Thursday, May 31, 2012

How money ruined Venice . . . twice.

From 1911 through the 1940s Venice Ca was a prime tourist destination.  The Kinney Pier had the largest ferris wheel in the state and was a magnificent amusement park, the Venice Plunge was where early Los Angeles elite went for water polo and socializing in hot salt water pools (seen in Keaton's The Cameraman), Chaplin filmed his first short on Windward Ave, and tourists and locals alike flocked to the resort town for it's pristine water, miles of canals, perfect waves, and ideal fishing.
Chaplin - Kid Auto Races At Venice

By the end of the 1920s Los Angeles was developing into a major metropolitan area.  With yearly population booms doubling the population from people searching for oil, gold, or fame, the city limits were quickly expanding and devouring the unique neighborhoods that surrounded the original downtown area. Other amusement parks were springing up, including the original incarnation of what is now Disneyland. At the time Venice's long time mayor Abbot Kinney had passed away, leaving Venice in a political deadlock over how to run the city and if Venice should be annexed to the city of Los Angeles.

Canal and Pier, 1930s

Venice residents had believed that when Los Angeles took over they would receive the funding needed to update its amusements, resorts, and deteriorating streets and have a generally improved quality of life. As soon as Venice was taken over by the city, Los Angeles paved over most of the canals that made it so unique, attempted to close the parks (unsuccessfully until 1946, when the contracts expired) so as not to compete with it's own attractions, and pretty much laid the city to waste for 3 decades, polluting what was left of the canals drilling for oil, and allotting absolutely nothing to the upkeep of the city.  Los Angeles' greed single handedly turned one of the greatest destinations in southern California to a slum by the sea.  Out of this slum the residents created one of the most unique places on earth.

The Doors - Venice residents in the 60s

In present day Los Angeles, it seems the uber-rich find a unique part of town, gentrify it (aka make it boring, beige, and overpriced), remove and price out the people and places that made it unique to begin with, pave mom and pop shops over with Starbucks and McDonald's, get bored, and then leave it to rot as they take over another neighborhood. Echo Park, Culver City, Mar Vista, Hollywood, were all like different planets from each other. Now, they are all starting to look the same.  This is what is happening to Venice. They even shut down all the music shops and arcades because they draw "undesirables".

Still the best place to people watch, Venice is one of the most interesting places you will ever go.  Its a living breathing freak show 24/7, with a large homeless population of street performers and artists and local shops and some serious local pride,  what was once the last affordable ocean front town where folks who weren't millionaires could live has now turned into one of the priciest zip codes in town.  There is an ongoing war between the people who's families have lived there for decades - the artists, ex-hippies, writers, musicians, skaters, etc. - and the trust fund 30-somethings who have recently moved in wanting to turn it into Beverly Hills II.  Recently they've been tearing down the beautiful Victorian homes and bungalows replacing them with modern, designer homes, passing laws  making street performances illegal unless you have pricey permits, putting stipulations on selling homemade art which is these people's life blood, have turned Abbot Kinney St. into one big corporate strip mall, and are amping up police presence to harass and remove the people that made it appealing to them in the first place.

Why can't there be a happy medium?  Why does it either have to be completely ruined to keep the rich from taking over, or absurdly high end to keep the poor out?  Its getting to be where there is no room for the middle man in this city, which is a shame.

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