Sunday, June 12, 2011

Venice Beach Defaced

The gentrification of Venice Beach, once a haven of counterculture, is picking up pace. In an effort to rein in the free spirit which makes the place so unique, local officials had already attempted to regulate its graffiti walls; then a permit lottery was created to regulate the arts & crafts vendors, which resulted in less art, less craft, and more cheap trinkets; beach cottages have been systematically torn down, to make way for luxury loft developments; American Apparel set up shop on the Boardwalk, paving the way for more chains; local artists, dreamers and other hillbillies who make up this highly creative urban fabric have been pressured out. Mercantilism is slowly but surely erasing local character.

Worse: the Venice Beachhead reports that local councilman Bill Rosendhal recently endorsed a L.A. Parks Foundation plan "to raise money for city parks maintenance and operations by selling space to 'corporate sponsors.' The Venice Beach part of the plan called for 200 signs on an 8-block stretch of the Boardwalk -- a total sign area of 10,000 square feet, or the equivalent of 15 full-size billboards."

Now, that's a whopper. The State of California may be in dire financial straits, claiming parks as one of its many victims, but this proposal is stretching the concept of public-private partnership beyond the limits of the socially and visually acceptable. The arrogance of power over the public interest, as BanBillboardblight calls it -- making a quick buck at the public's expense. With arrogance comes a false sense of impunity, leading to lazy thinking and silly ideas. Public-private partnerships are an excellent tool when government fails, but not on such preposterous terms.

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