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L.A. might restrict music performers at Venice boardwalk

December 15, 2009 |  5:40 am


The Los Angeles City Council plans to debate today several changes to regulations governing the Venice Beach boardwalk -- a subject of considerable controversy and a string of legal challenges in recent years.

The Council approved a new ordinance for the boardwalk in April 2008 that was crafted under court supervision. It divided the west side of the boardwalk into a “p-zone” and an “i-zone.” Performers and other individuals seeking spots in the p-zone were required to get a permit through a lottery system between Memorial Day and Nov. 1. With that permit, they are allowed to peddle items including leaflets, bumper stickers, books, buttons or performance recordings.

Permits are also required year-round for individuals who want to sell certain items in the “i-zone” -- such as artwork or objects that are “inextricably intertwined” with their message. And the 2008 ordinance aimed to address residents’ complaints about noise.

Today, the Council will consider a new rule barring the use of musical instruments or amplified sound between sunset and 9 a.m. Members will also debate whether to give police more authority to ensure that performers rotate between shared spaces in a timely manner, as well as a change that would make the p-zone lottery system year-round. A fourth change would ensure there is enough room between the designated spaces to allow visitors and emergency officials to pass freely between the beach and boardwalk.

Norman Kulla, an aide to Westside Councilman Bill Rosendahl, said the changes are aimed at keeping the peace among performers, artists and free expressionists who compete for high-demand spots on the boardwalk, while addressing some of the concerns raised by residents in community meetings.

For Venice residents such as Eric Bostrom, however, the proposed changes do not go far enough. Bostrom, who lives 100 yards from the boardwalk, said he now spends his Saturday and Sunday afternoons away from his apartment because of what he describes as the “unbelievable” noise of a drum orchestra on the boardwalk.

“The residents are being affected in a captive listening situation, but the city is claiming they can’t do anything about it,” Bostrom said. “They just keep on doing things that have no effect.”

But Kulla, who is Rosendahl’s northern district director, said the Los Angeles Police Department’s beach unit is receiving training on a new noise meter that could more effectively monitor the source of sound that exceeds current noise restrictions.

“We understand that they’re frustrated and not satisfied, and we hope that the new noise meter will finally give them some relief,” said Kulla.

A vote by the Council today would only be on whether to ask the City Attorney to draft changes to the Venice Beach boardwalk ordinance. Members would have to vote again to finalize changes to the ordinance.

-- Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

Photo: L.A. Times