An RTD bus stop that served as the central boarding location for dozens of inner-city teen-agers who had spent the day at Venice Beach has been abandoned because of mounting reports of gang-related violence and misconduct.
The stop at Main Street and Windward Avenue was closed Sunday at the request of Los Angeles City Council President Pat Russell. A Southern California Rapid Transit District spokesman said Russell asked transit officials to abandon the stop after receiving complaints that 50 to 100 rowdy youths were congregating on the corner each afternoon.
Russell aide Kathy Martin said the councilwoman tried other solutions before recommending closure.
"Russell's office just insisted that we get out of there forever," said RTD spokesman Mike Barnes. "She even talked of bringing a motion before the council. Legally, we have the right to put a stop anywhere we please. But as a practical matter, we try to work with officials."
The stop was located on the northwest corner of Main and Windward near several retail businesses, just up the street from Venice Recreation Center, and served as a major embarkation point for people traveling downtown by way of Venice Boulevard on express and local buses.
Sgt. Tony Steinhart of the Los Angeles Police Department's Pacific Division said numerous teen-agers, many associated with downtown gangs, gathered at the stop in the late afternoon after spending long days on the beach. Steinhart said the stop, especially popular during the summer and on weekends, was the scene of frequent disturbances.
"The biggest problems were alcohol and drugs," Steinhart said. "But we also had fights, disruption of traffic flow, purse snatchings . . . and there were several arrests."
Sgt. Harold Tucker said the stop had "always been a problem." A little more than a year ago, a youth there was shot in the head, according to Tucker, who claimed that gang members also were responsible for "trashing" property and disturbing merchants and residents.
Business Failures Cited
Joseph Lafferman, co-owner of a building close to the stop, had complained about crime for several years. Lafferman called the bus stop a magnet for undesirables and said the crowds made it impossible for anyone who leased his property to run a successful business. During the past eight months, two businesses have open and closed there, he said.
"People would congregate outside with bottles of beer and soda and packages of food," Lafferman said. "Afterward, they'd drop these things on the sidewalk or throw them against the building. They use our front door for a bathroom and hassle people for money. . . . It was horrible."
Pat McCartney, a neighborhood activist who sits on the Venice Town Council, acknowledged that the stop created problems but questioned the decision to abandon it. McCartney said the stop "brought the Third World to Venice" and said the removal was an "insult" to the people who used it.
"Venice is a place where all races come to enjoy themselves," said McCartney, who recalled seeing large crowds of teen-agers singing and dancing at the stop.
"My severe criticism is that . . . Russell asked them to abandon the stop instead of building a nicer facility, because this is one of the key places where the general population from the poor areas of Los Angeles arrive and leave Venice."
Russel aide Martin said that, at the councilwoman's request, the RTD tried other solutions. At one point it RTD increased the number of buses serving the location, Martin said. And last summer, the stop was tamporarily moved to the corner of Main and Westminster Avenue, about two blocks from the business-laden Windward location.
The problem returned as soon as the Windward Avenue stop reopened, Martin said, causing Russell to conclude that the stop should be closed.
The RTD's Barnes said the closure of any stop is unusual. With the Windward Avenue stop closed, Barnes said he expects RTD customers to use stops 750 feet north, at Main and Westminster, and 600 feet south, at Main and Venice Way.