THE BEAT GOES ON

February 1, 2015

By Marty Liboff

YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST!! John Haag started our beloved Beachhead newspaper in 1968. He had run the legendary Venice West Cafe at 7 Dudley Ave. in Venice from 1962 to 1966 with his wonderful wife Anna. Believe it or not, you could be arrested back then just for reading a poem with a 4 letter word or displaying a painting with a naked woman! No matter that our museums are full of naked Roman statues and Ruben’s paintings of large nude women – back then the moral police could harass and arrest you for this!
In the mid 1950s the North Beach in San Francisco and Greenwich Village in New York had like a crazy new movement called the Beats. Man, like people would like write poetry and sometimes beat like cool bongo drums. Jazz music, beards, drugs, sandals, and sex were all part of the beatnick counter-culture. They believed that each of us has his/her inner artist that can come out in painting, poetry, dance, music, ceramics, photography, writing and sculpture. They invented their own hip lingo. Dig it man, it’s far out! Many had come from affluent families and had good educations but had rebelled against the excess consumerism that Americans were sold into after WWII and the Korean wars. They thought of themselves as cool hip cats and everyone else wearing suits and slaving for the almighty dollar were squares.
The Venice West Cafe Expresso was started in 1957 by the bearded and man like crazy Beat poet Stuart Perkoff. Another older writer and poet, Lawrence Lipton had moved to Venice and had successful poetry readings at his house and other homes around Venice. Alan Ginsberg, Anais Nin and other famous poets of the day had come there. Lawrence had become the shaman of the new Venice West Beats and a mentor to the younger Stuart. Lawrence thought maybe he could start a Beat movement in our like cool town by the sea. Venice was a nice, but run down mostly Jewish neighborhood. The rents were cheap and a few artists already lived in the many turn of the century cottages and cheap hotels, some that were built by our town’s founder Abbot Kinney. Stuart Perkoff saw how successful Lawrence Lipton’s Beat poetry sessions were and thought a coffee shop with poetry and maybe some jazz and paintings by new Beat artists would be fun. He borrowed some “bread” otherwise known as a few bucks from his parents and rented the little store at 7 Dudley Ave. and turned it into a coffee shop. Little did he know such a seemingly innocent venture would cause a moral fire storm!
Stuart proclaimed, “Men & women of Venice, lovers, children, holy citizens of the heavenly city, all around you there is the sweet air of love!” The cafe opened and became a family hangout for the artists of Venice and Perkoff”s kids and pals. It had bare brick walls that were decorated with new art and poetic sayings. A mixed lot of old tables and chairs filled the room. There was an old fridge and stove behind a counter and you felt you were sitting in Stuart’s living room or his pad. There was a chess set and usually a conga drum. Splattered on one wall was the saying, “Art is love is God”. There were only a couple dozen or so regular Beats around Venice and how could they drink enough coffee and sandwiches to keep it going? Many of the Venice regulars like had no bread or were broke anyway. Right away the city came down on these beatniks with any health violation they could think of. Poor Stuart was disillusioned by a lack of paying customers and the city’s harassment and sold the business in 1959 for $200 to John Kenevan.
Lawrence Lipton and others of the hip Beat movement had gone on radio and TV. Lawrence declared that, “Venice West is to Los Angeles what the Left Bank once was to Paris!” Books were being written about the Beats like Lipton’s very popular book, “The Holy Barbarians”. His book and talks sometimes mentioned the Venice West Cafe. Soon the cafe was booming with tourists and would-be beatniks. Tourists came with cameras. Tourists walked the Ocean Front Walk searching for someone that might look like “Maynard G. Krebs”, the funny beatnik on the “Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” TV show, so they could take their picture. TV and radio reporters came to show these wild “barbarians”. Beatniks were suddenly so popular that Stuart Perkoff even got on the Groucho Marx TV show, “You Bet Your Life”!
Down near Windward Ave. Eric “Big Daddy” Nord rented an old Abbot Kinney building on the Ocean Front and called it the Gas House. “But it’s alright now, in fact it’s a gas!” It was a haven for the beatniks and their art and music. “Big Daddy” was a bearded giant daddy-o at 6 foot 8 inches and up to 400 pounds! He left the San Francisco beatnik scene after failing with a Beat joint there and tried his luck in Venice. Suddenly there were two cool Beat hangouts in Venice.
Almost immediately some local realtors and developers tried to rally the square community to close them down and throw these worthless bums out. They got our local bureaucrats and the LAPD to join in the harassment. They complained about weird people, drugs and noisy music. They screamed that beatniks were lowering property values on the beach. Sound familiar today? They had undercover agents hang out at the cafe and Gas House and they reported nudity and drinking. Some ranted about immorality like Black men kissing White women! The police declared that you needed an entertainment license to read a poem and closed them down. The health department came up with any excuse to shut them down. Lawyers for the Beats kept the Gas House open for a while but they couldn’t have poetry shows or allow the beatniks to live there anymore. In 1963 the city forced the closure and demolition of the Gas House and the beautiful old Saint Marks Hotel next door. The city began condemning many of the old buildings around Windward Ave. They figured if they demolish the cheap housing then these “undesirables” will have to go away. “Big Daddy” returned to San Francisco.
In around 1960 a young, good looking John Haag and his beautiful wife Anna came to Venice. He wanted to be a Venice West poet. John was born in 1930 in N.Y. He was a well educated Harvard man. Anna was born in 1937 in Italy. In the early 1960s they rented a small space next door to the cafe and called it the Venice Music and Arts Center. They figured this tiny spot would have music, art and poetry. They became activists in several civil rights groups. In 1962 they took over the Venice West Cafe next door from John Kenevan. Kenevan, like Perkoff, had been constantly picked on by the police, the health department, city hall and some prudish neighbors. Kenevan was happy to turn the cafe over to John and Anna Haag.
In 1964 John Haag sounded a cowbell in the cafe and a poet came up and read a poem. Immediately four plain-clothed vice officers planted in the audience and at least four more regular cops arrested John for entertainment without a police permit. Soon after our Venice city councilman tried to outlaw playing drums along the public beach. Mayor Yorty talked about bulldozing all of Venice and starting over!
John and Anna didn’t go down without a fight. They got lawyers and kept having poetry. The city council went ahead and outlawed drums on the beach at that time and continued to harass John and other beatniks. My mother ran a bakery in the Cadillac Hotel a few feet away and I hung out by the cafe often. I remember well one incident where John was arrested and his wife Anna began screeching like a mad lioness at the cops! She and John were both awesome people. We thought of them as the King and Queen of Venice! John began orchestrating demonstrations at city hall. He got radio and TV to cover some of the proceedings.
I used to go and hang out sometimes at the cafe. John and Anna were good friends with my mom, Ruthie in the bakery. I was 14 ½ when they took over the cafe. After they opened I liked to go and read the magazines and books. They put some free newspapers by the door and there were reading copies of books and magazines by the window. There were new books and magazines by the counter. I loved to look through them for cartoons but John would get mad at me for soiling his new books. “Go read the free books!” he would tell me. I would always tell him I had already looked at all the free stuff. He knew I wasn’t going to buy anything! Maybe once I bought a magazine? A cheap one…
Anna ran the cafe. She took food orders, made coffee and sandwiches, served the food and ran the cash register. When it was busy she had another worker help. John would shmooz with the Beats and customers. Sometimes he would get up and read his newest poem. They would often have jazz playing on their stereo or radio in the back while you sat on a junky chair or old couch writing your newest poem. The music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie “Bird” and Mingus were playing in the background while people with berets and goatees sat and sipped coffee. John and Anna and many of the Beats smoked cigarettes in those days and smoke wafted about the room. Most smoked the sacred herb but they usually did that outside in a pagoda or on the sand for fear of the cops. Back then pot was a serious offense. Usually they were opened from dusk to morning. When the sun began to fall the Beat werewolves with bushy beards would begin to like howl their poems to the moon. Usually you would go up to Anna or John and tell them you had a poem and they would ring a bell and you would “blow” your thing. I really loved Anna like a second mom. John and Anna knew me as “Ruthie’s son”. I’d love to go back there now…
Some summer weekend nights when I went to the cafe the place was packed. There were wild eyed bearded men and dancing women even outside. There was the smell of funny cigarettes in the air. Sometimes it was so crowded you couldn’t get in. I remember a couple nights I just stood by the door to try and listen to the poets or a folk singer. I heard that a young unknown poet by the name of Jim Morrison used to come there and listen to poetry. Many times there was someone playing a drum with the poetry. Tamboo the conga drummer had used to be a regular.
In 1966 the owner of the property who hated commies tried to evict John and Anna. Once again they tried to rally support for their cafe. John and Anna had been battling in the courts and from jail and at city hall since they opened the first day! After a dirty battle in court by the owner, the judge gave the Venice West Cafe a temporary stay. However, John and Anna had enough. John had originally come to Venice to be a poet, not to be involved in courts, demonstrations and jail. Sadly, soon after the court battle they gave it up. Business had slumped also. Several bigger and prettier clubs had opened around L.A. The times were also a changing. The beatnik hipsters were transforming into hippies. Jazz and folk music was eclipsed by rock music. Reading poetry wasn’t as cool anymore as listening to rock ‘n’ roll. Jim Morrison began putting his poems to rock music instead of just bongo drums. His music became his poetry.
The civil rights movement in the early 1960s had gotten many people organized politically to fight racism in our country. The war in Vietnam had begun to stir anti-war sentiment. John Haag had written poems even in the late 1950s that were against war. The war began to have more and more killings on both sides, and John and Anna began to put more of their energy into the growing anti-war movement. Their experiences with city hall and the cops while running the cafe made them even more politically aware. He traveled up north to Washington State and a local group called the Peace and Freedom Party was supporting local anti-war candidates from both the Democrats and Republicans. He dreamed of a real Peace and Freedom Party that would have its own candidates. He returned to Venice and began to organize a new political party with his local pals. He liked the name Peace and Freedom Party and it won out over several other names. So the real Peace and Freedom Party was born in Venice in 1967. They had a terrible time getting the party on the ballot because both Democrats and Republicans didn’t want another political party to take away their votes. John and his new group needed 68,000 people to register in the new party. This meant you had to change your party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Peace and Freedom. They had to battle all sorts of obstacles. With plenty of hard work they got 105,000 people to register to the new Peace and Freedom Party. He had stopped me walking on the boardwalk many a time to bug me to help him get signatures or to go to some rally or demonstration. I went once or twice but I usually tried to think up some excuse! I wasn’t very political. I spent all my spare time playing basketball. I told John on their first try with their own candidates that he should run for President. He told me that nobody outside Venice knows him and they needed someone with name recognition. He said maybe he might run at some later time and he did run for President later on. The Peace and Freedom Party ran Eldridge Cleaver who was well known at the time. During the war years the new party got quite a few votes. More recently, in 2012 they ran the comedienne Roseanne Barr for President.
John thought they needed a voice for the new party and their anti-war ideals. They thought of having a radio or TV show, but John figured they could start with a local newspaper. In 1968 the Free Venice Beachhead began. “This paper is a poem” was his idea to have poetry, art and political and local news that is ignored or misreported in the other newspapers. When asked what “Beachhead” meant John said, “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!” He didn’t want to run the paper himself and thought a collective of people who care could run it. He worked on the first couple of issues, but he was spending more and more time on the Peace and Freedom Party. John reminisced about the Beachhead, “ Of course it was all volunteer. Nobody got paid or anything. The personnel in the collective changed from time to time, and sometimes fairly rapidly, but there were always people to come in and put the paper out. I think it was some kind of miracle!” He tried to let the collective run things on the Beachhead. I wanted to be a cartoonist and had done some cartoons in college newspapers. The Beachhead printed a few of my cartoons in 1978 and ‘79. At one point some new collective members began editing my cartoons and I went to whine to John. He told me that the collective decides on the content and he didn’t want to interfere, although he enjoyed my cartoons. I quit, but later I still occasionally submitted a cartoon. Here I am again writing for the Beachhead! I feel I owe John and Anna much for their contributions to Venice. John’s poems and the poets at the coffee house had inspired me and still inspire me now!
Everyone was devastated in Venice when our King and Queen, John and Anna broke up. This was a major tragedy because together they were such a powerful force. Anna once said, “I might love a man, but I love Venice more!” John and Anna continued to work on politics and civil rights until they passed away. John still wrote poems until the end. Anna died in 2003 and John in 2006. Today the Peace and Freedom Party continues the fight against wars. Despite many not believing our Beachhead would ever work, our paper still continues on while most newspapers of that era are long gone. Let us hope and pray our Beachhead will go on forever… Well all you groovy chicks and hip cats, I blew my like crazy thing! It’s time for me to cut out and split until the next cool time. Far out man, ya dig it?

A Short Beat Glossary:
“BLOW” To sound off either with music, poems or words.
“BREAD” Money.
“CAT” A sexy cool male beatnik.
“CHICK” The male beatnik’s Beat girlfriend or any cute gal.
“COOL” Anything you like a lot is cool; cool jazz, cool painting…
“CRAZY” Anything that is kind of wild or new
“CUT OUT” To take one’s leave. To leave.
“DIG” To understand.
“FAR OUT” It really sends you or impresses you. Also, way out.
“GAS” The best, or greatest of times.
“GROOVE OR GROOVY” With it. In the (record) groove. Playing with the beat. Something nice.
“HEAD” Someone smart and also someone who smoked pot.
“HIP” To know. Knowledgeable. In the new style.
“JOINT” A place like a cafe. Also a marijuana cigarette.
“LIKE” To make sense of. Comparative reality.
“MAN” Giving greater emphasis to. Also the police, “The Man”.
“PAD” Your apartment or home.
“SPLIT” To leave or go.
“SQUARE” A conformist to society and culture who can’t drop his suit and tie.
“SWING” Uninhibited. Able to swing with music.

Beachhead, Dec.2003 article by John Haag. ‘Venice West’, 1991 by John Maynard. ‘John Haag Speaks’,YouTube, 2002, posted by Jim Smith. ‘Bohemians’, 2000 by Elizabeth Wilson. ‘Holy Barbarians’,1959 by Lawrence Lipton. Beachhead interview of John Haig, 2002 by Suzy Williams. ‘Venice California Coney Island of the Pacific’, by Jeffrey Stanton. Various -Wikipedia, etc.

This Paper is a Poem
By Marty Liboff

This paper is a poem
We laugh and cry
In joy and sadness
We recite, read and sing
Poems of the world gone wrong
Poems of the world gone right
Beauty and hell
Good and bad times
The changes, the years
The tears, the fears
The misery of the masses
The pain and happiness of an individual
Mankind cursed by society
Money mad developers and corporations
Banks, police, judges
Picking on the poor and helpless
And also the blessings…
The blessings of our Mother Earth
The beauty of a seagull flying by
And the simple kindness of good souls
We laugh and lament
To the passings and new births and new beginnings
The Muses recite and sing to us
The 9 Sisters tell us everything
Mysteries revealed
In adversity we learn and gain strength
For hope for a better future
A poem of life
A song we sing
Sing, sing your song
Of liberty, freedom and love
This paper is a poem…

brittin_west_5

Venice West Cafe

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Venice West4

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Poetry Reading at Venice West Cafe 1960 - by Robert Huffstutter

 

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Historical Venice OFW Homes Destined to Be Axed

February 1, 2015

By Pegarty Long

Two of Venice’s oldest houses are about to make way for a new mixed-use project which will include a fine dining glass-enclosed restaurant and two apartments on the building’s second level.
The now boarded-up homes are located at 811-815 Ocean Front Walk (OFW). They were built circa 1905 and represent two of the few remaining original houses on Venice’s OFW. The owners of the property, Vera and Gary Sutter, have submitted an application to the city for a “new mixed-use project consisting of two residential units and a ground floor restaurant with full alcohol bar.” There will be subterranean parking with mechanical lifts and tandem parking with parking attendant.
The owners say that the project fully complies with the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.
A community meeting, hosted by the architect, John Reed, was held on January 19 to present the plans and renderings for the project.
Long-time residents from the surrounding area attended. A large percentage of the attendees were from Park Avenue, the Venice street which will be most affected by the project.
The plan is for two residential apartments, a fine dining restaurant that will seat 100 and a bar in the back that will seat 16. Hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1am. There will be 28 underground parking spaces for the patrons and the building’s residents. No spaces will be allotted for surrounding Venice residents. It will take about 14 to 16 months before construction can begin, given the many applications that must be submitted, and 14  more months of construction, according to Reed.
The chief concerns of the residents were backed up traffic, pollution from the traffic, and noise by the comings and goings of the patrons in the late restaurant hours.
Their small alley, Park Court and surrounding Speedway, a one-way alley, would be the only routes to the restaurant, and street parking in the area is scant.They did not think that 28 parking spaces could accommodate two apartments and a dining room of 100 seats plus 16 in the bar. Reed countered that there would be layered and elevator parking plus valet and that that would help. The residents believe that  would cause backed-up traffic on both Park and Speedway while the cars are being parked. Reed countered that they expect much walk-in business from the people on the Ocean Front Walk. Residents emphatically did not think so. They thought that people on the Ocean Front Walk generally are there for sun and fun and not for fine dining, nor would they be properly dressed for it. They also reminded Reed of the midnight curfew on Ocean Front Walk. Reed responded that the patrons would be asked to leave from the back area during the curfew hours.
Residents also raised the question that those patrons who want fine dining with open bay windows overlooking Ocean Front Walk might find the Ocean Front Walk scene offensive, sometimes even repulsive, and not conducive to fine dining. Reed said he lives in Venice and he knew what the scene was, and didn’t think that would be a problem because the bay windows of the restaurant could be opened or closed.
Residents brought up  the transients in the area and the many who sleep around Park Avenue at night. Reed answered that the owners of the property and he had been in contact with “Mike” (Councilman Mike Bonin) about this and that they were assured by Bonin that he was working on the the problem and it is being resolved.
On the issue of excessive noise, besides the comings and goings of traffic and people from 8am until 12 midnight or 1am each day of the week, Reed was made aware that on Ocean Front Walk musicians are drawn to playing in front of restaurants and other eating places and disturb residents by playing loudly and frequently, often with bongos. These musicians would attempt to get restaurant patrons’ attention and money. The residents were assured by Reed that the building will block any noise because of its sheer size.
Reacting negatively to these statements, the residents also voiced their concerns about the underground water problems that arise when digging deeply into the ground for the underground parking in this area of Venice. They advised the architect to seek consultation with the builders of Thornton Lofts, a large condominium with underground parking a few blocks away. That project was stalled for over a year and went over the estimated budget because of the water that surfaced while digging. Venice, which is located right by the ocean, was built on landfill. (As many seasoned Venetians know, when founder Abbot Kinney flipped that coin in the air and won the toss to choose which of two large areas of real estate to build on, he famously chose what seemed to be the least desirable for his dream of a Venice of America… a swamp.)
When Reed was asked why he did not design a building which would incorporate the existing historical buildings in his design he answered, “this is what the owners want”.
At the end of the meeting Reed thanked all for expressing their concerns.
The project will be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council  land use and planning committee. Time and place can be confirmed at: http://www.grvnc.org.

Pegarty Long


Letter for Marty Liboff

February 1, 2015

Dear Mr. Liboff,

I just read with interest and not a little bit of nostalgia your article about William Boyd.
I recently spent the afternoon with family wondering up and down Abbot Kinney Blvd. I was amazed at the changes 60 years have wrought. You see I lived at 1306 Washington Blvd. from about 1952 to 1956.
The cute one-bedroom house of course is long gone, replaced with a boring 2-story structure built up against the south wall of the Peacock Bar. The bar was there when I was a child and that south wall served as a fence of sorts for our front yard, the house being set on the back of the lot. I lived there with my younger sister, older brother and both parents. We were renting the home from my mother’s aunt. My sister was in love with horses from a very young age and had quite a collection of horse statuettes by the time she was three. Hoppyland of course was a necessary excursion for my horse-loving sister and my parents accommodated her and I got to tag along. One of my earliest memories is riding the ponies and later the “big” horses on the trails. The workers in the big corral even accommodated Chris by letting her ride standing up on one of the big horses. What a sight!
I have a cute story relating to the pony rides. My husband grew up on Green Avenue near Alla Road about two miles East of Hoppyland. He is eight years older than me so he was about 14 when he got a job working at Hoppyland, lifting the small children up onto the ponies. Of course the space in between was essentially farmland or vacant. He sometimes was allowed to ride a pony home and back again the next day to work. Of course we like to believe that I was one of the little girls he assisted on the ponies. He likes to joke that he gave me a dime and told me to call him when I grew up!
I remember seeing the rides in the park, but no memory of actually riding on any of them. The horses, for us, were the best part. I really enjoyed reading your well-researched article. I read the entire story to my husband. So thank you for sharing your memories and providing us a walk down memory lane.

Yours truly,
Ann Giroux-Ochoa


Letters

February 1, 2015

Hi Beachhead,

My name is Courtney. I’m an artist. Mostly I can be seen creating black and white doodles, sitting on milk crates on the sidewalk of Abbot Kinney Blvd. My doodling teacher, life partner, and veteran Venice artist, Von Paul, is generally seen creating art right next to me. Von Paul has been selling his art on Abbot Kinney on and off for over 5 years now and has become somewhat of a spectacle as such.
Von Paul and I have just completed a mural on Venice and Strongs Drive. And earlier last year, we painted one together on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. My intention in informing you of this is clarifying that Von Paul is in fact a prolific, professional, beloved artist. He’s been supporting himself entirely as an artist for the past 5 and a half years and has managed to produce and sell/gift over 4,000 drawings in this time. In 2013, Von painted a joyously powerful, colorful mandala creation with brush. People around the world complimented him and thanked him for this work. The mural was on a purple building on Wicked hair salon, a popular part of Rose Ave. (405 Rose Ave), and thus enjoyed by many eyes.
Von Paul’s mural was photographed and viewed by thousands of people. If you hashtag Von Paul’s name, #VonPaul, on instagram you can see many pictures of his work taken by fans, including this mural. It uplifted people from all parts and gave them something to meditate on in the middle of Rose Ave.
Recently, this mural was painted over by another artist.
Because Von Paul has never used a computer in his life, and composing an email would be difficult, I adduce and quote these words from Von Paul on his behalf:
“Recently a mural I created was painted over by another artist in Venice. He signed his spray-painted, stenciled atrocity “Beautifyearth.org”. When I approached the owner of the Wicked Hair Salon about my mural being painted over, WITHOUT MY NOTICE, and she told me she was the building owner and she could do whatever she wanted. I was devastated.”
Venice murals are an important part of the community, and Von Paul’s was destroyed without cause or care. The artist who painted over Von’s mural, can be identified as “Wise Two” and has a website http://www.artofwisetwo.com/. He’s done some small projects on Abbot Kinney.
I sincerely hope this message reaches you in good health and high spirits,

Courtney Lynne

MuralAbove: Von Paul’s mural at 405 Rose that was destroyed

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Dear Von Paul and Courtney,

By law artists need to be notified 90 days before their mural is painted over or otherwise changed or destroyed.
Considered the grand-daddy of the current mural movement, Kent Twitchell did sue the city of L.A. when his 3-story high Ed Ruscha (1987) mural disappeared in 2006. He got a million dollars.
More recently, Victor Henderson’s 15¢ wash and 5¢ dry mural at Brooks and Pacific, which has been a part of Venice since 1969 and was made famous when the Doors took a picture in front of it, was re-painted by Clinton Bopp at the instructions of Ralph Ziman, the owner of the building. Henderson is currently in a lawsuit against Ziman.
All artists can and should sue when their work is illegally destroyed.

– The Beachhead


Tree Massacre at Oxford Lagoon

February 1, 2015

By Charlotte Purein

On December 31, 2014, 650 trees were sawed to the ground at the Oxford Lagoon.
The 94-space city parking lot that borders the Oxford Lagoon is slated as the building site for 114 units (none of them affordable), and 3600 sq. ft. of ground floor retail. The style is ‘Bernie Madoff meets Jersey Shore’, with a water (lagoon) view. The location of the tree massacre is to become a cement, rectangle sidewalk that will enclose the lagoon and serve as the defacto promenade to ‘Madoff Shores’. Its construction is slated to be financed by taxpayer money.
Marina del Rey’s state-certified land use plan requires tree-for-tree replacement. The 80-foot eucalyptus trees were planted in 1963 to attract wildlife, and they did: 51 bird species. They also grew to become L.A. county’s 6th largest monarch roosting site. Monarchs are much needed pollinators and may soon be on the endangered species list. The current plan is to replace those 52-year-old eucalyptus trees with 12-foot native plants that will provide less shade and much less wildlife habitat.
There is an inverse correlation between crime rate and number of trees in a community: the more trees, the less crime (http://bit.ly/1C8IjSj). The crime rate in MDR (242.1 per 10,000 persons, http://bit.ly/1uZ7Ht3) is currently higher than the crime rate in Venice (206.2 per 10,000 persons, http://bit.ly/1uZ7Ht3). Yet Councilperson Mike Bonin just wrote a public letter to Charlie Beck, LAPD Chief, asking for an increase of the police force in Venice. A more appropriate measure would have been to plant more trees (and cut none) in the Marina in order to address the higher-than-Venice crime rate in that area.
This rare wildlife gift was razed over the winter holidays without informing the public. Instead, the politicians and developers took advantage of the fact that the public was preoccupied and not paying attention. Some politicians must have gotten some serious extra holiday bonuses from some rich developers who plan on getting a whole lot richer as a result of this new development.
Even more trees in the Marina are ‘on the chopping block’ to make way for massive projects. Trees do a lot more than keep us happy. They are also nature’s high-tech air scrubbers. They filter the air. With all the new traffic that will be generated by the proposed colossal projects in MDR, we’re going to need a lot more trees to soak up particulates. Many more than the amount that were hacked down ‘at the midnight hour’.
Contact those responsible for the destruction to let them know how unhappy you are about the loss of trees and wildlife. Ask them to implement Marina del Rey’s land use plan by immediately replacing all of the 52-year-old eucalyptus trees with identical full-grown, 80-feet tall eucalyptus trees. LA county supervisors are ‘limited’ to three four-year terms. That’s a possible 12 years of terror. Let’s vote out all that reduce our quality of life as soon as possible.

Contact:
Tom Ford: TFord@santamonicabay.org, 310-216-9827
Don Knabe: 213-974-4444 (Steve Napolitano, staff: 310-222-3015)
Sheila Kuehl: 213-974-3333 (ask to speak to Maria Chong-Castillo – her constituents live nearby in Venice)
Mark Ridley-Thomas: 213-974-2222 (ask to speak to Karly Katona – his constituents live directly across the street)
Hilda Solis: 213-974-4111
Mike Antonovich: 213-974-5555Tree massacre2


Sewer Project Broken

February 1, 2015

By John Davis

City Councilperson Mike Bonin and County Supervisor Don Knabe should be greatly concerned about the proposed Sewer Main Project in Venice and Marina del Rey. Both the City and County ignored the federal interest. Both concealed known public safety issues that remain unaddressed.
The City authorized an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in 2007. The last public comment was in 2006. It is over seven years old and is out of date. It does not reflect changed circumstances or even very important issues known at the time. The California Environmental Quality Act requires complete and current information. This EIR is like spoiled milk left on the shelf.
First, it failed to address important matters of federal jurisdiction. The U.S. Rivers and Harbors Act of 1947 established the lower reach of Ballona Creek as a federal project.
The U.S. Rivers and Harbors Act of 1954 established a second federal project, Marina del Rey. However, the EIR engaged in an omission error, it completely failed to identify the federal interest.
From a public safety standpoint, the City and County failed to fully address the issue of methane hazard. The gas is explosive in small concentrations and can accumulate in buildings, garages, and elevator shafts, reaching explosive levels. Hydrogen Sulfide, also a gas, is deadly and occurs throughout the Venice and Playa del Rey oil fields.
Sempra Energy also stores vast quantities of methane deep below the surface at the project site under high pressures. Leaks to the surface have occurred. Natural pockets of methane exist underground too, and at pressure.
Along Admiralty and Via Marina in MDR there are wildcat oil and gas pipelines that never received approval of the County Board of Supervisors, according to a response to a request for public records. The lines leaked in 2004, alerting the public to their existence when a Hazmat team swarmed the area.
The unapproved lines are old and rusty and have leaked. Oil and gas from the subsurface can contaminate such lines with dangerous materials, including low level radioactive waste associated with such works.
Given the lines are neither approved nor decommissioned or abandoned, they remain a clear threat to the environment and public safety. Tunneling under them could undermine the already fragile state and cause unknown environmental consequences such as toxic releases to the atmosphere, soil, and groundwater. Tunneling may also cause soil and groundwater that has already been contaminated by the wildcat lines to spread to other areas.
Yet, the old 2006 EIR omits these issues, at the expense of public safety, to rush the project.
From a procedural aspect, the City is cheating.
The State Open Meetings Act requires a public body to approve permits like Coastal Development Permits (CDP)s. A public hearing is held in conformance with the Brown Act, public comment is taken on the final staff report, and then the public body takes action to either approve or disapprove. The public may sue at this point.
Here, the City has bent the rules for years. The City Engineer purported to hold a hearing on the CDP in January. The public was presented with a “Draft Staff Report”.
The City Department of Public Works claims that a “Final Staff Report”will be produced by the Department, but the public may not comment.
The City Engineer is not a public body authorized under the Brown Act to make a decision to issue or not issue a Coastal Development Permit. The City cannot disallow the people from commenting on a final staff report as with all other public hearings, but that is what has been going on for decades. City law does not trump State law in this respect.
Here the City has cheated the public for years. Mike Bonin could help could fix this, if he wanted to. This CDP should not be handled like this. The City Council should consider it, and as a public body, step up and be held accountable.
As soon as the City Engineer “approves” its own CDP, the public can appeal it to the California Coastal Commission. If anyone wishes to make an appeal, it should contact the City Engineer and keep track of the approval date. The appeal period is short, but may force a public hearing before the Coastal Commission.
The County has also applied for a CDP for its portion of the project.
The Regional Planning Commission, a public body, under the Brown Act, will hold a public hearing. Interested persons should contact Regional Planning to attend the hearing to comment verbally or in writing. That permit can also be appealed to the Coastal Commission if the County Department of Regional Planning approves it.
By comparing the unlawful City Engineer CDP process to the legitimate role of the County Regional Planning Commission it is  obvious the City has cheated the public again. Only a public body can approve a CDP, not a single person. It is clear the City has disregarded the Brown Act for years.
This City claims this large sewer line would be bored remotely with little impact to the surface. However, there are dangers underground the planners have overtly omitted from the planning process.
Tunneling through old oil and gas fields next to wildcat lines that are leaky and dangerous, under a highly pressurized antiqued gas storage facility is a gamble at best. But it can be done, if proper planning is in place.
Every effort must be made to protect the public from environmental hazards and to ensure a superior project that benefits the public without placing it in harm’s way.
John Davis - Oxford Lagoon post Don Knabe


The Politics of Painting Pagodas

February 1, 2015

By Krista Schwimmer
There are many features on Ocean Front Walk that define its essence. Among the most noteworthy are the pagodas or pergolas, as they were first called. Clustered together like mini palm trees, these free structures welcome all against the elements. As a result, a variety of people congregate in and around them: tourists, locals, and unhoused community members.
Like many parts of Venice, these pagodas have appeared in Hollywood films. Two films from Jeffrey Stanton’s research are “Falcon and the Snowman,” starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton; and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” starring Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, and Richard Dreyfuss. In the latter movie, Nolte’s character is a bum. He and his homeless pals meet at the pagoda at Dudley Street and sing, “We are the bums! We are the homeless!” More recently, these same pagodas w

 

ere the stars in the monthly Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting held Tuesday, January 20.
On that night, Melissa Diner, Chair of the Ocean Front Walk (OFW) Committee, presented a “Pagoda Beautification” motion. The motion recommended that VNC support the “formation of an ‘Adopt-A- Pagoda” project and adjacent benches project.” Approved local artists would take a pagoda, its mini wall, bench, and trashcan, and redo it. One of the eight pagodas on Sunset Avenue, however, would be a permanent installation dedicated to Alicia Gruppioni.
What followed next was a sometimes volatile, often confusing, and even comical discussion generated by series of motions to amend and to reconsider what was just amended. In total, it took two new motions to amend and one to reconsider a previous amendment to bring the original motion to a vote.
Who would have thought innocent pagodas could pull such a punch?

It all began when Amanda Seward stood up to make a public comment. Amanda Seward is a well- known attorney who helped the Lincoln Place tenants successfully fight Aimco. She is also an avid lover of modern architect.
She began by saying that she was the person who had contacted Melissa that day about the historical nature of the pagodas. This statement directly contradicted one made earlier by Shelly Gomez, a member of the OFW Committee. After first calling the pagodas ugly, Shelly stated that she had checked with the historic society and found out they were not historic. Gomez finished her comment by saying that color and sound are vibration. “So, those pagodas, if they are colorful, it’s going to raise the vibration of that place. It will deter people from camping out.”
Amanda said the pagodas were designed by Gregory Ain, a very import ant, modern architect, particularly in the Los Angeles area. “They are not designated,” Seward continued,”but there are a lot of things in LA that are historic that are not yet designated.” In Ain’s case, however, there are other buildings he designed that are designated. One example Seward brought up is the Mar Vista Tract, consisting of 52 parcels designed by Ain. According to the Office of Historic Resources’ website, these one-story, single family homes built in 1948, were “shaped by the Fair Housing Administration’s desire to promote home ownership among modest-income families.” The Mar Vista Tract was also the city’s first post World War II Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

As to the current color of the pagodas, according to Seward, this was carefully considered by the architect. “All I’m saying is that before you paint the pagodas, you need to look at that a little more carefully … that should be considered in the design aspect and I don’t think it was, because no one knew.”
The Venice Heritage Museum’s (VHM) website also has a brief history of the pagodas. According to them, the original ones were hand-tooled and elegant, with benches to sit under. They were believed to have been created as part of the Work Projects Administration Program that existed from 1935-1943. The older, Jewish population who frequented Ocean Front Walk in the days of yore really enjoyed them. In 2000, they were refurbished, with the benches being removed, but the overall pagoda structure maintained.
Melissa Diner, who had made the original motion, was agreeable to Seward’s suggestions. And so, a first amendment was formed that stated the project follow the guidelines of the secretary of interior design on rehabilitation of historic buildings. This amendment passed readily 15-0-3.
But the pagodas were only just getting started! Or maybe it was the revenge of the pigeons and other seafaring birds, discouraged from landing on the pagodas by reflectors added in 2014.
The next motion to amend was made by Community Officer Mike Bravo. He suggested that rather than have one, permanent memorial pagoda to Alicia Gruppioni, that one pagoda be a revolving memorial pagoda that would include other Venice residents. This second amendment carried as well with a vote of 8-4-5.
Death often comes in threes. Evidently, VNC amendments do, too.
The third, and final motion, however, to amend was the most confusing and controversial motion. Vice President Mark Salzberg asked if the board members could remove Bravo’s amendment, on the grounds that Board members did not get a chance to talk about whether there should be any dedication at all. According to the parliamentary, a motion could be made by someone on the prevailing side to reconsider the amendment only.
At this point, the public was roused somewhat; but President Mike Newhouse, aka the Dictator of Time, even more so. He wrongly chastised two women in the back for speaking when they were not. Then, he went on to threaten to adjourn the whole meeting, saying, “Folks are not up here to waste their time.” Newhouse next said there was a lot of time wasting coming from both sides. Considering that public comment was still only one minute, and that there was very little that night, one wonders just how the public was wasting the Board’s time. Telepathically?
To succeed, this third motion to reconsider a previous amendment needed a 2/3rds vote. It failed, 11-5-2, by one vote.
Finally, the entire motion to “Adopt-A-Pagoda” along with two amendments – one to follow guidelines on historical, restoration and the other to create a single, revolving, memorial pagoda – won easily by 14-2-2.
At first thought, one wonders why the idea of beautifying the pagodas on Ocean Front Walk created such heated discussion. They are, however, a perfect mirror of the battle going on here in Venice, a battle that skirts around the real issues of homelessness troubling our community.
In her public comment, Shelly Gomez spoke about how Salt Lake City, Utah is solving their homelessness by housing them. Later, however, she contradicted herself, saying that by painting the pagodas a bright color, it would deter people from camping there. Since she is part of the OFW committee who came up with the beautification project, what then is the real reason for wanting to paint the pagodas? To repel those deemed unfit for Ocean Front Walk?
In a strange twist of irony, the architect who designed these structures, Gregory Ain, was “best known for bringing elements of modern architect to lower-and-medium cost housing.”(wikipedia)
Whatever the intention of the OFW committee, if it was not for the presence and the persuasion of Amanda Seward, we in Venice would have lost the chance to understand and preserve a part of Venice that is both interesting and educational. As Amanda said in her first comment, “When you have great art, you don’t paint over it.”New pagodas

pagoda people


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