PROTECTING & PRESERVING FREE SPEECH & PUBLIC SPACE

January, 2010

Venice Beach Boardwalk Coalition

VBBC NEWSLETTER

1st Issue January 2010

What Is VBBC?   We are a coalition of free expressionists, merchants, residents and supporters dedicated to preserving free expression in the Free Speech Zone on the west side of Ocean Front Walk, AKA Venice Beach Boardwalk. The coalition was formed in June of 2009 because of a growing concern about the commercialization of the Free Speech Zone. The following are the coalition’s mission statement and criteria used to determine membership. 

VBBC Mission Statement:   To restore, preserve and protect First Amendment standards in the Free Speech Zone (FSZ), a public forum, on the west side of Venice Beach Boardwalk;  and to legally remove illegal vendors selling merchandise, not protected by the First Amendment, from space reserved for constitutionally protected free expression in the FSZ.

VBBC Membership Criteria:   To join the VBBC, a member agrees to advocate for the following:

•      restore and protect the First Amendment in the Free Speech Zone

•      remove the permit/lottery system from Venice Beach Boardwalk

•      remove illegal commercial vendors from the Free Speech Zone

Wanna Join VBBC?   If you are interested in joining VBBC please send us an email or join our group on Facebook  (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=133845694193)

What VBBC did in 2009

 •      We developed and distributed a document detailing our concerns about, and suggestions for, the Free Speech Zone. Among its recipients are Councilman Bill Rosendahl, his agents Arturo Pina and Norman Kulla, the city attorney’s office and east side merchants who have expressed interest in working with us.

 •      A brochure outlining our concerns and position has been created and is being distributed.

•      At least one representative from the coalition has been in attendance at the West Side Task Force meetings and at other relevant meetings with officials from city hall.

Reports For 2009

Meeting with Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee 07-15-09

Re: proposed changes to LAMC 42.15

A contingent of Boardwalk activists attended a meeting to consider proposed changes to LAM C 42.15, which was held by the Arts, Parks, Health and Aging Committee, chaired by Tom LaBonge and attended by another of the three committee members. In public comments, Therese Dietlin of the VBBC presented the results of a survey taken in October, 2008 which showed that 40-60% of the persons in the FSZ were engaged in “unprotected” illegal commercial vending, and cited some of the commerce being engaged in.  In response to claims made by Mark Brown that the existing ordinance was the result of the joint efforts of the city, Boardwalk persons and Federal District Judge Dean Pregerson, she also informed the committee that some have spoken to Judge Pregerson and, if he is to be taken at his word, he is less than pleased with the results of those efforts.

Another individual cited the Magic Mike vs. City of Seattle decision which had recently been reported out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and which emphasized the obligation of a city to protect first amendment rights in public spaces.  Others commented on the corruption endemic in the implementation of the existing ordinance, especially the lottery, and its destructive impact on the Free Speech Zone.  The committee decided to recommend enactment of the proposed changes, i.e. noise restrictions and a year-round lottery in the P-zone (which is now only in the peak summer months.

Meeting with east side merchants 10-07-09

Through Steve Heumann of Sidewalk Cafe Enterprises,  the VBBC was able to schedule an afternoon meeting to discuss common interests.  The meeting was attended by Sidewalk Cafe manager, Steve Heumann, his boss Jay Goodfader,  Barbara Duffy of Seahorse and Mike Folkert of Indigenous.  VBBC was represented by Dave Bradt, Therese Dietlin and Barbara Peck.  The meeting lasted for approximately 2 hrs.   The focal point was the document put together by VBBC members which focuses on First Amendment violations by the city that are inherent in the current LAMC 42.15.   The merchants expressed an interest in working together to change the present situation on the Boardwalk.    The Sidewalk Cafe’s primary concern was amplified sound across from their open air cafe.  The Seahorse and Indigenous shared a concern about competitive selling on the west side of the Boardwalk.  All agreed that the failure by the city to enforce the strictures of the First Amendment were mutually damaging and must be addressed.  It was presumed that the First Amendment people on the west side of the Boardwalk would be able to find a pro bono attorney to address the issue.

It is agreed that the matter of invasive loud sound and commercial vending must be targeted.    It was further agreed to collaborate in any way that might present itself in order to change the current destructive activity allowed (encouraged?) unconstitutionally by the city on the west side of Ocean Front Walk,  in the traditional Free Speech Zone. 

Meeting in WLA with city officials 10-29-09

VBBC members Dave Bradt, Therese Dietlin and Barbara Peck attended a meeting at Councilman Rosendahl’s west side office on Corinth in WLA on October 29, 2009.  For the city, attendees included Bill Rosendahl, Arturo Pina, Norman Kulla, Dep. City Attorney, Gita O’Neill and LAPD.  The public was invited to share their concerns about the current situation on the Boardwalk.  General consensus from the public was that commercial vending is destroying the traditional Free Speech Zone.

Informal conversation with Norman Kulla indicated that he is completely unaware what is actually happening on the Boardwalk.  VBBC offered to work with him and anyone else in Rosendahl’s office to generate a workable solution.

Meeting before city council 12-15-09

Hearing to discuss Agenda Item #8  proposed changes to LAMC 42.15.

Several members of the community, including 4 merchants, addressed City Council on the proposed changes.  Response to the entire public comment is addressed in a report on the council meeting (link).   Particularly disappointing were the comments of Department of Recreation and Parks spokesperson Robert Haskins and LAPD spokesperson Mark Reina.  The concerns raised by their comments are again addressed in the report.  Stephen Fiske demanded that the residents be given back their Boardwalk and introduced his Peacekeeper proposal as one way this might be accomplished. Once again, the city stated that the current LAMC 42.15 was the work of Federal District Judge Dean Pregerson, who oversaw the hearings that purportedly led to the current ordinance.  This is a controversial claim at the very least.

Mark Brown advocated further changes, to wit  a year around lottery in t he P-Zone, a requirement that everyone on the Boardwalk be in a “designated space, and greater regulation of the larger performance zones as well as tighter control on amplified music.  Not one of these purportedly necessary changes is warranted. The entire issue was sent back to committee for reconsideration.  Bill Rosendahl committed to visiting the Boardwalk with Tom LaBonge, of the pertinent subcommittee, to observe for themselves, what is going on.

Task Force Meetings and Park Advisory Board ( (PAB) meetings

The VBBC learned of ongoing monthly meetings dealing with the west side.  These meetings are scheduled and chaired by Bill Rosendahl’s aide, Arturo Pina.  They are regularly attended by representatives from LAPD, VNC, County Harbors and Beaches, LA city Attorney’s office, Boardwalk merchants, and other concerned citizens.  The VBBC has had at least one representative at each meeting since August 2009.  Our basic purpose is to advocate for the traditional Free Speech Zone on the west side of Ocean Front Walk.  The Task Force Meetings have provided a good venue for presenting our plan for regulation that will restrict activities on the west side of the Boardwalk to those protected by the First Amendment. 

These meetings have also been invaluable in establishing contact with other interested parties, particularly the merchants, and interacting in a positive way with other organizations and institutions involved in regulating the Boardwalk.

Two VBBC members attended the October meeting of the PAB at the Venice Library.  Confusion in meeting schedules and general operation of this Board have thus far precluded further interaction.  There are plans to remedy this   failing in 2010.  The one meeting attended was instructive.  While the PAB does not deal directly or substantively with any of the pressing issues facing the traditional Free Speech Zone, it was possible to bring up current concerns to the attendees, some of whom are also east side merchants.  The meeting was further enlightening in that a private and informal conversation with Victor Jauregui from the Department of Recreation and Parks, indicated that at least part of the problem current existing on the Boardwalk has its genesis in the machinations emanating from one particular sub-department of the LA City Attorney’s office.  This concern will be addressed more forcefully in 2010.       © Therese Dietlin, for VBBC

Illegal Commercial Vending in the Free Speech Zone

Proof that the laws are not being enforced on the board walk is that the only two  vendors that have been specifically identified by a Federal District Judge, as “commercial vendors”, can be seen every weekend, selling what the judge has deemed as unprotected by the First Amendment. Their illegal commercial vending is not barred from the board walk because the  First Amendment is obscure, convoluted or confusing. It is because those in charge have no interest in defending our First Amendment rights, the honest (rent burdened, taxpaying, economically hit) eastside vendors, or reinstating the unique atmosphere that used to made Venice Beach Boardwalk one of the top international visitor destinations.  ©  D. R. Bradt, for VBBC

City of Los Angeles Timeline – 2009

During 2009 the City of Los Angeles did the following:

July 1, 2009 – Recreation and Parks implemented sales tax ID requirement for lottery participants. 

July 15, 2009 – L.A. City Council Committee on Arts, Parks, Health and Aging held a small public hearing to review noise restrictions and a proposed year-round P-Zone lottery in LAMC 42.15 (Item#5 on Agenda) –  http://lacity.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=103&clip_id=6364.

December 15, 2009 – MOTION (ROSENDAHL – LABONGE) to adopt following changes to LAMC 42.15

Recommendation for Council action re Agenda Item #8

AMEND to adopt the following amendments to the Municipal Code in lieu of the amendments contained in the Report

a.   Ensures the use of musical instruments and all amplified sound outdoors, including on private properties immediately adjacent to the Broadwalk, is discontinued at sunset until 900 a.m. the following day; and

b.   Ensures that all large act performers (defined as those who use double size spaces because they attract an audience of more than 25 persons) rotate spaces in a timely manner thus allowing for the participation of other large act performers to use the double size spaces; and

c.   Provides an option to include a requirement that the Requirement that the Recreation and Parks Department conduct the lottery system year round for designated spaces on the Boardwalk for the P-Zones as well as the I-Zones, in the event that demand exceeds supply of designated spaces in both zones throughout the entire year; and

d.   Ensures the existence of emergency and non-emergency ingress and egress between the beach and the Boardwalk by prohibiting obstructing or impeding the access areas between eh designated spaces in the P-Zones and I-Zones on the Boardwalk.

See also City Files # 07-2112-S1 for City Council actions re:Venice Beach Boardwalk

(http//cityclerk.lacity.org/lacityclerkconnect/index.cfm?fa=ccfi.viewrecord&cfnumber=07-2112-S1)

What’s New in 2010?

VBBC plans to meet with more east side merchants and recruit more free expressionists, from the west side, to get involved with the coalition and discuss the possibility of filing a class action lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles in 2010.  We are actively looking for a First Amendment attorney to take our case.  If you are such an attorney or know of one please contact us ASAP!

News Flash

VBBC member, Lisa Green, resigned from her position as spokesperson for VBBC in October, 2009.

 VBBC website ~ http//vbbc.wordpress.com

VBBC email ~ venicebeachboardwalkcoalition@gmail.com

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