By Fred Owens
Venice – maybe it doesn’t say so in the tourist hype about all the weird people on the boardwalk and all the ultra-cool people on Abbot Kinney – is a walking community. It’s compact, you can get there from here, on foot, from Rose to Washington, from the beach to Lincoln — why bring your car, there’s no place to park anyway.
So I am thinking about the sidewalks and their state of disrepair. The tree roots heave up the sidewalks and the city of Los Angeles is years behind on the maintenance. Los Angeles has more than 10,000 miles of sidewalks. It has been estimated that 4,700 miles are in need of repair at a cost of $1.2 billion. And the city does not have that kind of money.
Property owners used to be responsible for sidewalk repairs, but in 1973, blessed with the chance to get the federal government to cover the cost, the city of Los Angeles took over the cost of repairs. Only a few years later the federal money ran out, and the whole repair schedule went south. Very few property owners have been willing to take up the slack.
So name your favorite walk. My favorite walk is from my sister’s house on California Ave, down to Abbot Kinney, and threading my way to Windward and the Boardwalk, past rose bushes and special gardens, observing small changes — “I see they trimmed the clematis.” I know this walk by heart and I know the roots and bumps and holes and I watch where I put my feet.
But I get tired of doing this. I am frustrated with the possibility of municipal reform, so I took direct action. I carried a coffee can full of gravel three blocks down the street and filled the hole in the sidewalk in front of Abbot’s Habit coffee shop. The hole was not so wide, but it was deep and you could easily fall and break your ankle. I filled it. Now I want to fix all the rest of the holes in Venice — the holes in the sidewalk, I mean.
That’s the easy part. But the root humps – you might mark them with fluorescent paint or just learn to live with them, and think about how wonderful it is to walk to the beach, past the beautiful small gardens, and meeting people you know while you’re out for a stroll.
This is fine, except for one thing — the folks in wheel chairs and walkers, and parents with infants in strollers. They deserve a flat place to roll, because getting around town, people to people, store to store, beach to park and all that – everybody gets an equal chance at getting where they want to go.
So, even if we have our favorite walks, we still have a problem — crumbling sidewalks and no money or plan to repair them.
I was in Manhattan Beach last week visiting a friend. We walked down to the beach. Their sidewalks are in very good repair and they don’t have any homeless people – I mean none I could see. I have no problem with Manhattan Beach being the way it is, but I wouldn’t want to be like them.
Venice is walking on another path, so watch for those tree roots, and if you see someone struggling with a wheel chair, then help them get where they want to go.