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Does Venice Beach need more security and a cleaner boardwalk?

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Property owners are deciding whether to tax themselves to pay for those services

As the community of Venice remains embroiled in a bitter war over gentrification, property owners in the area around the boardwalk are deciding whether to establish an organization that critics say would serve as a private security force for the elite.

The Business Improvement District that Venice commercial property owners have proposed is certainly not a novel concept; there are more than 40 BIDs in the city of Los Angeles. Established by merchants or property owners in a commercial area, BIDs are funded via property taxes--essentially, stakeholders tax themselves to pay for additional services beyond those provided by the city.

Supporters say a BID would make the area safer for residents and visitors, while supplementing city sanitation services and helping to keep the boardwalk clean. "The city doesn’t have the resources to keep the sand off the boardwalk, maintain the bathrooms and paint out graffiti ... A BID will help improve sanitation," Carl Lambert, a vocal proponent, tells The Argonaut.

At a heated city council meeting Tuesday, opponents were vocal about the potential of the organization to further divide Venice along racial and economic lines. In a formal letter of opposition sent to city officials at the end of June, a collection of neighborhood groups and activists argued that, "Business Improvement Districts in the City of Los Angeles, and particularly the security forces they hire, have a history of hostility toward homeless and low-income residents."

The group also argued that the process of establishing the BID has not been carried out with enough transparency, saying, "none of the details or documents about the potential Venice BID have been made public."

Others at the meeting, including Venice councilman Mike Bonin, said the BID is needed to make the area a safe and appealing destination for visitors. The councilman also dismissed concerns that BID security officers would target the homeless, arguing that members of the homeless community are often the targets of crimes and would benefit from additional security. He pointed to two recent assaults as examples of incidents that might be avoided with more security personnel.

Many in the crowd were not impressed. They heckled Bonin throughout his comments, forcing several prolonged interruptions.