Some Words from the ‘Hood

It’s been a while since ImagineVenice had something to say. Why? …because no one likes to read an edition comprised of rants. It seems like all the action around here provokes one rant after another – so, we guess, it’s time to let it rip.

Residents often talk about how “cool” Venice is. You know, along with all the other platitudes about how much more Venice was before and how Venice has changed. We have. Many worry we are on an irreversible course towards losing our “uniqueness” maybe even our soul. We are. In the next breath these landed gentry complain “tsk, tsk my friend still can’t find a place to live here with all these Airbnb’s taking over all our rentals.” If you are grousing about the changes around this town, you better get ready for the big one.

Last week our local Chamber of Commerce lead its business-minded membership, along with many restaurant owners, developers and architects to the polls to vote at the Venice Neighborhood Council election. They called in their chits and their dishwashers and Sparklett’s delivery guys marched dutifully to the polls along with anyone else who “owed” them. It was a rout. The election turnout was almost double from the last election. Many of the newly “Venice committed” voters have absolutely nothing to do with the Venice community. They could care less about it. Their required declared “relationship” got them a ballot and they voted. That’s the way this election dumped the old team and brought in a new one. We know it sounds ridiculous that non-residents or non-property owners could actually determine your future by voting in someone else’s local election. That’s what happened. An interpretation of the election rules allowed this corruption. Manipulation like this of our local council vote has never happened before. The Chamber and all of its business-interested members have utilized their group power and joined together to serve their common interests using this avenue. It doesn’t matter whether it is moral. It is legal. You would be right to question if anyone not focused on money-making development issues in Venice needs to pay any future attention to the happenings of the VNC. With this new group running the VNC show there won’t be a development they won’t like or a rule they won’t break or change or a rent stabilized apartment they won’t want to change into a short-term rental for a buck. Whatever it is, if it puts money in their pockets or in their friend’s pockets they will approve it.

Get ready for a very different Venice.

Enforcement? Not in Venice

If you want local laws enforced, better move to Brentwood. Somehow, even though we are in the same council district, trash cans are plenty over there and homeless people are not setting up tents on their sidewalks. Shops don’t get to illegally expand without parking and restaurants don’t get away with adding illegal seating. Citations mean absolutely nothing around here but somehow have their intended force and effect in Brentwood. There are no driveways on San Vicente or Wilshire converted into “pop-up” shops of one stripe or another or vendors setting up businesses right on the street out of their cars, vans and even on blankets. In Brentwood you won’t find apartment houses with illegal structures built in their front yard selling cookies. No amplified music event is approved if it is within 500′ of residences. The ABC doesn’t approve just about every request it gets to sell alcohol. We in Venice must live in another world. Maybe we do. Here, anything goes. Despite a year’s worth of citations our hottest restaurant still uses the neighbor’s driveway to provide seating for a no-seating-allowed takeout. That property owner continues to ignore citations demanding the seating be removed and his driveway returned to a useful driveway. There are numerous illegal acts, too many to list. For some reason, enforcement just doesn’t happen around here, no matter how egregious the behavior.

The newest hustler on the block, Greenleaf, asked for and got a permit for an outside parking lot “beer garden” to add to the mix during our last First Friday. Never before has a restaurant or shop on the street sold alcohol from an outside parking lot or a shop received a special event permit to sell alcohol on a First Friday. Greenleaf has now opened the floodgates to alcohol special event sales on First Friday. Thousands of young people pack our sidewalks those nights while eating from various food trucks. Now they have the “opportunity” to walk off the sidewalk and get a beer or three and return back to the crowd. Imagine kids all juiced up packed in like sardines on the next First Friday. Imagine your kid at this event. If it’s a hot night, it will take just one troublemaker to make this event a disaster. The decision makers use no discretion when they give out alcohol-related permits. It will take much more than common sense to say “no” to the powerful and connected — especially if the Chamber is behind them. You would think these “deciders” were Chamber members themselves! We dodged a bullet last Friday. It was a cool evening. We are unlikely to be that lucky in the future. Greenleaf now has a sidewalk sandwich sign advertising their parking lot alcohol event for future First Fridays. Looks like future approvals are in the bag for our avaricious new neighbor. It is all about making money.

Sometimes newcomers are the target of our disdain because of their disinterest in what made Venice, Venice. The new “new” matters most to them. They really don’t care if this place is turned into another Grove. But they are not villains. They are what they are. The real truth behind the big changes here can be found with our own “movers and shakers.” They are our villains — our very own — our super land rich. Because Venice has become a magnet drawing international businesses from all over the world, our own landed gentry are now so very rich and loving it. They never dreamed money of this magnitude would drop from the heavens right into their laps. All they had to do to get it was be here at the right time. Like a drug, they just want more, more, more. No matter the cost.

Venice in the word of that famous song just doesn’t get any R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Where But Here?
Venice — a Grand Salon

Abbot Kinney is packed. It’s hard to pass on the sidewalk with all the baby strollers and the packs of people walking like packs of Golden Retrievers – gorgeous, self-assured, exquisitely coiffed with their very long hair.

Even the packs of tattooed guys in their muscle shirts stroll with the assurance of those at a red carpet event. It’s our Oscars, our Grammys.

You spot a couple of friends with their friend having a glass of wine up on the porch and they invite you up and pour you a glass. You join the conversation. Not twenty minutes pass when three more wave as they are walking by. We all wave and shout out “come up, have a glass of wine.” And they do. Now we are eight.

And, for two hours we watch the world walk by, the boom boxes in hot shot cars take over the street’s sound for a moment. The Harley’s drive by, rev-up announcing their place on the street. Everyone belongs. Those golden retrievers, the rappers with the loud boom box, the tattooed couple, the Harley guys – it’s their street too.

The action is non-stop, never dull as the the eight of us sit up on the front porch on a Sunday afternoon jumping from one subject to another with some grouchie grumbles but mostly endless endless laughing. Living life in a real neighborhood – it’s our Salon.

Being real Venetians is to know the rare camaraderie of belonging.

More Tales from Abbot Kinney
Venetian or Poseur?

The street fills daily with hordes of world tourists who read about it in a guide book in Tokyo or Paris. The street is now a must see attraction. You see them walking the street with their private tour guides. They are in love. Would you have believed that guides would be doing packed walking tours on our little raunchy dirty street? What are they seeing? The couple up on the porch barely raise their eyes as the long line of tourists, cameras in hand snap photos, loving and soaking in all the fabulous ambiance as they amble on by. Excitedly they chatter as they make notes about the excitement and buzz on the street so they can tell their friends back home. The street of the fabulous ones is living up to its guide book description.

Ah, but the real true underbelly of the street is unseen by the happy tourists. What goes on behind the curtain is the real action – only a few get to live that authentic life… the life of a real Venetian

This week a newbie shopkeeper flew out of her shop when she saw a nice big rat in the middle of the shop floor at 2 in the afternoon – a little later she shut the place down for the day. It was all more than she could take. She didn’t know that rats are our neighbors around this place – it could even have been a pet of the very private guy who works next door. Who knows? We locals don’t snoop. Or, it could have been one of the tough ones who know not to snack at the ‘rat box’ right at the front door of the Other Room. It would be his last supper.

The newcomer just didn’t know. No one told her. She’s never watched a rat commit suicide when it fell out of a palm tree 30 feet to the ground. That long-time owner didn’t run to the trendy shoe shop next door for help – but simply grabbed one of those near extinct plastic Ralph’s bags while she convinced her dog that it was not his new plush toy. In time, our newbie will keep right on writing that order for a $200 t-shirt – no matter what.

What the newbie does know is that the street is cool. Newbies know it costs nearly $15 bucks a foot to dwell among the true Venetians and they are really grateful to pay it. They know their trendy clients won’t be able to find a parking place They know that’s the price of just being here. Others are so anxious to find their perfect place on the street that they stalk the shops of tenants whose leases are expiring!

Adapting to the extremes of the street will take a little time. But once it dawns on the recently arrived that the abnormal is the normal around here and embrace it, they will begin to become a real Venetian.

What Have We Become?
More Tales from Abbot Kinney

One guy recently defending an enormous proposed project on OFW proclaimed we were all going to be ‘left behind’ if it was not approved. Left behind? The question is “what is Venice left with right now? What is Abbot Kinney now?” It is not the authentic, funky and a little raunchy street it once was. Can Abbot Kinney ever reclaim some semblance of the distinct and real place it was? It was a street like no other in LA. Our Abbot Kinney was put on the world map when GQ named it ‘the coolest block in America.’ GQ would never anoint our little street the coolest anything if they saw it now. Cool is over. Authentic is done and gone.

Real, eccentric, unique, weird, grungy and annoying, Abbot Kinney has been hanging by its fingertips to that image for a couple of years now. It just finally dropped into the abyss of nothing special. No, it was not everyone’s ‘special.’ Those drawn to Venice because it was not like the rest of the Westside, now find themselves living exactly where they didn’t want to live: Aspen is what we have become. That is the new Venice. Just thinking Aspen kind of gives you shiver doesn’t it?… but we need to face it. We have indeed become Aspen.

Between losing 3000 housing units to the ‘sharing economy’ and its short-term rental industry, we are now writing epitaphs for our wonderful, a bit decrepit non-trendy gay bar, the Roosterfish — and the best restaurant the street has ever housed, Joe’s is soon to close. International companies are replacing local shop owners at a lightening pace.
Now the Googleites and Snapchatters who think The Grove has a sense of place, determine our new normal. Every vegan or vegetarian restaurant that opens make the unique street more homogeneous. We have become a mere shadow of our former self. People now walk down the street carrying $40 boxes of donuts to their offices and think they are living the real Venice life. Those $40 boxes of donuts are our new normal.

The Butcher’s Daughter, the NYC offspring, is packed to the gills. Just being there is what is important — not designed for lingering, coffee cups aren’t refilled at breakfast as patrons are lining up for avocado toast. Price is no object. Turnover fast. There is no ‘hanging’ on Abbot Kinney any longer. Remember when we used to linger over lunch or dinner?

There’s still not a french fry to be had on the street and hamburgers are now totally extinct.

We remain, searching for a BLT on Abbot Kinney.

An Embarrassment of Riches
… Searching for a BLT on Abbot Kinney (continued)

Donut Star opens with CBS news coverage… Salt & Straw the hippest of ice cream shops out of Portland, readies its arrival in Venice.

And now Granola Bitch which Google says is founded by a ‘holistic food coach’ has twittered its coming entree on to the street of the fabulous.

Fala Bar just opened. It’s another Vegan place. There is a little irony with this one: it replaces Pork Belly BBQ!

We are the new Aspen.

Who would have thought that this off-of-center street where owners actually ran their stores, would morph into the new must-be place for the retail world’s corporate rich.
The new shops are staffed with very young gorgeous blonds – who won’t be there in six months.

But, the truly amazing fact of all this excitement of our ‘new new’ is that these shops are opening with a secret weapon… they don’t care if they make a profit. Rents are running around $12+ a foot now and you’ll need to sell lots of ice cream cones and donuts to turn that bottom line black. Maybe they will.

$6 donuts, $5 artisanal coffee, $10 smoothies, $12 juices, faux bacon, casual cashmere and one organic shop after the other pops up and still not a damn BLT offered on the street!

Corporations are not people.

ImagineVenice

Snapchat!

Time and again, our city fathers boast about the new “Silicon Beach.” They are practically ecstatic over the influx of start-up tech companies opening up shop in our beach community. At the same time they curry favors with our new elite. Our elected ‘deciders’ want that newcomer money to fund their upcoming elections. They are blind to the collateral and negative issues this tech rush generates. These new arrivals need politicians to grease the skids as they blast through city codes and it’s permitting processes. They expect plenty for their political donations. They burden our tiny and old infrastructure with their demands and do little if anything to support the needs of our community. Our ‘new economy’ nouveau riche spend millions on lobbyists to assure they get what they want. It’s time they spend some of those millions on their newly adopted town.

Have these newcomers done any real good for our little community? Has Snapchat, the voracious predator now taking control of a huge proportion of our limited commercial space while loudly proclaiming how they ‘love the Venice culture’ done anything at all for any of our local organizations and groups dedicated to working for the betterment of the many people here truly in desperate need? Little if any of their huge startup funding from Wall Street and Silicon Valley venture capitalists has found their way into Venice to support our desperate housing issues, homeless programs, healthcare programs, gang problems, schools, or disabled resident’s programs in any significant way.

This billion dollar start-up is sucking up our choice commercial properties with the determination of a Vegas high-roller. At the same time, their growing number of employees happily proclaim themselves Venetians and excitedly take the many gifts our unique community offers them.

Commercial building after commercial building has been snapped up by Snapchat. Many long-term commercial tenants were evicted. More prime properties will soon be added to Snapchat’s commercial building stable. Plans advertised for new shops and restaurants are happily scratched by landlords anxious for Snapchat dollars and long leases.

What will happen to Venice when this Silicon Beach star settles down and wants to consolidate its large work force under one roof, picks up stakes and moves on over to the Playa Vista business park? The lure of all that easy parking, cheaper leases and other amenities built there just to lure new economy companies is beckoning. Oh, they probably will retain some small presence here to keep their newly acquired edgie Venice status and that caché a Venice address offers. But one day soon they will leave, fed up with our frequent and growing gridlock traffic conditions and all those annoying things which tax even the most committed Venetian. They won’t be the only Silicon Beach star who migrates South for greener more spacious pastures. Think about it.

These Silicon Beach startups are really transients. Their leases are just five or ten years and all have sublet provisions. When they begin their exit, they will leave behind an army of real estate agents scrambling to find subtenants to take over their massive amount of commercial space and relieve them of the burden of all their leases. No one knows what effects the inevitable real estate dump will have on Venice real estate or on the entire Venice community. But, sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, these temporary Venice residents will pick up stakes and their presence here will be just a fading memory.

Hey, Snapchat! While you are here and enjoying all that Venice has to offer you, commit yourselves! Step out of your fabulous mode and jump into Venice’s deep well of need and start doing some real good for our little beach community.

In a blink of an eye

…the historical character of a building is obliterated.

That’s what just happened on Abbot Kinney.

A new brand, marketing ‘casual cashmere’ clothing to our new eliterati punched the street in the nose the other day with each stroke of its paint brush. A paint brush loaded with the whitest, glossiest white paint coated one of the streets oldest original brick buildings — three coats thick.

The new wonder brand and its vision is a progeny of Lululemon money. Its website is so slick and young and so fresh it takes your breath away. They are here to soak up the street’s coolness — and rake in the dough.

What this brand doesn’t have, in all its fabulousness, is a respect for its good fortune.
How was it possible they did not want to just lovingly enhance Sunya Currie’s amazing historic building and feel practically blessed they got the lease.

These visionaries are the ones you hear extolling the fabulous ‘sense of place’ they feel here — just like they experience at The Grove! They see Abbot Kinney as a cool image-builder while they destroy its cultural and historic persona. That unique persona is what made the street so special but they don’t see anything but dollar signs.

Welcome to the neighborhood Kit and Ace.

Now please put your paint brush away.

 

Our Own Abbot Kinney Tsunami

So many construction projects are underway right now on Abbot Kinney that the only way to give you a picture of what we are becoming is to list them.

El Vino was replaced by Portland’s beloved and almost ready to open Blue Star Donuts.

Cuyana out of San Francisco has opened a pop-up shop in the old Juicy Leaf space.

Juicy Leaf moved down the street into a former woman’s clothing store.

The Butcher’s Daughter restaurant is under major construction in the former Local 1205.

Salt & Straw (again from Portland) will be opening in the old Casa Linda location.

Casa Linda and a Mini-Hal’s are moving into the Primitivo space.

Vince, the chain, opened their two stores this past weekend. One of the stores was to be occupied by Mini T’s.

Luxury cashmere clothing shop Kit and Ace is under construction in the Sunya Currie building.

Topo Ranch is gone. New tenant not yet known.

Current Elliott is opening in the Jack Spade space.

Industry of All Nations has opened in old A & R Space.

Jewelry store to open in LFrank location.

Sweaty Betty out of UK to open in Mona Moore Space.
 

We Try Again – A Parking Solution for Our Council Member’s Consideration

Everyone knows that Abbot Kinney is in desperate need of parking. Parking is not only for the patrons who shop and eat on the street but no one is focusing on all of the employees and general workers on the street who are forced to park all day in adjacent residential streets.

Some time back, ImagineVenice proposed a parking solution to former Council member Rosendahl. It was met with silence. Here we go, with another shot at it:

We propose a reversal of course with the ‘Centennial Park’ property. While the idea of a park in Venice was doubtless an immediate ‘yes,’ no one really gave enough consideration to who would actually use this park on the medium strip on Venice Boulevard. We have had years to observe that families do not take their kids to play in this park because it is too dangerous for the children. With traffic whizzing by on both sides of the park parents can’t let their children run free and explore. Because it is located in an unfriendly location, you rarely see any local resident relaxing, reading a book and enjoying a bit of green space with all the traffic noise. Transients find its emptiness attractive. Right at this moment, community members are getting approval to refurbish the tired landscaping in this park. We propose a U-turn before more money is spent on a mostly unused park. While a noble idea the park has not panned out to be a good one.

ImagineVenice proposes again that the median strip be re-graded, paved, gates installed and dedicated entirely to employee parking. Vendors could subsidize any monthly costs for their employees. And, best of all, this solution takes the parking space hunting pressure off the employee and returns the residential streets to the residents.

We hope our council member will give this simple parking solution serious consideration. It would solve many parking problems around here and it is not a mega-expensive project. It would make truly efficient use of pretty useless land.

Our next edition will re-visit the proposal for re-activation of the old Venice Historical Society’s shuttle to run on weekends in a loop between Venice Boulevard to Rose Avenue with the shuttle stop at the Westminster School parking lot.