Wednesday, March 26, 2014

'Fortress Venice' — Officials Seek to Restrict Street Access to Venice Beach Tourist Attraction

It's been not quite a year ago since I was up there, "Chillin' in Santa Monica and Venice Beach."

I've had a hankering to return, actually. But I better hurry up about it, if this front-page report at the Los Angeles Times is any indication, "Officials seek to tame Venice boardwalk":

Venice Boardwalk photo photo8_zpscbbfc0c3.jpg
Spencer Davis was chatting up tourists on the Venice boardwalk when police officers pulled up in front of his display of plastic alien heads.

Had Davis seen a man threatening people with a chain saw, they asked?

"Not today," he quipped with a smile, assuming that the officers were joking.

Then he turned around and saw police officers, their guns drawn, with a man holding a chain saw.

"Just when you think you've seen it all…" Davis said.

For all the gentrification, designer homes and tourist attractions, Venice is still that kind of place — where artists, the homeless, Silicon Beach hipsters, surfers, inline skaters and tourists come together along a circus-like boardwalk.

Over the last few decades, the city has tried to tame the scene on Ocean Front Walk, but with limited success. Now, City Hall is making what some locals consider the most concerted effort yet to bring control to the area.

The city is considering a series of safety measures, including security cameras, more lights and a public address system, as well as closing off about 20 of the 32 streets that dead-end onto Ocean Front Walk. To accomplish that, the plan also calls for the installation of automated retractable posts, as well as gates, planters or other measures at the locations to prevent cars from getting onto the boardwalk....

Critics say that the city is trying to turn the beloved boardwalk — one of California's top tourist draws — into "Fortress Venice."

"If you can't even go to the beach without being watched," said Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks, "where can you go?"