Greta Cobar

March Venice Neighborhood Council Meeting Overview

By Greta Cobar

The March Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board meeting was of the shortest duration so far, according to Linda Lucks, VNC President.

One of the issues discussed during that meting were digital billboards. The permits given for their operation by the city of Los Angeles in 2006 were deemed illegal by the California Supreme Court in February.

As a result, Clear Channel Outdoor was ordered to remove all of its 100 digital billboards, many of which are on the West side, including Lincoln and Venice.

“Images on digital billboards change every 8 seconds, which means that light in near-by homes changes every night, every 8 seconds,” said Dennis Hathaway, Venice resident and President of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, at the March VNC meeting.

Clear Channel, the owner of all digital billboards, “is trying to make a deal with the city to keep the billboards by intimidating the city into bankruptcy,” stated Hathaway at the March VNC meeting.

During his speech, Hathaway also mentioned a Swedish study that showed a decrease in driver safety as a consequence of digital billboards. Because of that study, the Swedish government ordered all digital billboards to come down.

A representative from Clear Channel, which owns all digital billboards in Los Angeles, also spoke during the March VNC meeting, stating that “none of the billboards are illegal –  the permitting process is flawed.” He went on to threaten that “there is no real mechanism for the city to enforce laws concerning billboards.”

While addressing the issue of illegal billboards in Venice at the June 19, 2012 VNC meeting, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich stated that he had already eliminated all illegal billboards. Obviously not, as the illegal digital billboard at Venice and Lincoln is still standing.

Another sight-blinding issue discussed during the March VNC meeting is the Zip-line, which is scheduled to start operations on the beach, between the Art Walls and the basketball courts, during mid-June this summer. It is slated to quit operations by October 1.

Operated by the Canadian company Green Heart, the Zip line will have two towers and up to four lines. It is unclear at this point how much money it will generate, but two-thirds of the funds are supposed to come back to Venice in a Recreations and Parks account, which is supposed to help with maintenance, such as restroom upkeep at the beach.

“I am opposed to  cleaning our bathrooms by destroying the beach,” said Ira Kuslow, VNC Board member.

If the money over-all generated in Venice were to stay in Venice, we would have nice, clean public bathrooms like the ones in Santa Monica. But because, unlike Santa Monica, we lack cityhood, the city of Los Angeles robs us of our funds.

Since when is beach bathroom cleanup contingent on blocking ocean view by a Canadian-operated Zip line? How many of their employees will be Venice residents? When they discontinue operations, where is the certainty that they will remove their two towers and the rest of their operation equipment?

“The hours of operation will not change,” said Linda Lucks, VNC President, when asked if the beach bathrooms will stay open longer.

The Zip line will be 720 feet long, but the towers will not have an underground foundation. When cautioned that strong winds might blow over the towers, Lucks stated that “they know what they’re doing.”

Last but not least, Steve Clare spoke of the success of the Winter Storage Program, which allowed house-less people taking the bus to the West Los Angeles shelter for the month of March to store their belongings in clean trash bins in a container situated by the Pacific Police Station. It was provided for by the Venice Community Housing Corporation (VCHC).

The purpose of the container, available only to those taking the bus to the shelter, was to increase the number of people going to the shelter. However, according to those already going, the shelter was full to capacity.

Steve Clare, VCHC President, stated at the March VNC meeting that 36 people took advantage of the container, which he considered to be a “great success” considering that it was only a pilot program that people did not know about. He did not know at that time if the storage program increased the number of persons going to the shelter.

During its one month of operation I visited it often and spoke at length with the volunteers that attended it. I really thought that we need affordable housing for all, and that the storage bin available for just one month, with hours of operation just between 3pm and 5pm, and available to only those taking the bus to the shelter, was too much of a short-coming.

Yet one day I literally stood there with tears in my eyes as a family, including grandmothers, tried to stuff their belongings in the one bin provided. The volunteer person in charge told them that their bin would be OK even if the lid was not closed all the way; after all, it was the storage container’s last day of operation. The family was so very happy and thankful. I wondered what would happen to them the next day, when the shelter and the storage container would be closed. The West Los Angeles shelter is open only during the winter months, and it closed March 1.

The VNC is considered to be one of the most outspoken neighborhood councils in the city, with one of the highest public participation around. Yet over the last year I have witnessed attendance and public involvement decreasing. It’s your Venice, get involved! VNC Board meetings take place on the third Tuesday of the month – hope to see you there April 16, 7pm, Westminster Elementary School Auditorium.

For more information, see www.venicenc.org

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