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Workers Race to Finish $8-Million Venice Boardwalk Project

August 12, 2000|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fresh cement, soil conditioner, new sod.

Workers were pouring it on Friday afternoon at Venice Beach in a race to finish most of an $8-million boardwalk restoration project in time for delegates to the Democratic National Convention to visit it today.

Completion of a new plaza area at Ocean Front Walk and Windward Avenue is the third phase of a four-part, $15-million rehabilitation effort for Venice Beach that began six years ago.

For the last year, workers have eyed the Democratic convention as their deadline. They have labored seven days a week on the project for the last two months.

"We're going to make it!" promised Cyndi Dumo, senior city recreation director for Venice Beach, as she helped workers move pipes at the edge of the new plaza on Friday. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Nearby, landscapers were laying new sod on a greenbelt area that will separate the boardwalk from the sand. Masons were smoothing freshly poured concrete at a corner of the plaza itself. They promised it will be hard enough to walk on today.

The new pavement is likely to get a workout, as thousands are expected for the "Venice Beach Showcase," which starts at 8 a.m. with handball championships, bicycle stunt riding, street performances, art displays and a roller-skating show.

Bands will perform throughout the afternoon on a stage set up on a new basketball court.

A similar schedule of entertainment and events has been planned for Sunday.

Los Angeles officials said they hope visitors to the Democratic Convention travel to Venice's refurbished boardwalk--whose oddball performers and vendors make it one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, who represents the area, secured approval for weekend overtime for workers to complete the most visible and public portions of the project by the start of the convention.

Officials say two more months of work are needed to complete a nearby children's play area, a new police substation, a fountain and several art installations.

But enough is done to give the place a finished look and let boardwalk merchants breathe a sigh of relief. Various portions of Ocean Front Walk have been closed at times over the past two years.

The area around the new Windward Plaza--which replaces the former Venice Pavilion--has been fenced off for months.

Boardwalk sunglasses vendor Richard Hanks said his business dropped 40% during recent months because of the project.

"We'll all be elated when the fences come down," Hanks said.

Other projects along the beach will take another year or so, some predicted. They include a final phase of the beachfront renovation, which will include construction of a second bike bath over the sand and development of a roller-skating rink at a capped-off oil drilling site.

The beach renovations are part of a 1992 bond measure that allocated $10 million for projects. Since then, the cost has escalated to $15 million as workers refurbished the Venice Pier and built new restroom facilities and a play area near Rose Avenue.

"It's been nothing short of a heroic job to get it done," Mike Bonin, a chief aide to Galanter, said of Friday's race to get things ready for today's festival.

Grass and other landscaping may still be missing from some parts of the new greenbelt, he said. But the boardwalk could be more colorful today than it's ever been.

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