LOS ANGELES, October 14,2007 -L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, supposedly a “liberal Democrat,” has suddenly shocked many of the city's famous Venice Beach counterculture, as a wave of gentrification is now set to come crashing down on what's left --of the historic heart of L.A.'s poor, and creative, freethinkers:
A move to kick everybody living in a vehicle out of Venice Beach.
And this, in the midst of one of Southern California's biggest affordable housing shortages in history.
Responding, local Los Angeles activists, and artists, are starting to mobilize for a petition campaign; for what many are calling the biggest attack in L.A. by the “anti-hip” yet --by area real estate developers to literally destroy Venice Beach as a last bastion of free, colorful, antic, and creative people.
“For the City of LA to ban people in vehicles here --is just really going to wipe out Venice; all the poor artists, the poets, the writers, musicians, crafters, and all the youth; who've long come here to find peace, love, and freedom; flower children; like we did,” states Charity Luv, one local activist/artist who first came to the city in the seventies.
More than half of those currently living in vehicles, in the area, are poor artists. A group known as the Venice Justice Committee is rallying against the ban.
L.A. officials, for many years, increasingly kowtowing to Venice's long-pressing real estate interests, have tried to put a mall, and a Nike Superstore on the Venice Boardwalk; an area renowned for it's current atmosphere of free speech, and nurtured by the poor here. Lately, they are continually harassing the free vendors.
But the vehicle ban is only part now, of the newest, massive, gentrification plan set to wipe out Venice Beach's historic freedoms.
And the State Coastal Commission is also getting involved in the controversy --since, along with this, and a new city effort to close down L.A.’s Venice Beach at night, much of the beach's free parking, which allows tourists from around the world free access, will also no longer be available to anybody in the public under the Rosendahl plan.
Commission insiders say the State Commission's authority, over the beach area, is clearly being usurped by these new, privatizing, rules.
Yet, although Venice Beach's unique creative mix is one of LA's biggest tourist draws, it's never been given either the State, or City, “historic” status --which would recognize its cultural, economic, and social freedoms. Venice's historic openness first made it a home for fifties beatniks; later 60's flower children and hippies; mixed-race, and minority families --and especially poor people. It's an atmosphere that has allowed the arts to flourish here. Indeed, some polls show Venice to have more artists per-capita than any other community on earth.
Among those who've been the most famous of Venice's “vehicluarly-housed” was once Ken Kesey, a counterculture hero who's writings and famous bus, “Further” was one of the 60's greatest icons. But despite the history, and the controversy, and the effect it will have on Venice's artistic diversity --which has also gotten the community's Arts Council speaking out -- local politician Rosendahl has now firmly gotten his staff behind a gentrification plan, in several stages, which will:
Entirely ban all overnight visitor parking near the California beach city;
Demand all “residents” purchase on-street parking permits;
New moves to entirely shut down Venice Beach to even nighttime strollers --who just want to take in the waves, from 10pm to 6 am;
And even the "parking plan" will not just hit those in Venice in micro buses --or the colorful street-parked RV's.
“This is just the first part of a bigger move –all renters throughout Venice need to understand that, right now, these artists living in vehicles on the street, and the other poor in the area, have also always really been the best protection, for thousands of renters here, that they've ever had,” states one local advocate, David Busch. “As soon as they can now sweep Venice of the ‘visible poor’ here, under Rosendahl's plan, no matter how creative and contributing they've been, everybody knows the landlords will put in the repairs they've stalled on; and start eviction moves to up the rents for all in this community.”
Adds Busch, “Anybody can see what this really means; artists and all; it's about closing off, and transforming one of America's historically freest, and artistically diverse, and fairest community's --into a dead and virtually gated one.”
Some years earlier, Venice's counterculture and other residents defeated a similar plan. But recently, a hate campaign against homeless people here began building; and threatening notes on windshields, and numerous reports of screws left under tires of campers, parked on streets are also being reported. Rosendahl's plan will first implement the parking bans --and only afterwards supposedly look for ways to house the displaced. The newly elected Councilman seems determined to bring back the plan; this time, according to a recent press release, he's “found” ,000, to take on the State's Coastal Commission –and despite the drastic effect it will have on the area's poor artists and renters; and regardless of its impact in destroying the very free and open counterculture that until now made Venice famous; and drawn tourists from around the world --for its open ethos.
If the activists and community can't stop it --the free parking for tourists is going;
The acceptance of poor artists here is going;
Even walking on Venice beach at night --for all, will soon be going;
States L.A. activist Frank Tamborello, who's long-fought the city on social justice issues, “It's all a part of the whole philosophy of making cosmetic 'improvements' to the appearance of the city; and not taking care of the basic issues.”
Adds Tamborello, “I wouldn't be surprised if, after making it impossible for real artists who are low income to live in Venice, and kicking them all out, in a few years, the city decides to make a theme park, and hires actors to play (all the kicked out) homeless artists here for the sake of tourists."
"You've got to wonder what those on the L.A. City Council, themselves, are now really smoking --to come up with this one," stated another LA observer.
King Sonny Zorro courtesy of spiritofvenice.net
Caravan --By mudmetta on Flickr
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