Greta Cobar

Big Wheel Keeps on Rollin’ – Over Venice Residents

By Greta Cobar

Do Venetians want a ferris wheel installed in Windward Plaza, between the police substation and the skate park? Judging by the emotional comments made by Venetians at the March 5 community meeting, the answer is NO.

Great City Attractions (GCA), a company operating out of Scotland, is eager to install a 200-ft, 320-passenger wheel providing 14-minute rides for $15/person. The profits would be split between the GCA and the city of Los Angeles. Venice would get more tourists, less parking, increased traffic and the trash that usually follows all of the above.

Scheduled to operate twelve hours per day, seven days per week, the wheel would be able to accommodate more than 16,000 riders per day.

While locals were firm that Venice is full to capacity with tourists, Nigel Ward, GCA representative, maintained that the wheel will attract only the people that are already here as opposed to drawing in additional visitors. However, according to Ward himself, the number of visitors to the National Railway Museum in York, UK, increased from 700,000 to 900,000 subsequent to the installment of a GCA ferris wheel.

Ward also stated that GCA currently has 5 wheels in operation and that it has completed “over 30 successful wheel projects” in the past. However, their wikipedia page mentions only one operating wheel.

According to the GCA wikipedia page, the company went into receivership in Beijing after breaching the conditions of a loan. The same source also indicates that GCA allegedly embezzled money in Berlin and it was thus named in a report lodged with the prosecutor’s office.

“They are unaware that their wheel is leaving their town,” said Ward when asked where the wheel proposed for Venice is coming from. Although unable to tell us its current location, Ward informed those present at the community meeting that we will not be getting a new wheel.

The wheel would be set on a 75×60 foot platform and it could be installed in ten days and taken down in a week, according to Ward. When asked about strong winds and earthquakes, he said that “if the wheel fell over, there would be nothing left of LA by then.”

While trying to re-assure the outraged audience in his heavy Scottish accent, Ward did not seem to understand basic logistics of Venice. For example, people come to Venice to smell the ocean and escape their air-conditioned cubicles, not to sit in the enclosed, air-conditioned capsules that his wheel would provide.

Furthermore, Ward’s wheel concept would include a VIP wheel capsule serving champagne. When asked how he is planning to obtain an alcohol permit inside a city park, he proved to be unaware that in this country we have such a thing.

Safety-wise, there is a reason why the Santa Monica ferris wheel is placed parallel to the ocean as opposed to perpendicular, like the one proposed for Venice, which would maximize wind resistance and therefore its likelihood of falling over. Also, the Santa Monica wheel is only 82 feet tall, while the one in Venice would be 200 feet.

And why would we need a wheel in Venice when the one in Santa Monica is only two miles away, offering an almost identical view, half of which is the ocean. Why doesn’t the GCA put its wheel somewhere with a better view, more parking, and in need of more visitors? Not for lack of such location.

Piggy-backing on Venice’s coolness to make a profit is not news to Venetians, although the Scots might have felt ingenious to come up with such a popular location, where tourist scarcity is not an issue.

The California Coastal Commission (CCC) will have to approve the proposed ferris wheel, which does exceed the height limits set by the CCC itself. In addition, the wheel would obstruct the view of the ocean, which is also against the CCC’s regulations.

The company proposing the wheel is applying for a 3-year permit, with what many locals see as likely extensions after that. If history is to be learned from, we should remember that the Masonic, V-like sculpture currently standing in the Windward Plaza was supposed to be there temporarily. So was the Eiffel Tower, by the way.

Venice is already overcrowded with shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic, with Windward Plaza being the most crowded spot in the area. While I understand why GCA would choose to put their wheel here, I don’t see how we will be able to access the bike path and why we wouldn’t choose to live downtown if we wanted to stare at a 200-foot man-made structure instead of taking in the immensity of the ocean.

Please call the CCC at 562-590-5071 to voice your concerns about the proposed ferris wheel.