Los Angeles

“I Feel Uncared About”: Fight to Reach Venice Beach

As a popular tourist destination in Southern California, beaches are supposed to be accessible to everyone. But the I-Team has discovered that in Venice, that isn't the case.

Diane Capaldi lives just yards away from Venice Beach, but said she is being deprived of the right to get close to the water.

"It feels far away, even though it's so close," Capaldi said.

The 52-year-old East Coast native has multiple sclerosis, and said she moved to Venice for the healing power of the ocean. But she said her disability makes it impossible for her to cross the sand from the boardwalk to the water's edge. She needs a special wheelchair to make the journey.

Capaldi said the city and the county of Los Angeles are failing on their legal obligation to provide her and others with mobility issues access to the water.

"I feel uncared about," Capaldi said.

L.A.'s access program for Venice Beach can be found in a rusty locker near the sand, where one wheelchair is kept. The NBC4 I-Team witnessed it, and the LA Department on Disability confirmed it.

The NBC4 I-Team was told there was a second wheelchair, but it's broken.

The wheels are designed for sand, but the chair is manual, so someone would need to push the chair.

In Venice, county lifeguards are responsible for handing out wheelchairs, but on a busy beach day, that can take hours.

"I've reached out to every community member, the neighborhood council, the city of Los Angeles, Parks and Harbors, and no one seems to really care," Capaldi said.

Capaldi said she's spent days unsuccessfully researching who's responsible for the program. Frustrated, she turned to NBC4, and the I-Team took her concerns to L.A. City Hall.

"I'll be honest with you, the problem is probably worse than you realize," said Stephen Simon, director of L.A.'s Department on Disability. "We get probably 30 to 60, maybe 70 calls a month from people who have access issues (at different locations around the city)."

Simon said a big part of the problem is that neither the city nor the county has assumed sole responsibility for enforcing compliance. Simon said he is determined to work with Mayor Garcetti to implement new policies for better accessibility at Venice Beach.

"There just isn't a good mechanism between city, county and state," Simon said. "It's extremely frustrating to us."

But, not as frustrating as it is for Capaldi, who lives near a beach where her right to touch the water feels a world away.

"I'm not asking to play volleyball. I'm not asking to throw a frisbee. I'm just asking to be able to touch the water and have it touch me," Capaldi said.

Simon said providing expanded access to Venice Beach, and anywhere else in the city of Los Angeles where there's a need, will be his priority in the coming months. He said he hopes to have a plan on paper for enhanced beach wheelchair in Venice access this summer.

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