Venice Beach zip line advances with city approval

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(CNS) – The Board of Public Works today approved a permit for a company to set up a nearly 700-foot zip line on Venice Beach, despite opposition by some residents who argued the attraction would block ocean views, create noise and exacerbate an already terrible parking problem in the area.

The zip line, which would operate as a temporary three-month pilot project, still needs approval from the California Coastal Commission, which shares jurisdiction over the beach with the city.

Under the urging of City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Venice Neighborhood Council, Public Works commissioners voted to deny an appeal seeking to block the project.

Backers had hoped the zip line would be operating during the high- traffic summer months.

The appeal was filed by Venice resident Gail Rogers, who argued the project’s two 16-foot-wide, 50-foot towers would block views of the coast in violation of the California Coastal Act. She also contended the zip line would generate noise and parking problems and would alter the character of Venice Beach.

Commissioners admitted the project would likely turn Venice Beach into what one member likened to “a bit of a circus” and add to a parking shortage, but would generate badly needed revenue for the Department of Recreation and Parks, which has seen its budget cut severely in recent years.

Rogers said she was not surprised by the board’s decisions, which she called “political.” “Parks are a core city service and do not exist to generate revenue,” Rogers told the board.

“I agree … that parks shouldn’t be revenue generators. However, we are in an unprecedented budget crisis,” Commissioner Jerylin Lopez Mendoza responded. “We are desperate, and when I say ‘we,’ I mean every department, every bureau.”

Commissioner Steven Nutter, who called himself a Venice resident, said parking is “terrible” in the area, but that the zip line would not make the situation measurably worse.

“Our job here is to represent the entire city and not what some people in some cases might consider the NIMBY (not in my backyard) considerations of the people who live nearby,” Nutter said, adding that he did not consider the opponents’ complaints “NIMBYism.”

Department Recreation and Parks Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan said the $20-per-ride zip line would generate between $150,000 and $300,000 over a three-month period during the summer — $900,000 if the project is extended for a full year.

Regan vowed the department would use two-thirds of the revenue from the zip line to maintain the Venice Beach Recreation Area, including more power- washing of the boardwalk, more trash pickup and possibly renovating public restrooms at the beach, which are overburdened and often broken or closed.

Mariana Aguilar, a Venice Neighborhood Council board member, said Recreation and Parks officials scared the Neighborhood Council into an 8-6 vote in favor of the project by threatening to withhold clean bathrooms unless the board approved the project, a move she called “blackmail.”

A report from the Bureau of Engineering stated that the project would be subject to an existing noise ordinance. Regan said the zip line would only operate from 11 a.m. to dusk and would be unlikely to generate a noise violation. The report also found that views to the beach are already blocked by 28 palm trees.

“To say that the palm trees are blocking our views is insulting, because I thought the palm trees were part of the view,” Rogers said.

A spokeswoman for the company that would operate the zip line, Greenheart/Flightlinez, said the company would probably seek to delay the pilot project until next summer.

Greenheart Manager Micah Wyszynski told the board the company would consider discounting tickets for people who use public transit to get to the beach.   Nutter stressed that the zip line, if approved by the Coastal Commission, would be a temporary trial.

“While this will turn that part of Venice into a bit of a circus, there’s plenty of beach, there’s plenty of solitude. You just have to head south towards Dockweiler. You just have to head north towards Malibu. There’s plenty of places where you’re not going to hear the noise,” Nutter said.

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