The Fire Next Time

May 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Christine Burrill’s stunning exhibit of photo collages of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising has an impact and immediacy that few other art forms can convey.

Three of the large collages were printed on brushed aluminum sheets by the Social and Public Arts Resource Center’s (SPARC) founder and artistic director Judy Baca. The effect gives an appropriately industrial feel to scenes of devastation and repression. The show, entitled Uprising Los Angeles: A Walk Through the Civil Unrest of 1992, continues at SPARC (old Venice jail) through June 8.

Twenty years ago, Los Angeles exploded in anger. Poor people of every nationality took out their frustration at nearby stores and shopping centers. Many took the opportunity to claim goods and food out of stores that they could not normally afford to patronize.

Others were more political. The Los Angeles Times, seen as a defender of the establishment, was one of the first targets. The ground floor of the Times building was trashed. Parker Center, the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters, was under siege. The dismissal of charges against four LAPD officers who had been videotaped beating African-American Rodney King by a nearly all white jury was the final straw for many in South Central and Midtown Los Angeles.

As the uprising, which began on April 28, gathered momentum, it spread throughout the area, from Long Beach to Venice. There was little property damage in Venice, compared to other pockets of poverty around L.A. A store was burned on Lincoln Blvd., but it was later determined that it was torched by its owner to collect the insurance money.

In all, there were 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damages to 3,100 businesses and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. Sympathy uprisings occurred in other cities, including San Francisco, Las Vegas and Atlanta. Venice, and other parts of the city, hosted 4,000 California National Guard troops. Ocean Front Walk was closed down with bayonets. Since many of the Guard troops came from the “war” zone, many turned out to be not sufficiently tough enough to put down the civil disturbance. A further 4,500 military troops, mainly Marines, were deployed to restore order. In addition, 1,000 federal officers, including FBI, arrived on the scene.

In the face of tens of thousands of determined rebels, it was not enough. The uprising finally petered out as people returned to earning a living and the increasingly difficult task of finding food. In the aftermath of the uprising, a half-hearted effort was made to reconstruct the damaged businesses and increase economic activity in the poorest neighborhoods. A public-private organization called Rebuild LA was created and Peter Ueberroth was named to lead it. He had recently made a success of the first privatized Olympics, held in Los Angeles in 1984. However, his entrepreneurship didn’t work this time. Rebuild LA quickly faded into oblivion.

Today, much of Los Angeles is still in the throes of poverty, higher education is even farther out of reach than it was in 1992, and unemployment reaches 20 percent in some neighborhoods.

On the other hand, the LAPD has become militarized, with high-tech weapons (soon to include drones) and many officers who have experience in urban warfare in Fallujah, Baghdad and Kandahar. Even so, a random, unscientific poll around Venice reveals that many people think it’s just a matter of time until the next uprising. I asked one San Juan Avenue resident at the art opening when he thought the next uprising might occur, he answered, “When Zimmerman goes free.” (George Zimmerman is the alleged killer of Black teenager Trayvon Martin).

More of Christine Burrill’s work may be seen at http://www.photocollage.com.    


EXTRA! Silicon Discovered in Venice

May 1, 2012

By Jamie Virostko

Free Venice Where Art Thou?

How will Venice’s future be affected by the recent and continuing influx of the Tech Industry? That was the subject of the well attended Emergence of Silicon Beach Town Hall, held at Westminster Elementary on April 12.

Money and expertise are sweeping into Venice. We stand to gain jobs, economic prosperity and resources for our children. We must make a crucial and difficult decision. What we do about the homeless and economically challenged will define our soul as a community for decades to come.

In the past, you could count on poets, painters and musicians to align with the Venice disenfranchised. Hustlers, junkies, sunsets, bums, sex and freedom – that’s why they came. In Venice, artists are not shielded from life.

Is there now a danger that the tech industry could soften the community’s resolve in regards to our fragile citizen wanderers? Silicon Beach could significantly broaden the global reach of our substantial artistic population. Why not go for it? Do we have to lose our diversity in the process?

By the time the Town Hall was over, Councilmember Rosendahl’s passion to sell this influx of the tech industry, combined with a pervasive culture of individualism, undermined reaching the inconvenient heart of serious community concerns.

Courtship

Only in LA would a “Town Hall” have corporate sponsorship, a set provided by a local furniture store, a catered spread and an after party. With twenty-five companies on display, a semi-dazzling Trade Show greeted the Venice public. Rather than a Town Hall, it was a Showcase of the Tech Industry. A true Town Hall would’ve had at least one community leader, within the panel discussion, representing the diversity and homeless issues.

Wrangling the well-fed crowd, VNC President, Linda Lucks, preambled about “unique” and wonderful Venice, challenging the all tech panel to consider the “fabric of our community.”

Our charismatic moderator, Bill Rosendahl, soon took control and we were off. Marveling that he had never seen such a crowd at a town hall, he informed us that it was being broadcast throughout Los Angeles on Channel 35. His coining of the word “Venassiance” produced not only laughter, but audible groans. He took it in stride.

Our all tech panel was introduced: Thomas Williamson from Google, James Citron with Mogreet, Jeff Solomon with Amplify, and JJ Aguhob from Viddy.

Transitioning into the discussion, it was mentioned how social media played an important role in the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement. That certainly gives lip service to the community’s political activism.

James Citron informed us that, where there was an insertion of a 10 percent increase of cell phones into a developing market, the GDP increased 3 percent. That is impressive.

Google opens up portions of its local facilities for public use. Very nice.

But, why did the tech industry choose us? According to them, 1) ready and available talent; 2) Venice is a world renown, cultural icon; 3) it is an enjoyable and inspiring environment in which to live and work; and, 4) the proximity to the entertainment industry.

Since money does not partner where it does not anticipate a genuine benefit, I would say, there is a sincere belief in the high level and quantity of creative talent in this community. I believe there is a need within Silicon Beach for that creativity.

After being told how fabulous we are, we learned how important bike paths are to tech folks. Apparently, we will get bike paths as a result of Rosendahl learning how many Google employees ride bicycles to work. Sure! The cycling lifestyle is great!

Our Moderator/Politician continued posturing, bringing up the Venice Post Office. Extremely important to the community, I understand the significance of the Biberman work. May I quickly point out; however, that a mural to your life is not your life. Be careful…

As the internal panel discussion continued, two key divides surfaced: The value of the Entertainment Industry and an understanding of the Free Venice Culture.

Your three young startups (Solomon, Citron and Aguhob) seemed hungry for Hollywood to merge with tech. Existing film and TV crews could shift their expertise into the development of premium internet content. Venice Beach (with its hip and eclectic backgrounds, top level talent and the latest technology) would be an ideal center for that production.

Thomas Williamson (a generation older), maintained that, so much highly viewed internet content was generated by average users, he didn’t feel the need to marry entertainment and tech per se.

As for the panel’s understanding of the community’s existing culture, you will be happy to know, Free Venice, our young startups welcome your “being weird” and have no problem with the strange guy walking down the street in the “big pink hat.”

Initially, the characterization of Free Venice was oversimplified and condescending to say the least. Witnessing the look of bliss in Citron’s eyes, as he shared, “when you see a three or four year old kid pick up an iPhone for the first time,” God bless him…

Within this aspect of the younger generation, there is a disconnect from the idea of doing what you wanted with your body, because it was not only a cosmic principal, it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America! It is about freedom of expression, not about “being weird.”

Williamson, from Google, redirected the issue more respectfully, “They [tech industry] didn’t move to San Francisco necessarily because they wanted to appreciate San Francisco for what it was. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening here now. But, they moved to change it into something they liked or something they wanted. So, I think we have to be careful about the things that make Venice special here and that the people we hire respect those things and want them to preserve.”

Despite good intentions, what happens when wealth sweeps into a community; thereby, the poor and struggling middle-class (and diversity) are property taxed and rent increased out of apartments?

James Solomon pointed out that startup guys were not rich. He didn’t want to see rents go up either. But, he is not an elderly person on a fixed income, or collecting recycling to survive. An increase in rents would not push him out of the neighborhood, as it would more marginal folks.

Reassuring the crowd, there was an appeal to our legendary Venetian Acceptance: The influx of tech represents one more face of Venice in an eclectic sea of faces, asserted the all male, mostly white, panel.

Q&A: 

Culture of Individualism vs. Community

Throwing us into the Q&A, Moderator Rosendahl skipped the portion of the town hall where our organized community leaders addressed the organized tech panel with our focused and well articulated community concerns. In his defense, the VNC didn’t schedule that portion into the agenda.

Opening the microphone to the general, Rosendahl requested to please ask questions and not give speeches. Unfortunately, a pervasive, narrow-minded individualism, within the random sampling of our citizens, provided a way for our un-objective moderator to skirt uneasy topics.

Without getting into embarrassing specifics, let’s just say the Q&A emphasized the need for community leadership, within such areas as: 1) Outreach to our economically challenged: How can they compete for entry level tech jobs? What support industries do we anticipate cropping up around Silicon Beach? How do we mentor potential local entrepreneurs within our struggling communities? 2) Organization of the Creative Community: How do we marry the local talent to all this new production? Should we think about an infrastructure or database designed to interface local artistic talent with outside companies staffing projects? How do we manage our own quality control? How will tech truly expand our reach? 3) Homelessness: What are viable, enduring solutions to the homeless dilemma? Who will make long terms commitments to those solutions?

The Homeless: 

A Community Must Decide

Even with a fair amount of time devoted to the homeless issue, the panelists rightly concluded that, though they can be a part of the solution, they are not the solution.  Homelessness is a complicated social challenge anywhere, but particularly within the Culture of Venice Beach.

To many Venetians, sweeping the homeless out of our community is karmic blood we do not want on our hands. The tech industry claims they are here because there is no where else in the world like Venice. As a community, we must decide if the homeless are as much a part of the Venice Brand as graffiti, music, love, skateboarding, freedom, pot and breath… as anyone of us in all our variegated diversity.

Regardless, they are human beings who give us the opportunity everyday to choose soul.

More from the author at jamievsblog.wordpress.com


Letters

May 1, 2012
  • Venice Skills Center – Rich Mann
  • Big Wheel – Gail Rogers
  • Moved by Open Letter – Diane Loggin

 

———————————————

Venice Skills Center

Dear Beachhead,

After reading the April issue of the Beachhead (April 2012) in which Charles Thomas writes about the Venice Skills Center, I realized that he did not mention the testimonials at http://www.lausd.net/Venice_Skills_Center/testimonials.html

I think it’s important for people to have a first hand view of those that have benefited from the schools courses. I like the article, it is well written.

I ran into “Chicago Baba.” I remember him as a local icon who used to sit on an Ocean Front beach bench and meditate in silence. He was invited to live in India by one of his religious leaders. He said he remembered my photography I sold back in the late 70’s. We’ll miss his!

I enjoyed Sam Schatz’s “Venice In The 70’s” article. I can remember sitting nude on the beach next to the oil rig at the Windward breakwater and three French stewardesses came over and sat nude next to me. It was an unusual but liberating experience. Regrettably I was short a camera in those days.

Rich Mann

————

Big Wheel

Dear Beachhead,

THANK YOU, GRETA for your article in the April Beachhead.  My sentiments exactly.  I was one of the outspoken residents at the informational presentation on March 5 and I’ve already emailed such stated opposition to Councilman Rosendahl.  You have covered all the same points that I had to oppose such a monstrosity.

Here’s an additional point to oppose it.  We noticed that there will be advertising on it and when we asked about this, the Dept. of Rec and Parks representative mumbled something about how the ads wouldn’t be “inappropriate.”  We’ve been opposing (and so far successfully) “For Profit Signage” in the parks in Los Angeles.

In regard to the three years perhaps extending beyond that, when I “googled” them I read that they had put up the one in Paris for one year only and when it was time to disassemble it, they refused.  It was fought in the courts for two more years until they finally removed it.

I’ve been playfully nicknaming this “Observation Wheel” the “Non-Observation Wheel Due to Marine Layer and Fog.”

Gail Rogers

———–

Moved by Open Letter

I am an occasional reader of the BEACHHEAD, and thru the powers that be, happened to pick up a copy of the April 2012 issue, which I perused last night.

The article “An Open Letter to the Community” moved me to tears. I have been a resident of beloved Venice for about 2 years and am keenly aware of the homeless situation day in and day out. I was terribly saddened to read about the 3rd Street/Rose Ave. raid and it’s devastating aftermath.

I wanted to voice my full support for the author of this article and editors of the BEACHHEAD and commend them for their compassion and attention to the search for a REAL solution to this REAL fact of life.

I have tried to become involved in a solution to this situation for years now, but find my energies thwarted; i.e., people “say” they want others’ help & contributions but are failing miserably organizing and reaching out to those like me that have the time & heart to contribute.

Please continue your fight for the rights of our weakest, most needy members of this wonderfully diverse community. Everything the author stated in her Open Letter is a reflection of my own thoughts and feelings. We ARE the coolest. We CAN solve this. Love, generousity and understanding can help to heal a broken soul. One by one we can make a difference. Together we can change many lives.

I am available to help & contribute whatever I can. Just, please, contact me.

Diane Loggin

 


Tenants Reclaim Lincoln Place

May 1, 2012

Six years after they were booted out of their homes by corporate landlord AIMCO, happy tenants began returning to newly refurbished apartments on April 15.

Evictees and their union, the Lincoln Place Tenant Association, plus a large number of Venice activists, never stopped fighting against the largest single-day eviction in Los Angeles County history.

They set up a tent city, held rallies, hired lawyers, won historical status, got Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s support, and had lots of media coverage in the Beachhead and elsewhere. AIMCO finally agreed to restore the tenants to the vacant Apartment complex of nearly 800 units.

The process is slow going, only about a dozen of around 50 people have moved in so far. AIMCO  hasn’t exactly rolled out the welcome mat. Instead it has attached a number of “small print” restrictions on tenants that has caused a number of them to delay moving back until the lease language is modified. If AIMCO relents, the evictees will be back in their remodeled apartments by the end of May. Otherwise, the process may drag on for several more months. One unhappy evictee said, “it seems that AIMCO is still trying to drive people away.”

The remodeling of the apartments set aside for the returning tenants is nearly complete. AIMCO was to begin work on refurbishing the remaining several hundred units as agreed with the Los Angeles County Labor Federation which is providing an all union workforce. However, rumors are circulating that AIMCO may instead prioritize development on the empty lots (where apartments were illegally bulldozed several years ago). Similar looking, but more expensive apartments, will be built on these lots.

–Jim Smith


Zip Line on the Beach?

May 1, 2012

By Greta Cobar

The proposed Ferris Wheel project has been put on hold for at least a year, and a new Zip Line project is going to be proposed by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl at the May 15 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting.

The Zip Line was first suggested by Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of Recreation and Parks. Rosendahl subsequently called Linda Lucks and asked her to put the proposal on the next VNC meeting agenda.

“If the community is excited and wants it, if the positives outweigh the negatives, I will make the Zip Line a reality for this summer,” Rosendahl said in a phone interview with the Beachhead. When asked what makes him think that Venetians would be supportive of the Zip Line when they proved to be so vehemently against the Ferris Wheel, he re-affirmed his determination to be a “politician that represents the people.”

Parks and Recs needs to self-generate $30 to $40 million of its annual $185 million budget, so it makes perfect sense for Regan to fully endorse the Ferris Wheel and the Zip Line.

Although Great City Attractions declined to state why they were putting their Ferris Wheel project on hold, the UK-based company and its Scottish representatives wanted to jump right in and install the wheel in ten days without realizing that it would take at least a year to go through all the environmental and planning regulations. If we are not careful we will end up with a Zip Line and a Ferris Wheel by next summer.

Rosendahl could not say how long the Zip Line would stay in Venice and did not know the name of the company that would provide such a service. However, he did mention that the Ocean Front Walk bathrooms need to be cleaned and the trash cans need to be emptied more often.

In reality, Regan and his department would have discretion over how the funds are spent. His priority might not even be to have cleaner bathrooms and trash cans, but meeting his norm of money raised. Even worst, the city has a poor history of keeping local the funds generated in Venice.

Los Angeles might get anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of the profits generated by the Zip Line, but what percent of that would actually trickle back down to Venice is unsure at this point. Rosendahl stated that it all depends on negotiations, but was unable to provide specifics. Our beach bathrooms will look as good as the ones in Santa Monica only when we will have city hood as well.

Tens of Venetians spoke loud and clear against the Ferris Wheel project both at the March 5 community meeting and at the April 17 VNC meeting. What makes Rosendahl think that we will have a different attitude towards the Zip Line is elusive.

If you are interested in joining the discussion regarding the Zip Line before the next VNC meeting, please contact the VNC Visitor Impact Committee at visitorcommittee@venicenc.org for time and date of meetings. Otherwise, come out May 15 at Westminster Elementary for the next VNC meeting.


To feed or not to feed, that is the question?

May 1, 2012


By Ronald K. Mc Kinley

In most major cities there are ordinances stopping or restricting the feeding of the homeless. Las Vegas, “home of Lost Wages,” was one of the first. A federal judge has blocked that law.

New York’s mayor Bloomberg blocked food donations to all government-run homeless shelters, concerned that the donated food would not be nutritious enough. We all know that no food is better than food of low nutritional value. Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before.

Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” had its mayor Nutter saying that feeding them lacked sanitary conditions, a common excuse, and took away the dignity of the homeless. Their dignity was more important than eating. He loses his dignity several times a day.

Houston’s christian organization “Feed a Friend” was banned and told they would not be granted a permit in the future. Christian rapper Tre9, Bobby Herring, appeared before the City Council and won some wiggle room.

Dallas area pastor Dan Hart is suing over food ordinance. Suing for free exercise of religion protected by the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “It is what Jesus did,” he said.

In Orlando, 12 “Food not Bombs” activists were arrested. The activists needed a permit if large groups of people are within 2 miles of city hall. Sounds like they don’t want to be occupied. Each group is allowed two permits per park per year. Food not Bombs exceeded their limit. They knew they would be arrested.

In Venice, an anonymous donor gave money to Whole Foods to feed the homeless once a month on Sundays. Whole Foods, heartened, decided to feed every Sunday. The “housed” went ballistic. Kelly Layne, marketing supervisor for Whole Foods, first approached by the donor, connected with Steve Clare of Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC). He offered his facility across the street from Whole Foods, on Rose, for feeding. The homeless haters were still not appeased. The feeding was moved to the boardwalk, in front of the Adda & Paul Safran Senior Housing Presbyterian Home, 151 Ocean Front Walk. There are two spaces designated as feeding places on OFW, 69 and 205, the last space on OFW.

I got up at 7 in the morning, no small feat, to see the feeding. I got to 151 OFW at 8:00, there was a short line. That grew fast. I asked people in line about the food, as I knew some of them. The responses were all positive. People talked and caught up on boardwalk gossip. It was a warm somewhat humid day.

Only one man did not seem to be happy. He bellowed of someone who was after him over some transgression. He was ignored as he sought out an audience. Someone said, “ we don’t want to hear that shit.” At a lost to a come back, he stopped his rant.

At 8:30 Whole Foods showed up and started to setup. The line now held about 90 people. They where instructed by a volunteer about trash, and not to sit on the steps of 151 OFW. A patrol car pulled up about ten minutes later. A portly officer extracted himself, with effort, from the black & white. He lectured the volunteers and then squeezed back into black & white and left.

The food consisted of a breakfast burrito, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, juice, coffee, pastry. The best of Whole Foods breakfast menu. About 250 people were fed that day. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

The homeless are a quantum of humanity, a section of America. The haters would have you believe that all homeless are drug users, lazy, criminals, with no social grace, waiting for the next hand out.

This sounds like some of our elected officials. The economic collapse was not caused by poor people, but by greed. The homeless population will continue to grow.

A year ago I would have been standing in this line. Thanks to St. Joseph Center and VCHC I am no longer homeless. Albert Einstein said, “Problems can not be solved with the same level of awareness that created them.”


Cinco de Mayo Pancake Breakfast

May 1, 2012


Venice’s own Fire Station #63 will hold its annual Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, May 5, from 8 am until noon at the firehouse at Venice Blvd. and Shell Ave., next to Beyond Baroque.

Come and meet Capt. Rex Vilaubi and his intrepid crew, check out the big red fire engines and equipment, tour the station and enjoy breakfast with your neighbors. Great fun for kids young and old!

All the proceeds from the breakfast are used to maintain and upgrade the station house. This is one case where revenues generated in Venice stay in Venice!

Last year Station #63 responded to an average of thirty calls a day in the Venice area, mainly medical emergencies and traffic accidents.

They are always there for us – here’s a tasty way to show your appreciation.

–Roger Linnett


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