Venice Beach features a boardwalk, a skate park and basketball courts along its wide, sandy shore. And if Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has his way, it will get another attraction by the Fourth of July — a zip line, offering a 720-foot-long, barely one-minute joy ride above it all. A 44-foot launch tower planted near the skate plaza would zip riders over grass and pedestrians to a landing pad near the basketball courts. City officials hope that as many as 400 riders daily will pay $20 to take a ride.
Critics argue that Venice is already carnival enough with its street performers, skateboarders, vendors and tourists all fighting (sometimes literally) for space. The city, they say wearily, doesn't need 400 more people shrieking in delight overhead.
There's no question that the zip line could add to the congestion of this area, which attracts more than 13 million tourists a year, but it will bring in something else as well: desperately needed revenue for cleaning bathrooms and trash cans on the beach. The operator, Greenheart Conservation Co., would share a percentage of its revenue — Rosendahl speculates it could be around 20% — with the city. Two-thirds of the city's take would go directly to Venice Beach. Liability for the zip line would be assumed by the operator.
The zip line would run for only three months, as a pilot project. Rosendahl wants the Coastal Commission to sign off on the project in the coming month, and he's waiting to hear from the city attorney whether he needs City Council approval for a temporary permit. The project has the blessing of the Venice Neighborhood Council.
And it has ours as well. Enduring screaming zip-liners in return for clean bathrooms at the beach seems like a good deal. As a trial project, it will offer a template for how to proceed if the community decides this should be a permanent attraction in the future, a decision that would require far more rigorous vetting by city and coastal officials. So they should use this time to observe and document any problems that need solving.
Meanwhile, the project represents the kind of private initiative to support public services that this cash-strapped city needs. Let's take it for a ride.