Nearly 100 people packed a meeting room in Oakwood Park on Monday night to learn more about a midnight curfew being implemented on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
The Venice Neighborhood Council's Neighborhood Committee invited Lt. Paola Kreefft, who overseas the Los Angeles Police Department's beach detail, and Arturo Pina, field deputy for Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose 11th Council District includes Venice.
At issue was the implementation of a midnight to 5 a.m. curfew along Ocean Front Walk that will be enforced as part of the city's recently amended ordinance to regulate vending on the boardwalk.
The standing-room-only crowd was polled by committee chairman Marc Salzberg and 63 people raised their hands in favor of the curfew enforcement to end overnight camping on Ocean Front Walk. Eighteen people said they disagreed with the curfew and another 18 said they did not have enough information.
Ira Koslow, a 40-year resident of Venice, likened the situation on the popular boardwalk to "Mad Max," the 1979 film starring Mel Gibson set in a dystopian future of lawlessness and anarchy.
Kreefft told the audience that an ordinance restricting beach access from midnight to 5 a.m. has been part of the city's municipal code since Jan. 8, 1989, but not enforced. The City Attorney's Office when considering the new vending ordinance determined that Ocean Front Walk was part of the Venice Beach park and subject to the curfew, Kreefft said.
The curfew would extend from the border with Santa Monica all the way south to El Segundo, Kreefft said. Residents will be allowed to walk to their homes and bar and restaurant patrons will be able to walk to parking lots, but dog walking and strolls on the beach won't be allowed.
Salzberg said he was concerned the curfew would lead more people to walk on the largely unlit Speedway thoroughfare just east of the boardwalk after leaving bars and restaurants, mixing pedestrians with auto traffic.
Pina said city documents dating back to the 1920s include the boardwalk as a park and that the city's Department of Recreation and Parks helped fund boardwalk improvements in the 1990s.
The city has been in "constant dialog" with the California Coastal Commission, which oversees coastal access throughout the state, Pina said.
Some residents expressed concerns that the curfew will push people from the boardwalk east into their carports and alleys on the walk-streets between Pacific Avenue and Speedway. Others felt that the curfew would punish law abiding citizens taking their dog out for a late walk.
One resident who said she practiced "earth-based spirituality" claimed the curfew would personally deprive her of access to the Pacific Ocean and its healing powers. She said access to Ocean Front Walk and the beach should not be restricted.
Others urged residents to contact the California Coastal Commission over their concerns to beach access.
Daniel Samakow, owner of Danny's Deli, the Canal Club and James' Beach near the boardwalk, acknowledged that the curfew enforcement wasn't perfect, but said it was worth trying.
"Ocean Front Walk is a treasure. Abbot Kinney gave it to us as a treasure," Samakow said. "We have to keep preserving it."
Some 16 million people visit Venice Beach annually and Samakow said the community has an obligation to make sure it's safe.
"When we invite these people to our community, we have an obligation to do whatever we can to provide safety for them," Samakow said.
Brad Neal, who said he has 50 tenants on the boardwalk, said the curfew wasn't perfect, but endorsed it.
"I can't tell you how many times we have incidences right off our building, waking up residents, threatening residents walking from their parking structure to the building," Neal said. "It just not safe."
The VNC's Neighborhood Committee voted 7-0 for the VNC board to consider an emergency action for the city to improve lighting on the walk-streets and Speedway. The committee voted down a request to ask the city to exempt Venice residents from ticketing for violating the curfew.