By JACK ROSNER
Venice Beach, Pacific Coast Highway, and the Santa Monica Pier - all are iconic symbols of the West-side, but nowhere else will you find them together than Don Westland's Web site.
His site, www.westland.net, offers numerous live camera feeds from along the coast, each displaying images updated every few seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Westland, a Pacific Palisades resident, said that he got the idea for his first Web cam in 1995, after seeing a number of other cams online. He had just started a successful e-commerce company in Venice Beach and figured that people would be interested in seeing what weather and surf conditions were like at the beach. His first camera was up and working by 1996.
"Initially," Westland said, "I set [the camera] up in the window of my office on the oceanfront walk so that everyone on the Internet could enjoy the great beach view that I had." Since then, he added, it has become the most popular beach Web cam on the Internet, garnering more than 4,000 visitors per day.
Though at first the camera Web site was "just a hobby," it became a "second job" as Westland set up additional Web cams. Over the next several years, he added a Santa Monica Pier Cam, as well as cameras featuring views of Santa Monica Bay from the Palisades, and a camera at PCH and Sunset.
The focus of Westland's newest cameras on the Palisades is no coincidence. In fact, he has always been connected with the Palisades. He grew up with two younger sisters in a house on Grenola Street, down by the bluffs. "I was happy to come back to the area to raise my own family," Westland said. "I have always felt the Palisades was the best area in L.A."
Westland also set up www.LivingInThePalisades.com during this time. The site, which offers local information about Pacific Palisades, including hiking trail maps, restaurant information, and real estate resources, also features Westland's Web cams.
Westland's hobby changed dramatically in 2003. He was chief technology officer for an online brokerage firm that was bought out by Ameritrade and had all of its positions transferred to Omaha, Nebraska. Instead of looking for another corporate position, Westland decided to concentrate on expanding the cameras and his own businesses.
"I just had my second child, Dylan, and I was able to work from home while keeping an eye on him," he explained. "My daughter, Alexis, was three at the time and only in school part-time."
Westland's Web sites also have business aspects, such as advertising his second business: An Internet marketing and content 'creation business.
Westland's Web cams have generated interest from local media as well. Mentioned in Los Angeles Magazine, the Venice Beach Cam has also been featured on Fox 11's "Good Day L.A." and was written up in the Westside Weekly.
"Along the way, there have been many technical challenges with the Web cams," Westland said. "I had to design a system that could deliver live images to several hundred thousand visitors each month. In some of my remote locations, I've had to make it work with limited bandwidth.
"It is a little hectic having two young children and two careers," he added. "I know it will calm down a bit when they are both in school full-time. At least I hope so."