Venice residents who attend a ritzy beachside benefit called "Venice Vision 2000" next week will be lending support to a bold and unusual effort. The money raised at the event will be used to privately finance the drafting of a new community plan.
The event is being sponsored by the Venice Action Committee, a powerful community group composed of residents, artists and businessmen who want to exert more control over growth. Michael L. Dieden, the group's president, said the committee hopes to improve on current plans for the community.
"The existing documents have no vision and no soul," Dieden said. "We want to articulate a vision for Venice that addresses what people want it to be."
The committee expects to raise enough money at the Jan. 19 benefit, about $50,000, to complete the plan by the end of the year. The proposal would then go before the community, City Council, Planning Commission and state Coastal Commission. But Harlan Lee, a backer, said there is a good chance it will become law.
"We're not trying to cram anything down people's throats," Lee said. "When people see that it's a good idea, then things will start to happen."
At this point, an outline called "Visions of Venice" describes a day when the 40,000-member community will be lined with trees and bicycle paths. Beachgoers will travel on shuttle buses. Windward Circle will be a cultural center. And derelicts will be driven away by an ordinance prohibiting liquor sales at the beach.
Retired couples will live in newly created senior housing. Poor people will take advantage of a low-interest home-loan program financed by developers. And residents in the high-crime area will be able to safely walk the streets at night.
A private consultant hired by the Venice Action Committee will study those concepts and draft specific guidelines for implementing them. He will also suggest solutions to long-term problems such as the parking shortage. If the plan is approved, Dieden said it will provide a concrete strategy for growth in Venice, where $400 million worth of commercial and residential development is already under way or newly completed.
"The ideas have to be fleshed out," Dieden said. "We need to create artists renderings so people have a better idea what we're talking about."
Development is now guided by the Venice Community Plan, which lays down guidelines for residential and commercial growth but does not contain a comprehensive vision of the community's future. The Venice Action Committee's blueprint would replace the existing plan.
Community plans are usually developed by public agencies with private input. Los Angeles City Councilwoman Pat Russell, who represents the Venice area, said she is open to the idea of a privately developed plan. In a prepared statement, Russell said she likes what she has seen in "Visions of Venice." She said community groups should become more involved in planning.
'Howls of Anguish'
Patrick McCartney, Russell's opponent in the April 14 council primary and a leader of the Venice Town Council, a group that has opposed commercial growth, said he is withholding judgment on the plan until he sees it. But he added that the organization is within its rights to offer up proposals.
"Everyone is entitled to try to influence the planning process," McCartney said. "But I will be disappointed if the (Venice Action Committee's) vision alone is the final word on planning. If that happens, you will hear howls of anguish from the Venice Town Council and from other people in the community."