After the Coastal Commission Vote – WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

After the Coastal Commission Vote –

By Jim Smith

The California Coastal Commission made a wise decision, June 11, when it denied pay parking (Overnight Parking Districts – OPDs) in Venice. It is a decision that I believe most Venetians will come to agree with, even those who adamantly campaigned for the permits.

The pro-OPD advocates may come around if, and when, they see a solution to the RV issue in Venice. Even the pro-OPD people should be pleased with a solution that does not require everyone to pay a fee to park in front of their homes.

The Coastal Commission rightly saw that the real goal of the OPDs was not improved parking, but instead, was an effort to drive out the RVs. Because the two issues – homelessness and parking – were mixed, many residents and some commissioners were initially confused.

However, it is doubtful if they would have voted against OPDs had there not been an outpouring of opposition from Venice homeowners, renters and RV dwellers. A number of Venetians were instrumental in organizing the anti-permit parking sentiment. They included Steve Clare, Susan Millmann, Peggy Lee Kennedy, Pastor Tom Ziegert, Linda Lucks and the Beachhead staff.

During the past year, the Beachhead has printed no less than 24 articles, by a variety of writers, which opposed permit parking and/or RV removal. Since its founding in 1968, the Beachhead has practiced advocacy journalism. That is, we present the facts and take stands in support of the community. Without this strong opposition from Venice’s only local newspaper, it is questionable that so many people would have been roused and activated.

Yet, the vast majority of residents who took action against OPDs were self-organized. Over the decades, Venetians have learned to think for themselves, and not to accept something just because it is coming from an authority figure.

As Venice Historian Jeffrey Stanton wrote in last February’s Beachhead (Was the Annexation of Venice to Los Angeles in 1925 a good idea?): “Just go to any meeting and if there are 100 people, there are 70 different opinions…” Under these circumstances none of us can really take credit for organizing Venice opinion and action – but we can try. Opinionated Venetians are one of our greatest assets. Especially, at a time when many Americans seem to have adopted the motto, “Eat, Consume, and Die.”

Those of us on the winning side have much to celebrate, including a long sought victory over permit parking, and with a bit of hyperbole, saving Venice once again from the forces that would change it into just another L.A. suburb.

Most of those on the other side of the issue have acknowledged defeat. Stewart Oscars, one of the original proponents of OPDs said, “The OPDs got killed at the CCC hearing today.” Another OPD leader Mark Ryavec said, “we are all tired and depressed by the Coastal Commission’s decision.” Not to be outdone, Venice’s right-wing gadfly Rick Feibusch groused: “if you insist on living in a community of overage children, run by dictatorial social engineers, this is what you will get.… If not, MOVE!!!”

Both Oscars and Ryavec are active in the Venice Neighborhood Council, which was one of the two biggest losers in this affair. The VNC has been losing credibility since 2006 when a secret L.A. city committee, which included Arturo Pina and Feibusch (see Feb. 2005 Beachhead, pages 4 & 5 at succeed in staging a coup against the elected Progressive Slate leadership and ultimately installing their own crew of compliant officers. Now, the VNC – which staged an election on OPDs in which the ballots went missing overnight – has clearly sided with the minority of Venetians who longed for pay parking (the prelude to a gated community?) to drive away the RVs.

The other big loser was Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, who doggedly tagged along behind the pro-OPD crew. Whether he was unwittingly led along by his Machiavellian aide, Pina or did it with the best of intentions, will matter little to progressive public opinion in Venice.

Fortunately for him, there is no election for another four years. However, if Rosendahl persists in trying to get a rehearing from the Commission or in allowing or encouraging the LAPD to harass the homeless, he may do irretrievable damage to his reputation. “It’s over Bill. Let it go.”

Now that this battle royal is past, it’s time to work for reconciliation among Venetians on all sides of the issue. In Venice there are many important issues in which the differences of opinion are slight. If we focus on our agreements instead of our differences, we will have greater ability to bring about the kind of Venice we all want. This cannot be done if we exhibit hateful attitudes to one another.

Being civil to one another doesn’t mean abandoning one’s opinions. It means treating others with whom we differ as human being. It can be painful to see friends who will not stay in the same room with Venetians who have different opinions. It’s almost inexplicable to find “free speech” advocates on our oceanfront who denigrate the free speech of those who differ with them. Indeed, in a democratic society, it is essential to uphold the rights, and to respect, those with whom we have the strongest disagreements.

It will not be possible to bring everyone together. Some people are just too ornery to work with others. But a cooling off period is definitely needed. And it is incumbent on those of us on the winning side to reach out to our former opponents.

We have much to do together. The onslaught of overdevelopment has slackened because of the economic depression but it will resume unless we put strict limits on development that does not benefit the community.

There are many unfinished issues in Venice. What do we want to happen at the MTA lot on Main? How about the post office annex? Can we as Venetians take control of our ocean front and prevent it from turning into a long, skinny WalMart? Can we protect our historic buildings before they are destroyed? Can we preserve our biggest source of affordable housing, Lincoln Place? And, big question, can we finally get serious about restoring our cityhood? This month is Venice’s 104th birthday. Can we think about her well being instead of fighting with each other? Free Venice!