By Eric Ahlberg
I had the good fortune of being asked to join a 6:15 am crew of fellow Venetians out on Ocean Front Walk, to monitor and document the roughly bi-weekly cleanup performed by Parks and Recreation, and the Police, along Ocean Front Walk. This kind of cooperative, on the street involvement by concerned and humane citizens of Venice is a great example of the meaning of Occupy, to manifest your love in the now.
These cleanups have been notorious in our community for their destruction or confiscation of any personal property that may be in the way of the cleanup, and for the harassment by the Police. The victims of the policy are more than the homeless. Artists, vendors and musicians may also find that their property has been thrown away or confiscated. Even locked bikes have been previously removed. Our role as interested community members is to warn everyone on Ocean Front Walk that they are coming, so that they can move their stuff to the beach or to the side streets. We also keep an eye on the police and crews in case there are problems.
The Parks and Recreation crew sprays down the western side of Ocean Front Walk with a dilute solution of bleach. The cleanup caravan is composed of a Parks and Recreation Van, a Police SUV, two Parks and Recreation Pickups, a Parks and Recreation Stake Truck, a Watershed Protection SUV, a pickup pulling a trailer with a pressure washer, and a Hazardous Materials Truck. They are accompanied by community service trash picker-uppers, and about a dozen cleaner-uppers-workers in white Tyvek overalls, hats, gloves, and dust masks. We received several reports of headaches and respiratory irritation from people on OFW, including businesspeople.
It is unclear what the liquid that they are spraying is supposed to eliminate, its efficiency is very questionable, and the amount of money spent on these cleanups must be exorbitant and could be better spent to actually help people as opposed to temporarily moving them and their belongings from one place to another. And if the liquid being sprayed is safe for humans, birds, dogs and plants – as it should be – why are the workers wearing the hazmat outfits?
Above: Ocean Front Walk “cleanup”. Photo: Eric Ahlberg