Venice Beach: What Other Communities Can Learn

April 4, 2017

Melissa Hege, AICP of South Florida-based Melissa Hege City Planning LLC. takes a trip to Venice Beach in Los Angeles, to provide other communities with a few urban planning tips on how to borrow without looking like a copycat.

And what's interesting is how the space is made open to the public with more of those Cali style egalitarian paths. This would never fly in Miami!

You can see right into this homeowner's backyard!

And here's another one. In fact, most of the yards are clearly visible from the path. And it's always been designed this way. Although these homes are exclusive, their views are accessible to everyone. Rather than build walls and fences to protect their privacy, each owner has personalized their space with gorgeous plants and outdoor living spaces that invite the public to look in.

Even this home on the point is loaded with windows. Clearly privacy is not a concern for residents here.

So here's an outlier. Someone who does not want any peeping Toms. Still, they've built a very tasteful privacy wall with beautiful plants.

Another nice design element is the greenery which separates the footpath from the water. The bushes are thick and lush and help to create an intimate space for voyeurs strolling along the private homes.

And here's a closer view.

And so the lesson--if you borrow from other places, take a cue from Venice Beach--take the best parts and make them your own. Don't limit yourself to a banal and literal translation. Create something wonderful which is uniquely you.

What makes Venice Beach such a great example is its multi-layered approach to urban design where exclusive waterfront homes are shared with everyone in the backyard of a skater's paradise.

Article originally posted by Melissa Hege, AICP at

Melissa Hege, AICP, LEED AP, practices planning and urban design in one of the Country’s most envied and envious iconic cities—the Republic of Miami. For more than a decade, she has enjoyed the juxtaposition of the region’s beauty and dysfunction, and continues to learn from it daily. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Brandeis University, her portfolio includes award winning plans which translate design based solutions into practical applications.

In her current practice, Melissa Hege City Planning, she straddles the roles of planner and community advocate by exploring infrastructure investments which add exponential value to cities. These include waterfront parks, bicycle and pedestrian trails, and complete streets—streets which have comfortable and protected zones for bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and transit. She is currently developing a waterfront pop-up installation on Miami’s Biscayne Bay to demonstrate the potential value of a permanently improved and connected waterfront trail in downtown Miami. Other recent projects include an interactive web based tool to visually track all multi-agency infrastructure improvements in downtown Miami and a Complete Streets forum for local municipalities in partnership with Miami Dade County.

Melissa is a board member of the Miami Modern (MIMO) Biscayne Boulevard Association, a 501c3 dedicated to preserving its architectural history and expanding commercial opportunities for this US-1 corridor. She is Past Chair of the Miami Section of the Florida American Planning Association, was Co-chair for the State’s annual conference and served on Miami-Dade County’s Transportation Aesthetic Review Committee. She has been published in the Miami Herald, Florida Planning, Planetizen and Panorama (University of Pennsylvania) and taught as an adjunct professor at Florida Atlantic University. She developed a planning curriculum for middle school students at the Cushman School and is a regular speaker at the Florida American Planning Association’s annual conference.

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