For the entirety of my 17 years of life, I’ve lived in Venice. I know that’s not that long of a time, but I’ve been around long enough to see my community change, in some ways for the better and some for the worse.
Back in the day (I know I’m only 17, but bear with me), Venice was not the nicest place to live. I remember being a kid and not being allowed outside when it was dark. There were hookers, bums, drug addicts, gang members and just all-around weirdoes sprinkled all over the neighborhood. Sounds unpleasant, huh?
Well, it wasn’t. Venice had character. I actually had relationships with my neighbors. I went to my local schools, made friends with my classmates and I still keep in touch with them. I shopped and ate at local stores and restaurants, like Café 50s. I was even friends with some of those Venice weirdoes and bums who I’ve learned so much from. I remember when I was younger, my grandpa, who lived near me in Venice, was friends with a homeless guy who lived in his car down the street from him. He would always come over to his house, have a couple beers and go about his day.
There’s something about saying, “I was born and raised in Venice” that makes me feel badass. It was an affordable living area for middle-lower class families and everything in-between, but that has all changed.
Now, I can’t walk down the street without seeing a girl in Lulu Lemon leggings, holding a cappuccino from Starbucks in one hand, and a dog leash with a small lap dog at the end in the other hand, or worse, in a hand bag.
Gentrification is an epidemic that is sweeping across this nation. You’re probably wondering, “What the hell is gentrification?”
Gentrification (or as I like to say “ethnic cleansing”) is defined as the renovation of a district in order to conform to a more middle-class taste. So, basically, rich people, usually white, move into a poor neighborhood, “improve” it, and raise the property value, which basically kicks out all the renters in that area.
I’ve seen this time and time again, whether it’s in Inglewood, Westchester, and other dominantly minority-filled neighborhoods. These black, Latino and other minorities are being forced out of their homes because of this ethnic cleanse, and now it’s happening to Venice.
Because of my grandparents’ hard work as Mexican immigrants and the fact that they bought property for dirt cheap, my family has the privilege of being homeowners in Venice. This prevents my family from being forced out of our homes due to rent increases. This is often not the case for most people.
Not only are people being forced out of their homes because they can no longer afford it, the locals in Venice are being treated like second-class citizens.
I feel snubbed by my new neighbors. They give me and my family dirty looks when we walk down the street. They make me feel like I don’t belong in the community I’ve grown up in.
The gentrification of Venice has definitely been a long time coming, but was sped up with the introduction of the new Snapchat headquarters. Snapchat has bought and leased property in both Santa Monica and Venice. In total, Snapchat purchased hundreds of thousands of square feet of property, according to Bianca Barragan in an article on la.curbed.com. All of their property purchases and renovations have increased property value even more.
The moving in of Snapchat to Venice isn’t all bad though. They have worked on beautifying the community, and they even have a partnership with Venice High School to beautify the school and even provide summer internships. The community has become cleaner, and our streets have improved. It’s also pleasing to see nicer houses and shops.
“Mom and Pop” businesses are closing down, which is sad to see, but expected. Most of those businesses were struggling before the new businesses came in and dominated the market. But all of these positive changes can’t take away from the fact that Venice has lost a sense of community.
To all the people who are new to Venice: treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Get to know your neighbors, interact with people and learn what Venice was really like 20-30 years ago. Gain knowledge about the diverse group of people you’ve moved near. Support the local businesses like Abbot’s Pizza on Abbot Kinney, and Baby Blues on Lincoln.
Venice needs to become a tight-knit community once more. We’ve lost a sense of humanity and we all need to regain it.