Venice is a residential, commercial and recreational beachfront neighborhood within Los Angeles, California. It's located within the urban region of western Los Angeles County known as the Westside.
Venice was founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town and was an independent city until 1926 when it merged with Los Angeles.
Today, Venice is known for its canals, beaches and the circus-like Ocean Front Walk - a two-and-a-half-mile pedestrian promenade that features performers, mystics, artists and vendors. In the later half of the 2010s, the neighborhood faced severe gentrification that raised real estate prices and pushed out many long-term inhabitants.
Venice, originally called "Venice of America" was founded by wealthy developer Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town, 14 miles west of Los Angeles. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought two miles of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property called Ocean Park which was soon annexed to Santa Monica.
After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like the namesake Italian city.
When Venice of America opened on July 4, 1905 Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture.
Kinney hired artist Felix Peano to design the columns of the buildings.
Tourists, mostly arriving on the "Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica then rode the Venice Miniature Railway and gondolas to tour the town. The biggest attraction was Venice's mile-long gently sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.
Attractions on the Kinney Pier became more amusement-oriented by 1910 when a Venice Miniature Railway, Aquarium and other rides and game booths were added. Since the business district was allotted only three one-block-long streets and the City Hall was more than a mile away, other competing business districts developed. Unfortunately, this created a fractious political climate.
Kinney however, governed with an iron hand and kept things in check. When he died in November 1920, Venice became harder to govern. With the amusement pier burning six weeks later in December 1920 and Prohibition (which had begun the previous January), the town's tax revenue was severely affected.
The Kinney family rebuilt their amusement pier quickly to compete with Ocean Park's Pickering Pleasure Pier and the new Sunset Pier.
When it opened it had two roller coasters, a new Racing Derby, a Noah's Ark and many other rides. By 1925 with the addition of a third coaster, a tall Dragon Slide, Fun House and Flying Circus aerial ride, it was the finest amusement pier on the West Coast. Several hundred thousand tourists visited on weekends. In 1923 Charles Lick built the Lick Pier at Navy Street in Venice, adjacent to the Ocean Park Pier at Pier Avenue in Ocean Park.
Another pier was planned for Venice in 1925 at Leona Street (now Washington Street).
For the amusement of the public, Kinney hired aviators to do aerial stunts over the beach. One of them, movie aviator and Venice airport owner B. H. DeLay, implemented the first lighted airport in the United States on DeLay Field (previously known as Ince Field). He also initiated the first aerial police in the nation, after a marine rescue attempt was thwarted.
In 1929, oil was discovered south of Washington Street on the Venice Peninsula, now known as the Marina Peninsula neighborhood of Los Angeles. Within two years, 450 oil wells covered the area and drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. It was a short-lived boom that provided needed income to the community which suffered during the Great Depression. The wells produced oil into the 1970s.
According to the Mapping L.A. project of the Los Angeles Times, Venice is adjoined on the northwest by Santa Monica, on the northeast by Mar Vista, on the southeast by Culver City, Del Rey and Marina Del Rey, on the south by Ballona Creek and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
Venice Canals Historic District
The Venice Canal Historic District is a district in the Venice section of Los Angeles, California. The district is noteworthy for its man-made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his Venice of America plan. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in Southern California.
The canals are roughly bounded by Eastern Court on the east, Court A on the south, Strongs Drive on the west and Court E on the north. There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal). The lit canals with gondoliers and arched bridges drew widespread publicity and helped sell lots in the development.
However, as the automobile gained in popularity the canals were viewed by many as outdated and the bulk of the canals were filled in 1929 to create roads. By 1940, the remaining canals had fallen into disrepair and the sidewalks were condemned by the city. The canal district remained in poor condition for more than 40 years as numerous proposals to renovate the canals failed due to lack of funding, environmental concerns and disputes as to who should bear the financial responsibility.
The canals were finally renovated in 1992 with the canals being drained and new sidewalks and walls being built. The canals re-opened in 1993 and have become a desirable and expensive residential section of the city.
The residential district surrounding the remaining canals was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. However, in recent years, there has been extensive renovation work on many of the old houses and many large, modern houses have been built.
The water enters the canals through sea gates in the Marina Del Rey breakwater and again in Washington Blvd. They open at low tide to drain most of the water and at high tide they are closed, trapping the water for about three days before being refreshed again.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbott Kinney Boulevard is a principal attraction with stores, restaurants, bars and art galleries lining the street. The street was described as "a derelict strip of rundown beach cottages and empty brick industrial buildings called West Washington Boulevard and in the late 1980s, community groups and property owners pushed for renaming a portion of the street to honor Abbot Kinney. The renaming was widely considered a marketing strategy to commercialize the area and bring new high-end businesses to the area.
Venice Farmer's Market
Founded in 1987, the Venice Farmers Market operates every Friday from 7 to 11 a.m. on Venice Boulevard at Venice Way.
Historic Post Office
The Venice Post Office, a red-tile-roofed 1939 Works Progress Administration building designed by Louis A. Simon on Windward Circle featured one of two remaining murals painted in 1941 by Modernist artist Edward Biberman.
Developer Abbot Kinney is in the center surrounded by beachgoers in old-fashioned bathing suits, men in overalls, and a wooden roller coaster representing the Venice Pier on one side with contrasting industrial oil derricks that were once ubiquitous in the area on the other side.
After the post office closed in 2012, movie producer Joel Silver unveiled plans for revamping the building as the new headquarters of his company, Silver Pictures. The sale included the stipulation that he, or any future owner, preserve the New Deal-era murals and allow public access.
Restoration of the nearly pristine mural took over a year and cost about $100,000. LACMA highlighted the mural with an exhibit that displayed additional Biberman artworks, rare historical documents and Venice ephemera with the restored mural. Silver has a long-term lease on the mural that is still owned by the US Postal Service.
Residences and Streets
Many of Venice's houses have their principal entries from pedestrian-only streets and have house numbers on these footpaths. (Automobile access is by alleys in the rear.) The inland walk streets are made up primarily of around 620 single-family homes. Like much of the rest of Los Angeles however, Venice is known for its traffic congestion.
It lies 2 miles away from the nearest freeway and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district's vehicle traffic, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway into southern Venice.
Venice Beach, which receives millions of visitors a year has been labeled as "a cultural hub known for its eccentricities" as well as a "global tourist destination." It includes the promenade that runs parallel to the beach (also the "Ocean Front Walk" or just "the boardwalk"), Muscle Beach and the Venice Beach Recreation Center with handball courts, paddle tennis courts, a Skate Dancing plaza and numerous beach volleyball courts.
It also includes a bike trail and many businesses on Ocean Front Walk. The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of streetball; numerous professional basketball players developed their games or have been recruited on these courts.
The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice. It's located north of the Venice Pier and lifeguard headquarters and south of the Santa Monica Pier.
The Oakwood portion of Venice also known as "Ghost Town" and the "Oakwood Pentagon", lies inland from the tourist areas and is one of the few historically African-American areas in West Los Angeles though Latinos now constitute the majority of the residents. During the age of restrictive covenants that enforced racial segregation, Oakwood was set aside as a settlement area for Black Americans, who came by the hundreds to Venice to work in the oil fields during the 1930s and 1940s.
After the construction of the San Diego Freeway, which passed through predominantly Mexican-American and immigrant communities, those groups moved further west and into Oakwood where black residents were already established. Some White Americans (most notably actor and filmmaker Dennis Hopper) moved into Oakwood during the 1980s and 1990s. By the end of the 20th century, gentrification had altered Oakwood. Although still a primarily Latino and African-American neighborhood, the neighborhood is in flux.
According to Los Angeles City Beat, "In Venice, the transformation is... obvious. Homes are fetching sometimes more than $1 million and homies are being displaced every day." In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported the prediction that the wine shops, cafes, restaurants and other businesses opening on Rose Avenue—adjacent to Oakwood—would soon lead to the other streets of Venice being transformed into upmarket areas.
East Venice is a racially and ethnically mixed residential neighborhood of Venice that is separated from Oakwood and Milwood (the area south of Oakwood) by Lincoln Boulevard extending east to the border with the Mar Vista neighborhood. Aside from the commercial strip on Lincoln (including the Venice Boys and Girls Club and the Venice United Methodist Church), the area almost entirely consists of small homes and apartments as well as Penmar Park and (bordering Santa Monica) Penmar Golf Course.
The schools within Venice include:
Broadway Elementary School, LAUSD, 1015 Lincoln Boulevard
Animo Venice Charter High School, 820 Broadway Street
Venice Skills Center, LAUSD, 611 Fifth Avenue
First Lutheran School of Venice, private, 815 Venice Boulevard
Westminster Avenue Elementary School, LAUSD, 1010 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
St. Mark School, private elementary, 912 Coeur d'Alene Avenue
Coeur d'Alene Avenue Elementary School, LAUSD, 810 Coeur d'Alene Avenue
Westside Leadership Magnet School, LAUSD alternative, 104 Anchorage Street
Venice High School serves the entire community.