Diane Bush dug her toes into the sandy brown beach that stretches out before her Marina Peninsula home and sighed. "There's so little unspoiled oceanfront left," she said. "Why would anyone want to asphalt over it?"
Bush, a longtime peninsula resident, and others living along the southern edge of Venice's coastline are upset about a proposal to put a bicycle path down the center of their relatively private and pristine beach.
The pathway is one of many plans being considered at a series of public hearings aimed at creating a Local Coastal Plan for Venice. But if Bush and her neighbors have their way, the proposal will be scratched.
Those opposing the bicycle route describe it as the "path to nowhere." Baker said the 1.5-mile path, which would begin at Venice Boulevard and end at the jetty where the Marina Peninsula meets Marina del Rey, is a waste of public money that would only result in more litter and crime problems.
She denied that Marina Peninsula residents are trying to discourage public use of the beach. But the bicycle pathway discussion is already shaping up as another classic dispute between rival factions, occasionally known as "the haves" and "have-mores," who have struggled over the fate of Venice for years.
The 3,000 residents of the Marina Peninsula section are generally viewed as have-mores. The small area, known for its narrow streets with names like Quarterdeck and its fashionable oceanfront houses, condominiums and apartments crammed into tight spaces, lacks the carnival-like atmosphere so pervasive in the rest of Venice, and is often confused with Marina del Rey.
And although millions of tourists flock to Venice Beach each year, the Marina Peninsula's broad stretch of sand is practically deserted by comparison. Residents say the serenity found there is what makes the area desirable.
Idea Sounds Foolish
Michael Zacha, president of the Venice Action Committee, one of two major community organizations in Venice, said the idea of placing a bicycle path in the area sounds foolish.
"We have no formal position yet," Zacha said. "But all we hear is that they are talking about building a bike path to nowhere. On an individual basis, people are saying it's absurd to have this thing come to a dead end."
But Venice Town Council President Dell Chumley, a bicyclist who favors the path, said that's no reason to exclude the small beach area from the route.
"Anyone who is in favor of coastal access, and certainly the Town Council is, would be in favor of extending the bike path," Chumley said. "This is part of a classic argument over private property rights versus coastal access, and we don't feel access to the Marina Peninsula is good enough right now."
The Marina Peninsula path would link up with the Venice portion of the 19-mile bicycle path that stretches from the Pacific Palisades to Torrance. But it would not connect with the remainder of the main route, which snakes through Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey before returning to the oceanfront.
Taken No Position
Several people have suggested that Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents the area, is behind the move to extend the path. But Galanter spokesman Rick Ruiz said the councilwoman has no position on the proposal.
"It's just one of many ideas floating around at Coastal Conservancy workshops," Ruiz said. "It's just somebody's idea at this point."
Peter Brand, the state Coastal Conservancy project manager who is leading the workshops, said there's no guarantee the idea will even be seriously considered.
At this point in the planning process, which is expected to take about six months, Brand said numerous possibilities have been suggested. Another under consideration calls for building a pedestrian walkway on the peninsula beach.
The Local Coastal Plan will set the standards for Venice's development. Brand said the conservancy must determine what the community favors.
"Nobody has said that (the bicycle path) is going to happen," he said. "What residents of the (peninsula) area are hearing, after attending several workshops, was a pretty strong sentiment . . . that the trail should be extended. But no public officials have yet recommended it."
Chumley said she expects the Town Council to make a strong push for the extension. She denied that bicyclists are to blame for chronic litter problems along the Venice Beach route and said that it's wrong to suggest the pathway is ill-advised just because it would reach a dead end.
"Bike paths don't have to lead somewhere," Chumley said. "And if riding down to the jetty and watching the lovely sailboats going into the channel isn't worthy, then neither is going to the beach and watching the sunset."
Bush said that no one objects to outsiders using the Marina Peninsula beach. And she even suggested that officials install bicycle racks on each walk street leading up to the beach so the bicyclists could park their bikes and walk.
Stu Freeman, the vice president of a group called Concerned Citizens, which represents many Peninsula-area residents, said the bicycle path will be strongly opposed.
"We really don't feel that replacing sand with concrete is a good idea," Freeman said. "This is the one safe beach for people to bring their families. . . . We want people to come down here. But we don't want this to become a race track. Others in the community might honestly think this would be quite nice. But we think that it would be a sin."