PROTECTING & PRESERVING FREE SPEECH & PUBLIC SPACE

Archive for July, 2011

Draft Ordinance LAMC 42.15

General

It is striking that this ordinance deals with the Free Expression Zone of the Venice Boardwalk, a public forum devoted to First Amendment protected activities, yet the First Amendment is not mentioned in the ordinance anywhere.  There is commentary on protecting the merchants, protecting the visitors, protecting the ocean scene, but none on protecting First Amendment activity.

Perhaps I am naïve, but I would like to believe (and do believe) that focus on this particular aspect of activities on the Boardwalk would necessarily address the other concerns as well.

There is the claim that regulation is necessary because the amount of space on the Boardwalk is limited; yet the Boardwalk is defined as the man-made promenade extending from the Santa Monica border to the north and the El Segundo border to the south.  It would appear that the space may be unnecessarily limited by restricting activities there to the Boardwalk spanning the region from the northern boundary with Santa Monica to the park headquarters at 17th Avenue to the south.   A better reason to restrict current activity on the Boardwalk it would seem is that so much of it is unprotected commercial enterprise.

There is the claim that unregulated activities affect the historic character of the Boardwalk.  Given the number of ordinances and amendments and revisions have been claimed necessary because of unregulated activities, it would seem that such activities constitute the historic character of the Boardwalk.  It is difficult to see the merit of this argument.

What is CEQA compliance?  Has it been checked into?

Ordinance

  A.  Definitions

  1. Definition of person:  Is this the necessary legal definition?  Why are businesses, etc. included when they are not engaged in first amendment protected activity and therefore not allowed on the Boardwalk to begin with?
  2. Program rules will come from Rec and Parks.  Will they be crafted by the city attorney’s office as Mark Brown did with the most recent ordinances?
  3. Vendor:  will a vendor be able to hire assistants?  Doesn’t that make said vendor a merchant?

B.  Findings and purpose

2(e)  The Boardwalk commercial life is assumed to refer to the merchants on the east side of Ocean Front Walk.  Ought this reference to east side merchants be specified?

C.  Beach Vending Prohibition

What is the northwesterly boundary of Santa Monica and the northwesterly boundary of the city of Los Angeles?

  1. Vending and Performing on Designated Spaces
  1. Expressive items ought to include audiovisual format, as much information is now distributed as CDs and DVDs.
  2. Are belts considered clothing?  If not, they ought to be specified as prohibited as well.

E.  Allocation of Designated Spaces

  1. Food give away spaces – will two spaces be designated as such?  Who decides?
  2. (3)Access spaces – if these are for access to the ocean, why are they also indicated in the area next to the Rose Avenue Parking lot, where a wall between the lot and the Boardwalk precludes access?
  3. (7-9)  These restrictions were in place in earlier ordinances.  They were essentially unenforceable.  What is being planned to change that situation?
  4. (11)  This is a pet peeve of mine and when the lottery was in place, Rec and Parks could have pulled the permits of those who left their assigned spaces a mess – which was almost everyone. They didn’t.  How is this going to be enforced now?  Will this be grounds to have someone banned from the Boardwalk – at least until they can clean up their act?

Last:  Ibrahim (Leroy) Butler has a court order signed by a Federal Judge that permits him to have his drum orchestra between 319 and 325 Ocean Front Walk from noon to 4:30pm on weekends and holidays.  He has performed in that location for years.  He is a Venice Boardwalk icon.  He will not be moved, with valid reason.  How does designated space apply in this case?

This is just one more objection I have to the designated space concept.

Let me close by reiterating my disappointment at lack of focus on enforcing the First Amendment.

Thank you.

Feedback and commentary are welcomed.

Therese Dietlin

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