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! 

***

 


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


A Parade Was Planned

July 1, 2014

By John Johnson

This is a re-print from the July 1969 Beachhead

What could have uplifted the spirit of a besieged community more than a Fourth of July Independence celebration? A day to show our independence and to reaffirm in our own way our desires and duties to free ourselves from our besiegers.

The Free Venice Organizing Committee (FVOC) decided to have a Fourth of July parade to kick off our drive to free Venice, relating the independence of the colony of Venice from the Empire of Los Angeles to the independence of the American Colonies from the British Empire. The parade would have traveled north on West Washington, across Rose to the Ocean Front Walk, and then south to Windward where our Declaration of Independence would be read.

The police recognized the threat of a community parade with children, flags, and balloons from the very first. Before they would grant Free Venice an application form for a permit, they wanted a downtown conference with many attendants and secretaries at which they requested all the vital information about Free Venice along with maps and multi-colored descriptions of the gala event.

The application was submitted on a Friday (the next Monday being too late) and was promptly refused acceptance in a manner typical of bureaucratic harassment – inaccuracies, they claimed. After a further attempt at submissions on Saturday when no one was there, the application was finally accepted disguised as a registered letter.

On June 18 the Police Commissioners’ hearing on the parade permit was held. Six Free Venice members along with a lawyer went down to participate in the spectacle. Our parade stood out on the lengthy program – it was the only item recommended for denial.

FVOC spokesperson Jane Gordon stepped up first to speak on behalf of the parade. After being subjected to several questions about the FVOC, she objected, maintaining that such questions were irrelevant and suggested that they start discussing the parade. She was told to be seated.

Rick Davidson then took the stand and told the commissioners that FVOC was a group formed to solve community problems and that the parade was to celebrate Independence Day, a traditional national holiday. Rick gave a thorough description of the parade, carefully explaining how the parade had been planned to give minimum interference to emergency traffic. The head commissioner, with his copy of BEACHHEAD in hand, asked Rick if it was true that a celebration would be held along the route even if the permit were not granted. Rick replied that that was true.

Then the barrage of imported complaints began. Various police, firemen, and ambulance drivers read their lines about how the parade would interfere with emergency traffic (the planned police parade) and how it was on April 20. The emphasized point was that there was a reported feed-in to be held on the beach which wold attract about 30,000 people and that the aded traffic from a parade (of at most 700 people and a few cars) would grossly interfere with emergency vehicle access. It was also stated that we couldn’t have vehicles on the Ocean Front Walk since it was not constructed to support vehicles.

The only complaint from the community who was present was William Bestor of the Venice Tram Company, who said that the Fourth was one of only 16 days in the year on which the Tram Company showed a profit and the parade would cut deeply into the profits for the day.

After stating blatantly that it was not the goodness or badness of the organization at issue (even though nothing had been mentioned on that subject) the head commissioner called the vote. No one voted for the parade.

It was suggested that we go back and re-apply but we decided against that obviously futile process. Instead, we began putting out leaflets advertising a sidewalk parade which would obey all traffic regulations and which the police had already assured us was completely legal with no permits required.

Meanwhile, we wanted to deal with the problem of the Tram Company and the reported feed-in. It seemed that the complaint from the Tram Company was due solely to a lack of understanding. Consequently, three Free Venice members met and talked with the Tram manager and secured not only his understanding but also one of his finest trams to lead the parade down Ocean Front.

The feed-in was being put on by Green Power, headed by Cleo Knight. After weeks of unsuccessful attempts to talk with him, we were finally able to persuade him to come to a meeting. We discussed the Fourth, pointing out to him that he was coming into a community (unlike Griffith Park) where there already existed an undeclared war with the police. We told him that we thought that his plans for bringing tens of thousands of unsuspecting persons to an anticipated slaughter without any preparations for first aid, lawyers, or bail money was irresponsible. Furthermore, we informed him that by not complying with the wishes of the community, he was making our problem more difficult. But he chose to proceed with his plans anyway.

Capping the parade preparations was a press conference at which a total of 14 news agencies, including four TV stations, were represented. It was explained that the parade organizers wished to avoid a confrontation with the police at any cost. Favorable coverage of the parade brought Venice’s secession efforts to the notice of millions of Los Angeles residents, many of whom have similar hopes of freedom for their won communities.

At a Wednesday night meeting, July 2, last minute plans were drawn up. Already numerous reports and rumors of a giant police build-up had been brought to our attention, including several remarks from police officers which were very threatening to both the parade and the community. At the meeting’s end, however, we still planned on following through with our celebration that Friday.


& Cancelled

July 1, 2014

By Jane Gordon

This is a re-print from the July 1969 Beachhead

Thursday started after an all-night rap session among the parade organizers. We had been getting steadily more reports and rumors about what the police had in store for beachgoers on the following day. Nothing we could “prove,” or we’d have taken it to court long before. Just second-had stories about numbers, preparations and intentions. One cop’s kid was heard crooning, “my dad’s gonna break a lot of heads on Friday, nyah nyah …” Material for barricades began appearing on street corners. Reports of huge trailor-size mobile stations for the pavillion. The lady at the Recreation Center advised us not to plan on using the grassy are on that day. When asked why, she was “not at liberty to say.” There were several reports that the police were hoping to start an incident with the people in the parade and then use that as an excuse to bust everyone on the beach. Police were telling people they were expecting dangerous “revolutionaries,” who wanted to “take over Los Angeles.” And on and on.

The all-night session produced the decision to postpone the parade, to hold a silent vigil at Venice City Hall, and to put out a statement clarifying where the blame lay – with the police. We regretted having to concede the beach to the cops on a day which should have been for the people, but we felt positive that canceling the parade and warning people to stay away from the beach was the only way to avert a gigantic police club-in. We felt it absolutely essential to point out to people that we have a lot of work to do before we can control the actions of the police in our own community, and that physical confrontations could only harm our ability to proceed with that work.

We got the statement run off (FREE VENICE WARNS OF VIOLENCE JULY FOURTH) and started calling the press early Thursday morning. We kept it up all day, delivering copies and reading it over the phone. We ran off leaflets with a more graphic version of the same message and began getting them around on the Ocean Front, in the canals, at the library, all over. Police were later seen tearing them down.

People started calling to find our if the parade was really canceled as they had heard on the radio – we explained that it was postponed until we felt we could celebrate independence without intimidation and illegal police activities. We also encouraged Venice residents to participate in our silent vigil at the Venice City Hall to mourn the fact that our community would be occupied territory on Independence Day.

Thursday evening at the last meeting of the parade committee, we went over our plans and worked out details. Some participants decided to warn of the police trap by making signs which they planned to display during the morning at all major streets leading into Venice. The meeting adjourned and the sign painters went to work.

Anticipation was high, but we were not dejected. We had done all we could to ruin police plans for a bloodbath. We hoped it would work.


Venice Circle

June 1, 2014

By Jim Smith

Public space is taking a beating in Venice lately. First, our beautiful beach is off limits to Venetians, and everyone else, from midnight to 6 a.m. Then our nutty L.A. City Attorney, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich, decided our busiest street, Ocean Front Walk, was actually a park and promptly took it away from the public during the same nighttime hours. Now our Venice Circle is off-limits to the public 24-hours a day, every day.

The concept of public space goes hand-in-hand with local democracy. Public spaces allow people to gather and exercise free speech. In years gone by, Venetians like Swami X and Bill Mitchell would climb up on a park bench and begin haranguing the crowd that quickly gathered. It didn’t matter if they said lewd or slanderous things about well-known people. That’s what free speech is all about. You can’t go into the Binocular Building, stand up on a bench and loudly launch an verbal attack on Google. But you can do that in a public space.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the third takeaway of public access, the Circle, is located where five streets come together, including Main, Windward and Grand. It is sometimes called the traffic circle, although real estate agents prefer the “Windward Circle.” Although “Main Street Circle” would define it just as well, “Windward” sounds classier.

In recent years, the Circle has been the site of free speech activities. Our 100-year anniversary of the founding of Venice and Independence Day parade on July 4, 2005, ended at the circle where speeches and music entertained Venetians. See the August 2005 Beachhead for photos and articles about the celebration. A couple of years later, the Venice Peace and Freedom Party initiated a peace vigil at the Circle opposing the ongoing Iraq occupation, the war in Afghanistan, and the threat of war with Iran. The vigils continued every week for 54 weeks.

Later, in 2011, the Circle was the site of the first Occupy Venice encampment. It has also been a place over the year for peaceful retreats, perhaps a day dream or two while lying on the green grass, or simply watching the people and the cars go by.

We can’t talk about the Circle without thinking about that adjoining public space that we recently lost, the Venice Post Office. Here, at the center of Venice, we could wander in and run into one or more of our neighbors, and marvel at the beauty of the 1939 building and its beautiful mural, called the Story of Venice. For more than a year, the building has been an eyesore as it has turned from a public space into a private ego trip. Hollywood mogul Joel Silver bought the building and found it not up to his standards of excess. Now the inside has been ripped out, the mural torn off the wall and only shown to those he wants to impress at the L.A. Museum of Art.

Did Silver ask for signs to go up at the Circle prohibiting pedestrians from entering? Perhaps, when he takes possession of his plush office, he won’t want to see any real Venetians malingering in the Circle. In any case, after more than 80 years, the City of Los Angeles has decided that visiting the Circle constitutes a hazard to us, similar to walking on a freeway. Oh yes, the same ordinance that bans pedestrians from walking on a freeway – L.A.M.C. 80.42.1 – now bans us from this lonely piece of our public land.

It wasn’t always like this. When Venice was a free and independent city (there I go again), the Circle was a lagoon that was the hub of the canal system in central Venice. When, after a farcical election for annexation, Los Angeles filled in all the canals and the lagoon.

As a sop to angered residents, the new Circle was named the Abbot Kinney Plaza, which is still its true name as far as I know. But don’t look for a statue to the founder of Venice, or a bandstand as in many Latin American plazas. Thanks to the Venice Historical Society, there is a replica of a gondola in the Circle, even if we can’t inspect it closely.

Thanks to another colossal ego and artist Robert Graham, we have to share our Circle with a statue to a dismembered Black woman. The statue was a gift from one of Graham’s patrons but the city paid $90,000 for the base on which it stands. To date, L.A. has only contributed $5,000 to the fund for a memorial to Japanese-Venetians who were put in a concentration camp during World War II. Such are the priorities of our oppressors. From the 1970s to the 90s, a people installed statue, called “Freedom,” which people actually liked, graced the Circle. It was stolen away one night by the L.A. street department without a word.

There have been lots of ideas over the past decades to beautify our Circle. One suggestion was to have a Farmers’ Market at the Circle every week. Another was to create a statue garden where we could wander through a flower garden, sit on benches and look at representations of the heroes and artists of Venice, including Kinney, Irving Tabor, Arthur Reese, Flora Chavez, John Haag, Vera Davis, Rick Davidson, Marvena Kennedy, Philomene Long, Carol Fondiller and others. Yes, we have quite a history in Venice!

If the downtown bureaucrats really cared about the safety of pedestrians going to our Circle, couldn’t they have considered other options. No, because in L.A. cars always come first, and people second, if at all. And no, if a 1 percenter like Silver wanted people out, who are we to think our opinions would even be considered?

In a better world, cars could be banned from the Circle. Most of the dangerous traffic is from cut-through commuters going from north of Venice to south of Venice. Surely, they could find a way to travel that didn’t involve roaring down residential streets in Venice. If they can’t be moved, how about a aerial bridge over the traffic. Let’s hold a contest for the most beautiful design. Oops, I forgot, Venice is all about taking money downtown, not bringing it back.

Will Venetians give up and go quietly into that good night? Or will they rage, rage against the dying of the light? When hat-in-hand appeals to the powers-that-be don’t work, then stronger tactics are required. If any public space is to survive, if any cottages and courtyards are to survive the Big Ugly Box onslaught, if Venice is to regain its soul, and independence, we must put our bodies where our words are.

If 50 of my closest friends invited me to a peaceful candlelight vigil in our Circle, how could I refuse? How could you refuse? As the police and TV vans roll up, could we not sing that old union free speech song, “We Shall Not Be Moved”? And the next night…

Venice Circle


An Interview with John Haag

December 1, 2013

(This is a re-print from the November 2002 issue)

By Suzy Williams

John Haag – whose long career of fighting for the rights of Venetians has earned him the title of People’s Doge of Venice.

He was the proprietor of the Venice West coffeehouse and led the fight for the right of poets to read their poetry at a time when it was illegal in Los Angeles without an entertainment license.

Haag was a founder, and a long-time leader, of the Venice Peace and Freedom Party and co-founder, along with Rick Davidson, of the Free Venice movement.

In addition, Haag “…served as founding president of the Venice Chapter of the ACLU, chairman of the Venice Forum, publicity chairman of the Venice/Santa Monica chapter of CORE, ‘action chairman’ of the Westside United Civil Rights Committee, rally chairman of the Congress of Unrepresented People (COUP), chairman of the International Days of Protest Committee, arrangements committee chairman of the Southern California Committee to End Police Malpractice…” (Venice West – The Beat Generation in Southern California, John Arthur Maynard, Rutgers University Press, 1991).

John Haag has been in the thick of every struggle to defend Venice for the past 40 years. He was instrumental in the successful opposition to a freeway through Venice, turning the canals into a yacht harbor, fighting police brutality in Oakwood and throughout Venice, upholding the rights of artists and poets to perform and sell their creations, and against commercial overdevelopment in Venice. He was interviewed by Beachhead Collectivist Suzy Williams in October.

Suzy Williams: Welcome Mr. John Haag! Say, how would you describe yourself?

John Haag: Boy, I don’t know whether I would try. I’ve been in retirement, in seclusion for so many years, but prior to that I would have described myself as a self-taught organizer. I started out not having the vaguest idea of where I was going. But, I found myself organizing a picket line down on the boardwalk protesting police harassment of the Venice West Coffeehouse.

SW: Right, I was just reading in Venice West, the book, and it said that you posted a sign on the door that said “NO MORE POETRY! The anti-intellectual yahoos at the LAPD want it to stop. Poets ARISE!”

JH: Well, I’m not very graceful…

SW: Au contraire! So that was your first organizing?

JH: Well, yes, except when I was working for CBS in New York City, I organized my work group to call for strike. I got a unanimous strike vote from that group of television news film technicians. The strike didn’t have to take place-

SW: You mean you got the raise before you had to…

JH: Yes, right.

SW: But that was heartening for you and encouraging.

JH: It was startling, because when I started out working, I was relatively anti-union.

SW: You were! Why?

JH: I think it was the background I came from. My father was a machinist, which is really a craft, I don’t know if that had anything to do with his bias, but he was virulently anti-union and I just picked it up.

SW: Was he a Republican?

JH: Oh, yes he was.

SW: Like James Brown is a Republican. Certain specialists are just conservative.

JH: Yes. So I had to join the union when I got this job, and I became friends with the shop steward.

SW: Do you think the roots of your political journey began with that friend?

JH: I don’t know about that, because it wasn’t out of an ideology, there was an unfairness on the part of the company. I think it happened just before I came to California. I spent a year in Italy and I spent quite a bit of time with a Communist official. It just so happened that he liked to take midnight walks. And I’m pretty much of a night person. So somehow, he lived in the same neighborhood where I was living with an Italian family. I think these midnight conversations with Marco gave me some theory, you know, economics and politics.

SW: I see; now, according to this book, Venice West, you became a Communist.

JH: That book is full of expletive deleted!

SW: So it’s not true!

JH: Not only was I never a Communist, but I had many battles with the Communists. I worked with them in the anti-war movement, because my attitude was to work with anybody who agrees with me! I don’t know why that guy printed that or where he got that. I worked as long as I could with them but then I broke, and I suffered the usual consequences, of being called a turncoat, and a Trotskyite. It was over the opposition to the war. For a time I was the Los Angeles Chairman of the W.E.B. Dubois Club, oh yes and The Evening Outlook did call that organization “Communist inspired”.

SW: Who was W.E.B. Dubois? I forgot.

JH: He was a founder of the NAACP, born in the 1860’s, from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a scholar, Black historian, a great orator who called for change, and a Socialist most of his life and towards the end finally he became a Communist and moved to Africa.

SW: He was a leader and a gatherer of people.

JH: Yes, definitely.

SW: You were involved in civil rights, I see you were involved with C.O.R.E. What did that stand for?

JH: Congress of Racial Equality.

SW: Ah, but let’s get back to Venice West, the coffeehouse. (At 7 Dudley, where Sponto’s is now) When did you take ownership of it?

JH: Well, it was 1962 to 1966. I have to say that the coffeehouse was an enormous education to me, I learned so much from so many, you know 20 different varieties of Socialist!

SW: Even more than at Harvard!

JH: At Harvard I did get an education I wouldn’t normally have had. I majored in English, and took several languages, and courses in Art: sculpture, drawing…

SW: And Poetry? Because you are such a sublime poet.

JH: No! I never took a literature course, because I didn’t want to be told how to write.

SW: You rebel!

JH: One of my instructors made this assertion that you could never write a political sonnet in the English language. Two of the poems I sent to The Beachhead recently were political sonnets.

SW: So tell me, were you hassled a lot at Venice West?

JH: The LAPD tried a couple times to employ an ordinance having to do with entertainment, but the judge ruled that what was happening there was not entertainment in terms of the ordinance. Nobody was getting paid! The kind of harassment that happened was not usually violent, but certain people were asked day after day for their I.D; trying to wear you down. Sometimes the cops took you to the county line and told you “ Don’t come back ”. Of course, this wasn’t a legal procedure. I learned the law very quickly.

SW: It’s so funny, we romanticize the sixties, especially in Venice, thinking of it as a freer time, but in fact life was harder to live then.

JH: I haven’t been hassled about my long hair in twenty years!

SW: So what all went on in Venice West, besides poetry?

JH: I think that the coffeehouse was one of the only places on earth where you were encouraged to talk about anything, and talk turned political in 1964, especially. I’m pretty sure someone brought in a leaflet about a protest of the Vietnam War, so there we were at the Veteran’s Cemetery on Sawtelle, about thirty of us. I don’t think there was any hostility, I don’t think anybody knew what we were talking about, no one knew about the war. I was living—I should say working at the coffeehouse where people were talking politics right and left – pardon the expression – and eventually there was a lot of talk that we ought to have a radical political party. I had a little stint where I ran for Assembly and I got a taste of the Democratic Party and not the worst part of it, either. I mean, the Santa Monica club was fairly liberal, you would think, until you get to talking to them! I mean the idea that you had a candidate that ran a coffeehouse! Scandal!

So then there came a time to get real about starting a party. I checked into the election code and found a way that seemed possible by registering sixty-seven thousand people, that would qualify you for the ballot – as opposed to the impossible petition that required six HUNDRED seventy thousand signatures! Then, what should we call the party? There were meetings of radicals of north and south California, and after much noisy discussion, we came up with the name, “Peace and Freedom Party.”And so, with a dozen colleagues, we started registering people on June 23, 1967.

SW: John, can you tell me – how did the Beachhead begin?

JH: There you have one of my favorite stories. The first election that the Peace and Freedom Party was involved in was 1968. We had these three candidates running in Venice. And I had the fixation that we were not going to have this campaign disappear in November. We knew we were not going to get our candidates elected. So what were we doing with all this time and effort? There wasn’t enough time to discuss it before the election, but when it was over, the campaign committee got together and started discussing it: “How about a community radio?” “How about this or that?” The decision was finally made to have a community newspaper. We went from campaign committee to Beachhead collective. And we had the first issue out in December of 1968.

SW: Was it well received right off the bat?

JH: Yes.

SW: Isn’t that funny? It is today, too. Some things are just so consistent, ya know?

JH: And month by month people looked for it. Over a period of time, we got a whole lot of people distributing it on their own block or maybe two or three blocks. And they did it happily. At its peak we had 5,000 papers delivered door to door. The other thing was the structure of the Beachhead. I don’t need to tell you, there’s no editor, there’s no publisher, there’s no boss. It’s truly a collective, each person having equal voice and vote and nobody getting paid for anything. And that went on for twenty-plus years. And I think that’s some kind of a miracle.

SW: I know, it is astounding.

JH: I will say this: I feel I’m mostly responsible for that structure. Because by then, I had really thought about how to set things up and how to keep them going.

SW: Say, what does “Beachhead” mean, anyway?

JH: It’s a military term describing the initial phase of an invasion. But of course, I had in mind that we were all beach heads. I mean, this paper is a poem and you get all sorts of ambiguity.

SW: Tell us about some of the characters who used to write for the Beachhead.

JH: There were people who got on the Beachhead who became writers. Jane Gordon comes to mind. She was part of the original collective and bit by bit she started writing about things and later she helped organize the feminist caucus in the Peace & Freedom Party. But I think the dynamic was that people joined the Beachhead and developed this talent, not that they necessarily had the talent and came to the Beachhead! Some did, like Arnie Springer, who’s no amateur. He was a professor at Long Beach, but he was a mainstay of the Beachhead for years. Now, I didn’t stay with the Beachhead very long.

SW: You didn’t?

JH: No, and it wasn’t that I didn’t like the Beachhead, I love the Beachhead, but I had to go on to other things. I had the State Peace and Freedom Party to worry about, I had elections to worry about, I had getting on the ballot in other states to worry about. I had to do tours.

SW: But didn’t you send back articles? Didn’t you write that great article on John Muir? Oh, that might have been Rick Davidson.

JH: Oh, most likely.

SW: Was he like your brother?

JH: (Chuckles) Rick was as close to being a brother as anybody. We had a long history, we started out together in the coffeehouse, doing subversive things. We didn’t always agree, but then brothers don’t. We were always on the same side, but we had different ideas of strategies and tactics.

SW: You were a non-violent guy from the get-go, no?

JH: One of the things I am most proud and grateful for is that all the demonstrations I was responsible for, there was not a single arrest or injury. I don’t know how many I’m talking about…I’m talking 1966 to 1970. On the beach, at the Federal Building, on the boardwalk, on Main St. (when the U.S. invaded Cambodia). They all related to my commitment to non-violence. It involved a dedication to avoiding arrest. And communicating with police. Many of whom I worked with were dead-set against dealing directly with the police, but I didn’t look at it that way. The way to avoid trouble was to tell them what we were going to do and stick to it.

SW: You treated the cops like human beings.

JH: To the extent that I could bear it, yes. I remember we had a demonstration at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, and I saw a Police Lieutenant striding towards me. I felt worried. But it turned out that he was just reminding me to take some flyers I had forgotten with me!

SW: So how do you feel about Venice Cityhood?

JH: No question that I’m in favor of that. On principal, if nothing else. Venice was basically blackmailed into joining Los Angeles.

SW: Blackmailed! What do you mean?

JH: Well, they said they would cut our water off.

SW: That’s mean!

JH: But you see, they gobbled up most of the county that way. No wonder the valley wants to secede!

SW: Well, John this has been a great start, a wonderful insight into you, and a pleasure talking with a man that so many of my friends speak of with hushed, respectful tones.

JH: Thank you.

———————————–

Venice as Mecca

or Jerusalem

By John Haag

I sit here on the sand,

a holy place on sacred land,

remembering the tribes and clans

that gathered here, took counsel

and dispersed; foreseeing all

the ones that will arrive,

drink our blessed water and survive,

only to disperse in turn

to spread the word

amongst a disbelieving world.

Take heart, my heart,

for here is never lost

anything forever (but the soul

at times sent wandering

along some other plane).

It too returns home safely

found like a cache of nuts

the squirrel lays by against

a cold day in hell, forgets,

then comes upon in time

of need.

Rejoice!

The promised land is here;

The time is near at hand.

John Haag


Zipline Leaves Juan Smelling BS

October 1, 2013

By Greta Cobar

Following their promise to leave only footprints, Flightlinez removed the two towers supporting the zipline and are in the process of restoring the grass that was uprooted when the towers were installed. Unfortunately, the process of restoring the grass involved a stinky fertilizer that stunk up parts of Ocean Front Walk for days.

Business at the Sidewalk Cafe was negatively affected by the foul smell according to Mason, who works there.

In spite of the stench, Venetians have been delighted to see the ocean-view-obstructing zipline gone.

“It’s finally quiet again,” said Vivianne Robinson, whose Name on Rice stand on OFW is right in front of the location where the zipline operated.

The best news is that they did not make their anticipated profit, and therefore will probably not return. Their loss should stand as a testament and warning to other similar attractions that might consider coming to Venice.

“Our goal was to have 350 riders per day, but we did not touch that,” said Brina Marcus, marketing director for Flightlinez/Greenheart, in a conversation with the Beachhead.

The so-called attraction was sold to Venice residents under the pretext that it would provide money to the city of Los Angeles to clean and maintain the bathrooms in Venice. Three months later, the bathrooms are not any cleaner. This should stand as a testament to us Venetians to not be fooled again, and to remember that it is the city of L.A.’s job to clean our bathrooms. Such cleanup should never be contingent on an ocean-view-obstructing attraction operated by a company in Canada.

“Financially it doesn’t make sense for us to come back as temporary because setting up and tearing down is time-consuming and costly,” Marcus told the Beachhead. “To become a permanent project, however, would take anywhere between 18 months to 3 years, and it would involve permits and processes with the California Coastal Commission,” Marcus said.

“I can’t divulge anything we learned,” Marcus told the Beachhead. She was not able to tell us the average number of riders per day, nor the amount of money the city of L.A. received from Flightlinez. According to the contract, the city was supposed to receive 15 percent of gross profit. By the low number of riders that residents have witnessed throughout the summer, there might not have been a profit.

Meanwhile the Venice bathrooms continue to offer third-world conditions and to stand as a violation of basic human rights. Busy summer weekends witnessed hour-long lines, lack of toilet paper and no locks on doors. Of course we get annoyed when people pee in our neighborhoods, but where are they really supposed to go when nature calls and there is nowhere to go?

In Santa Monica they have new, state-of-the-art, well lit, clean bathrooms with plenty of paper and other basic necessities that we, over the border, see as fancy.

Cityhood is the difference between Santa Monica and Venice. They get to spend their money on what they choose, while all of the revenue generated in Venice goes downtown L.A. and we are left crying and begging like an ignored step-child.

The city of Los Angeles annexed Venice in 1925, following the discovery of offshore oil. The citizens of Venice at that time voted in favor of annexation, but the vote was rigged by just-arrived implants, who were moved to Venice right before the vote. In addition, Venice citizens were misinformed and threatened that without annexation, they would have no more drinking water.

Add this to the barricades the city of L.A. put against Venice cityhood: the entire city of L.A. would have to vote on and approve a current de-annexation. However, only the citizens of Venice voted to approve the annexation in 1925.

If Venetians were allowed to decide and vote upon, we would have our own magnificent city of Venice with the grandeur of yore. There would be no need for an ocean-view-obscuring zipline in the vain hopes of having clean bathrooms. One way to achieve that would be to change the requirement that the entire city of L.A. needs to approve de-annexation, and allow Venetians to once and for all decide for themselves.

Juan Smelling BS


The Prospects for Venice Cityhood

July 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Like the surf that keeps rolling up on Venice’s shore, the idea of restoring our cityhood just won’t go away.

In 2012, I am continually approached by Venetians who ask “What’s going on with cityhood?” or “What do we have to do to get free of L.A.?”

It’s not a new issue. In 1925, there were immediate claims of foul when the supporters of annexation by Los Angeles finally won an election. Previous votes to annex to Los Angeles or Santa Monica had both failed. In 1940, there was a bill in the California State Senate to restore Venice cityhood. During the 1960s and ‘70s, it became a movement, called Free Venice.

This paper, the Free Venice Beachhead, has always been a part of the demand for restoration. In the 1990s, a new committee was formed that actively campaigned for cityhood. Through the “00s,” community forums took place under the auspices of the University of Venice and well-reasoned articles appeared in the Beachhead. In the end, we didn’t get any closer to getting our city back.

What’s different today? 

A couple of things. More and more Venetians are becoming disgruntled with the city of Los Angeles. Previously, the megalopolis was able to quietly siphon off much more money from Venice than it returned. Lately, its financial problems have made L.A. look for any way to make a buck in Venice. This includes raising the price of parking and the tickets that everyone eventually gets on “street cleaning” day, whether there is any actual street cleaning or not, schemes such as the “Big Wheel” and the “Zip Line,” which include revocable “promises” of sharing revenue with Venice.

Waiting in the wings are more metered parking, more amusement rides, more fees for city services such as repairing broken sidewalks, allowing advertisements everywhere including Ocean Front Walk, renewed inspections by code enforcers and a wholesale reassessment of Venice’s taxable property values.

The Los Angeles City Council, June 5, declared a fiscal emergency. This enables the Mayor to make massive layoffs (just what we need, more people out of work) and cuts in services. There is a projected deficit of $199 million for fiscal year 2013-14 and $315 million for the following year. Unless it squeezes the life out of Venice and other “holdings,” it is on the path to bankruptcy.

At the same time, Venice is becoming wealthier. Property values are on the rise again, which could make a great tax base for the city of Venice. As an independent city, Venice would be larger than half of the 88 current cities in Los Angeles County.

Some critics have said that Venice would not be viable without a shopping center to tax. Anyone who has been past the intersection of Rose and Lincoln lately knows that Venice now has a shopping center, even if it is one hugely profitable Whole Foods Market. It is only a matter of time before a new proposal to redevelop Lincoln Center, at California and Lincoln, is floated again. As Lincoln Place becomes repopulated, it makes sense to provide stores that cater to the locals, and are a source of revenue for Venice.

For anyone seriously interested in regaining cityhood, it might be useful to look at how other cities of Venice’s size gain their revenue and what they spend it on. A nearby city of approximately Venice’s size is Culver City. More than 50 percent of Culver City’s revenue comes from three sources:  Sales Tax, Utility Taxes and Business Licenses. The budgets of other cities in L.A. County can be easily accessed with an internet search.

In Venice, we would likely gain much of our income from our largest industry, tourism. This would include sales tax, hotel taxes, parking revenue, taxi fees and other fees to derive at least some income on the tens of thousands who descend on Venice each day.

Uniting for a City of Venice

In recent years, Venice has been a war zone of neighbors battling each other over parking, poverty and development. Some Venetians believe that such divisions make it impossible for the community to come together in favor of city hood.

However, the Coalition to Save the Venice Post Office has brought together groups and people who usually don’t get along. It includes this newspaper, the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Venice Stakeholders Association, Venice Peace and Freedom, SPARC, Venice Arts Council, Venice Chamber of Commerce, various poets, writers, artists, and business people. Personal attacks and extraneous issues are frowned upon by most of the participants. As a result, Venice has been able to speak with one voice and to wage a credible fight to save one of our most historic buildings.

The fight to save the Post Office has also pointed out our weakness in not having a city government. In Hermosa Beach, when the local Post Office was targeted for closure, the city responded with electronic signs on busy streets urging residents to email their Congressmember. In a short time, Rep. Jane Harman received 5,000 emails from angry Hermosa Beach residents. She then demanded that the Postal Service not close the HB post office. Contrast that with the lack of response from our two Senators and Rep. Henry Waxman. Post offfices are being abandoned by the USPS in Santa Monica and La Jolla. But in both communities the city government is considering buying the post offices and turning them into city buildings, thereby keeping them as public spaces.

Can we come together for cityhood before the remaining historic buildings and houses and public services are decimated?

Some Venetians have told the Beachhead that they are wary of cityhood because the other side (homeless haters or sixties hippies, take your pick) would assume power.

So it comes down to whether you’d rather be ruled by the crooks in L.A. City Hall or “those people” down the block. It also comes down to a question of democracy. Can you have anything resembling democracy in a jurisdiction of more than four million people? Democracy is more than having a secret ballot election periodically. It is at heart, a question of how much control, power, influence the average person has in the social maelstrom swirling about around him or her. Most of us who have served on the neighborhood council know that it is not a body with real power. At best, it can advise city officials on local policy. At worse, it is a placebo offered to a withering community that needs a dose of real power.

Venice is a potential city of 40,000 people. It can be walked, biked or skated from one end to the other. Anyone elected to a Venice City Council would have to live in this small area. Does anyone know where the 14 men and one woman who are the Los Angeles City Council live? Does anyone know where the department head, who has great decision-making power, lives? Does anyone even know the names of the bankers, corporate heads and big developers who are the real rulers of Los Angeles?

In Venice, civic-minded people would know their elected officials. They would also see these people at the market, the hardware store, or out riding their bikes. The potential for real democracy in a city of 40,000 would be much greater than it would be in an entity of millions.

Venice have suffered, you will ultimately find an instigator from the L.A. city government. This was true of the abolition of the progressive Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council in 2006, the Overnight Parking Districts, the beach curfew, and the Big Wheel, among others. This does not mean that there weren’t locals who were more than happy to “front” the fight. However, if Venice was its own city, they wouldn’t be able to rely on these powerful backers. Accommodation, not confrontation, would become the political game in small town Venice.

How can we assemble a wide-ranging committee to plan the initial steps for regaining cityhood. As a temporary measure, I’d like to suggest a discussion begin on http://yhoo.it/MWLGBN. This is neutral ground, although I am the moderator. The only rule is that people use their real names. Regaining cityhood is serious business, not an idle discussion. Once we get together on VeniceCA, we can get volunteers to put up a website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. So let’s get started!

Would people you don’t agree with be elected to office? Yes. Would people you do agree with be elected to office? Yes. This is how democracy works. In a town or a society where everyone thinks the same, you wouldn’t need democracy. But Venice hasn’t been that homogeneous since the Sixties (and probably wasn’t even then).

So yes, we would have disagreements, hard fought elections, and a few disagreeable people. But we would likely have less disputes than we do at present. If you search carefully hrough the major controversies that we in Venice have suffered, you will ultimately find an instigator from the L.A. city government. This was true of the abolition of the progressive Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council in 2006, the Overnight Parking Districts, the beach curfew, and the Big Wheel, among others. This does not mean that there weren’t locals who were more than happy to “front” the fight. However, if Venice was its own city, they wouldn’t be able to rely on these powerful backers. Accommodation, not confrontation, would become the political game in small town Venice.

How can we assemble a wide-ranging committee to plan the initial steps for regaining cityhood? As a temporary measure, I’d like to suggest a discussion begin on http://groups.yahoo.com/group/veniceCA. This is neutral ground, although I am the moderator. The only rule is that people use their real names. Regaining cityhood is serious business, not an idle discussion. Once we get together on VeniceCA, we can get volunteers to put up a website, Facebook page, Twitter, etc. So let’s get started!


Summer in Venice, in 2062

June 1, 2012

By Jim Smith

Hello, and Welcome to Venice!

If you’re visiting the City of Venice this summer, there are some things you should know. Venice is easily accessible by mass transit and bike lanes and paths. You should have no problem getting nearly to the beach before you have to put your feet on solid ground. Venice is also one of the most economical excursions in Southern California. If you bring a picnic lunch and have a transit pass or bike, you may get away without spending a cent. But if you want to buy someone a gift, Venice artisans abound on Ocean Front Walk and Windward Avenue, all the way to the Lagoon.

You’ll have your choice of a party atmosphere beach or a place of peace and quiet, save only the waves crashing against the sea wall. When you arrive, just look for the Tram (Streetcar) on Pacific Avenue. It will take you from the end of the Venice Peninsula to the Santa Monica border. Actually, you can ride it all the way to the transit centers in downtown Santa Monica.

Extending the Tram into Santa Monica was the subject of a huge debate in Venice a couple of years ago. Many people did not want an easy link with this regional transit center since it would, they said, bring many more visitors into Venice. But in the end, what carried the day was the idea of having an easy link for Venetians to the old subway that runs downtown, the Expo line and the Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) bullet train to San Francisco.

Many Venetians won’t have a chance to kick back until after our city-wide Summer Solstice (June 20, 2062 at 6:11 p.m.) celebrations are over. In recent years, the Solstice celebration has become even bigger than July 4th (founding of Venice day). There is something going on during the Solstice on nearly every block. While the Solstice falls early in the evening this year, the parties will likely go all night!

If you haven’t been to Venice in a while, you might be surprised by the changes. In recent years, the City of Venice has been engaged in beautifying and restoring our crumbling town. The first order of business was building a sea wall to protect against the ever-higher waves due to global climate change. Flooding had been occurring with increasing frequency, with powerful waves pushing water for blocks into the center of town. That’s a thing of the past now. Our famous sandy beaches have been preserved. Only problem is there is now a looming wall between the beach and the ocean. It doesn’t bother the surfers, but if you just want to swim, check the low tide schedule before you come.

At last, Venice has become a center of the arts and culture, just as Abbot Kinney had in mind 150 years ago. That doesn’t mean that you can’t indulge in “cheap thrills.” There are plenty of Pot Houses in Venice. There’s a giant game arcade on Windward Avenue, a skate park on the beach, amusement rides on the pier, and other delights to enjoy with a consenting adult.

The City has helped the arts along with generous stipends for serious painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, thespians and others. In addition, the new Center of Performing Arts has just been completed at the location of the old bus yard on Main Street. The Greek Theater is state-of-the-art with 5,000 seats, and numerous rooms for small events, classes and exhibits. The University of Venice also holds many of its free classes at the new Center.

It is also the location of some of the best entertainment in Venice, the meetings of the Venetian Assembly. This body, open to all residents of Venice, can override the City Council, since it represents the will of the people. It takes a big issue to pack this hall. Smaller meetings are held at the City Hall/Post Office on the Lagoon. The first meeting to be held at the Center was about building a desalination plant to produce fresh, clean water for all of Venice. It’s an expensive project, the cost of which many residents did not want passed on in their water bills. A compromise was reached where half the cost will be spread out over 20 years in water rates, which will still be only a fraction of those charged by the Dept. of Water and Power. The other half will come out of the general fund. At least, we can soon say goodbye to water rationing. Others were concerned with an unsightly plant marring the view of the coastline. The good news is that it will be hidden under the Abbot Kinney Pier.

Another change you might notice is that some streets have disappeared. Ever since the private automobile went the way of the horse and carriage, we’ve been left with all that concrete and blacktop. This problem, of course, is worldwide, but in Venice we’ve taken the lead in some innovative solutions. The canals and the Lagoon (former traffic circle) are back. Digging out the old canals in Central Venice was so easy with new digging equipment that other neighborhoods are now talking about having canals in their front yards.

Other streets have become community gardens, mini-forest preserves, sculpture gardens and pleasant – but separate – paths for walkers and bikers. We also want to keep some streets just as they were before Peak Oil hit, and the cars went away. Our children might want to visit an old-time street that carried thousands of gas-guzzling, polluting cars with anonymous people locked away inside.

Don’t worry, in Venice many people have been getting by just fine for 150 years without an automobile. The city was founded before cars took over our lives. The Beats and many of the Sixties Generation scorned these vehicles that kept people so isolated. The use of bicycles and walking has always been a part of Venice, and so it is today. In addition, we now have Trams on Pacific, Rose, Venice, Washington and Abbot Kinney Blvds.

While you will encounter lots of people on a summer’s day on the Boardwalk, it won’t be like those photos in the history vids when hordes of people jammed every available space and often had fights with each other!

Venice once had gangs, dangerous drugs, wild car drivers, crime, and was occupied by Los Angeles. Nothing seemed to be repaired; trash, advertising, and graffiti accumulated; and in their frustration people lashed out at each other. Due to economic conditions, many people had to live in their vehicles or even on the streets. These were obviously unacceptable conditions that no longer exist.

If one of these “homeless people,” as they were called, somehow appeared in 2062, they would instantly be befriended by a passing Venetian who would take him or her to a hotel or hostel where the person could stay, and eat, until they were able to secure income. What a horrible life some people had to endure before the Occupy revolution, which ended foreign wars and put the needs of the people first.

Today, with rapid transit throughout California, people have nearly limitless choices for recreation. One behalf of the Welcome to Venice Committee let me say how pleased we are that you have chosen to visit our fair city.   


100 Years Ago: 1911 Was A Banner Year in Venice – City of Venice and Venice Union High School Both Created

July 1, 2011

By Jim Smith

Venice may have been founded in 1905, but it didn’t become the City of Venice until May 29, 1911.

On that day, the good citizens of Venice voted to change its name from Ocean Park City to Venice.

Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice, had originally been one of the city fathers of Ocean Park, an independent community in the early days of the 20th century. He broke with his partners in 1903, and developed the south end of OP into what became known as Venice. But it was still officially Ocean Park, until a petition was circulated which culminated in the overwhelming vote to call it Venice.

In 1911, Venice was a booming community. New businesses and houses were going up everywhere. The Venice Daily Vanguard reported one summer day when 35,000 people came to the beach. Imagine!

There were restaurants, hotels, theaters, free outdoor concerts, the amusement pier and bars that, contrary to neighboring cities, stayed open on Sunday.

The paper reported the astounding sale of a large home on Rialto Avenue for $6,000. Most houses went for much less.

Interested in renting? Here’s a six-room cottage, fully furnished, including a piano, for $25 a month.

Both houses are probably selling today for 100 to 200 times as much, even though they are 100 years older.

Venice needed a high school to save its teenagers a long commute to school. In short order, the Venice Union High School – a merger of the Ocean Park and Playa del Rey school districts (soon to be Venice and Playa del Rey), was created. It took over the old Bath House on the Lagoon where our Post Office is currently located.

By August, Venetians were voting on a petition from the Walgrove Avenue area and from Playa del Rey to be annexed by the new city.  It passed overwhelmingly, and swelled the size of Venice from its small beginnings as Venice of America which clung to the beach. After 1911, our city went all the way to Imperial Highway.

 

Does Venice Have A Future?

Venice has a great history. Our small community has become known worldwide for creativity, invention and alternative living.

What will it be like in 2111?

If the danger of losing our uniqueness in the sea of Angelino mediocrity wasn’t enough, we are at risk from global climate change as is the rest of the world, perhaps even more so.

Pacific storms combined with rising sea levels could rip up our beaches and flood Venice as it subsides and oceans rise.

Without cityhood, it is difficult to envision a sea wall being built in time to hold back the water.

We may have to contend with too much salt water, and not enough fresh water. Can we depend on the DWP for a steady supply of water if drought dries up the Southwest and Sierra Nevadas? Again, without cityhood can we expect a desalination plant to be built in Venice that would convert sea water to fresh water?

Rising waters may force us to return to the old days of using canals instead of streets. New housing construction may begin with long poles driven deep into the soil to keep our homes afloat.

The original Venice in the Adriatic understood that its well-being depended upon its marriage with the sea.

Likewise, as global climate change proceeds and food supplies become less abundant, we may find that our survival depends on Venice fisher folk harvesting fish, seaweed and algae.

Even if the world elites change course and take dramatic action to avert climate disaster, we’re still stuck cheek and jowl next to a larger city with a different goal – maximizing profits. And there are billions in profits to be made by converting Venice into an upscale and sterile resort for the wealthy. It’s only the tenacity of several generations of Venetians that has prevented it from happening already.

If Venice has a future it will include the poor, the middle class and the rich. There will be lots of Blacks, Latinos and whites of many backgrounds.

It will continue to be a place that honors its artists, its poets, its odd balls and dissidents. To keep Venice, with all its warts and scars, we all have to become dissidents to the dominant culture that otherwise will suck us into a shallow, zombie-like, consumerist lifestyle.


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