By Jim Smith
Change is coming to the Ocean Front this summer. Some of it good, some of it bad, from the viewpoint of those who love the uniqueness of Venice.
A few months ago the courts ruled definitively that much of the OFW ordinance 42.15 was unconstitutional, including the lottery for spaces. This was the third version to fail because of incompatibility with First Amendment rights in the Constitution. All of the ordinances were created by the L.A. city attorney’s office without input from Venice residents. In fact, at a town hall, Venetians loudly condemned the lottery system in 2006 and were later proven correct by the courts.
Now Norman Kulla, Senior Counsel in Bill Rosendahl’s council district office, has drafted a new ordinance which he has turned over to Deputy City Attorney Arleta Brimsey to prepare for passage by the L.A. City Council. There has been little or no input from Venice residents and OFW stakeholders. If there is a community meeting after the publication of the draft ordinance, it will likely be ignored as well.
From comments by Kulla, it seems that the new ordinance will ban commercial vending and crafts, and allow only free speech advocates, artists, performers and food giveaways on the west side of the Boardwalk. This should thin out the number of people wishing to occupy a space so that a lottery will not be needed. Anyone found selling goods in violation of the ordinance would be ticketed and/or asked to leave.
Folk singer and community activist Stephen Fiske has questioned the viability of the ordinance if there is no enforcement mechanism. In the past, Recreation and Parks Department staff and police have sporadically enforced the ordinance. Currently, no one is enforcing the parts of the ordinance that were not thrown out by the courts.
Fiske is advocating creating community peace keepers who would monitor the west side of OFW, without interference from Recreation and Parks employees or the police. It is possible that a “special district” could be created like those at the Coliseum, Griffith Park and Olivera Street. However, the City of L.A. would likely keep a tight control of the district. It would have limited funds unless the Windward Plaza area was included. Festivals and film shootings frequently pay the City tens of thousands of dollars for the right to operate there.
The draft ordinance is expected to be published in early June and could go into effect as early as July.