The Venice Neighborhood Council on Tuesday night voted in favor of a proposal by a Canadian-based company to install a 720-foot zip line ride this summer on Venice Beach.
The proposal was introduced by Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who was greeted by a chorus singing "Happy Birthday" as he entered the auditorium. Rosendahl, who turned 67, blew out the candles and then gave the audience of about 40 people at Westminster Avenue Elementary School an update on Venice issues ranging from upcoming helmets for youths at the Venice Beach skate park to the cleanup of 3rd Avenue to Google and Gold's Gym.
Rosendahl introduced the zip line proposal by saying he recognized the community's objections to an earlier plan for a 175-foot Ferris wheel that a United Kingdom-based company wanted to quickly erect this summer on Windward Plaza. The councilman was presented with the zip line plan by Kevin Regan, assistant manager of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, and he liked the idea.
Rosendahl noted how one of the many conditions attached to the proposal included a pledge that two-thirds of gross revenues be spent on Venice Beach to pay for maintenance and enhanced services, such as emptying garbage cans and improving the public restrooms.
The council's board voted 8-6 with three abstentions in favor of the proposal.
Plans call for the zip line to be up and running July 1 with a three-month permit for ride operator Greenheart Conservation Company. The zip line's higher, 50-foot tower will be placed between the bike path and the boardwalk near the skate park and its lower, 24-foot tower will be installed at Windward Plaza, just before the basketball courts.
The 15 public speakers at the meeting were practically split. Those opposed to it had issues that included public safety, over-commercialization of the beach, the potential loss of income for street performers and concerns over aesthetics and screaming.
Jay Goodfader, whose family owns the Sidewalk Cafe restaurant on the boardwalk and its adjacent Small World Books, voiced his support for the attraction that would be installed in front of the restaurant and was joined by Clabe Hartley, owner of the Cow's End coffee and sandwich shop on Washington Boulevard, who previously opposed the "Great Observation Wheel" proposal.
Other supporters said the ride fit the spirit and character of Venice, while others liked how it would encourage the arts and the use of public transportation and bike-riding.
Ian Green, president of Greenheart Conservation Company, said the attraction would have three main components: the ride itself, once-a-month special performances and a sliding-scale educational component for children with activities ranging from acro-yoga to dance to juggling. Board members and the public were shown a video sans audio of a 2011 Burning Man performance incorporating the attraction to get an idea of the type of performance possible.
Canadian-born Dream Rockwell, who lives in Venice, said that she would help to produce the children's programs and performance aspects of the proposal. Rockwell is the director of the Lucent Dossier Experience, a quasi-steampunk, avante-garde circus troupe, and has a background directing music videos and rock tours. She also is the founder of Cuddle the World, an organization that provides teddy bears to needy children around the world.
Alicia Schultze, also a Venice resident, said the performances would be "nature-based entertainment" and would be a combination of performance and public participation. Schultze specializes in aerial performances and has performed on tour with rock legends Motley Crue.
Rides will cost $20 and the operating hours will be 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. for children's educational programs and 11 a.m. to sunset for the general public. Each ride will last less than a minute.
The city's parks department 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.
The community input process included two subcommitee meetings before a motion was forwarded by the council's Visitor Impact Committee for consideration, Regan said after the vote. The next step was finishing negotiations with Greenheart and issuing the temporary event permit for the attraction. The zip line ride was being compared to the American Ninja Warrior set recently constructed on Windward Plaza and Regan said it was believed that California Coastal Commission approval wasn't needed, but that he would follow up. City Council approval is not required since it's a temporary event permit.
One of the conditions approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council stated that the attraction must be dismantled at the end of the three-month trial period and another said that any permanent installation would be subject to environmental review by the city and the California Coastal Commission.