About the VCALast modified: August 9, 2009
SERVING OUR HISTORIC VENICE CANALS COMMUNITY SINCE 1976 !!!
Our North Venice Canals were originally created in 1905 by a series of builders as a saltwater canal system connecting to Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America Canals. Unfortunately, when they were first built, all of them had been so poorly constructed of un-reinforced concrete, the banks and sidewalks along the Canals began to rapidly deteriorate shortly after their construction. By the 1920s, due to a lack of proper maintenance, the Venice of America Canals and our North Venice Canals had become severely deteriorated and water quality was appalling. Because of this, shortly after the City of Venice was annexed to the City of Los Angeles, property owners along Abbot Kinney’s Canal system practically begged the City to fill them in, which was done through a property assessment district. Luckily, our Canals were not filled in as there simply were not enough property owners at the time for the City to create an assessment district to pay for the work.
Venice Canals Then …
In 1942, the City of Los Angeles legally withdrew the remaining North Venice Canals system from public use, sighting the severe deterioration of the embankments, sidewalks and deplorable water quality a health and safety hazard.
Over the ensuing years, there were many plans to clean up or restore the canals. In the late 1960’s, for example, the City of Los Angeles had an elaborate plan to create navigable waterways known as the “Venice Waterways Project”. Plans called for connecting our North Venice Canals with the Marina channel via the Grand Canal/Ballona Lagoon natural wetlands waterway system that is south of Washington Boulevard by deepening the entire Grand Canal waterway system. The scope of the plan also included bulkheads to begin at property lines, installation of underground utilities, new streets, and street lighting. In addition, this proposed plan included the construction of a vehicular bridge on Washington Boulevard over Grand Canal that was to have been high enough to allow motor boats and small sail boats to easily pass beneath. The bridge would have started at Dell Avenue and ended at Pacific Avenue. This particular project came so close to “happening” that an assessment district was actually passed by City Council, with some Canal property owners even paying the assessment. The project was eventually abandoned because of a law suit filed by Howard Hughes.
Shortly after its formation in 1976, the Venice Canals Association (VCA) began its work with City officials to find a workable plan to rehabilitate the Canals. In 1982 the Canals were placed in the National Register of Historic Places as an early example of community and recreational planning in a coastal marshland area. The following year, the Canals were declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, providing further impetus to the VCA’s commitment to revitalize the Canals. When it became evident the City was unable to wholly fund the Canals restoration project because of budgetary restraints, the VCA petitioned the City for an assessment district whereby all Canal property owners would share the rehabilitation expense with the City. The petition to proceed with the improvement was granted by the City in 1983.
Finally, in 1992, after years of further negotiations with the City and the community, construction to rehabilitate the Canals began. In 1993 the Canals were re-opened with then state-of-the-art Loffelstein-block banks to aid ingress-egress of our waterfowl and boaters alike, as well as provide stable footings for the carefully selected wetland vegetation that was planted along the banks and sidewalks in lieu of metal safety railings. During this re-construction process, literally tons of Class III contaminated sediment, sidewalk rubble, and other debris (including water heaters and car batteries!) were removed from the Canals.
Venice Canals Now …
In addition to the dredging and renovation of the waterway itself, several of our pedestrian bridges were also reconstructed and, at the specific request of the VCA, the Grand Canal walk-bridge between Howland Canal and Linnie Canal was moved northward to align it with one of the City’s right-of-way access pathways to Venice Beach.
The VCA, a domestic non-profit California Corporation, was originally organized in 1975 and incorporated on January 30, 1976 under the name: THE RESIDENT AND NON-RESIDENT PROPERTY OWNERS ASSOCIATION FOR THE PRESERVATION OF THE NORTH VENICE CANALS, INC. The name was chosen to show both the diversity of land ownership and the need to restore the saltwater canals and reverse the blighted conditions of the neighborhood. The original Board consisted of Barbara Michalak, Les Otterstrom, Paula Tate, Marla Engel, Ruth Ann Steffens, Fred Hoffman, Anita Henkins, Joseph Smith, W. Reid Monroe, Bonnie Felix, and Murray Leral. Of that original Board, Bonnie Felix, Murray Leral, and Les Otterstrom’s widow, Angie, still live in the Canals.
In 1978 the name was changed to VENICE WATERWAYS ASSOCIATION, INC., which clearly described the total water orientation of the community. It was not until July 14, 1986 that our Association’s name was changed to what it is called today – the VENICE CANALS ASSOCIATION. Our Board still consists of 11 community-elected Directors who serve staggered two-year terms. Approximately three-quarters of the almost 400 properties in the Canals are owned by our General Members. However, not all of our members are property owners – approximately ten percent of our members are “Friends of the Canals” – Canal residents and others residing outside of the Canals who simply share a love and concern for the well-being of our unique community.
Proudly serving our Canals community for 33 years (and counting!), the VCA continues its commitment to protect, preserve, and enhance our unique recreational wetland environment. In addition to spearheading the restoration of our Canals, we accomplish this in many ways:
* When needed, the VCA purchases and replaces the Atriplex (saltbush) plants, which serve as our “safety handrails” along the sidewalks. Through our Atriplex Adopt-A-Plant program, residents voluntarily nurture the newly purchased plants until they are ready for planting. In conjunction with the City, we are also responsible for the planting of environmentally appropriate trees in and around the Canals, and helped to rehabilitate the children’s Linnie Canal Park (and Duck yard) on Dell Avenue, making it once again safe and enjoyable for both our children and the many species of migrating waterfowl that seasonally pass through;
* The VCA was instrumental in designing and installing unique directional signage to assist residents and visitors alike who wish to enjoy the Canals. The public signs offer directions and the “rules and regulations” of the Canals, to better protect wildlife and promote safety. In an effort to minimize debris in the community, we also purchased and installed the numerous trash receptacles you’ll find conveniently placed around the Canals and made arrangements with the City for the trash collection;
* In keeping with our “recreational wetland environment” designation, the VCA worked with the City and Coastal Commission to develop a boat dock design specifically geared for the small boats that are permitted on our waterways.
* For many years, the VCA sponsored a bi-annual Canal & Bridge Clean-up Day in which residents “adopted” each of our nine pedestrian and four vehicular bridges to clean and repaint. Ever mindful of environmental concerns, we now use only those paints and cleaning products that are friendly to our special eco-system;
* The VCA maintains a zero-tolerance for graffiti and has organized a group of residents who routinely canvass the neighborhood, carefully removing all graffiti found;
* In 2005, the City of Los Angeles Board of Public Works Neighborhood Matching Fund program awarded a community beautification matching fund grant to the VCA and its partner, the newly-formed Voice of the Canals, to enable us to install a formal “gateway” at the entry to our Canals on Dell Avenue. The project included landscaping and the placement of LA Cultural Affairs’ historic marker No. 270 which officially commemorates our Venice Canals as an historic landmark. This community-inspired project was completed in 2006;
* Another of our more important projects is the on-going protection and improvement of the water quality of the entire North Venice Canals waterway system. Sea water flows in and out of the Ballona Lagoon, which is an important true wetland preserve, through the County’s tidal gates in the Marina. In an effort to stop contaminated street and storm drain runoff from entering the Lagoon, the City, working with the VCA, installed special filters on free flowing storm drains that empty into the Venice Canals. Additionally, to minimize street overflow runoff and unfiltered petroleum residue and other contaminants from flowing into our waterway, the VCA assisted residents with the installation of filtered drains in almost all of our access Courts and parking lots adjacent to the Canals.
And our work is on-going – we look forward to many more years of serving our community and sincerely appreciate the continuing support from our members – membership in the Venice Canals Association does make a difference!!
If you are interested in becoming a “General Member” or a “Friend of the Canals”, please call (310) 869-4733 or email us at VeniceCanalsAssociation@gmail.com today! A “General membership costs just $40 and a “Friends” membership costs only $10 per year per household! For that small amount you will receive the latest news about all our wonderful VCA projects, plus E-Announcements that give you immediate notification of events affecting Venice and our unique historical Canals community.
SOME OF OUR MORE NOTEWORTHY ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1976 – Present
• The Venice Canals Association (“VCA”) spearheaded the restoration and rehabilitation of our historic Venice Canals, working diligently with the various LA City agencies and our Canals community to ensure the renovated Canals would be environmentally friendly, historically complementary, aesthetically pleasing, and safe for residents and the many tourists who annually visit our unique community. LA Cultural Affairs Department presented the VCA with Historic Cultural Monument Plaque No. 270 in 1982, declaring the area an historic and cultural landmark. In 1983 the Canals were entered into the National Registry of Historic Places, and in 2003, the California State Assembly recognized these accomplishments by presenting the VCA with an official Resolution. It is important to note that the VCA also assisted property owners in securing financial assistance through the City so that the Canal rehabilitation project was affordable for all property owners.
• Since the completion of the Rehabilitation Project in 1993, we continue to work with Council District 11 to ensure the City’s Canals Maintenance Contract remains in effect. Among their many responsibilities, the maintenance staff regularly “flush” the canals to maintain water quality and proper water levels, remove tons of seasonal algae, clean the surface and bottom of the canals to prevent silt build-up, weed, trim, and replant the Atriplex (saltbushes) where needed that act as safety barriers along our walkways, return or remove “runaway” and derelict boats, and bi-weekly empty the 23 public trash receptacles strategically placed around the Canals to reduce litter in the neighborhood so that our Canals waterways, walkways, and unique wetland habitat remain healthy and viable.
• In 2008, the VCA purchased and installed Mutt Mitt Dispensers at strategic locations around the Canals, providing bio-degradable bags for Dog Waste control.
• The VCA works closely with the various City agencies to ensure the 5 tidal gates at Grand Canal and Washington Boulevard are properly maintained and functioning to prevent the Canals from flooding during unusually high tides or severe storms.
• In our on-going efforts to improve water quality and prevent debris and other contaminates from entering the Canals, we had the City insert special filters in most of the storm drain catch basins that empty into the Canals from the surrounding City streets, and arranged for the 13 specially filtered storm drain catch basins that filter drainage from the “improved” vehicular courts in the Canals to be placed on a regular maintenance schedule that includes a minimum of two clean-outs per year. We continue to work with the City’s Wastewater Collection, Bureau of Sanitation, on filter solutions for the remaining unfiltered storm drains.
• In the early 1990s, we worked with the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks to renovate and upgrade our little mini-park, Linnie Canal Park, so that it would again be a safe, fun, and clean playground facility for our community’s youngest members – our children – and their families and friends. Our newest undertaking for the Park is the community-inspired Patterns of Protection project – which will provide a shade system to protect the children from the damaging effects of the sun as well as provide new playground equipment, sand, and landscaping for the Park which was last upgraded almost 20 years ago. Phase I of the project, the installation of the shade system and playground equipment, is expected to be completed before the end of 2009.
• In 2005, the VCA partnered with the City’s Community Beautification Matching Fund Grant Program and the VOC to install the beautifully designed and landscaped Gateway to the Historic Venice Canals project at the entrance to the Canals on Dell Avenue, which was completed in 2006.
• By partnering with various City agencies and the VOC, in September 2007 we successfully completed the VCA-initiated FastFind project, officially changing the previously confusing court signage in the Canals to alpha Court designations, making our community safer and more accessible for all, especially during emergencies.
• In cooperation with the City’s Board of Public Works and Pacific Graffiti Solutions Program, the VCA organized graffiti-removal community volunteers to regularly canvass our neighborhood and remove all graffiti found.
• In an effort to preserve our community’s desire for its low-key way of living, we continue to work with the City and our neighborhood to prohibit commercial ventures, such as boat rentals, from “opening up shop” in the Canals. The VCA also worked with the City and the community to ban gasoline-powered boats on our waterways in an effort to reduce noise and pollution in the Canals. We continue to assist residents with boating issues, such as mosquito abatement in boats with “standing” water, locating runaway boats, and removal of abandoned boats.
• The VCA has in the past published a quarterly Newsletter that informs residents about special events that are happening in greater Venice and our community, such as our annual not-to-be-missed Holiday Boat Parade, our 4th of July Linnie Canal Downwind Regatta, our Hot Summer Movie Row-In’s, Canalloween for the children, as well as informative articles on environmental matters and helpful hints on ways to keep our community healthy and viable, Good News about our Neighbors, and other positive community announcements. Out of respect for our environment, we are now attempting to provide that same information through our paperless E-tree Internet Announcement System whenever possible.
• Approximately 12 years ago, the VCA introduced a unique bicycle security patrol that has helped to reduce crime not only in our Canals community, but in adjacent neighborhoods as well.
• Working with the City of Los Angeles, the VCA reversed the flow of traffic on Dell Avenue to reduce traffic congestion in the neighborhood, which is especially beneficial during summer months and the tourist season.
• The VCA continues to work with the City and neighborhoods adjacent to our Canals community to improve and upgrade Ocean Avenue, Venice Boulevard (North & South), as well as the Venice Boulevard Parking Lots.
The VCA – dedicated to protecting, preserving, and enhancing our historic Venice Canals – and proudly serving our community since 1976 – membership does make a difference and we hope you will join us !