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Venice Beach zip line clears major obstacle for approval

May 18, 2012 | 11:48 am

The Venice Neighborhood Council approved the installation of a 720-foot zip-line ride to run for a three-month trial period, clearing the way for final approval from the California Coastal Commission
Forget the 200-foot-tall Ferris wheel. Venice Beach is about to get a zip line this summer.

The Venice Neighborhood Council this week approved the installation of a 720-foot zip-line ride to run for a three-month trial period, clearing the way for final approval from the California Coastal Commission.

Under the proposal, riders will take off from a 44-foot tower near the skate park to a 24-foot tower at Windward Plaza by the basketball courts. The metal towers will be decorated with local art, and the attraction will bring in much needed revenue to clean up the boardwalk, said Linda Lucks, president of the council.

"The part that really struck us, what's really positive, is that it wouldn't take up a lot of space -- on the ground or in the air," she said.

The ride operator, Greenheart Conservation Company, is awaiting final permits from the Coastal Commission and hopes to open by July 1. 

Greenheart plans to offer live acrobatic and aerial performances to the public, and proposes to give two-thirds of its gross revenue to clean the trash and improve public restrooms along the boardwalk. Educational programs on art and environment issues are to be run for children.

"We want to fit into the Venice Beach culture. The idea is to work with parks to be a solution," said Ian Green, co-founder of the Canada-based company. "And for us, it's the opportunity to talk about our work in Rwanda, or ocean plastics in Vancouver. It's how we get people to know what Greenheart is doing."

The conservation-centered company has installed zip lines around the globe, including Labadee Beach in Haiti and Las Vegas, where the firm has raised more than $200,000 for charities since the line opened in 2010. Green said he hopes the Venice Beach initiative will become a model that his company can take to other cities.

"Zip lines are a unique way to generate awareness and revenue," he said. "Sure, it's a yahoo experience, but there's a lot more that you can get out of it."

The company has budgeted $300,000 for the summer and hopes to attract 300 to 400 visitors a day. Rides are to cost $20 and be open to the general public after the education programs each morning.

The city's Department of Recreation and Parks brought the idea to the council after a British company's proposals for an observation wheel angered many local residents.  That company, Great Observation Wheel, is now looking at other possible sites in the region that might be more welcoming, according to LA Inc.

"This is the third idea Recreation and Parks have brought to us as a way to bring more revenue, and it's the least obnoxious," Lucks said, noting that the first idea was to begin advertising in Venice Beach parks, followed by the proposal for the observation wheel.

Support for the zip line wasn't unanimous. Many residents said the screaming from people on the ride will make the area even noisier, Lucks said. Other concerns include more crowds, more trash, possible injuries and unwanted effects on the aesthetics and character of Venice Beach.

But many are optimistic about the attraction. "The fact that they [Greenheart] came in proposing to take care of our boardwalk is encouraging," Lucks said, noting that spending cutbacks in recent years have left Venice Beach in desperate need of maintenance.

The zip line must be dismantled at the conclusion of Greenheart's three-month permit, but a permanent installation may be considered and is subject to environmental review by the city of Los Angeles and the Coastal Commission, officials said.

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-- Rosanna Xia

Photo: The Venice boardwalk. Credit: Megan Spelman / Los Angeles Times

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