The Venice Tsunami – ‘Silicon Beach’

It wasn’t that long ago when our local politicians were slapping themselves on the back and taking bows before an adoring crowd of Google-ites and Venice residents.
They were extolling a brilliant future and never-ending opportunities that the big shots from Silicon Valley will be laying at the feet of the grateful. Visions of sugar plums sparkled in the eyes of local landlords and property owners. Real estate agents could feel the coming commission boomtown.

Water began lapping at our shores. Quietly, landlords began evicting long-term tenants. Many of the evictees were local artists renting old grungy studio spaces. These artists are the foundation of what is Venice and most certainly they are the heart of what we are – or what we think we are.

Speculators began to build condos. Owners began to figure out what they could build on their old industrial building properties. Property owners saw pretty quickly that the motherlode of profits from increasing rental income and top record-breaking sales prices was soon to be theirs for the taking. Venice new arrivals will all need homes, and housing is already in very short supply. The new arrivals will be happy to pay the inflating prices just to call Venice home. There are so many developments underway it feels like a big destructive wave has washed over our streets.

Venice has become even more fabulous. Nearly every guide book now includes Venice’s Abbot Kinney as a ‘must see.’ The current retail shops on Abbot Kinney and even those on Lincoln (if you can believe it) will fill the increasing demand for super high-end shopping and office space. One shop after another has left to be replaced by a corporate-run operation. Money is no object. Making a profit is secondary. If you are anyone in retail, you need to be ‘cool’ and need a presence on Abbot Kinney to validate your fabulousness.

Landlords are drooling at the gold rush. They can’t raise their rents fast enough. They have taken on the airs of emperors doling out their precious spaces to the worthy who pay up. Arrogance rules our day now. Landlords practically auction off their newly vacant spaces, treat applicants like they were supplicants and and look only for the highest credit-worthy bidder.

So where else do we see the water lapping at our shores? Right here in our residential neighborhoods, which really are loaded with charming unique homes and units.

House after house, unit after unit are being taken over by the predators of the short-term rental industry and turned into day rental quasi hotel rooms. Headed by Silicon Valley’s Airbnb and its operatives, this new industry is intimidating long-term tenants out of their homes and selling the big money vision that Airbnb promotes to landlords and property owners. Professional lobbyists invade our government offices pushing their vision of a ‘sharing economy.’ Yes, you are right. You thought less than 30 day rentals were illegal in Los Angeles – but who is looking? Who cares about destabilizing entire neighborhoods? The city council is ‘studying’ this. Will they vote for regulations which put neighborhoods first?

Lastly, we come to the devastation of the rental stock for small business owners in Venice. Many ‘creative’ commercial spaces are being torn down in favor of condo lofts or leased to one of the ‘big boy’ well-funded start-ups. Little production companies, and individually owned and run local business services are on the road to eviction to be replaced by corporate entities willing to pay anything. The biggest hit Venice will take to our small commercial rental stock will be if the persistent rumor is true that Silicon Beach’s newest love-child actually takes over our only ‘business park’ at 606-654 Venice Boulevard at Abbot Kinney. The rows of individual offices housing many local services who have served the community for years and years will be evicted so Silicon Beach’s Wall Street funded billion dollar Snapchat can create a campus on the huge parcel. If the deal does not go through, you can be sure that another huge operation will get in line for this property now known to be ‘in play.’ Why would the landlord choose to maintain his current multi-tenant operation with all the hassle that having many tenants bring to property management when your goldmine can be leased to one golden well-funded Wall Street tenant-baby? This is the new reality in the world of leasing property in Venice.

We could get lucky. With Google buying a giant parcel in Playa Vista and Snapchat rumored to have done the same thing, some of the pressure on Venice, its rental stock and its infrastructure might get some relief.

What will Venice be when Silicon Valley is done with it? Can a small beach town influence its future against the will of Silicon Valley and its Silicon Beach progeny?
Who knows?

Now,Venice is a sound stage for the Silicon Valley/Silicon Beach money machine. It just keeps the lights on. We are a town of studio grips running the equipment with no say in what our future and our neighborhoods will become.

We are a community out of balance.

We have no dike to hold back the sea. We are the dike and like the Dutch boy, all of our thumbs are holding back the water.