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Webslave's note: Each month, back when I lived in Venice, someone from the Beachhead Collective would drop off a bundle of a hundred copies at my door, and I would distribute them house-to-house around Oakwood. My way of continuing to be a Beachhead volunteer is to resurrect and re-type selected articles from its past (pre-computer) issues, for which the Beachhead has graciously granted permission.

Whither Windward?
by Moe Stavnezer September 1980

A decade or more ago people planning the future of Venice, for a very different community than was then in residence, visualized a mall on Windward Ave. The street, between Pacific and Ocean Front Walk, would be closed to cars allowing only pedestrian traffic. Both sides of the street would be rebuilt or rehabbed with buildings with colonnades - just as in Abbott Kinney's days. There would, of course, be fancy shops and restaurants for the gentry on this gentrified street. It would be lovely.

The plan failed but it did not die. Over the years it has reincarnated in different guises,different bodies but always in the same essential form. Most recently it appeared in the new Venice plan which calls for a study to determine the feasibility of creating a Mall on Windward.

Lots of Change on Windward

In the past couple years Windward has been very spruced up. Taste determines if you like the new paint jobs and the mural but economics determine if "F. Scott's" is more desirable than the old "St. Charles Place." Fancy art stores and roller skate businesses have replaced liquor stores and hock shops. The street is busier than I've ever seen it.

And More Change to Come?

And now, what some people are calling the first real step toward creating the Mall, artist Robert Graham has come forward with a major development project. He is proposing to build two tastefully designed buildings on the north side of Windward which would house his studio, other, much smaller, studios for other artists, another version of the existing savings and loan, and a fairly small amount of retail space. One structure would abut the St. Charles building and completely obscure Terry Shoonhoven's wonderful mural (we have been told that lime in the wall of the St. Charles is already eating away the mural.) The other part of the project would stand where the savings and loan now is and would also add a second floor to the adjoining building. Two vacant lots will remain between the two buildings which both would be as tall as the St. Charles, about 50 feet.

Both buildings would have colonnades at street level, continuing the present design on both sides of Windward. The 75 parking spaces are more than ample for the currently proposed use and will be reached via Zephyr Court behind the buildings. Graham plans a considerable amount of open space in the "lobby" of one structure and intends to commission different artists and craftspeople to provide works for both buildings. This ambitions proposal would certainly set the tone for future construction on Windward and therein lies the rub.

The project would surely attract attention, business and traffic. More, similar, buildings would attract even more of the same and blocking the street to cars, to accommodate pedestrians, would become more feasible. The completion of the proposed parking lot on the Venice Bl. median strip would provide the parking lost to a Mall and make the Mall even more feasible. A fancy Windward Mall would change the North Beach area of Venice dramatically and irrevocably.

In order to give Graham's proposal, and its possible ramifications, a full and thorough discussion by and in the community, The Venice Town Council is sponsoring an open forum.

The meeting is open to every interested resident of Venice who wishes more information and discussion. The planner of the project, Robert Graham, Venice artist is being asked to attend to present his proposal It is the desire of the Venice Town Council to generate discussion and feedback concerning this important development, This meeting will take place Wednesday, October 15, 1980, at the Israel Levin Senior Adult Center, 201 Ocean Front Walk, Venice - 7:30 p.m.


Blowing it on Windward?
a minority point of view by Rick Davidson
January 1981 #133

too often we separate
the creative process
from the created form
accepted we have
the viewing of art
in the emptiness
of the museum room
taking without question
as an art that is real
some finite object
representing as it does
the indefinable process
..................of creation
yes all too often
we miss the transformation

of thought
of desire
of love
of hope
of will
of time

without which there is no art

The political-art process in Venice the 19 years that I've lived here has been an ever changing one. Some call this change "forced relocation" and the struggle to combat it. The political aspect of this process has been the evictions of poor residents in order to make room for a newer, wealthier class: the New Venetian. The art of this process has been to plan the evictions so that those of us allowed to remain don't feel the pain of eviction, don't feel the reality of eviction.

As many of us know, Venice was built at the turn of the century. It had a wild, stormy, starry-eyed beginning, but with the combination of the Crash of '29 and the discovery of oil in 1930, the bright new beach colony was transformed into a poverty center on the Westside for the elderly, minorities, artists, drop-outs of all sorts, and just plain poor folks. The population explosion that hit Los Angeles after World War II by-passed Venice because the beach was quarantined due to contamination from the sewer plant to the south. Thus the strange mixture called Venice continued to enjoy the beach.

It was not until the late 50s and early 60s that the greedy eyes of speculators turned to Venice. What they saw was a gold mine: the widest beach in LA; close proximity to LAX, but not too close; close proximity to two freeways, but not too close; old buildings ready to be torn down; and an out-cast population without representation in the halls of government...a combination that made Venice the most speculative land in California.

What to do with all those poor people living around the gold mine was the problem. In fact, the question wasn't even "what," but "how." Everyone, everyone speculating that is, agreed that poor people didn't have a right to live at the beach, but not everyone agreed as to the best way to get rid of them. Then someone suggested that they work with and through the City. What a great idea! so they were off and running.

First came the City Code Enforcement Program. That worked pretty good; 25% of the Ocean Front was destroyed. Next came a plan for the City to "improve" the canals. This plan dovetailed with the Community Plan the City was also designing as a blueprint of the change from Venice of America to Miami Beach West. Of course the Community, through its many organizations, fought back. The fight was not a winning one, only a slowing of the onslaught of the "progress" that was destroying the community. Still by the end of the 60s things looked bright for speculators and City alike.

Yet, my calendar says it's 1980 and the City's plan for a final solution has not been completed (some of us are still here.) No, the City didn't get to finish its code enforcement program; nor did they get their new canals. Along with these projects the Community also stopped the plans for a freeway through Venice - three times running. Development along the Ocean Front has been either stopped, slowed or modified.

But times they-are-a-changing; many friends have been forced to leave Venice; many of our funny looking homes have been torn down to make room for new condos; and cars with impatient drivers have replaced neighbors who used to walk and talk around the community.

1980: speculators are now zeroing in on Windward Avenue (just a little behind schedule.) A major element of the City's plan is the development of a Windward Mall. Windward Avenue is to be closed to auto traffic from Ocean Front Walk to the traffic circle. Pacific is designed to tunnel under the Mall. The Mall itself is to become the focal point of Miami Beach West. The City, having learned form its past mistakes, doesn't want to take up the Mall issue directly. We only see it coming project by project. The Ace Gallery transforms the ol' Bank of America into an art center. Next local merchants begin their move to "clean up" the Ocean Front Walk. The City wants to move the bus center to Venice Blvd. And now speculator/artist Robert Graham enters the scene with his project to build himself a studio; plus a few other little extras, such as subterranean parking, commercial shops on the 1st floor, more parking on the 2nd, and artist studios on the 3rd. Of the 55,600 square feet, Mr. Graham needs 6000 square feet for his own studio. The project will only cost 1.4 million according to Mr. Graham. As an architect, it looks more like 2 to 3 million to me. Whatever the cost, Mr. Graham agrees that the project will have to pay for itself, so that the rents will reflect that reality. What will such rents to to surrounding rent space?

Now some people say that this project is not part of the City's Windward Mall plans. Yes, no, yes, no, the arguments go on and on. Unfortunately, when truth comes to light many more of us will not be around to say, "I told you so."

There have been many Town Council meetings on this project and you may still find some old leaflets that lay out the pro and con arguments. That's all history now. At the last meeting, after the various arguments were presented in a good democratic fashion, a vote was taken which was binding on the Town Council (as far as arguing before the Coastal Commission). The body voted to support the project with the changes suggested by the Coastal Committee of the Town Council.

The significance of this process around the Windward project, i.e., the many meetings, arguments and voting is a true life contradiction, a typical double-edged sword. On the one hand, the radical approach, fight the project all the way, and even the middle of the road approach, subsidized housing must be included in the project, lost to the co-opted approach of supporting the project with only minor changes. While this is a loss from my personal/political point of view (I was on the losing side), it is a plus for the concept of the Town Council. A true Town Council has within it all the various and contradictory points of view of a community. The past few years the Venice Town Council has gained the image of being more a :left" organization than a "town council." The vote on the Windward project clearly shows that the Council is not a "left" organization, but offers a democratic forum for left, right and center points of view.

The basic philosophy of the Town Council has always been to protect the Venice Community which includes the low - and -moderate income residents. In speaking out for the rights of Venice's poverty community, the Town Council puts itself in an adversary role with speculators, city planners, and elected officials. In fact, the Council should stand up against anyone who is threatening the less fortunate residents of Venice.

Who and what is threatening Venice is becoming a fuzzy question. The transition for ol' Venice to Miami Beach West is creating some hard political problems for the Council. As the New Venetians move into town, the character of the Town Council will naturally begin to reflect the attitudes and values of the Newcomers.

In 1973 when Councilwoman Pat Russell created the Town Council, the Free Venice organization was in the process of reaching out to the community for more activists. Since the principles of democracy and the right of self-determination were the basis of both organizations, Free Venice decided to put itself on the shelf and become active within the Town Council. I don't know if the time is right to take Free Venice off the shelf, but I do feel that there needs to be a radical grouping within the Council, a left minority if you will.

Viewing the Council in terms of left, middle and right is not a divisive way of thinking about the group. I see it as a positive acknowledgment of reality. If we are to survive the 80s our thinking and actions will have to be based on a clear understanding of reality. Free Venice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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