. Although this may seem a daunting task at times, charity begins with a simple act of kindness: buying a meal for a houseless Venice resident, taking the time to rescue a neighborhood bird, or even simply getting to know your neighbors. Each of these acts has a ripple effect, both inwardly and outwardly. Practiced on a daily basis, charity can change us and the world around us.

So, next time you see a pelican soaring or diving, next time you find one of its feathers along the coast, remember the teachings of pelican. And don’t forget to yawn now and then! That, too, can wake you up.

(Sources: “The Bestiary of Christ”, Louis Charbonneau-Lassay; “Animal Speak,” Ted Andrews;;; wikipedia; “Hero of the Coast – Don May on Rim Fay.”;


Above: Pelican over Venice

Photo: Joe Stanford


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