How Can Venice Be Preserved?

July 1, 2011

There are currently 24 historical districts in Los Angeles (HPOZs). There is no reason why Venice should not be the 25th.

A Venice historical district can be proposed to the City Council by our Councilmember, Bill Rosendahl.

At the least it should include the walk streets, canals, old canal district, Abbot Kinney Blvd., Ocean Front Walk and most or all of Venice west of Lincoln.

See “Neighborhood Initiatives” at laconservancy.org and zimas.lacity.org for more information.

Let’s preserve Venice for future generations.

–Jim Smith

 


Interview with Edward Biberman, Painter of the Post Office Mural

July 1, 2011

Conducted by Betty Hoag
At Edward Biberman’s home in Hollywood, April 15, 1964

BETTY HOAG: Mr. Biberman, you were directly connected with the Federal Art Projects work. I know that you did three murals for the Treasury Department: one in Venice in 1941; two of them in the Los Angeles Federal Post Office Building in 1937 and 1940. Are those the correct dates?

EDWARD BIBERMAN: Yes, the dates are approximately correct. The murals in the Los Angeles Post Office were 1937 and 1940. There were two separate murals. The ceiling, however, was the last of the three commissions and was actually not done until 1940 or ‘41. Only the side wall was commissioned in 1937. And the Venice Post Office mural was completed either in 1940 or 1941-I’m not quite certain what the signing date on it was. Let me repeat, they were all done for the Section of Fine Arts, an agency, I believe, under the Treasury Department. And they were direct commissions.

 

HOAG: Now before we go on I think it might be a good idea to review your life rather briefly.

BIBERMAN: I grew up in Philadelphia as a member of a mercantile family and received my university degree from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, from which I graduated at the tender age of nineteen. I spent three years, from 1926 to 1929, in Europe-mostly in Paris.

 

HOAG: Had you been interested in mural painting, in Paris?

BIBERMAN: Only in theory. I was interested in mural painting and I entered my first actual competition for a mural for some industrial firm-I don’t remember its name. The solution at which I arrived was one that received a great deal of attention when the sketches were exhibited. I didn’t get the job, but I got much publicity from it. More and more then, I became interested in the whole idea of mural painting. All of us at that period were terribly excited by the great Mexican mural movement.

I didn’t go to Mexico at that time, but I was a very devoted and partisan follower of the work of Siqueiros, Rivera, Orozco and Charlot, and in theory I became an ardent muralist. I had never actually painted a mural.

Then the Federal programs were instituted. I never tried to enter the Federal Art Projects because I was still in the very fortunate position of coming from a family which was able to see to it that I wasn’t in want during this very difficult period. Under those circumstances, of course, I felt that I could not indicate a desire to be on the Federal Projects, which were predicated on “relief,” although actually I would dearly have loved to have been.

 

HOAG: Why?

BIBERMAN: Because it was a very stimulating atmosphere. This was the most exciting work that was being done in the country at the time. So, when the Section of Fine Arts competitions were publicized, shortly thereafter, I immediately took this challenge very seriously and started to design murals in open competition with other artists. This was not a WPA “relief” project. As a matter of fact, I had the very peculiar experience during this period of getting a great deal of recognition for work that was never completed to the point where I was asked to be the guest critic of mural painting at the Beaux-Arts Institute in New York. I had never actually executed a mural, although I had designed quite a few at that point.

 

HOAG: Interesting. Had you seen any of the Mexican muralists’ work in New York? I believe Rivera had his controversial Rockefeller Center mural when you were there.

BIBERMAN: Yes. I had met Rivera, Orozco and Siqueiros, because from time to time all of them were in New York. I was a very good friend of Alma Reid, who owned the Delphic Studios and who was responsible for much of the work that Orozco was commissioned to do in the United States.

As a matter of fact, I spent an instructive weekend at Dartmouth with Orozco when he was painting his murals there. And I even collaborated: there is one line that I painted on the Orozco mural at Dartmouth! He was doing a kind of architectural decoration over a doorway at one point and-do you remember the gag about, “I can’t even draw a straight line”? Orozco, as you know, had very bad eyes, only one arm and I don’t remember whether it was because the reach was too great for him with his one good arm or whether he was just bored with drawing a straight line, but anyway-

 

HOAG: You were handy?

BIBERMAN: -he handed me his brushes and he said, “Biberman, would you mind making that line for me?” I said, “I’d be delighted to make that line for you.” So that I can claim collaboration on the Dartmouth murals with Orozco. But the fact is that I, as I say, did meet all of the “big three.”

I happened to be in Radio City watching Rivera work the night before his murals were destroyed-just one of those strange coincidences. He used to hold court. He was a great showman and he loved to paint with an audience. And one night I had decided-just by chance-to go to the foyer where he was painting this large fresco. I watched him work for a couple of hours, then it got late, I was tired and went home. I found out the next day that at some ungodly wee small a.m. hour the mural was covered and either destroyed then, or subsequently.

But the point is that all of us in the East at that time were very excited by the phenomenon of a great Mexican mural movement and were delighted when our own government instituted, both through the WPA projects and the Section of Fine Arts, something that we felt represented a counterpart to what was being done in Mexico.

 

HOAG: They were the direct result of the work that you had done there? [in New York]. You came here in 1936, didn’t you?

BIBERMAN: I’ve been here ever since. That’s a much longer story of my life than I had planned telling you; but anyway, that’s how I became a Californian.

 

HOAG: That’s interesting. And in Venice, California, the Post Office mural you painted is done in oil on canvas?

BIBERMAN: Yes, it’s oil wax emulsion-technically, oil was emulsion on canvas. For this mural I was given the commission and asked to submit a sketch. So I read all I could about California’s Venice and it is a fabulous story which I hadn’t known before. The story of the founding of Venice is quite unbelievable. It would take much too long now to go into it in detail.

When Lion Feuchtwanger was still living I was at a dinner party with him one night. I don’t know how it happened, but I began to tell him the story of the Founding of Venice and he was so fascinated by it that he expressed the desire to write a novel about this strange place.

But to capsulize briefly the intriguing quality-I found first of all that the concept of a Venice in California was the brainchild of Abbot Kinney, the scion of a very wealthy tobacco family, who decided that he wanted to build the great cultural metropolis of the United States in this particular area.

Having had his schooling in Europe, and as a young man becoming enamored of Venice, Italy, he decided that he would also call his dream city “Venice.” He imported architects and engineers from Europe. For the city’s opening he actually had gondolas and gondoliers imported from Venice and there was a performance of Sarah Bernhardt playing I don’t remember what. Hers was, of course, the greatest name in the international theatre world at that time.

He also had the finest symphony orchestra of the day as the resident music component of this whole concept. And the many lovely bridges and canals were in use. He wanted this new Venice to be a place of culture and the enjoyment of things beautiful. Well, a great deal which was unforeseen happened, and in a few years the entire venture, for reasons which are very complex, did not turn out as he had envisaged.

 

HOAG: Was this mainly because of oil being discovered in the area?

BIBERMAN: No, that came later. When oil was discovered the city had already begun to take on a completely different character. The cultural orientation had been a financial failure so things went from one extreme to the other. Venice began to take on the quality of an amusement park. Very quickly the great dream of Abbot Kinney turned into, a) an oil field, and b) a honky-tonk amusement park. Of course from the painter’s point of view all of this is a wonderful bit of material to use.

So, my mural is designed around the man, a large portrait of Abbot Kinney, which I painted from photographs that I obtained from surviving members of his family who still live in that area. They furnished me with the photographs, described the quality of his skin and the color of his hair, his eyes, and so forth.

I painted the over-life-size portrait of him against a background of his vision of what Venice would be, framed in an arch with the great Corinthian columns which were used in the decorations there. From the dream the design goes on to actuality: on the one side the oil wells, on the other side the amusement park.

This is factually the story of Venice. A fascinating story. I sent the sketch to Washington expecting to be answered with a letter replete with expletives and four letter words. To my great amazement I got an answer saying they were crazy about the mural, to please proceed with it.

There was only one thing that I was asked to do: in one place where I had depicted the amusement park with all the signs, billboards, and so forth, I had shown what was recognizably the lettering used in advertising Coca Cola. I was told that I could not do this because one could not advertise in a government building: So I agreed to strike out the Cocoa Cola strip and substitute some amorphous or non-existent piece of advertising, which from my point of view carried the same idea.

 

HOAG: It’s a delightful mural. I think you must enjoy knowing that when I was standing looking at it some old lady came up to me and watched me for a while, then said, “Do you know what this building used to be?” I said, “I beg your pardon?” And she said, “Well, I was raised here and when I was a little girl this building where the Post Office is now was the boathouse. This is where we used to come to get the boats.” I said, “Were they gondolas?” She said, “No, I don’t remember ever seeing any real gondolas, but we all had our own boats down here.”

BIBERMAN: For goodness sake. Well, that is fascinating. This I didn’t know.

 

HOAG: She lives on one of the canals.

BIBERMAN: But whether the lady remembers it or not, there were gondolas and there were gondoliers imported from Venice. That is historic fact. There are many fabulous and fantastic stories about the whole thing, but it would take too long to talk about now. Some day the story of Venice is going to be written and when it is, it will be unbelievable. Everything about the place is something which one would imagine to have been created from a figment of some very rosy imagination. But it happens to be fact. The way the land was acquired is in itself quite a tale.

 

HOAG: Your portrait of Abbot Kinney is very beautiful. You certainly have that dreamy quality and a certain wistfulness with it, too.

BIBERMAN: Well, he was no longer living at that time. As I said, I had to rely on the photographs which members of his family gave me, and their description of his qualities as a man, and his coloration. I don’t know whether it looks like him or not, since I never knew the man, but I tried to stay as close to the documentary evidence which was supplied me as I could. Incidentally, I enjoyed painting that mural enormously. I found it a very exciting project. As I say, it’s a painter’s dream to run into that kind of rich material, which also happens to be true.

 

HOAG: It’s very colorful and very beautiful. The Post Office was recently repainted almost a creamy white. I imagine it was originally a vivid color, but the white is a good background for the mural.

BIBERMAN: I haven’t seen it in years.

 

HOAG: It looks very fresh and well-preserved.

BIBERMAN: Periodically I go down to look at the condition of my three murals because, by now, they are all pretty old, but I haven’t been to Venice in some little time. The next time I’m at the beach I shall go by and have a look at it.

 

HOAG: I’m glad you told it to us. I’d like to talk a little more about your opinion of the contribution to the art of California made by work done under the Federal Art Projects, or any of the Federal art work of this period-whether you felt that it helped it or retarded it. For instance, perhaps some of the younger artists were influenced by men like you who were expert painters at the time. Do you feel this? Did you see any place where it was beneficial to them?

BIBERMAN: Well, of course I have a very partisan attitude to this whole matter. I am unequivocally in favor of it. I think it was one of the brightest spots in the history of American art, and I hope that we will see a revival of a government program. I fervently hope it will not be necessitated by another depression, which of course is what started the WPA project. That was a relief measure primarily, not a cultural measure. But irrespective of what brought it into being, and irrespective of the arguments against any government art program, and I think I’m familiar with all of the “anti” arguments, I find that this was an enormously productive period in American art. I think it actually brought into being and furthered the careers of many painters. The names of these artists are legion.

 

HOAG: There seems a little confusion in my mind. Often the people who worked on these projects criticized the existing social situation, which was the one feeding them and helping them to get through this period. That was always very hard for me to understand.

BIBERMAN: Yes, but I suppose that this was also a very real part of the quality of the period. This was a period of great social dislocation, so I think that it is necessary to understand the fact that naturally this quality of dislocation often was reflected in the work being done by some artists.

Trying to place the onus on some particular persons is not the important thing. At least I don’t think it’s what we’re discussing at the moment. And the question as to whether there was, or was not, gratitude on the part of the recipients of the very modest-what was it?-$90 a month which was paid is open to question on both sides, I suppose. But the thing that so impressed and interested me at that time was the fact that it was possible for a painter to be a painter.

This is the paramount fact. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that today even the most successful painters-and there have been many surveys made in this field-either teach, or they write, or they lecture, or they do one or another group of things to make it possible for them to pursue their careers.

 

Excerpt of an oral history interview with Edward Biberman, 1964 Apr. 15, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Betty Hoag was part of the New Deal and the Arts project for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The entire interview may be read at http://bit.ly/jasTTA.

Edward Biberman died in 1988. A film of his life, entitled “Brush With Life: The Art of Being Edward Biberman” (2005 by Jeff Kaufman) may be obtained at http://www.organa.com.   


King Neptune Returns

July 1, 2011

By CJ Gronner

Ahhh, Summer, my favorite Season of them all … and we actually got a little jump on it here in Venice, with the 1st (this Century) Neptune Parade and Festival on June 18th. The Neptune fun was bringing back the Venice tradition, that even instigator Danny Samakow (of Danny’s Deli fame) was unsure of exactly when it began in the last century, but we’re guessing around the 1920’s.

King Neptune (played to the hilt this time by local actor and buff dude, David Frison), his Queen (Jessica, the Sugar Shack chanteuse) and his royal Mer-Court (Danny, James, Edizen, Poseidon Stand-Up Paddlers, Hula Hoopers, etc …) would emerge from the crystal blue Pacific (NO June Gloom for the occasion!) to lead a parade across the sand and declare it officially SUMMER in Venice on land.

I went to the Breakwater at the given time (2:45) and saw no King Neptune, just a bunch of tourists, tanning and looking for shells. I thought I may have missed the whole deal, so headed back towards Danny’s … only to see the entire royal court emerging from the bar all riled up, blowing noise-makers, chanting and tossing out leis and Mardi Gras style beads. (I later learned the delay was due to Jameson shots. So I totally approve.) I had my friend, Amy, down from Hollywood, so this was the perfect thing to have her go back and report on Venice. I love this place.

Here’s a perfect example of why – the sheer delight on each face that we passed, a complete surprise, most just wondering what the heck was going on at first (as is often the case here), and all just loving it every second.

We traipsed across the sand, with the procession led by a “Venice” sign hanging from two sticks carried by Mer-Pages. We blew our horns, someone banged a drum, everyone we encountered got a necklace, and then Neptune – with great fanfare – made his proclamation that it was now officially Summer 2011! It was kind of exciting, if I’m honest. As I mentioned before, I love Summer. A lot.

Hail The King! Hail Venice! Hail Summer! Hail Yes!!!

So went the refrain everyone yelled as we headed back to the Boardwalk, led by the King & Queen under the Venice sign that by now had a chunk out of the “N”, but no one minded. The procession was slow-going, since by now everyone visiting Venice Beach this day that had a camera was stopping their Highnesses to get a photo with them. Again, no one minded. Just more time to yell, feel the fun, and laugh at the sunbathing topless girls with headphones on being startled by beads landing on them as this crazy band of Venetians passed by.

Once on the Boardwalk, the throngs left the other acts going on around to come see what all this Neptune commotion was about. There the King again declared it Summer for the landlubbers who did not catch it at wave’s edge. It was just quintessential Venice, through and through.

About that – I spoke to Danny afterward, as he collapsed into the relative calm (though a still-chanting Court kept it lively) of his restaurant saying, “I feel like I just left a Fellini film!” Indeed, it had that tang. It was a great piece of guerilla theater, the surprise of it all being a big part of the charm. Danny is a great keeper of the Venice flame, and summed up his and his friends’ feelings that bringing back some of the old time-y fun of Venice “keeps it true to the roots, while bringing it forward”. As he said, “We want to stimulate the neighborhood to believe in itself.” What a great sentiment for anyplace in the whole world to embrace!

These kind of jamborees do two things big and importantly – they support local artists (again, our roots. Er, along with gangs, of course. Respect.) and it builds tourist trade (which then circles back to support local artists again. Awesome).

The Venice parade participants were a little sparse this first time, but their roar was mighty, and the seeds were planted, for sure. May they ever grow!!!

Hail The King! Hail Venice!! Hail Summer!!! 

 

HAIL YES!!!!


Poetry

July 1, 2011
  • On Returning to Venice – Stuart Z. Perkoff
  • On the Boulevard – Malcolm H. Ball
  • Venice West – Don Johns
  • Make me your lover – Jasper Schubert
  • A solstice has occurred – Roger Houston
  • Venice you bleed – Philip Chamberlin
  • Two Lives Lost – Mary Getlein
  • Somewhere – Jim Smith
  • Cool, Smooth, Nocturnal & Universal – Hal Bogotch

—————————————

On Returning to Venice

By Stuart Z. Perkoff
time is confused on the streets of my city
returning, it is now & always as i walk
thru footsteps of memory

fog limits vision, & my eyes turn
inward, where birds fly the feet
over paths of intricate memories

ghosts over my shoulder do not push or press
rather, their eyelessness peers to pierce
the veiled images of the future, or
the flowers ballooning from the clouds of mist
2.
all is not voice
or vision. real walls
separate the rooms
within which movements
are limited by space. & the bodies
within it

what endless histories
walk each separate flesh
each mind touching
its own
chronology
which goes beyond, encompasses
boundaries & isolations
within rigidity
the flow of continuity
3.
o ghosts
o my past
the face i wear

o my city
my flesh
the space given

yr voices in my ears
yr tears in my eyes
hands touching
songs ringing
from room to room
in the houses of my mind
———–

On the Boulevard

I see him
Limping back and forth along the traffic island at an intersection on Venice Boulevard.
Smiling at the cars waiting for the light,
Waving with one hand, the other held out.
He is deeply tanned about fifty, his cloths ragged and filthy.
I cross over with the red light handing him my change.
Better than nothing.
–Malcolm H. Ball

————
Venice West
Do you remember?
the chess game  in each reeling bar
on an oceanfront walk through surreal night
when the “gas house” was aflame
with ideas and smoke
from weak home-grown dope
and poetry was chanted
to the off-beat wail of a tenor sax
in the beat coffee-house  “venice west”
how you would call a party in your tumbling pad
haunted by psychedelic doges
of the grand canal & tributaries to a fix
and sing and party til next week’s dawn
cause neighbors never gave a shit
and if they did they would just fall by
and have a drink or toke
to ease their restive souls
or a bit of crystal to wake up
how when properly lit some would fashion a raft
from the front door to the pad
that was always open
and drunkenly float on this swamping craft
whimsical gondoliers
singing off-key grand opera arias
polling up and down the slimy waterways
where the cops rarely came
for at least “it” was contained
they figured
they had “it” pent up
in a place where the main stream didn’t flow
the infamous canals
where bikers   dopers   poets   drunks
and other misfits maintained
when venice was still
a restless slum-by-the-sea
no shit     do you remember?
–Don Johns  reprinted from the March 1987 Beachhead

————

Make me your lover
I will be most beautiful
built on each sequence fluently
watch me blossom between your weeds
nourish, cherish, keep me close
I will never wilt
give me passion
embrace me with words
And I will be the last rose in the desert of your life

–Jasper Schubert

———–

23:32 Tuesday, June 21, 2011, Behind the Talking Stick….. A solstice has occurred, the spring gives way To glorious summer in a single day. A solstice has arrived on fiery wings. A nightengale, far in the distance, sings. Concentric circles turn, change of the guard. Without discerning, noticing is hard. Eventual, inevitable, turn, And light this midnight candle, let it burn. A solstice has come forth to strike a chord. Millenia have passed, unspoken word. The shortest night gives rise to other things. The nights so slowly elongate, it brings December twenty-first, near Christmas Day, The opposite, a hemisphere away…..

rogerhouston

———–

Venice you bleed,
and your blood will not clot.
Your vital juices ooze
under the yellow caterpillar blade.
And I can not stop them.

The stormy husky brawling city of big
shoulders
is come to cart away your corpse.
They wait but for your heart to die,
your flame to go black,
And I cannot stop them.

With contracts and proposals they ploy
your evisceration.
When development has done with your soul
we will not need autopsy to ascertain
your cause of death.
The cause is plain as the smashed glass
and fractured rafters of a wrecked out bungalow.
As clear cut as the mighty cedar they doze up
by the root.
And why can I not stop them?

Philip Chamberlin
reprinted from the March 1977 Beachhead

———–

Two Lives Lost 

For Salvador “Junior” Diaz, age 18
       Allan Mateo, age 19

two lives lost at Penmar park –
two boys raised up by loving parents
cut down by another youth –
three lives lost, really
because the shooter is now a killer
and will end up in prison, if found
The parents of the slain boys
were anticipating graduation –
total horror, total chaos instead
in the tiny village of Venice
cries of sorrow and pain are heard again.
an altar is left on the bleachers
candles burning in the dark,
drinks and Gatorades left for the boys
flowers and rosaries all around.
prayers are our only consolation
children killed at our playground:
The obscenity of war come home to us.
–Mary Getlein

———–

Somewhere


By Jim Smith
Somewhere in this wide universe
There is a Venice
where Abbot Kinney’s son
is known as Thornton the Great
for saving the canals
for rebuffing the L.A. mob
for using the oil revenue
to build stately little bungalows
for one and all.

for teaching Venetians
how to keep their city

for endowing the arts and letters
for inspiring the entire world.

———-

Cool, Smooth, Nocturnal 
& Universal


By Hal Bogotch
It starts with low notes
barely a rumble
a melody flickers in
what’s being played
is more
than what’s on the page

it’s the clink
of champagne glasses
it’s horseshoes
clopping on cobblestone streets
it’s a tinny tiny bronze hammer
chiming the hour in the park

it’s the dim roar
of skywriters
pumping a pair of white heart clouds
it’s the arcing spray
from a broken hydrant
on a noon hot august night

it’s the twirl of unwinding
a bandage    after a baton
busted a post-bop blower’s top
it’s miles away from birds
and dizzy dreamers
it comes clean in the night

it’s nothing but
nothing but jazz.


“Highway to Heaven” or “Roadmap to Hell?”

April 1, 2011

By Jim Smith

 

On March 22 the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) took another stab at addressing the biggest controversy in our community in recent years – RVs and homelessness. Some outraged voices maintain that the treatment of those living in their vehicles by the L.A. Council office and by the Los Angeles Police Department amounts to a human disaster for the poor. Others object to the presence of RVs anywhere in Venice and blame the occupants for criminal behavior.

Advocates of compassionate treatment of homeless people and RV live-aboards were given an unequal playing field at the council meeting. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and his chief-of-staff, Mike Bonin, both of whom seem to have catered to those who want the homeless removed, were given unlimited time to present their arguments, as were representatives of “People Assisting The Homeless,” (PATH) including its Chief Executive Officer Joel Roberts and others.

When “the public” got to speak, they only got one minute each, not enough time to present a cogent argument in opposition to the plan, now dubbed “Roadmap to Housing.”

The next day, the same scene repeated itself, although in miniature form, at the Los Angeles City Hall building, which is about 18 miles to the east. A handful of pro and con Venetians managed the trip to the City’s Transportation Committee, where they were rewarded with a whole two minutes of speaking time. Nothing much happened except that Rosendahl asked the assistant city attorney to take language out of the proposed “Roadmap” ordinance about legal parking on the streets because the anti-homeless residents didn’t like it. Another meeting of the Transportation Committee will be held on April 13.

For the past several months, the LAPD has been implementing Councilmember Bill Rosendahl’s “carrot and stick” approach which includes citing RVs for vehicle and parking infractions, banging on their RVs in the middle of the night, making threats of arrest if they remain in Venice, as well as towing their vehicles to a San Fernando Valley storage yard where the nearly indigent are charged around $800 to reclaim their vehicle/home. Some have called this a “streets to jail” program.

As a result, the number of RVs in Venice has shrunk from more than 200 according to a survey last July to around 20 today. This reduces the number of potential participants in the “Roadmap” program, which is now designed to accommodate only eight vehicles at each of Rosendahl’s two offices, one in West L.A. and one in Westchester.

Even residents who do not live in their RVs report harassment and unfair ticketing of their vehicles. One couple in central Venice who use their RV daily to go to work have found tickets on it for parking in one place for 72 hours when the actual time parked was between eight and nine hours.

In addition, new signs have sprouted up on streets around Venice that prohibit vehicle taller than seven feet or longer than 22 feet from parking from 2 – 6 am. This restriction of access was done without Coastal Commission approval.

Some of the RV live-aboards, harassed on all sides, have exchanged their large vehicle/homes for vans, pickups with camper shells and other cars that are not too tall or too long.

The subject of the VNC meeting was a new proposal from Rosendahl for a “Roadmap to Housing” program, formerly called “streets to homes.” Initially, it included provisions for some legalized street parking but was modified after complaints from anti-RV residents. It now includes only the two office sites outside of Venice.

Some anti-homeless residents had been vocal during the past several years about Santa Monica “dumping” its homeless on Venice. None of them objected to Venice RVs being “dumped” on West Los Angeles or Westchester.

Opposition to the “Roadmap” and accompanying 85.11 ordinance came from RV live-aboards and supporters who said that the program would remove the poor from Venice. None of the housing being sought for live-aboards is in Venice, apparently. Nor is there much of an outreach program to local landlords to sign on to the program even though it can give them a guaranteed rent payment. Also called to the VNC’s attention by several speakers was the alleged misuse of the public Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund, which is to be used only in Venice.

The arguments seemed to have an effect on the Board, which had been prepared to vote in favor of the “Roadmap.” In the end, no vote was taken. Another meeting will be held in April.

About 85 people packed the meeting. Attendance slowly dwindled during the three and a half hour marathon. One of those staying to the bitter end was Rosendahl.

Chairperson Linda Lucks maintained her streak of throwing a stakeholder out of each meeting. This time it was Ocean Front Walk vendor, Mark Herd, who was apparently too impassioned in his one-minute comparison of the treatment and removal of the poor to the 19th century treatment of Native Americans and to the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. His expulsion was the only action seen by any of the 18 LAPD officers who stood in the back of the room for the first two hours. Their presence added more than $2,000 to the cost of the meeting and lessened the number of cops on patrol in Venice.

 

Problems with the “Roadmap

to Housing” program

1. It increases gentrification of Venice to the detriment of the poor and working people.

2. It is at least two years too late to resolve the RV parking issue without dividing Venice.

3. Its housing component takes long-time residents out of their community.

4. It is paid for out of a fund which by ordinance can only be spent in Venice.

This “roadmap” is part of a larger city effort to rid Venice of those who are forced to live in their cars. At least one-third of RV live-aboards previously had an apartment in Venice, according to a survey by St. Joseph’s Center.

A major part of the reason for a growing vehicle-as-a-home phenomenon is Rosendahl’s failure, and that of his colleagues on the L.A. City Council, to lobby the legislature to repeal or modify the anti-rent control Costa-Hawkins Act, which prohibits vacancy control of rental units. As a result of exorbitant rents, a growing number of Venetians have found it necessary to live in vehicles or even the streets.

Growing hostility toward those without fixed addresses from some homeowners and some of those still able to pay their rents has played into the hands of developers and city officials who want to divide Venice. A number of Venetians have met with Rosendahl and his staff during the last several years to urge him to create a program in which those living in RVs could be safe from individual and police harassment.

They have suggested to him numerous lots and streets away from residences without result. Meanwhile, through Rosendahl’s notorious “carrot and stick” program, he has encouraged the police to become involved in a social issue that has taken them away from fighting crime, e.g. robberies, break-ins, assaults and murders. He has let the divisions in Venice fester while trying to increase city revenue with overnight pay parking schemes which most Venice residents did not want, but had to spend two years defeating.

Now, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), a public agency, has been given $750,000 by Rosendahl and the Council to implement the “Roadmap” program. LAHSA subcontracted to People Assisting The Homeless (PATH), a nonprofit group, and gave it $650,000 (What did LAHSA do that allowed it to take a $100,000 cut?).

Joel Roberts, the CEO of PATH, says that permanent housing is the goal of this program. This is a laudable goal, particularly if it is coupled with public assistance, jobs, health care and educational opportunities. However, there is no emphasis in Robert’s approach, nor in the entire “Roadmap,” to assisting vehicle live-aboards in their own community. For many potential “clients” in this program, occupying a Section 8 housing unit in the San Fernando Valley, or other distant location, means being torn away from their friends, their neighborhood, and indeed, all that is familiar to them. If this program is to be successful it must include an active effort by the Council office and by PATH to contact Venice landlords and get them to agree to provide at least one Section 8 housing unit. With enough effort, sufficient housing units surely can be found right here in Venice.

Misappropriation

of Public Funds?

Finally, the majority of the funding for the entire “Roadmap” program is illegal. The Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund can only be used within Venice. None of the major expenditures of this program take place here. PATH does not have an office in Venice. It’s staff are not from Venice. The parking lots under consideration for RVs are not in Venice. And now, because of aggressive policing, most of the RVs are no longer in Venice.

In short, little or none of the activities or expenditures fall under the definition of legitimate use of the Fund. Yet, $450,000 has been appropriated to LAHSA for a program that largely takes place outside of Venice <http://bit.ly/b26FiD&gt;.

The “Roadmap” can by no stretch of the imagination be considered to be “generally within the Venice Area,” as defined in the ordinance. The Fund is also known as Los Angeles Administrative Code, Section 5.121. See Sidebar for its exact language.

Further evidence of the Venice Fund misappropriation is contained in the draft 85.11 ordinance itself. It refers not to Venice or the Venice Area but to the 11th Council District as a whole, a clear misuse of the Fund.

The draft ordinance states in section C:

(6) In order to qualify for eligibility to enroll in the Roadmap to Housing Program, a person must establish one of the following conditions:

(i) The person resided in a vehicle in the Eleventh Council District as of July 20, 2010; or

(ii) The person resided in a dwelling, not a vehicle, in the Eleventh Council District as of the effective date of this Section and later became homeless and forced to reside in a vehicle.

 

In summary, the “Roadmap” and the draft ordinance, 85.11, both show misappropriation of public funds, to wit, the Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund.

———–

SIDEBAR:

ARTICLE 5
VENICE AREA SURPLUS REAL PROPERTY FUND

Sec. 5.121.  Creation and Use of Fund.

All net proceeds collected from the sales of real properties located in the Venice area of the City of Los Angeles and such grant funds as approved by the City Council, shall be placed in a trust fund to be known as the “Venice Area Surplus Real Property Fund,” which fund is hereby created and which fund shall be used for the purposes as set forth hereafter.

1.     The “Venice Area” is hereby defined and described as being that portion of the City of Los Angeles bounded northwesterly by the common boundary of the City of Santa Monica and the City of Los Angeles, northeasterly by the center line of Lincoln Boulevard, southeasterly and northeasterly by the City boundary adjacent to the county’s “Marina del Rey,” southeasterly by the entrance channel of the “Marina del Rey” and southwesterly by the last natural mean high-tide line of the Pacific Ocean.

2.     “Surplus Real Property” is defined as those parcels of real property owned by the City of Los Angeles and neither dedicated to public use, such as recreation and park use or public street use, nor permanently devoted to some public use.

3.     “Net proceeds” shall mean the gross sale price received for a parcel of real property minus escrow charges, title policy charges, appraisal charges, advertising costs, and any and all other costs and expenses attributable to conducting the sale and/or leading up to the sale of the property.

4.     Upon adoption of a resolution by the City Council, the net proceeds from the sale of any of the properties mentioned above shall be devoted exclusively to capital or non-capital projects or purchases generally within the “Venice Area” for purposes which will be of benefit to citizens of the City of Los Angeles or tourists to the Venice Beach area.

5.     The Fund shall be administered by the Department of Public Works, Bureau of Financial Management and Personnel Services, in accordance with the prior approval by the City Council pursuant to Subdivision 4. of this Section.

 


Who in the Heaven is Larry Bell?

April 1, 2011

By CJ Gronner

Renowned artist, Larry Bell, is a true Venice treasure. His profile, with hat and signature cigar, has been sighted all over town for decades, and is now the inspiration behind a new neighborhood hang about to open at the corner of Windward and Speedway, the aptly named “Larry’s” (Currently featuring a sign outside reading “Who in the Heaven is Spanto? [sic]”, which used to say “Larry” until someone graffiti’d over it with the name of our dearly departed friend, Sponto).

I got the chance to sit down and chat with Mr. Bell the other day in his Market Street art studio, and discover that he’s even cooler than I already thought he was. Surrounded by his beautiful works of art, both finished and in progress, we sat and talked about his Venice, then and now.

Bell was born in Chicago in 1939, and moved to L.A. with his family at the age of five. He always had an interest in art and music, and thought he’d get into animation over at Disney. As part of his art school (Chouinard Art Institute) curriculum, he had to study painting, which soon became his focus … to the extent that now his painting and sculptures can be seen in museums all around the world – and in his big, well-lit Venice studio, where he likes to “meet the people who want to own my stuff.”

At 19, Bell moved to Venice … “because it was cheap.” At that time, it was full of empty storefronts and considered dangerous, so he was able to secure his studio space for a mere $70 a month. Perfect for aspiring artists. A group of about 6 to 10 people started from scratch what became a true community of artists, and put Venice on the map as an art destination. Much of the gang became “The Cool School” (see the documentary of the same name to really get it), and gained fame worldwide. As we spoke about his work, Bell told me that “I’m interested in creating images I haven’t seen before … It’s an organic cycle, I’m not in control, I’m more like the middle man.” Interesting, as I’ve heard guitarist Leo Kottke say about the same thing, and it was then that I noticed Bell’s 12-string guitar standing by. He claims to only noodle on it, but I have a feeling he’s being overly humble, considering the concentration he seems to apply to everything.

In 1972, Bell “fell in love with a beautiful girl, and wanted to get her away from the competition,” so he moved with her to Taos, New Mexico, where he traded his art for his new property. The marriage ultimately split up, and it was time to return to Venice. By some strange stroke of kismet, his exact same studio space was open and available on Market Street, unchanged and ready for him to get to work.  He had built the doors on the front wall himself, in order to get large pieces and equipment in and out easier, and all remained intact. The only thing that changed was the Venice outside the doors.

About that, Bell says, “Venice inherited a mystique about being a creative place, which is extraordinary because it IS … Nothing lasts, and Venice is an organic, changing place, and you can’t stop that or it’s Knott’s Berry Farm.” The place remains special, and will always draw people because of, “The AIR! The ionized air from the sea … the weather is perfect here all the time” (Well … it certainly was the day we were talking). He also finds special that there isn’t high-density housing at the beach. It’s still mostly individual homes and small apartment buildings, adding to the neighborhood vibe. We talked about cityhood for Venice, which he doesn’t think possible for just the basic economic facts, like who would pay the cops, firemen, etc … and added, “The best way to protect the funky edge of Venice is to get it historical status.” Hmm … an interesting idea, for sure.

In the years that Bell lived in Taos, he would always stay at the Marina Pacific Hotel when in Venice. He became fast friends with the owner, Erwin Sokol, and when the Marina Pacific became the Hotel Erwin a couple of years ago, Bell not only moved in, but helped design the lighting, and each room in the Erwin now contains a work by Larry Bell. He was invited to the hotel meetings to offer his input on various issues, and when the time came for Mr. Sokol to open a bar/restaurant in the ideal, hotel-adjacent location of Windward and Speedway, they all met to discuss possible names. Bell offered up “Altoon’s” (after John Altoon, a fellow Venice artist in the 50’s and 60’s, who lived nearby and died in 1969) as his choice, but was out-voted by the eventual winner – “Larry’s”.

Bell drew the self-portrait in hat and cigar for the neon sign, and his paintings are featured inside. He also made a list of Venice artists, past and present, to be a mural on the outside wall of Larry’s – honoring the people and art that has made Venice the place that it is – wearing the very heart of Venice on its sleeve. I spoke to owner, Erwin Sokol, and he hopes that Larry’s will be open for business in the next couple of months, as they’re sorting out the Chef/kitchen part of it all now. It now looks like Larry’s will be open to greet the Summer along with the rest of us, and I can’t wait to watch Venice roll by as we sit on the patio and appreciate it all from the namesake spot of one of our coolest residents.

As we were wrapping up our time together, Bell’s son, Oliver, and beloved American Bulldog, Pinky, came back from a walk, and we all turned our attention to that sweet dog. Market Street was abuzz outside, with people getting ready for the Art Crawl, and soaking up the warm afternoon sunshine. Bell walked me out, and as we said our goodbyes, he saw a girl sitting in the next doorway, headphones on, a million miles away.  Bell held out his arms and said, “Look, beautiful girls sitting in doorways, on a beautiful day …”

There was nothing else for me to say but, “We’re lucky people.” He turned and smiled rakishly, “Yes, we sure are.”


The Tabor Family

April 1, 2011

The Tabors, one of the founding families of Venice had a reunion was held at the Pacific Residents Theater, March 2.

It was conceived and produced by Maryjane and included family photos, documents and other memorabilia.

Irvin Tabor, the family Patriarch, was Abbot Kinney’s personal assistant and chauffeur. Kinney willed his home to Tabor, who lived in it for more than 40 years.

John Quincy Tabor, II, who is Irvin’s nephew, entertained the audience with stories of the early days in Venice, including when his father won J.P. Morgan’s former yacht, the Sultana, in a raffle but couldn’t afford to operate it.

John Quincy, who will be 90 years old on June 1, was the first African-American lifeguard with both the city and the county.

The Tabor Family: 1st row- left to right- Sonya – Caroline – Jataun- Geisha- John Quncy- Francis- Ahimfa- Sia- Alvin- Allen  2nd row- Nolah- Clarence- Monque- George- Jay- Winola.

 


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