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L.A. City Council Unanimously Approves Venice Boardwalk Ordinance

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approves an Ocean Front Walk ordinance that limits commercial vending and noise on the popular Venice Beach boardwalk.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a new Ocean Front Walk ordinance limiting commercial vending on the Venice Beach boardwalk.

The ordinance seeks to "restrict vending, regulates performing and prohibits the generation of excessive noise on the Venice Boardwalk and adjacent beach and public spaces."

The ordinance amending Los Angeles Municipal Code 42.15 has been revised several times since 2006, disputed and even blocked by a federal court on the grounds of being unconstitutional. 

The latest ordinance also came with controversy Tuesday with more than 30 people offering public comment, with many against it.

Supporters of the ordinance, including Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, have said it is necessary due to safety issues on Ocean Front Walk. The Los Angeles Police Department recently has seen a considerable uptick in the amount of transients in the area and an increase in aggrevated assault by 16 percent, said Capt. Jon Peters of the LAPD during the City Council meeting.

The new ordinance revises and defines the exact items that will be prohibited and allowed to be sold on 205 spaces on the western side of the boardwalk. The ordinance would ban the sale of clothes, sunglasses, incense, candy, jewelry and toys. It also would prohibit massages and skin ink.

Vendors will still be able to sell books, paintings, recordings, sculptures or other works they have created.

Spaces also will be reserved for traditional speech activities, including the distribution of newspapers, fliers, pamphlets, bumper stickers and patches. The ordinance also would set aside two spaces on the Venice Beach boardwalk for food distribution.

The ordinance will do away with the lottery system of permitting, largely reverting to the ordinance put forth in 2006, which was upheld in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, said Assistant City Attorney Valerie Flores.

The ordinance was sent immediately to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has 10 days to sign it. The City Clerk will then publish the ordinance and the city can start enforcing it 31 days after publication, Flores said in an email. Signs will be posted on the day the city can begin enforcing the ordinance, Flores said.

Correction: The last paragraph has been updated to correct when the ordinance will be enforced. A previous version had inaccurate information provided by the city. The fourth paragraph was previously updated to clarify that many, not most, speakers were against it.

An updated, fuller version of this story is available here.

catman December 13, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Just like all the other bone-headed moves the gentrifiers have made here in Venice this one will also have unintended consequences. Tourists don't come here to buy over-priced junk, crappy pizza, and 3 dollar cans of soda from the stores on the east side of OFW. They come to buy one of a kind items made by artists right here in Venice. So if the retailers actually believe killing jobs on the west side of the boardwalk is going to result in more business for them they're all going to be sorely disappointed when those crowds disappear and the few customers they do have are all locals.
Laura Malcolm December 13, 2011 at 09:31 PM
"Vendors will still be able to sell books, paintings, recordings, sculptures or other works they have created." -- how are tourists missing out on one of a kind items? they ruled out selling 'incense, sunglasses and candy.' sounds to me like the vendors with the one-of-a-kind goods are going to have a more fair share of vending than the people who resell $15 sunglasses you can buy across the street.
Linda Lucks December 14, 2011 at 06:41 AM
I attended the Council meeting today representing the Venice Neighborhood Council. The majority of speakers were adamantly in favor of the ordinance and representatied a true cross section of the Venice community who have worked together crafting and vetting the new ordinance over the last year. Endless meetings were held with participation by residents, business owners, free speech advocates and artists all spoke IN FAVOR of passing the ordinance. Notwithstanding opposition voiced at the City Council meeting by i the illegal vendors who will no longer be able to sell T shirts and other commercial merchandise , there was almost unanimous support for the changed rules. Bravo Venice and Councilman Rosendahl for getting it right this time. Maybe soon we can stroll down the boardwalk and actually see the ocean.
steve schlein December 15, 2011 at 05:28 AM
Concerning the comment by Linda Lucks (December 13, 2011): People who have always rejected the extraordinary overcommercialization of the boardwalk, also have a keen interest in going down to the sea shore. To the extent that people come here to buy things, they take up parking for people who are more interested in going to the beach. There are a lot of these people, but they don't count unless they remain on the boardwalk and spend. That's the design that is draped over the Venice community. To me, what's revealing about Ms.Lucks' comment is her fulfillment in being able to "actually see the ocean" because of the new vending ordinance. This could be the motto for Venice as seen from behind the cash register: "Now you can spend your money and see the ocean at the same time." I view this attitude as a very sad loss of connection to the far more beautiful and entertaining ocean. Vending on the west side of the boardwalk should be illegal; and the boardwalk area downzoned to reduce the commercialization on the east side. Then Ms. Lucks and her friends will be more likely to take off their shoes and walk down to the shore. Steve Schlein
Linda Lucks December 15, 2011 at 07:22 AM
Steve: I, like you, fondly remember the time before any vending existed or was allowed on the boardwalk and would love to return to that time. I agree that vending should be illegal on the West side of OFW, but after many years of trying to limit sales, this is the best shot we have- allowing the expression of free speech activities- a constitutional right.
ConcernedforVenice December 15, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Who wants to stroll down the boardwalk with all the meth heads hanging out pressuring for drug money. It's disgusting down there. That's why no one will want to visit Venice anymore. Yuk.
steve schlein December 15, 2011 at 08:05 PM
Linda: at the time the vending ordinance was found unconstitutional on equal protection grounds in the Harry Parry case, Ruth Galanter had an opportunity to select another area for vending, off the boardwalk, based on substantial government interests. This would have been a time and place restriction to prevent overcrowding, unwanted noise, trash, crime and removing parking for beach goers. The number of vendors could have been reduced, as they already are by the finite length of the boardwalk. But this alternative was never considered. As part of the same destruction of the boardwalk, many ground floor residential units along the east side of the boardwalk were allowed to be converted to commercial uses, in clear violation of the Mello Act. All of this is an expression of gross irresponsibility and illegality and it created the problems we have today. It can still be changed. Free speech is subject to time, place, and manner limitations where significant government interests are at stake. The free speech interests could have been accommodated in a manner that did not destroy the ambience of the boardwalk. The City gave Venice its "worst shot" and deliberately destroyed the boardwalk you used to love. Steve Schlein
Linda Lucks December 16, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Steve: I sure wish you had been involved in vetting this ordinance for the last year or more. Hundreds of hours of meetings with various constituencies took place and I am surprised you weren't involved as you have been in the past. Your voice and experience would have been welcome and possibly changed the dynamic. I agree the battle was lost when vendors were first allowed.
steve schlein December 16, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Linda, Thanks for your comments. I did not say the battle was lost when vending started because I have no reason to believe that is true. It would be interesting to hire first-rate, objective First amendment lawyers to study the Venice boardwalk problem, and make recommendations for modifications they think are constitutional. For example, if there are sufficient, significant government interests at stake, can vending on the boardwalk be constitutionally prohibited? Based on your postings, it seems that you would favor a prohibition on boardwalk vending, if it were legally possible. If that is true, I am at a loss to understand why you praise Councilman Rosendahl for extending the life of vending on the boardwalk by his approval of the new ordinance. As the leader of the Venice Neighborhood Council, why haven't you urged what you really believe? Why not criticize Rosendahl instead of praising him? If people in public positions can't be honest about their beliefs, then I think you've found one of the reasons why changing anything in Venice is so very difficult. Steve Schlein
Linda Lucks December 20, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Sorry for the delay, but just saw your last post Steve. The point of the new ordinance is to outlaw ILLEGAL vending, but not constitutionally protected free speech and expression, which includes art, performance and food give away. This ordinance has been in and out of the courts since the first attempt to regulate illegal vending in 1991. So, vending per se is prohibited. Had nothing ever been allowed but performances by the likes of Swami X and Uncle Bill, Venice would be lovely, but that horse left the barn in the mid eighties. Remember in the 1970's when a few people bathed nude? Some yo yo with a wide angle lens sent the photos around the world and we couldn't step onto the sand without seeing exhibitionists and guys in leisure suits and cameras causing the City Council to ban it all. Not so simple with the 1st amendment. I praised Rosendahl and all the people who worked on fixing the ordinance for trying to make lemonade out of a lemon. Let's just hope it works. All the resellers of schlock should be out of there.
steve schlein December 25, 2011 at 05:07 AM
The unsupported assumption underlying your last post is that the First Amendment requires the current 205 vending spaces for expression to be located only on the Boardwalk. Putting it another way, you believe that the First Amendment does not allow an alternative location for this expression other than the Boardwalk. Are you aware of any unbiased analysis of the First Amendment, and the impacts of "legal" vending, that does not allow this expression to be located somewhere other than the Boardwalk? If you are aware of such an analysis, I would like to read it. If you are not aware of such an analysis, it seems to me that your praise of Rosendahl is unjustified and that you should withdraw it publicly. Steve Schlein

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