Coastal Commission reopens fight over L.A. beach curfew in Venice

A man rests on the grassy area along Ocean Front Walk in Venice, where police are enforcing a curfew, driving the homeless inland to sleep on the sidewalks.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The state Coastal Commission has quietly revived the long-running fight over an overnight beach curfew in the city of Los Angeles.

In an April 9 letter, Andrew Willis, a commission enforcement analyst, asked the city Department of Recreation and Parks to “restart discussions” toward easing the midnight-to-5 p.m. ban.

Opponents of the curfew called the letter’s language “weak” but said it held out the promise of modifying or toppling the 16-year-old curfew.

“There’s been a tidal shift,” said longtime Venice activist David Ewing. “It’s bound to happen.”

The city has long contended that the curfew was needed to deter crime. It also has maintained that the commission has jurisdiction over only physical structures at the beach.


The commission acknowledged there could be a ban for public safety reasons but that any restrictions must go through a permitting process and must be narrowly tailored.

The commission last made a push against the curfew in 2010 but was rebuffed by the city, which instead expanded the curfew to the Venice boardwalk, in large part because of increasing numbers of homeless people in the area.

But crime has dropped over the last decade citywide, the Coastal Commission’s makeup has changed in the last year and City Atty. Mike Feuer replaced Carmen Trutanich. Some members of Venice’s old guard decry the homogenization of the historically bohemian beach town that has come with the influx of tech giants such as Google.

Venice activists say the curfew has pushed homeless people into neighborhoods, where law enforcement is more difficult, while doing nothing to end the conditions that put them there.

Meanwhile, they say, residents of all stripes are deprived of the pleasure of lingering on the sand, or taking moonlight beach strolls.

“I grew up in L.A., and personally I think people should be able to go to the beach at night,” said Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks, a 40-year resident of the community.

“Homelessness hasn’t ended,” said Karen Wolfe, another longtime resident.

They also say the ban is selectively enforced against the homeless.

Although Willis’ letter used conciliatory language, he reiterated the commission’s longstanding position that the city must conform to the Coastal Act and the commission’s guidelines, which he said call for:

-- A way for the public to have access to the ocean 24 hours a day.

-- Presenting “credible evidence” of a public safety problem that requires a beach curfew.

-- Evaluating alternatives to a “sweeping” curfew and tailoring boundaries to narrowly focus the ban on problem areas.

-- Adopting a “sunset” clause to guarantee periodic review and public hearings on the need for the curfew.

Wolfe would like to see Los Angeles go through a public hearing process and justify maintaining the ban.

“We’re used to having a lot of say in Venice,” she said.


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