Photos: Los Angeles: City of Angels

loading photos...
  1. Los Angeles has a stunning and recognizable skyline and is a great spot to see Hollywood's A-listers, but is also known for sprawl and smog. L.A. is home to nearly 10 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008 figures). (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The East Pavilion at the Getty Center is pictured in L.A. "The J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to further knowledge of the visual arts and to nurture critical seeing by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of the highest quality," according to The Getty's Web site. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Venice Beach has the boardwalk, Muscle Beach, volleyball courts, a bike trail and many other attractions that have been luring people for decades. "Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic," boasts venicebeach.com. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. If you're a nut about pumping iron, you'll want to one very specific part of Venice Beach. "Muscle Beach is a special area where fanatic bodybuilders pump iron in a public show of strength," according to L.A.'s Department of Recreation & Parks. This photo shows Larry Pollock striking a pose in the finals of the annual Venice Classic bodybuilding competition at Venice Beach back in 2003. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Two women walk past businesses that cater to high-end luxury item consumers along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. "The famed shopping street is known throughout the world as the epicenter of luxury fashion," claims Rodeo Drive's official Web site. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Looking for stars in L.A.? You need not look beyond The Griffith Observatory. OK, maybe these aren't the stars you had in mind, but the observatory overlooks Los Angeles from atop the Hollywood Hills. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is the centerpiece of Fantasyland, and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. (Paul Hiffmeyer for Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Visitors raft through realistic looking hot springs and geysers on the ''Grizzly River Rapids'' ride at Disney's California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, Calif. The 55-acre park next to Disneyland is based on California themes, and opened to the public in 2001. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A Cownose Ray glides past as divers feed tropical fish in the Tropical Pacific Gallery at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The Aquarium features a shark lagoon and three main viewing galleries where visitors can learn about ocean issues and conservation. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A simulated "Jaws" shark attack is just one of the attractions that draws in visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood. Park rides include Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4-D, Jurassic Park, The Blues Brother, The Simpsons, and more. (Universal Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The Hollywood Sign was refurbished in 2005. The sign is one of the better-known landmarks in America, and sits atop Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains. (David Livingston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is best known for the Oscars, an annual telecast set to run for the 82nd time. "More than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema" make up the Academy's membership, according to oscars.org. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Galleria Studio Hollywood sells merchandise along the Walk of Fame, where Hollywood's icons are immortalized. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Stars have left their hand and foot prints in concrete for more than eight decades at the original Graumans Chinese Theatre forecourt. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Dodger Stadium, opened in 1962, has seen more than 125 million fans come through its gates. Baseball fans can purchase a famed Dodger Dog and a beer, soak up some sun, take in a breathtaking view of downtown L.A., look for celebrities -- oh, and watch America's favorite pasttime. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Museum of Contemporary Art houses more than 500 pieces of art created by more than 200 artists. MOCA was founded in 1979 and "is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art," its Web site says. (Ted Thai / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors to Olvera Street can stroll around the marketplace and shop for Mexican-inspired souvenirs. On weekends, revelers can enjoy entertainment by roaming musicans, Mariachi bands and performances by Aztec Indians. (L.A. Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. The 2,265-seat Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is clad with more than 6,000 steel panels. The hall is home to the Music Center of Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Farmers Market started in July of 1934 when some farmers pulled their trucks onto some empty land known as Gilmore Island. The farmers displayed their wares, and customers came, parked, strolled around and purchased fruit, vegetables and other goods. "The atmosphere was casual, the open air commerce enticing, the goods fresh, and the result remarkable," farmersmarketla.com claims. "Farmers Market became an instant institution." (Farmers Market) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. This diorama of a mastodon trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits is featured at the Page Museum. "Rancho La Brea is one of the world's most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world," the Page Museum's Web site claims. (David Peevers / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A surfer heads toward the water at Laguna Beach in Orange County, Calif. The state's myriad beaches draw a large number of tourists and surfers from across the country. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The $1.5 million solar-powered ferris wheel runs at Pacific Park amusement park on the Santa Monic Pier. Even with its 160,000 lights, the ride is 75 percent more energy efficient than the Pacific Wheel -- the ride it replaced -- which was auctioned off on eBay for $132,400. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Music Director Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 3, 2009, in Hollywood. The Philharmonic regularly performs at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Mathew Imaging / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Manhattan Beach is located about 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles, and features more than 2 miles of beach front, 40 acres of recreational beach area. The scenic 928-foot-long pier at the end of Manhattan Beach is easily recognizable, and fishing is permitted all year long. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

By
updated 3/29/2010 12:04:50 PM ET 2010-03-29T16:04:50

Sand and surf are the least of the attractions making Venice Beach one of Los Angeles' top tourist draws.

On summer weekends, some 150,000 exhibitionists and gawkers flock to the neighborhood to see and be seen in a Bohemian rhapsody of bongo-bangers, dreadlocked artists and acrobatic gymnasts.

In recent months, though, that freewheeling hippie circus has gotten edgy thanks to a stubbornly sour economy heightening competition for the 200 peddler spaces along the 1.5-mile long asphalt strip bordering the beach.

That has longtime storeowners and artists steamed, and residents in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood clamoring for a clamp down on the increased noise and transients.

"It's become a real free-for-all, really aggressive," said Therese Dietlin, who has distributed alternative political literature for nine years on the boardwalk, which is lined with cafes, medical marijuana clinics and souvenir shops.

Recently, she said, a woman selling Buddhas and incense kicked her table across the boardwalk claiming that Dietlin had set up her table in her space. "It never used to be like that," she said.

The city has responded with new rules to give more people a chance at a space on the strip, but the peak summer season looms more chaotic than ever.

For the first time, the city has been giving out all the vendor spaces in its weekly lotteries. People from as far away as New York and Florida are participating, said Victor Jauregui, senior director of the Venice Beach Recreation Center, which runs the lottery.

The number of performers wanting a spot has jumped by 80 percent over the past year, while the number of vendors has doubled. That's led to some boisterous raffles.

"They get into it, calling each other all kinds of names," Jauregui said. "It's the frustration, especially if you get someone who is truly an artist and they haven't gotten a space in a few weeks."

Police say the tension is spilling on to the boardwalk with complaints about illegal selling and even fistfights over spaces.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

"It's been a busy winter. People are trying to make ends meet and they don't know the rules," said Los Angeles police Sgt. Marc Reina. "We try to mediate and keep the peace, but it's crowded and they want to sell. It's a challenge."

More officers will be added to patrol the summer pandemonium, he added.

Venice has been known as an enclave of funky free expression since the 1950s when the neighborhood was a hub of soap-box politics and beatnik poets, luring the likes of The Doors' Jim Morrison.

These days, visitors come for its famed Muscle Beach weightlifting area, a meandering bike path, a new skateboarding park, as well as drum jam sessions and the culture of a tie-dye time warp where the scent of marijuana often wafts on the ocean breeze.

Venice has also gotten increasingly commercial. In 2008, after vendors sued the city over access to the seaside strip, the city adopted a complex set of rules to preserve the area's artistic bent and cut the hucksterism.

The ordinance says vendors can only sell artwork such as jewelry, photographs, or paintings, or items that are "inextricably intertwined" with a person's artistic or social message. That would include, for instance, a T-shirt with a slogan advocating a cause. Violators can be ticketed.

Storeowners and artists say the regulations worked for a while, but since the economy nosedived, the boardwalk has gotten out of control with increasing number of vendors selling commercial items, such as computer mouses and incense, crowding out longtime artists selling their work, performers and political advocates.

Vendor Mike Hunt, for example, requests donations for shea butter soap, which he says is part of his "social message" touting the benefits of natural African products and, being African-American, part of his heritage. For a $10 "donation," Hunt gives a customer a soap and bath salts and a spiel on shea butter's healing properties.

Police say the social message clause makes enforcing the ordinance against commercial vendors nearly impossible. "It's very difficult for an officer to decipher what that means," Reina said. "We're not going to enforce anything like that."

Artists and merchants resent vendors' taking advantage of that loophole to sell items often sold in the stores and take spaces away from artists.

"They're not paying taxes or business licenses," said Mike Dolkert, co-owner of Indigenous, which sells Native American items.

Steve Heumann, who runs the busy Sidewalk Cafe, advocates forming a city agency to vet sellers and ferret out the frauds.

Video: City of Angels

Venice's residents also bristle at the growing unruliness. Although many residents say Venice's free spirit attracts them to the neighborhood, some admit it can get to be a headache.

Cracking open a beer on the sunny porch of his beachside apartment, Ted Johan said he loves the sideshow, except for a man who blows a birdwhistle outside his window all day.

"You don't come here for quiet, but people need to be respectful of others," Johan said. "I wish he would move around."

Homeowners, particularly a new wave of residents moving into modern multi-million-dollar remodels of modest bungalows, have been pushing for crackdowns on musicians playing into the night and some of Venice's seedier elements such as transients sleeping on the beach.

Police have responded, recently rounding up 50 homeless people in a sweep and referring them to social services.

Striking a balance between Venice's Bohemian tradition and residents' rights, artists and vendors is a constant struggle that's been magnified with the dour economy, said 15-year resident Mike Newhouse, who heads the Venice Neighborhood Council.

But that push-and-pull may just be part of Venice's irrepressible nature.

"Venice has got to stay funky or else Venice is no longer Venice," he said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments