PROTECTING & PRESERVING FREE SPEECH & PUBLIC SPACE

Archive for the ‘Venice Beach’ Category

VNC Ocean Front Walk Committee Meeting ~ August 12, 2013

This committee meeting discussed the August 3 tragedy on Venice Boardwalk, and Cecilia Castillo of Councilmember Mike Bonin’s office announced some of the security measures the city is taking to protect visitors to Venice boardwalk.

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ABBOTT KINNEYS DEEDS SURFACE

Over the years rumors of ‘Abbott Kinneys Deed’ have floated through Venice but nobody ever seemed to know much about it, except that Abbott Kinney, the founder of Venice Beach, had made certain stipulations about how the deeded beach area was to be used.

But now, thanks to Venice activists — the deeds, there are more than one, have been made available to the public; we are now in possession of those deeds and can reveal what it was that Abbott Kinney stipulated over 100 years ago in 1904 and 1906.

It appears that Mr. Kinney had a very specific use in mind for the area – that is now considered Venice City Beach park – a “pleasure park” is how he and his partners described it in the 1904 ABBOTT KINNEY DEED:

    “TO HAVE AND TO HOLD all and singular the said premises together with the appurtenances unto the said party of the second part and its successors and assigns in the hereinafter named trust, forever, as a pleasure park or beach for the use, benefit and enjoyment of the public in general and particularly the inhabitants of said city and the owners of the property lying adjacent to the property hereinbefore described; provided, that this conveyance is made upon the condition that no house or houses or building of any kind or character, or miniature, steam, street, or electric railway or roadway, or any gas, water or sewer pipe shall ever be erected, constructed, laid, maintained or operated, or he permitted or allowed to beerected, constructed, laid, maintained or operated, in, along, upon or over said lands or any part thereof; and that no game of any kind shall ever be permitted to be conducted or carried on upon said lands or any part thereof, and said lands and every part thereof must at all times be kept free from teaming, open, and unobstructed for the use and enjoyment of the public and as a pleasure park or beach, and said property shall be kept clean at said City’s expense.”

Later, in 1906, Kinney and his partners deeded the 40 ft wide strip of land known as Ocean Front Walk in the 1906 ABBOTT KINNEY DEED:

    “IT BEING HEREBY UNDERSTOOD AND AGREED that said strip of land is to be used for the construction of a public sidewalk and for no other purpose.”

It appears that the City of Los Angeles has stuck, to the most part, to the terms of the deeds.  However, there could be cause for concern, as several businesses fronting onto Ocean Front Walk (Venice Boardwalk) are occupying, and conducting business on what is actually public property ie. the boardwalk (sidewalk) that also happens to be a ‘park’ – which begs the question: would Abbott Kinney approve and, more to the point, is it legal?

From the web:  the Abbot Kinney Company filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles regarding what they considered to be a violation of the 1904 deed when the Rose parking lot was built, on what used to be the beach, at the end of Rose Avenue.  The lawsuit ended in favor of the City of Los Angeles as noted here: http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2d/223/668.html

Ocean Front Walk Committee

April 6, 2013

PART 1: VNC OCEAN FRONT WALK CMTE APR 1, 2013

Ocean Front Walk Committee: Chaired by Venice Neighborhood Council Community Officer, Thomas Elliott (Venice Ale House).

The Committee has the general responsibility for addressing the issues, concerns, programs and services that affect the various stakeholders and interests on the Venice Boardwalk and Venice Beach. These include, but are not limited to: free speech, performance, merchants, tourism, sanitation and recycling, public nuisance, public safety, and interaction with law enforcement and other officials of the City and County of Los Angeles.

Agenda items discussed:  http://www.venicenc.org/ocean-front-walk-committee/ofwagenda_040113/

Minutes of meeting:  http://www.venicenc.org/ocean-front-walk-committee/ofwminutes_040113/

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Is It Art? On Venice Beach, Police Can Make the Call

Ordinance Limits What Types of Works Can Be Sold; No Pottery, Snow Globes OK
By HANNAH KARP

LOS ANGELES California

Sgt. Daniel Gonzalez has broken up bar fights, chased
armed gangbangers and even apprehended a blood-soaked murderer after a
car chase.

But nothing in his 22 years with the Los Angeles Police Department
could have prepared him for his latest responsibility: art critic.

Since January, the clean-cut cop has patrolled the beachside
neighborhood of Venice’s famous boardwalk, passing judgment on painted
porcelain skulls, henna tattoos and scrap-metal Star Wars sculptures
offered for sale. On a recent Thursday, he told a dread-locked artist
dabbling in a variety of media that he should “get more into the wood
stuff, less into the hats.”

“Now this is what people are looking for,” Sgt. Gonzalez told another
artist, offering what he called “positive reinforcement” for selling
on-the-spot spray paintings. “Do you really take Visa? That is
awesome.”

Sgt. Gonzalez inspects wares on the boardwalk in Venice Beach.

Sgt. Gonzalez’s new duties are part of one of the LAPD’s more unusual
mandates: keeping Venice weird.

Famous for its funky mix of performers, skateboarders and runaways,
Venice Beach is one of California’s biggest tourist draws in part
because day-trippers are all but guaranteed to see something strange.
But increasingly the surfside community is battling to preserve its
character as big businesses and wealthy individuals move in,
threatening the very quirkiness that helped attract them in the first
place.

Google Inc. recently opened a Southern California office in Venice.
Hollywood producer Joel Silver is converting Venice’s old post office
into his corporate headquarters. And a Canadian company recently won
approval to install a controversial zip-line ride along the boardwalk,
infuriating locals who fear it will only exacerbate the area’s traffic
and commercialization.

The L.A. City Council last December passed a new ordinance that
effectively banned anyone but local artists from engaging in
commercial activity on the boardwalk’s beach-facing side. Ordinance
violators are subject to fines and repeat offenders can end up in
jail.

That has left it to officers like Sgt. Gonzalez to routinely weigh in
on a debate more suited to the Museum of Modern Art or the Guggenheim:
What constitutes art?

Residents say making the cops police art isn’t ideal, but there is
little alternative.

“You could have volunteer boardwalk walkers, but then what?” says Matt
Kline, director of outreach for the Venice Neighborhood Council. “It
is a tough job for the police to do, but this is an ordinance, so
they’re really the only people who can do it.”

Venice, a former epicenter of Beatnik culture that now attracts 16
million visitors a year, according to the Venice Chamber of Commerce,
has long struggled with how to regulate the freedom of expression on
the wide, concrete path that borders the beach, officially known as
“Ocean Front Walk.”

There were virtually no rules governing commerce on the boardwalk
until two decades ago, when the city banned unlicensed vending there
at the behest of local merchants who complained that vendors were
stealing their business.

But in 1997 a federal appeals court overturned the ban, arguing it
trampled First Amendment rights. Since then the city has tried
implementing a slew of different rules to avoid sheer chaos—for
example requiring artists to enter a lottery for “Public Expression
Participant Permits.” But each version of the law proved either too
restrictive or too vague to hold up in court, deterring some police
from issuing citations altogether.

Now, though, Sgt. Gonzalez says he thinks the city has finally hit the
nail on the head. The ordinance that took effect earlier this year
gives police more explicit guidelines than ever to determine what
qualifies as art. Pottery doesn’t count as art because it has a
utility apart from its artistic message, according to the ordinance,
nor do any goods that appear mass produced, like home appliances and
auto parts.

Still, he says there is plenty of gray area. Hula-hooping might be
performance art, but selling hula hoops is not. Hand-drawn henna
tattoos can pass for art, but those made with mass-produced stenciled
designs are another story. Mass production is difficult to determine,
too, since the ordinance gives no specific number of items that
constitutes a “mass.”

Sgt. Gonzalez says he is no art aficionado—he studied business and
economics in college, and the 45-year-old Southern California native
says most of his art education came from working for several years as
a part-time security guard for Sotheby’s in Beverly Hills, shortly
after he joined the police force in 1990.

While working at the art auction house during his off-duty hours, he
says he “saw a lot of cool stuff” and developed a particular
appreciation for Impressionist artists like Paul Cezanne.

“I don’t know how they came up with that oil-based paint—how thick and
real it looks,” says Sgt. Gonzalez.

J. Scott Smith, a homeless man, sells cardboard “bum signs” that qualify as art.

Still, he isn’t afraid to give pointers to the boardwalk artists about
what he thinks will sell—and spends much of his time encouraging
ordinance violators to find their hidden talents. This year he says he
inspired one crystal vendor to make beach-themed snow globes from her
precious stones, since selling plain crystals is a no-no, and he says
he spurred another woman to melt crayons onto canvases with a
blowtorch.

This spring, J. Scott Smith, a homeless man who has lived in Venice
for several years, says he asked Sgt. Gonzalez: “What do I have to do
to stay here?”

“I said, ‘Create something, perform,’ ” Sgt. Gonzalez recalls. “If
you’re out here and you do have some creative juices flowing inside
you, figure it out.”

Now, Mr. Smith makes and sells cardboard “bum signs” with messages
like “Need $ To Bail Mom Out of Jail” and “Couldn’t think of Anything
Snappy So Just Give Me a Dollar And Beat It.”

Art policing isn’t for everyone: Sgt. Gonzalez says that since he
joined the beach patrol in January he has seen three officers quit the
patrol. But he has no plans to leave. “It’s a little bit of higher
calling,” he says.

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INTENT TO SELL ON THE BOARDWALK

The return of commercial activity to the west side of Ocean Front Walk has been escalating over the past week. Last Sunday – for the first time since the new ordinance was enacted – there were several nasty altercations over spaces around the Sunset Pagoda area. Regulars expect this weekend to be even worse. Given that the problem generally arises when illegal vendors insist on their imaginary right to sell commercial goods and “make a living” in this first amendment protected area, and that LAPD has been stymied in halting this activity by the “right to display” clause in the ordinance, a group of us have researched legal aspects of “intent” as a possible means of addressing this loophole.

The following is what we have learned. We make it available to you for your advisement and in the hopes that you will find it useful.

In the meantime, we continue to brainstorm strategies with east side merchants and other first amendment people on the Boardwalk. We will continue to send any useful determinations along to you. Any feedback or suggestions on how we can most effectively interface will also be appreciated. Thank you.

Therese Dietlin, OFW First Amendment Advocate

Intent to Sell on Ocean Front Walk

– by Dave Bradt – Free Expressionist

The police have communicated that they cannot tell the difference between illegal vending and protected free expression because everyone has a right to display any item in the free expression spaces. The city has a compelling interest in determining and eliminating commercial sales in order to reduce violence and allow protected expression on public land. Generally, a wide range of direct and circumstantial evidence is allowed to prove intent.

Such as, cases in which:

1.  Displaying one item would convey the same expressive message as displaying many similar items.

2.  Displaying items, while being in controlled (i.e. concealed or in the car) possession of similar (limited variations) items (not being displayed and not expressed but available to replace sold items). Such circumstantial evidence would be reasonable and logical to prove intent to sell.

Precedence of circumstantial evidence proving intent:

It is illegal to park on the street in front of a driveway. If the engine is running or the keys are in the ignition that is proof of intent (not to park). To be arrested for drunk driving, one need only show intent. To be in the driver’s seat while intoxicated is not enough to be arrested for DUI, but to put the key in the ignition proves intent.

A shoplifter need not leave the store without paying for an item, or a book or other library materials taken from a library facility, to be guilty of theft. California (as most states) invites evidence of intent (i.e. The CA law 490.5. (4) A merchant…(librarian) having probable cause to believe the person detained was attempting to unlawfully take or has taken any item from the premises. In 33 states ‘to conceal’ (the act that proves intent) is also a violation, in of its self.

The NH law 644:17 Willful Concealment and Shoplifting.

The AS law 11.46.220. Concealment of Merchandise.

The AZ law 13-1805 5. Concealment.

The CO law SECTION 1. 18-4-407 (2)… OR conceals upon his person….

The CT law Sec. 53a-119. (9)  A person intentionally concealing unpurchased goods or merchandise of any store or other mercantile establishment, either on the premises or outside the premises of such store, shall be prima facie presumed to have so concealed such article with the intention of converting the same to his own use without paying the purchase price thereof.

The DE law Sec. 53a-119. (3) Conceals any such goods….

The GA law 51-7-60 (1) Conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

The ID law 18-4626. WILFUL CONCEALMENT OF GOODS. The IL law Sec. 16A-2.1. To “conceal”.

The IA law 808.12 1. Persons concealing property.

The KS law 21-3701. Theft, (2) concealing any merchandise.

The KY law 433.234 Shoplifting (1) Willful concealment of unpurchased merchandise of any store.

The ME law §361-A. Permissible inferences against accused; 2. Proof that the defendant concealed unpurchased property stored.

The MD law § 3-1301 (3) Concealing any merchandise;.

The MA law Chapter 266 Section 30A Shoplifting; penalty; arrest without warrant Section 30A. …or any person who intentionally conceals upon his person…

The MS law SEC. 97-23-93. Shoplifting; (1) (a) Conceals the unpurchased merchandise; The MT law 46-6-506. (4) (a) “Concealment”

The NE law Section 28-511.01 (1) (a) Conceals or takes possession of the goods or merchandise of any store or retail establishment;

The NV law NRS 597.850 Shoplifting: Merchant may request person on premises to keep merchandise in full view.

The NH law 644:17 Willful Concealment and Shoplifting. The NJ law 2C:20-11 Shoplifting A. (6) “Conceal”.

The NM law 30-16-20. Shoplifting (2) willfully concealing merchandise.

The NC law § 14-72.1. Concealment of merchandise in mercantile establishments.

The PA law (2) § 3929. Retail theft. (c) Presumptions.–Any person intentionally concealing unpurchased property of any store or other mercantile establishment.

The RI law § 11-41-20 Shoplifting. (c) The fact that a person conceals upon his person…

The SC law SECTION 16-13-120. Shoplifting; presumptions from concealment of unpurchased goods.

The TN law 39-14-146. Theft of property – Conduct involving merchandise (a) For purposes of § 39-14-103, (1) Conceals the merchandise;

The TX law § 31.02. Consolidation of Theft Offenses… or concealing stolen property.

The UT law 76-6-602. Retail theft, acts constituting. A person commits the offense of retail theft when he knowingly: (1) Takes possession of, conceals..

The VA law § 18.2-103. Concealing or taking possession of merchandise;

The WV law §61-3A-1. Shoplifting defined. (1) Conceals the merchandise upon his or her person or in another manner;

The WI law 943.50 Retail theft. 2. (1m) (d) Intentionally conceals merchandise held for resale by a merchant or property of a merchant.

The WY law 6-3-404. Shoplifting; altering or removing price tags and markers; penalties. (a) A person who willfully conceals the state of one’s mind at the time one carries out an action. Only protected expression is allowed in the free expression spaces California (most states) invites evidence of intent (i.e. The CA law 490.5. (4) A merchant… or an agent thereof, having probable cause to believe the person detained was attempting to unlawfully take or has taken any item from the premises, In 33 states ‘to conceal’ (the act that proves intent) is also a violation, in of its self. © Dave Bradt 2012

LETTER TO UCLA HAMMER MUSEUM OF ART RE: “VENICE BEACH BIENNIAL”

June 29, 2012

Topic:  Venice Beach Biennial

Dear Sir/Madam,

Your promotional material on your proposed “Venice Beach Biennial” the weekend of July 13-15  has come to the attention of myself and several colleagues, and raised several questions and concerns.

First, what does Venice Beach Biennial mean?  Is this something to be scheduled at two year intervals?  Does it have any meaning at all other than some reference to Venice, Italy?

Second, the outlined proposal is extremely vague in how this event is to be orchestrated.  How are “artists” chosen to participate?  How are spaces to be allocated?  LAMC42.15 indicates first come, first serve.  Is this to be observed?

Third, as LAMC42.15 makes clear, the Boardwalk is a Free EXPRESSION zone, not an art walk.  There are first amendment people on the Boardwalk who do not do art whatsoever but use the opportunity afforded by this public venue to exercise their constitutional right to free speech.  Your event focuses exclusively on artists (?) with no allusion to, acknowledgement of or accommodation for these Free Speech individuals.

Further, as stipulated in LAMC42.15, the standard for art on the Boardwalk is nominal utility.  That means art for art’s sake.  Crafts are generally not considered first amendment protected activities. Also, the sale of stones, oils, incense, sage are explicitly prohibited.  Some of your proposed artists, I submit, fall in a gray area with questionable legitimacy, if not outright prohibition.  The ceramicists, the miniature Mexican sculptures, the two-headed bicycle, the metal detector treasure display, are examples.  The photo booth is also of dubious merit.  LAPD already has a challenge enforcing the current ordinance with some of its unfortunate ambiguities and a population of determined illegal commercial vendors..  Your proposed event has just made their job (and protection of true Free Speech individuals and groups) that much more difficult.

Let me add that I know some of the artists currently on the Boardwalk.  I will also submit that some are being less than candid with you when they describe their “art.”

Ridding the Boardwalk, the traditional “Free Expression Zone,” of aggressive commercial vending and keeping it open for truly First Amendment protected speech has been and continues to be an ongoing struggle.  Please consider carefully the consequences of your proposals to that end.

Thank you.

Therese Dietlin
Free Speech Advocate on the Boardwalk

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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