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Ferris Wheel Operator Outlines Venice Beach Plans

United Kingdom-based Great City Attractions is in the early stages of obtaining a three-year permit to operate a 200-foot observation wheel at Windward Plaza on Venice Beach.

A United Kingdom-based Ferris wheel operator Monday night presented a proposal for a temporary $12 million, 200-foot observation wheel on Venice Beach that drew tepid support from a crowd of 30 people who mostly voiced concerns over parking.

Nigel Ward of Great City Attractions presented a slideshow and fielded questions and comments at the public meeting held at the Westminster Senior Citizen Facility and was joined by Kevin Regan, assistant manager of the Los Angeles City Department of Recreation and Parks.

The proposal calls for a three-year permit to operate the observation wheel that would be installed on Windward Plaza near the skatepark. Great City Attractions has "ambitious" plans to operate the wheel this summer, Regan said. The proposal would require city permits and a coastal access permit from the California Coastal Commission, Regan said.

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, said that he loved the idea, but also raised concerns over parking and traffic. Ryavec read a letter into the record saying that the observation wheel proposal could give the city an opportunity to apply with the Coastal Commission for 24-hour preferential parking permits for beach-adjacent residents.

"Our problem is that we're inundated already," said Venice resident Ivan Spiegel. He pointed out that Venice gets 16 million visitors annually and "we get very little from the city to help us."

He asked if a percentage of the revenue from the project could be returned to the Venice Neighborhood Council for community improvements.

"It will be more use of our time and our resources and I have to tell you we get nothing out of it," Spiegel said.

Regan reminded the audience that the proposed project is for Windward Plaza, which is dedicated city park land. He said revenue from the project would go into the Department of Recreation and Parks general fund and and portions would be dedicated for Venice.

The city would have to benefit financially from the project and revenue generated from it could help improve the beach restrooms, Regan said. He said Venice Beach similarly gets dedicated revenue when films are shot on the beach park.

The 200-foot observation wheel would hold 42 enclosed air-conditioned capsules that would give participants a 360-degree view from the beach during a 15-minute ride, Ward said. The ride would cost between $10 to $15.

Great City Attractions has operated other Ferris wheels in Europe and typically operate from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Ward said. The wheel would feature a V.I.P. capsule with no line and a champagne toast, he said. A special permit would need to be gained in order to serve alcohol.

The project would have no direct cost to the city and could be installed over 10 days and taken down within a week, Ward said. He said the project would generate new tax revenue and rental income for the city, would boost business and create about 30 new jobs.

Michael McDowell, of the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the proposal wouldn't increase the number of people visiting Venice Beach, but would increase the amount of time they stay and likely would extend the business day.

Todd von Hoffman, of the Venice Heritage Foundation, said he loved the idea and noted how it was reminiscent of the old Venice amusement pier.

"You're at the right spot at the right place for an idea like this, but given these very realistic comments that you've heard from folks who know what they're talking about," von Hoffman said.

Anne Zimmerman March 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
great idea-and the traffic thing is the usual nonsense about any change anywhere-I agree it will just help support the local businesses even more! and be great fun, and it harkens back to POP daze too! Anne Zimmerman
Jim Smith March 08, 2012 at 03:29 AM
The Big Wheel would be nothing like the old days in Venice. Back then, the attractions were locally owned and employed Venice locals. This time it's two vultures - Great City Attractions and the city of Los Angeles - conspiring to rip off as much money as possible from Venice, while we get left with the trash, the clutter, the diesel noise, the car pollution and the parking problems. No self-respecting Venetian should support this unless we get a share of the proceeds, in writing, to a Venice fund administered by Venetians so we can clean up the mess.
matt byrnes March 08, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Leave the amusement park crap on the Santa Monica pier.
Frank Lutz March 08, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Good grief! Pity the local tenants who live within earshot of a Ferris Wheel on Venice Beach! The 12-hours-per-day noise from the machine, plus probably broadcast music as is typical for a wheel of this kind, would drive locals nuts. Air-conditioned capsules? What happened to the fresh sea breezes that attract people to come here? And alcoholic drinks served on-site? That's all we need, more drunks in the neighborhood, making problems and peeing in the alleys. I hope the operators have a lot of liability insurance, including enough to cover dram-shop lawsuits. There are a lot of ways for the City to try to raise revenues besides this lame-brained idea. And it is dis-analogous to the Santa Monica pier wheel, which has plenty of parking, and is far removed from local living spaces, so that neighbors don't have to put up with the crowds. This is not a good idea for our Venice neighborhood, at this time, and in the designated place. Put it somewhere else, or not at all.
Tim Tobish March 21, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Agree with Matt. Walk three miles up to Santa Monica. Ugly, stupid and pointless. Venice is not in need of 'rejuvenation', as Abbot Kinney was just named "the coolest block in America" in GQ. Seriously, this should get nixed by locals.

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