Venice Stakeholders Association seek public safety amendments to protect community

The Venice Stakeholders Association on Wednesday forwarded to City officials a petition from residents supporting public safety amendments to protect Venice Beach and other major outdoor event venues in Los Angeles from a Boston Marathon-like backpack bombing.

The package of amendments also would establish a buffer zone around residences and hotels throughout the City in which the City’s “no sitting, lying or sleeping” ordinance could be enforced.

“Currently Venice Beach, with an estimated 16 million visitors a year, is at risk of attack due to the ease with which anyone can leave unattended baggage for hours,” said Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA.  “Unattended luggage is not allowed at LAX or Union Station and it also should not be allowed anywhere in the City where huge numbers of people congregate,” Ryavec said. “Our amendment would plug this hole in City law.”

Also included in the package is an amendment that would re-establish the City’s “no sitting, lying or sleeping on public rights-of-way” ordinance within 125 feet of any residence or hotel.

The ordinance has been largely unenforced for eight years as part of the “Jones Settlement,” an agreement between the City and several homeless individuals in Downtown’s “Skid Row” neighborhood to temporarily hold off enforcement between 9 pm and 6 am until additional housing is built to house the homeless.

Jack Hoffmann, a Market Street resident, said the application of the Jones Settlement to areas beyond Skid Row has created a nightmare in Venice, especially on and near Ocean Front Walk, which is known as the Venice Boardwalk.

“By encouraging the establishment of large encampments of mentally ill, drug and alcohol addicted, and criminally-inclined individuals living on our doorsteps, the City has endangered residents, visitors and those living on the street; abandoning people helps no one,” Hoffmann said. “Instead of forcing people to live with this danger and bear the burden the City will not accept, in Venice or elsewhere, the City should at least create a buffer zone around residences and hotels citywide where these encampments cannot remain while a comprehensive solution is developed.”

According to Ryavec the Jones Settlement does not preclude the City from passing – and then fully enforcing – a new ordinance that more narrowly tailors the sitting/lying/sleeping ban to those areas closest to residences and hotels.

“The settlement specifically states that the City’s agreement to temporarily not enforce the ban from 9 pm to 6 am does not apply to any ordinance adopted in the future,” Ryavec said.

Ryavec also noted that even after the City finishes building the 1,250 housing units required by the Jones Settlement, any enforcement of the present sitting/lying/sleeping ban could invite a new lawsuit since the City still would not have enough shelter beds to accommodate all those living on the street.

“If the VSA’s amendment is adopted, and the absolute ban is challenged again in court,” said Ryavec, “the narrower ban has a better chance of surviving because it is tailored specifically to protect residents and visitors where they live and sleep.”

In the letter to City officials, VSA said that by not enforcing the sitting/lying/sleeping ban the City has allowed a lawless situation to develop along the Venice Boardwalk and on nearby residential streets, as hordes of aggressive, opportunistic transients attracted by mild weather and the easy availability of drugs camp out on private and public property, committing a constant stream of assaults, thefts and burglaries, defecating and urinating in public, and harassing anyone who gets in their way.

(Ryavec noted that residents and visitors are not the only victims of these conditions; there is also a record of brutal transient-on-transient assaults.)

Ryavec referred in particular to a recent case that drew international media attention, in which a transient invaded a home two blocks from the beach while the resident was home, forcing her to hide on her roof until the police arrived.

David Krintzman, a walk street resident near the Ocean Front Walk encampments, said a robbery of his neighbor’s apartment had recently been committed in broad daylight by a transient who absconded with the neighbor’s laptop, clothes and other possessions.

“From a neighborhood safety perspective, I am very concerned about the transient encampment the City has permitted to exist at the grassy knoll and pagodas at the foot of Dudley Avenue as well as the encampments which extend several blocks north,” Krintzman said.

In another recent incident, three transients from Oklahoma stole a watch from a visitor while he was changing clothes in a Venice Beach restroom. When the visitor tried to take the watch back, the thieves threatened him with a butcher knife and pepper spray.  “The transients told police they were here because they had heard that Venice was a great place to be homeless,” Ryavec said.

“This culture of lawlessness has to stop and residents must have protection,” Ryavec said.

Venice High

Teenage girl alleges sexual abuse by former Venice High teacher

A lawsuit was filed against Los Angeles Unified on Tuesday on behalf of a teenage girl who alleges she was sexually abused by a former Venice High history teacher and tennis coach, including once in the school’s football stadium press box.

The mother of the girl filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the LAUSD, former teacher Michael Finegold — who also was the public address announcer for varsity football games — and Venice High Principal Elsa Mendoza.

The suit alleges sexual battery, negligence and violations of the civil and education codes.

An LAUSD spokesman did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged misconduct mainly occurred in October 2013 when the girl was 16 years old and primarily consisted of Finegold inappropriately touching the girl and having improper conversations with her.

“He (Finegold) would often ask plaintiff to remain in his classroom
during nutrition, lunch and after school hours where he was alone with plaintiff,” the suit states.

“He would commonly give her back rubs, rub her feet or otherwise engage in inappropriate contact with plaintiff,” the suit states.

On occasion Finegold gave the girl “long and compassionate hugs” in front of students and school employees, according to the lawsuit.

Finegold also once texted the girl and said, “I want to sleep with
you,” and told her in conversations that his marriage was failing and that he was sexually interested in the plaintiff, the suit states.

On Oct. 18, 2013, Finegold asked the girl to go with him to a VHS
football game and invited her to watch from the press box, where he was scheduled to announce the game, the suit states.

During the first half of the game, Finegold began “inappropriate sexual contact” with the girl in front of the team’s official scorekeeper and a local news reporter, according to the lawsuit.

“There was quite a bit of inappropriate and perverse sexual comments being made by Finegold throughout the first half of the game,” the suit states.

Mendoza was told about Finegold’s alleged misconduct with the girl in the press box, but she watched him temporarily leave with the girl and did nothing to intervene, the suit states.

Instead of calling the police as was her duty under the law, Mendoza “called her administration to find out what to do,” the suit states.

After leaving the press box, Finegold went on to continue to inappropriately touch the girl in the back seat of his car, the suit states.

Finegold returned with the girl to the press box, where the plaintiff
was removed by VHS personnel, the suit states.

Finegold was allowed to finish announcing the game, the suit states.

Neither Mendoza nor any of the other “mandated reporters” called police and so the girl and her mother had to make their own report to law enforcement last Oct. 20, the suit states.

After Finegold was arrested, the girl was harassed and ridiculed by
other students, some of whom called her a “slut,” the suit states.

In addition, a substitute teacher, with the girl present in the classroom, spoke of Finegold as a “great teacher” who was missed by other teachers as well as students, the suit states.

Venice Beach boardwalk.

Venice author releases collection of poetry “After the Fox”

Venice author Sarah Suzor released her second full-length collection of poetry “After the Fox” (published by Black Lawrence Press) on Sept. 27 at Focus Studio in Venice.

The book is co-authored by Travis Cebula of Golden, CO.

The fall/winter book tour for “After the Fox” will begin with the reading in Suzor’s hometown of 10 years, Venice, from which the two authors are scheduled to travel to Denver, CO, Philadelphia, PA, New York, NY, Boston, MA and more destinations.

After-the-Fox-Cover-2-250x386As the book is a collaborative endeavor, the two authors wrote, edited and constructed the entire book via email, and social-media correspondence. “After the Fox” was picked up by Black Lawrence Press in 2012.

Inheriting its title from the British hunting term “Tally Ho,” the book propelled and inspired by the notion of perpetual chase.

As collaborative authors, Suzor and Cebula adopt the personas of Morning and Nocturnal.

These two voices engage in and with every aspect that unites the binaries, as well as those that distinguish them as separate entities.

“After the Fox” begins in Manhattan where Morning pries at Nocturnal questioning, “Have you / forgotten me?” What ensues is an epistolary conversation between the two characters that involves their history and their experiences in the city.

The book shifts mid-way as Nocturnal prompts Morning to leave New York for Los Angeles, writing “I want to get burned / by the sky. Just once, // I want to drive all the way west / into the ocean and drown— / watch the sun dip like Icarus / spit into a vat of melted wax.”

Morning agrees to the call, but under only under specific circumstances that continue the chase, stating: “I’ll go conditionally. / I’ll go crazy. / But I won’t go committed.” And Morning leaves for the West Coast alone.

Morning and Nocturnal continue to remind each other of their meetings, or potential meetings, be it in shadows, in memories, at dawn and at dusk, but the narrative behind “After the Fox” only enhances a specific framework.

Here, through their poetry, Suzor and Cebula entice their readers into examining the curious nature of opposition: lovers and strangers, east and west, day and night, fire and water, and whatever falls between the dark and the light.

Suzor’s first book “The Principle Agent” won the 2010 Hudson Prize and was published by Black Lawrence Press in 2011. She also teaches Creative Writing nationally and in Paris at the Left Bank Writers Retreat.

Cebula has published four full-length collections of poetry, including “Ithaca” and “One Year in a Paper Cinema” (BlazeVox Books). He is the founder of Shadow Mountain Press, and also teaches in Paris at the Left Bank Writers Retreat.

You can learn more about the “After the Fox” by visiting

Venice Art Crawl

Venice Art Crawl mixer at Danny’s this Thursday evening

A Venice Art Crawl mixer will be held this Thursday, Oct. 16 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Danny’s, 23 Windward Avenue.

The community is invited to attend to mingle, network, and meet like-minded people that are passionate about art, Venice, and the local community.

Whether you’re an artist wanting to get involved in future art crawls, a local business owner offering wall space for artists to showcase or interested in volunteering, come join the mixer.

The Venice Art Crawl is by and for the people. Its goal is to strengthen communication and collaboration within the Venice community through quarterly art events and fundraisers.

Its ultimate aim is to foster and reinvigorate the creativity that has historically made Venice such a vibrant and dynamic community.

For more information, visit


Wurstkuche Venice celebrating Oktoberfest every Sunday afternoon in October

Throughout the entire month October, Wurstkuche Venice will be hosting their first ever Oktoberfest celebrations every Sunday afternoon from 1 pm to 5 pm.
The restaurant will be decorated to identify with the Spaten’s Oktoberfest tent at the Munich Festival Grounds.
The taps will be flowing with traditional German biers, Oom Pah Pah music playing from THE GERMAN ZEITGEIST BAND, festive activities, delicious sausage, large Bavarian pretzels and even purchase a traditional lederhosen and dirndl.
Wurstkuche Venice  is located at 625 Lincoln Blvd, Venice.
For more information, visit

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