Plans to install the Venice Beach zip line gathered momentum on Friday as the Los Angeles Board of Public Works denied an appeal filed last month by a resident that opposed the project.
Although the plan cleared one hurdle, the California Coastal Commission has the final say on whether to approve a coastal development permit for the the temporary 600 foot-long zip line.
The appellant, Venice resident Gail Rogers, said she was not surprised by the board's unanimous decision but will continue to fight against the zip line installation. Among her concerns: impact on parking congestion, obstruction of coastal views, noise levels and beach commercialization.
"We've already come this far, so I'm going to collect letters from residents and bring them to the coastal commission," Rogers said.
At Friday's City Hall meeting, Kevin Regan, assistant general manager of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks, outlined the specifics of the project. The city, along with the Canadian-based Greenheart Conservation Company, are pursuing the permit for a three-month trial period.
Discussion about the zip line began in May, when the . The aim of the project, Regan told the board, is to generate revenues for the park, a move fully supported by Rosendahl.
"During this economic crisis, all City departments have had to learn to do more with less,” said Rosendahl in the letter dated August 9. “Permitting the Venice Zip Line would be a wonderful opportunity for a private-public partnership that could generate some much needed revenue for Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks to maintain Venice Beach.”
The park is mandated to self-generate $30 to $40 million of its annual $185 million budget, and Venice Beach, which attracts roughly 16 million visitors a year, has become a draw for private ride operators willing to split revenue with the city.
"I think it's absolutely ridiculous that they're more concerned with generating money than with protecting our parks," said zip line opponent and Venice resident Mariana Aguilar at the meeting Friday.
Zip line customers would pay $20 for an approximately 40 second-long ride, which is expected to generate about $150,000 during the three-month trial period. Two-thirds of that revenue would go directly back to the beach, to improve maintenance of restrooms, trash bins and other features of the boardwalk.
In early July, the city's Bureau of Engineering approved a coastal development permit for the zip line.
Rogers , citing concerns that the project would compromise the lifestyle and integrity of Venice residents. The main points of contention include: impact on parking congestion, obstruction of coastal views, noise levels and beach commercialization.
"Parks are a retreat from the restless commercialization permeating today's culture and the zipline will open the door for future commercialization of Venice Beach," Rogers said in a speech to the board.
Other residents countered those arguments, saying that the project would have minimal impact on the already congested and increasingly commercialized area.
"It's not a vacuum, it's Venice Beach... These events are going to happen and plenty of organizations do things all the time that are not community savvy... but this group seems to be doing it the right way and is listening to our concerns," said Jay Goodfader, whose family owns the Sidewalk Cafe restaurant on the boardwalk and its adjacent Small World Books.
The zip line's 50-foot tall launch tower would be located across the boardwalk from the red-and-white awning of the Sidewalk Cafe, with the landing tower located west of 17th Avenue just north of the basketball courts.
Commissioner Steve Notter said that while the project may turn that part of Venice into "a bit of a circus," Venice is already overcrowded and there are other areas to go for peace and quiet.
"We have to keep in mind that this terrific place is for the entire city, not just the residents of Venice," said commissioner Steve Notter, who is a resident of Venice himself.
The park estimates the ride will attract between 500 to 1,000 patrons per day, but Notter said he thinks many of those people will not come to the beach exclusively for the ride. Rather, he said, visitors will probably discover the ride while visiting the area.
"Parking in Venice is going to be terrible regardless," Notter said.
If approved, the zip line would be permitted for a three month trial period during which the city would assess the validity of these concerns.
The Parks and Recreation Department initially planned to have the zip line up and running this summer, and also intended to host an adjacent acrobatic summer camp. Now that summer is almost over, the department is looking to debut the zip line sometime next year. Regan also highlighted plans to host nighttime social events and offer classes for Venice's at-risk youth.
Once the Parks and Recreation Department completes an application, the decision will go before the Coastal Commission by September at the earliest.
Paul Chavez contributed to this report.