Less than seven months after a car drove onto the Venice boardwalk and plowed into crowds of beach-goers, killing a tourist from Italy, several temporary barricades placed at key locations have been damaged or vandalized to the point of ineffectiveness.
Following the horrific crash at Austin's SXSW festival in which two people died after a car burst through temporary barricades and collided with music lovers early yesterday, we learned that efforts to protect boardwalk users from another such tragedy in Los Angeles have been slow-going.
Even as beach weather has graced Los Angeles early this year, permanent “bollards” to block drivers from venturing onto Ocean Front Walk appear to be months away:
Following the deadly, Aug. 4 vehicular incursion on the boardwalk, which authorities allege was done on purpose, local city Councilman Mike Bonin quickly introduced a proposal to patch the gaps on Ocean Front Walk that allow vehicles to get through.
It's been almost seven months since then, and nothing recommended in a city assessment has been done, save for the installment of temporary barricades that, as we said, were quickly vandalized or worn down so much that they could barely stop a golf cart.
Bonin's office acknowledged the damage done to the those temporary bollards.
The good news is that, coincidentally or not, the city Department of Transportation just yesterday replaced those dilapidated bollards with new, better (but still temporary) versions, a spokesman for Bonin told us.
The old ones, which were heavy but flexible enough to bend when emergency vehicles pass over them, had indeed been wrecked by cop cars, fire trucks and ambulances as well as by local vandals, he said.
The new ones, which are bright yellow and have reflective tape on them, “are better designed for the boardwalk,” the rep said. The old ones were “leftovers from city warehouses,” he said.
But while the new bollards are brighter (and therefore less likely to be stumbling blocks for the area's hordes of pedestrians), they hardly look sturdier. They're still a flexible material sheathed in plastic that would almost certainly not stop a driver intent on destruction.
And then there's that matter of getting permanent barricades erected.
The Venice Beach Public Safety Needs Assessment proposes options that include $1.2 million worth of “automated retractable” bollards on Ocean Front Walk at five intersections (Navy Street, Rose Avenue, Windward Avenue, 17th Avenue, Venice Boulevard) and/or $150,000 worth of gates at nine spots along the walk.
Other ideas including using large planters and “natural” looking features to block vehicles at perpendicular intersections. Some of those streets already have steel bollards in place.
Sounds good, but the problem is money. The city is facing a $242 million deficit, a perpetual problem, just as the issue of building boardwalk barricades is reaching the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee.
Bonin's office says the councilman is trying to find creative ways to carve the cash out of the city's budget without sticking the general fund with a nearly $2 million bill.
On top of all that, the barricades aren't really meant to stop all cars – just crazy people. City vehicles – cops, paramedics, trash trucks – are on Ocean Front Walk early in the morning and later at night, and they need to be.
The idea is provide enough of a deterrent to stop someone from accidentally driving on the boardwalk in a way similar to the time an 86-year-old man drove into the Santa Monica Farmers Market in 2003, killing nine.
Bonin's office notes that the suspect from last August's tragedy was seen going around permanent barricades and driving onto a sidewalk in order to get on the boardwalk. The bollards didn't stop him, authorities said.
No one is 100 percent safe from people who intend to inflict harm. But it would be good to know that the city is trying in earnest to patch up the porous boardwalk before summer.