By Greta Cobar
Around thirty beautiful Venetians got together on Sunday, July 25, to take back the old City Hall, currently Beyond Baroque, and Venice Cityhood as well. What would it be like if we could make our own laws, regulations and decisions right here in Venice, instead of having some distant strangers make them for us in distant and extremely different downtown L.A.? What would it be like if we got to keep the money generated by Venice, as the top tourist destination in Southern California, instead of sending it downtown to be spent somewhere else? What if we had the power to stop the nearly automatic approval of new development that downtown is throwing at us?
Everybody in the room seemed to agree that it would be awesome. And the consensus also seemed to be that if the residents of Venice were to vote on it, it would happen. However, the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) is in charge of determining the rules and procedures that cities have to go through to either join or break away from the city of L.A. According to LAFCO, more than half of voters in the whole city of L.A. would have to support Venice’s de-annexation.
Another, more likely option, of gaining cityhood would be to amend the law that created LAFCO by adding a “Buyer’s Remorse” clause that would allow former cities to withdraw based on a majority of the votes in that city alone.
The San Fernando Valley recently tried to break away from the city of L.A., but was unsuccessful because L.A. voters did not approve it. However, the Valley was never a separate city, like Venice was from 1905 to 1925.
On the other hand, the city of West Hollywood recently gained its cityhood and prospered tremendously as a result, but their fight was also different because, although part of the L.A. County, they were not part of the actual city of L.A.
There is no past example of a city that was annexed and then de-annexed, so once again Venice will have to make history. To amend the law that created LAFCO, we would have to lobby members of the State Assembly or State Senate to introduce a bill. Lisa Green, who is running for State Assembly and who was present at the meeting, said that she would most definitely introduce such a bill.
We have a long and rich history of victories here in Venice, such as the overturn of the biggest eviction in the history of the city of L.A. at Lincoln Place and the defeat of permit parking with of the Coastal Commission on two occasions. Through the years we also prevented the gated community project at the MTA lot, blocked the building of a freeway through Venice three times, prevented massive shopping centers from being built at Lincoln Center and where Costco is now, and made sure that our beautiful canals do not become another yacht harbor. As Tomito Kakos said, “don’t approach Venice cityhood with doubt, but as a process, the most important part of which is your participation.”
There are 88 cities in the L.A. county, 42 of which have less than 40,000 residents. Venice itself has 40,000 residents, right about average for the county. The city of L.A. itself, the largest in the county, also has the most problems. Obama bailed out the banks under the assumption that they are too big to fail, but Jim Smith pointed out that they are actually too big to work, much like the city of L.A.. New York, although a big city, is divided into Burroughs and provides more local control than L.A. does.
The meeting was dominated by people expressing anger, disappointment and frustration towards the city of L.A. and its annexation of Venice. Logistics such as police, schools and water were discussed, but the feeling was that we would be able to easily manage all those and in addition make improvements and provide services. Lisa Aycock recognized the fact that even in Venice there are different viewpoints on issues, but stressed the fact that we all need to work together instead of bickering.
In the 1950’s L.A. mayor Sam Yorty advocated that “Venice should be all torn down and start over.” Most of the canals and the lagoon were covered with cement, the pier at Windward was torn down, and 40 percent of the buildings on the Boardwalk were destroyed, including the most beautiful building in town, St. Mark’s Hotel. The money generated by the oil wells in what is today the Marina peninsula was used to build the pier in San Pedro, while the brand new fire truck that Venice bought just before annexation was taken and replaced with an old one.
Venetians have had it with the abuse, neglect and authoritarian leadership provided by the city of L.A. Kakos inspired us all at the end of the meeting by declaring that “this is the beginning of our journey towards Venice cityhood.” The time has come for us to rise to the occasion and take back our cityhood, livelihood and ability to decide for ourselves. If you would like to get involved, please email [email protected] or call 310-396-2525.