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.