Category: Yo Venice

Is Cash Coming Back for the Big Blue Bus?

Santa Monica City Council discusses possibility of restoring cash service for buses 

By Dolores Quintana

Santa Monica lawmakers recently discussed the possibility of restoring cash payments for Big Blue Bus rides. 

Since July 12, 202, Santa Monica Big Blue Buses have ceased to accept cash payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In an attempt to minimize contact between drivers and passengers for safety, it may have made it more difficult for members of vulnerable groups to ride the city bus. People among the low-income, elderly, disabled, student and homeless individuals in the community have had issues because they lack access to MTA Tap cards or find it equally as hard to reload those cards even if they acquire them. While Big Blue Buses are supposed to give rides to anyone who needs them regardless of their ability to pay, some people report that this is not always the case. 

On September 14, Santa Monica City Council discussed how to remedy this issue and make bus rides accessible to all community members with item 13B on the agenda. Councilmembers Phil Brock, Oscar de la Torre and high school student Olivia Landon co-authored this discussion item. The item requested that equity be restored to the Santa Monica bus system by directing the City Manager to reintroduce cash payments to Big Blue Bus lines or to make buying and reloading TAP cards more convenient and accessible by adding more locations where members of the public can acquire and recharge these cards locally at a low cost. 

Councilperson Phil Brock presented the item and gave the example of his elderly mother who has never had a credit card and always uses cash or checks. He stated that she is not proficient with smartphones and would be unable to ride as things stand today. Councilperson 

“The reason for this motion is simple. We need to make sure that the least among us always have access to public transportation,” Brock said. 

Councilmember Gleam Davis asked Brock about residents’ ability to buy TAP cards in different retail locations and Brock pointed out that calls were made to retail outlets on the Big Blue Bus website that claimed to sell TAP cards and the result was disappointing. Out of the 15 retail stores that were contacted, only one sold TAP cards and refills, one claims to have TAP cards but does not refill them, one only refills TAP cards in prohibitively large amounts of $20 to $25, 6 had incorrect contact information, 6 say that they do not sell TAP cards at all despite being listed on the BBB site. 

There were a number of comments from community members that highlighted the different aspects of this issue. Landon, co-writer of the item, pointed out that she believes the survey that the Department of Transportation wants to do on bus riders is unfair. She said, “The people who don’t have access to the Internet, phones, or a TAP card are the ones who won’t be able to answer the survey. The results are bound to be skewed and in favor of cashless payment because of this.”

Eric O’Connor, Assistant Director of Transportation for Santa Monica, said that there are 91 TAP outlets in the service area and that the City will be auditing the outlets to make sure they have TAP cards available. He stated that while there are reported incidents of community members being refused rides for not having the fare, he noted that Big Blue Bus drivers are not coached to refuse riders. According to O’Connor, going cashless frees up 9,000 hours of wait time. 

Councilperson Lana Negrete asked about the bus drivers refusing service. O’Connor stated that it has always been the policy of the Big Blue Bus to provide service if a rider is unable to pay. In addition, O’Connor stated that cash fares are not a moneymaker and in fact cost more than they earn. Negrete asked if fare-less rides were in the future in reference to a previous item, fare-less bus rides for school children, and O’Connor stated that the negotiations were ongoing. 

Mayor Sue Himmelrich argued that if it costs the City more to take cash than it does to run cashless buses, it would seem counterproductive to reintroduce cash to the bus fare system. She said that they need to fix whatever part of the policy that has fallen short. 

Councilmember Brock asked to reinstate cash payments temporarily. Councilmember Davis pointed out that she was uncomfortable with making a decision like this without a more comprehensive discussion. Councilperson de la Torre suggested that maybe it would be a good idea to hand out pre-loaded TAP cards on buses and Mayor Himmelrich agreed. Mayor Pro Tem Kristen McCowan agreed that the item should go back to staff so that it could be analyzed further and that there should be an attempt to reiterate the policy to avoid potential refusal of service to riders. 

Mayor Himmelrich amended the item, which eventually passed unanimously, to direct staff to reinforce the policy that non-payers can still ride. In addition, the amended item instructs officials to distribute TAP cards more widely to as many people as possible. As a third part of the revised item, staff was instructed to come up with other means of obtaining TAP cards.

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Inglewood Man Arrested for Playa Del Rey Hit-and-Run That Killed Mother Cradling 3-Year-Old Killed

Darwin Dantzler, 39, arrested Wednesday

By Sam Catanzaro

An Inglewood man was arrested this week in connection to a Playa Del Rey hit-and-run that killed a woman and injured her three-year-old son. 

According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the incident took place on Saturday, September 11 around 10:35 p.m. when a dark colored Chevy Equinox traveling northbound on Vista Del Mar struck a pedestrian crossing eastbound on Vista Del Mar Boulevard. Police say the pedestrian, 33-year-old Wendy Galdamez Palma of Downey, was declared dead on the scene by the Los Angeles Fire Department. 

The driver of the vehicle fled the scene and did not render aid to the victim as required by law. On Wednesday,  Darwin Dantzler, 39, was arrested as a suspect in this incident. He has since been released after posting $50,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 12, 2022

When the collision occurred, the victim was cradling a three-year-old son. The child was taken to UCLA Westwood Hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries. On Sunday, the child was released from the hospital. 

As reported by CBS, Palma shielded her son with her own body, blocking him from the vehicle that killed her.

At the time of the collision, Palma’s husband and four-year-old son were together nearby. The family was previously at the beach and were walking back to their car. 

In the wake of the tragedy, a GoFundMe has been set up to help the family.“What was [supposed] to be a fun, family beach day for Wendy, her husband and two sons, turned into a fatal tragic loss,” reads the fundraiser description. “Wendy was 33 years old, married with two boys, ages 3 and 4. She was a beloved mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. She was loving, funny, admirable and self-less, with her last motherly instinct was to sacrifice her life to save her 3 year old son. Due to this senseless act of a heartless stranger, Wendy’s children will grow up without their beloved mother.”

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UCLA Study Suggests Nearly Half of LGBT Renters Behind on Rent Fear Eviction Within 2 Months

UCLA study sheds light on concerning issue 

By Susan Payne

According to a recent UCLA study, nearly half of the LGBT renters in the United States who are behind on their payments fear the worst: eviction. 

In as quick as two months, LGBT renters fear they could be displaced, according to research released by the University of California-Los Angeles. Examining housing stability during the coronavirus pandemic, a brief compiled by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles found that 19% of LGBT respondents said they are behind on rent, and 47% of fear eviction within the next two months. 

Results of the survey come after the Supreme Court’s decision to block an eviction freeze put in place by the Biden administration to financially shield vulnerable Americans during the pandemic, according to reporters at The Hill

Amid unpredictable economy and a pandemic-causing virus that has mutated, the rent moratorium was put in place — and extended several times — by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Trump last September.

Researchers a of LGBT respondents rent their homes, compared to 25% of their straight cisgender counterparts. And about 39% of people who identify as LGBT owned a house with a mortgage or loan, compared to 48% percent of non-LGBT respondents. 

Compounding disparity, more LGBT people of color (47%) rent their homes, compared to 37% of white LGBT respondents. More LGBT people of color said they feared eviction within the next two months, sitting at 12% comparable difference from white LGBT people. 

A key component of a person’s housing stability is whether they own or rent, the Williams Institute concluded. 

“While owning a home comes with financial risks and challenges, renters are often low-wage workers concentrated in industries likely to be impacted by declining economic activity, are paying increasingly larger shares of their income for housing, are competing over a decreasing stock of affordable units, and must regularly re-secure housing as their leasing contracts expire,” the research stated.

In February, a study released by the Williams Institute found that LGBT people of color were two times more likely to contract COVID-19 compared to their straight, white counterparts. Members of the LGBT community have a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing symptoms doe to the prevalence of underlying health conditions in the community.

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Man Arrested for Shooting at Family’s Vehicle Following Mar Vista Collision

LAPD arrest Victor Manuel Espino

By Sam Catanzaro

Police have arrested a man for shooting at a family following a hit-and-run traffic collision in Mar Vista. 

According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), on September 3 around 7:25 p.m., a family of three was driving westbound on Venice Boulevard near Sawtelle Avenue when a black Toyota Tacoma rear-ended the family’s vehicle. The driver failed to stop, identify themselves and render aid, as required by law, and the family followed the Tacoma to the 3700 block of Coolidge Avenue. 

“At this point, the Tacoma made a U-turn and the passenger pointed a revolver out of the passenger window and fired two rounds at the family’s vehicle,” the LAPD said in a news release.” 

The Tacoma then sped off northbound on Coolidge Avenue, according to police. 

LAPD Pacific Division Detectives located video footage that led to identifying Victor Manuel Espino, 22, as a suspect. Patrol officers located and arrested Espino.

“A follow-up was conducted at Espino’s home where officers recovered a .357 magnum revolver believed to have been used in the shooting,” the LAPD said. 

This week the LAPD submitted this case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for review and felony filing consideration. 

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Inmate Information Center, police arrested Espino on September 11 and then released him on September 15. He is scheduled to appear in court on October 13.

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Opinion: Recall Or Reelection: That’s The Choice For D-town Voters When It Comes To Incumbent Mike Bonin

By Nick Antonicello

There was good news for embattled incumbent Councilman Mike Bonin yesterday in that Governor Gavin Newsom not only survived a recall movement, but out-performed his 2018 number of 61.9% he received three years ago to 63.8%, with just 36.2% for his removal.

Red counties like San Diego also rejected the recall and in Orange County of all places, the “yes” question failed by some 50,000 votes.

In LA County, the recall was rejected by a vote of 1.5M “no” and 657K yes, nearly a 3-1 margin.

So do these numbers really have anything to do with the recall of Mike Bonin?

No.

But what we did learn from yesterday is that Gavin Newsom successfully controlled the narrative from defending his record on issues such as COVID-19 or chronic homelessness and instead spoke about conservative talk show host Larry Elder’s many opinions that are just out of step with most Californians, including members of the Bonin recall movement.

The actual record and policies of Newsom were seemingly more tolerable and accepting than the thought of this talk show libertarian running the most progressive state in America today.

And Bonin has already stolen a page from the Newsom political playbook and has tried over and over again to paint the recall as some kind of right-wing maniacal movement of Trump supporters and white supremacists seeking to radicalize from the extreme places of politics rather than a conversation on Bonin’s failed and miserable record in office.

For the difference in this effort to gather signatures is that Bonin cannot “demonize” anyone until the signatures are verified, certified and tallied, at which numerous candidates will surely consider taking on the fundamentally flawed Bonin, the highest paid councilman in the United States today

And most of them if not all of them will be Democrats, just like Mike.

For Bonin, the ultimate Machiavellian, this discussion must be about politics, and not his failed public policy positions.

Why?

Because the Bonin record is wrought in multiple failures, and an erosion of public confidence, our values and our neighborhoods all at the same time and the issue is no longer that failed record, but Mike Bonin himself and his inability to represent the 11th Council District here in LA.

So in this lurch to discuss “what if’s” versus his actual record, Bonin is blaming non-existent right-wingers unknown to anyone by claiming the process is “abusing” and “just like Trump.”

He talks about a perceived process to take down democracy and Democratic officials, but fails to mention that the two chief proponents of the recall initiative are both registered Democrats Nico Ruderman and Katrina Schmitt, Venice residents who both supported and voted for Bonin in his successful runs for city council.

Ruderman was recently elected to the Venice Neighborhood Council and is a father and husband never involved in a movement of this magnitude! Schmitt, who comes from a technology driven, private sector background is also a registered Democrat and like many believes this is a quality-of-life concern for Venice and the many neighborhoods of CD-11.

Another Bonin exaggeration is the cost of this recall that it could be $1.2 million dollars to let democracy run its course.

What he doesn’t tell you is that the City of Los Angeles operates on an annual budget of some $11.2 billion, hardly a rain drop in an ocean of government expenditures or excess!

Bonin again speaks of unnamed, “right-wing forces” in a district where such individuals seem to be more likely on an Endangered Species list than a LA voter roll!

Talk of “secret” committees, Orange County operatives and lawyers are somehow running this bipartisan coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents when the fact is the largest pool of support are in fact Democrats just like Mike!

For the crux of the recall effort is the endless string of broken promises and policy failures of this two-term, highly compensated downtown insider who was awarded an additional 18 months in office with zero input from his perceived right-wing constituents yielding Bonin another $500,000 in additional income as well as free health benefits and lifetime pension credits courtesy of LA taxpayers!

For the hard reality is that Mike Bonin didn’t lose a single penny in salary or pay during this pandemic, and in fact his time in public office was extended without voter approval or input.

This “look at my voter registration and not my council voting record” is at the heart of the Mike Bonin, two-step pivot!

What is ironic is that Bonin claims the recall is a waste of money, but not the billions he squandered on homeless policies so ridiculous and unworkable or the $150M he demanded be removed from the LAPD budget during the height of a crime surge across every neighborhood with Venice being Ground Zero for those atrocities of enabling drug & alcohol transients and criminals in many cases being held hostage to gang-controlled encampments all across CD-11!

So while the results of this week’s recall have really nothing to do with this initiative, it is fair to speculate that most who have signed the petition are registered Democrats, but Democrats who supported Bonin’s two previous races to serve on the LA City Council?

For the Bonin recall effort is organic, fluid and not about political party, but purpose and meaningful solutions that will bring a government that is responsive, accountable and listening.

There are two paths to this road with one being a new election or the other the unthinkable notion of Mike Bonin allowed to serve for another four years making him bullet proof and immune from any criticism from his constituents tired of this failed status quo.

Recall in this case is the right track for a better Venice and Los Angeles, so sign the petition.The author is a member of the Outreach, Oceanfront Walk, Parking, and Rules & Selections committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org). He can be reached at (310) 621-3775 or via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com

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Man Arrest Made in Connection to Venice Boardwalk Shooting

New York man arrested as a suspect in September 8 shooting

By Sam Catanzaro

Police arrested a New York man in connection to a recent shooting on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. 

According to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), on September 8, around 6:10 p.m., a shooting took place on the Boardwalk area near Windward Plaza following a verbal dispute between the victim and suspect. 

“The suspect retrieved a semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and shot at the victim, hitting him in the arm and leg,” the LAPD said in a press release. 

Following the shooting, the suspect along with two males and a female companion fled the scene in a 2018 Nissan Altima eastbound on Windward Avenue.   

The victim was transported to a local hospital and treated for gunshot wounds. 

On September 11, LAPD Central Division Patrol Officers located the 2018 Altima in South Central Los Angeles and detained James Feaster, 31, of New York and his female companion. 

Feaster was identified as the suspect in the Boardwalk shooting and was arrested. 

On September 14, the LAPD presented this case to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for felony filing consideration.  

On September 15, Feaster was released from custody on a zero-dollar bond. He is expected to appear in court on October 13.

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Opinion: Ten Reasons Why the Venice Boardwalk Got Cleaned Up

By Nick Antonicello

After years of neglect and outright incompetence when it came to the maintenance of Venice’s Oceanfront Walk by the City of Los Angeles, we see this drastic change in public policy as one of California’s great tourist destinations received this necessary face lift from a “slum by the sea” to this a once again functional destination for locals and tourists alike.

After allowing hundreds of make-shift encampments, tent structures and alike that littered the boardwalk like the bubonic plague, suddenly the City of Los Angeles took notice and like magic, a great majority of these crime and drug infested dens of inequity have miraculously disappeared!

While much damage has been done to the landscape of the boardwalk in terms of where these encampments formerly existed, this destination that was the delight of millions is finally rising off the canvas after this self-inflicted destruction that was allowed to occur for nearly three years!

And while the controversial and unpopular Councilman Mike Bonin, who created the crisis he seemingly wants to take credit for cleaning up, there are at least ten factors why the Venice Boardwalk finally got the maintenance attention it deserved and will continue to demand.

With killings, muggings and the drug trade out of control to say nothing of the destruction of a 6,000 square foot commercial structure, what really moved those in charge to finally do something?

Specifically, why did Councilman Bonin decide to start earning his $300,000 annual city income as the highest paid councilman in the United States?

The suppositions are numerous as this “why” question is asked by locals, but what really moved LA to finally act?

Here is my “check list” of why the destruction at the beach was no longer tolerable:

1.     Local pressure by Venetians who demanded action. Mike Bonin could no longer come to Venice, much less engage constituents as his credibility had evaporated to new lows and was forced to act.

2.     The threat of a second recall became real with much of the backing here in Venice from individuals like VNC member Nico Ruderman and community advocate Katrina Schmitt. This recall was not going away as the Recall Bonin 2021 effort is now closing in on some 10,000 signatures!

3.     The loss of any credible support from his council colleagues and Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose political career went from presidential timber, cabinet possibility to now sweating a testy US Senate confirmation hearing! His confirmation is far from certain. More importantly, Bonin finds himself in a very obvious and singular minority of one when it comes to the issue of encampments and homelessness with the rest of the municipal council.

4.     Joe Buscaino comes to Venice. When Councilman Joe Buscaino (CD-15) decided to launch his mayoral kick-off at Venice, it became obvious that rampant homelessness, rising crime and the deterioration of our quality-of-life could not be on better display then at Venice Beach at a 7am morning press conference that saw the retired cop attacked by a female transient who was waving a hunting knife and Buscaino had to be whisked away!

5.     The Sheriff comes to Venice. The presence of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva no doubt shook Team Bonin at their core as they now had to contend with the county’s top elected law enforcement officer who was independent of the LAPD and has the resources, manpower and will to change the course of the homeless issue here at the beach. Bonin’s response was political and typical, but the Sheriff’s new involvement brought additional pressure on Bonin as well as a storm of bad publicity that he could no longer ignore. Sheriff Villanueva is the prime force behind the clean-up of the boardwalk.

6.     National & International media attention exposes Bonin’s inability to solve the problem. Since the LA Times largely ignored the issue for years, it was national broadcast media on the plight and blight of Venice that appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, FOX News, ABC, NBC and CBS and shined a light on a homeless debacle that could no longer be white washed!

7.     Soledad Ursua. The fiercely independent VNC community officer and chair of the influential Public Safety Committee, Soledad became a one-man wrecking crew when it came to media coverage both locally and nationally as she persevered in promoting this story of what was happening to Venice. Goes to show one individual who is smart and aggressive and most importantly unafraid can make a big difference in the lives of people as a volunteer because she cares.

8.     A Boardwalk in Crisis. Take rampant homelessness and rising crime and add a two-year raging pandemic and the result is the shuttering of local retailers who closed in droves and many will not return. The fact is the boardwalk was becoming a ghost town and the only way to bring back the tourists was to remove the encampments so that commerce and a crime-free environment can return.

9.     The Influence of Outside Agitators Backfires. Not-for-profit bureaucrats and outside political agitators who have no standing with locals tried to control the conversation and narrative when in fact this strategy backfired and woefully so! Those who live here had enough and the rhetoric of “right is now wrong and wrong is now right” fell upon deaf ears. The boardwalk is a tourist destination that was being decimated by radical thinking and politics that has no place here at the beach. Locals rose up and had enough. Crime and encampments were overwhelming Venice as a community!

10.  The Time had Come, Enough was enough and Action was required. People with drug and alcohol issues, mental challenges and alike cannot live in make shift structures with no support or hope. No one wants to live in fear and squalor. A problem that had spun out of control had to be addressed. Intense media interest at all levels coupled with law enforcement intervention that was welcomed and greeted by just about everyone except Mike Bonin became painfully obvious that the time to clean up this moral mess was now as other communities believed what happened to Venice will happen in the neighborhoods of Westchester, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and Mar Vista.

For now the boardwalk has been somewhat resuscitated, out of this induced coma implemented by the failed policies of Mike Bonin. But what will happen next and where is the commitment to continue to clean things up?

For that is a political question that needs to be answered by those who won’t dare give Mike Bonin the opportunity to destroy our community values again.The author is a member of the Outreach, Parking and Oceanfront Walk Committees of the Venice Neighborhood Council (www.venicenc.org). Antonicello can be reached at (310) 621-3775 or nantoni@mindspring.com

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30-Foot Yacht Washes Ashore on Venice Beach Amid Large Swell

No injuries reported in Tuesday night incident 

By Sam Catanzaro

A small yacht washed ashore on Venice Beach this week as a large south swell filled into the region. 

According to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the incident was reported Tuesday at 11:39 p.m. 

Both persons aboard the vessel, a Bertram 31, were able to self-rescue without injury.

On Wednesday morning, Baywatch rescue boats and land-based lifeguards were able to rig up and tow the vessel offshore. In addition, dewatering and overhaul operations were conducted by Baywatch crews due to prop damage. 

The vessel was successfully salvaged and towed to Marina Del Rey for an emergency haul out. 

According to lifeguards, a large, long-period south swell hitting the coast contributed to the vessel going ashore. The swell, producing sets in Santa Monica Bay upwards of six feet, promoted the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a beach hazard statement for the Los Angeles County Coast. 

“Occasionally larger and suddenly more powerful sets are possible due to the long period nature of the swell, the NWS said. “There is an increased risk for ocean drowning. Rip currents can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea. Large breaking waves can wash people off beaches and rocks, and capsize small boats near shore.” 

The beach hazard statement remains in effect until 9 p.m. Wednesday. 

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Market Report: Shishitos Without the Spice?

Padron Peppers are a great alternative to traditional Shishito peppers and today we learn how to prepare these tasty peppers for your next snack. Video brought to you by Santa Monica College.

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LA City Council Approves New Multifamily Building in Westwood

Los Angeles City Council has approved a new multifamily building for the corner of Wilshire and Westwood blvd, learn more in this video brought to you by Kline Art Academy.

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