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Venice Beach Zip Line Moves Forward

The California Coastal Commission has the final say on whether to grant the Venice Zip Line Project a three-month trial period.

Plans to install the Venice Beach zip line gathered momentum on Friday as the Los Angeles Board of Public Works denied an appeal filed last month by a resident that opposed the project.

Although the plan cleared one hurdle, the California Coastal Commission has the final say on whether to approve a coastal development permit for the the temporary 600 foot-long zip line. 

The appellant, Venice resident Gail Rogers, said she was not surprised by the board's unanimous decision but will continue to fight against the zip line installation. Among her concerns: impact on parking congestion, obstruction of coastal views, noise levels and beach commercialization.

"We've already come this far, so I'm going to collect letters from residents and bring them to the coastal commission," Rogers said.

At Friday's City Hall meeting, Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, outlined the specifics of the project. The city, along with the Canadian-based Greenheart Conservation Company, are pursuing the permit for a three-month trial period.

Discussion about the zip line began in May, when the . The aim of the project, Regan told the board, is to generate revenues for the park, a move fully supported by Rosendahl.

"During this economic crisis, all City departments have had to learn to do more with less,” said Rosendahl in the letter dated August 9. “Permitting the Venice Zip Line would be a wonderful opportunity for a private-public partnership that could generate some much needed revenue for Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks to maintain Venice Beach.”

The park is mandated to self-generate $30 to $40 million of its annual $185 million budget, and Venice Beach, which attracts roughly 16 million visitors a year, has become a draw for private ride operators willing to split revenue with the city.

"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that they're more concerned with generating money than with protecting our parks," said zip line opponent and Venice resident Mariana Aguilar at the meeting Friday. 

Zip line customers would pay $20 for an approximately 40 second-long ride, which is expected to generate about $150,000 during the three-month trial period. Two-thirds of that revenue would go directly back to the beach, to improve maintenance of restrooms, trash bins and other features of the boardwalk.

In early July, the city's Bureau of Engineering approved a coastal development permit for the zip line.

Rogers , citing concerns that the project would compromise the lifestyle and integrity of Venice residents. The main points of contention include: impact on parking congestion, obstruction of coastal views, noise levels and beach commercialization.

"Parks are a retreat from the restless commercialization permeating today's culture and the zipline will open the door for future commercialization of Venice Beach," Rogers said in a speech to the board.

Other residents countered those arguments, saying that the project would have minimal impact on the already congested and increasingly commercialized area.

"It's not a vacuum, it's Venice Beach... These events are going to happen and plenty of organizations do things all the time that are not community savvy... but this group seems to be doing it the right way and is listening to our concerns," said Jay Goodfader, whose family owns the Sidewalk Cafe restaurant on the boardwalk and its adjacent Small World Books.

The zip line's 50-foot tall launch tower would be located across the boardwalk from the red-and-white awning of the Sidewalk Cafe, with the landing tower located west of 17th Avenue just north of the basketball courts.

Commissioner Steve Notter said that while the project may turn that part of Venice into "a bit of a circus," Venice is already overcrowded and there are other areas to go for peace and quiet.

"We have to keep in mind that this terrific place is for the entire city, not just the residents of Venice," said commissioner Steve Notter, who is a resident of Venice himself. 

The park estimates the ride will attract between 500 to 1,000 patrons per day, but Notter said he thinks many of those people will not come to the beach exclusively for the ride. Rather, he said, visitors will probably discover the ride while visiting the area.

"Parking in Venice is going to be terrible regardless," Notter said.

If approved, the zip line would be permitted for a three month trial period during which the city would assess the validity of these concerns.

The Parks and Recreation Department initially planned to have the zip line up and running this summer, and also intended to host an adjacent acrobatic summer camp. Now that summer is almost over, the department is looking to debut the zip line sometime next year. Regan also highlighted plans to host nighttime social events and offer classes for Venice's at-risk youth. 

Once the Parks and Recreation Department completes an application, the decision will go before the Coastal Commission by September at the earliest.

Paul Chavez contributed to this report.

David Ewing August 12, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Commissioner Steve Notter's arguments for the zip line read more like arguments against it. It's as if he's writing Venice Beach off, saying it has so many visitors we might as well cram in a few more -- without providing any amenities or infrastructure, which already lag far behind the growing visitor load. If the City wants to increase profit from visitors, it should protect residents from impacts instead of doing its best to ignore them. On an average summer weekend Venice beach & boardwalk get 350,000 visitors. Yet there are only 54 public toilets. That makes 6,481 visitors per toilet --- when all the toilets are functional, which is only sometimes, and when they are open, which is for limited hours. Can you think of another major tourist attraction that treats visitors this way? Is it any wonder that neighboring residents find disgusting deposits in their yards and alleys?
David Ewing August 12, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Why would the Coastal Commission grant an intensification of use to a City that shows so little interest in behaving responsibly? Venetians understand that public coastal access is a state mandate. We have welcomed ever-increasing numbers of visitors, year after year, decade after decade. But we should not be punished nor exploited for our hospitality. And BTW, the lack of sanitary facilities is, in and of itself, a restraint on public access to the beach. The City has made many commitments over the years to facilitate coastal access and to mitigate visitor impacts on the community. These still look good on paper, where good intentions lie abandoned. Here is an excerpt from Venice Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan, adopted by the City Council back in 2001 and certified by the California Coastal Commission that same year. Read it and weep: The City’s policy is to provide sufficient parking for beach goers outside of local streets, and encourage the use of this parking (simply restricting use of on-street parking without providing an alternative would diminish public access to the beach). An integrated plan should contain the following types of measures: • Provision of new parking supply for beach goers; • Measures to encourage beach goers to use the new supply; • Measures to reduce parking demand; and • Management and coordination of the parking and traffic system. (more)
David Ewing August 12, 2012 at 06:24 AM
(continued) Note also that the City, which is currently suing the Coastal Commission for Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs), made the following commitment in the same document: Policy II. A. 6. Preferential Parking. Establishment of residential preferential parking districts shall be contingent upon replacing displaced public parking spaces with new public parking at a minimum one-to-one ratio. The City Attorney never mentions this when he claims the Coastal Commission has no right to prohibit OPDs. The City wants to welch on its decade-old deal. It would have been nice to read that Commissioner Notter wanted the zip line so the city could build more restrooms or more parking. At least the City could make us another empty promise. As far as I know, though, the only thing the City is even talking about doing for Venice with some of its profits is to help maintain the existing restrooms, which it is required to do anyway. So where the money will really go is to the Rec. & Parks budget, to ease the strain on the City’s General Fund. In other words, it’s a shell game. Why would anyone object?
venicebeachpress.com August 12, 2012 at 08:51 PM
It's unfortunate the VNC lacks common sense. Most NC's support the stakeholders in their area. In this case the 8 yes votes on the VNC ignored the fact that Venice has a traffic and parking challenge and the stakeholders want sollutions. Here we have a Zipline going in which only adds to the problem. The Westwood NC voted against the Zipline and Ferris wheel unanimously. The Westwood NC probably isn't made up of a bunch of Rosendahl Kiss Asses. Oh sure the kiss asses might get Arturo Pena's mtg notices sooner but they also get their neighborhood screwed over as Rosendahl guts out our city parks and beaches to make a buck that goes where? Not where you think it's going to go as we all know too well.
Linda Lucks August 13, 2012 at 03:20 AM
The Venice Neighborhood Council voted to support a trial zip line program with review after 3 month. The board heard public testimony for and against the Zip Line, and determined that it was worth a try. The decision was made part because we desperately need more maintenance and the program is to return 2/3 of the gross revenue for that purpose. If it doesn't work, it gets pulled. David Ewing is correct to bring up embarrassing shortage of bathrooms and parking. This weekend was the perfect example: long bathroom lines and long lines of cars with no place to park. Will the Zip Line make it worse? Time will tell. The bottom line is that Venice is the "Face of LA" and our face is dirty. Something must be done.
Just another Stakeholder August 13, 2012 at 04:00 AM
VeniceBeachPress.com Bingo you hit the nail on the head. Venice is the only community that has a NC and counselmen that does not support it's residents or the needs of the community.
David Ewing August 13, 2012 at 06:54 AM
I'm not sure name-calling is the answer. I haven't noticed that VNC is "made up of a bunch of Rosendahl Kiss Asses," although I am not a fan of this project. You or I could have filed an appeal, but we didn't. Hats off to Gail Rogers, who did.

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