Two Views of the Zip Line: Zipped, Not Taxed

By Dean Henderson

The vote for the zip line at Windward Plaza was probably a foregone conclusion, possibly a classic example of bait and switch salesmanship. Regardless, at its May 15 meeting the Venice Neighborhood Council voted (with some dissension) to approve a proposal permitting a 3 month trial period for a zip line at the beach. After the fiasco of the big wheel, any project promoted by the Recreation and Parks Dept. would likely be an improvement.

Ian Green, co-founder of Greenheart/Flightlinez and 3 of his staff gave a brief presentation illustrating previous projects as well as artist’s renderings of the Venice pavilion zip-line proposal. Two of Greenhearts staff members are Venetians and will be teaching classes and workshops to area children; one of the 15 conditions recommended for the proposal.

Among other conditions attached to the project are that the zip-line be removed at the end of the 3 month trial. And that permanent structure is subject to review by the City of Los Angeles and the California Coastal Commission and the VNC. Also, that 2/3 of the gross revenue received by the City of LA is spent on maintenance and services at Venice Beach. And also the VNC reserves “meaningful consultation” rights regarding maintenance and services. Other conditions cover security, lighting, signage, a monthly review of operations by the Parks and Recreation, LA Council District 11, the VNC and community members. Finally, Condition 15 permanently rejects the “Great Observation Wheel” aka Big Wheel.

Public opinion during the comment period was evenly divided. With criticism of the project including the view that the zip-line may be a president for other commercial ventures and Venice does not need an attraction, the beach is the attraction. One community member commented that the parks are public and should not be made a revenue source. This is exactly what the Parks and Recreation does not seem to understand. In years past the city was able to maintain the beach and it facilities without having to resort to commercial partnerships. When most of the buildings along Ocean Front Wall were residential and there was little commerce on the beach area, the city found money to clean restrooms and remove garbage. Now that Ocean Front Wall s almost entirely retail and dining and “Silicon Beach” is a buzzword, the city can no longer pay for services it had in the past.

Where did the tax receipts go? Business license fees or the city’s share of the massively increased property values (via tax) that even in this post real estate bubble time are still far above the not so distant past.

The crux of the issue is not any individual project. The Big Wheel stunk, the zip-line seems far less intrusive and more in harmony with the community. But why must we be told that these sorts of projects are needed to pay for services our tax monies once covered? If this is to be the new model for funding city services then there will be more ventures such as the zip-line and the Big Wheel  here in Venice and throughout the City. The limit will only be reached when the public says NO but at the VNC, on May 15,that did not happen.