Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to one of the most vibrant and eclectic areas of Southern California: Venice Beach
Intended to be a seaside resort like its namesake in Italy, Venice of America was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905, 14 miles west of Los Angeles. 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. Tourists, mostly arriving on the "Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode Venice's miniature railroad and gondolas to tour the town. But the biggest attraction was Venice's mile-long gently sloping beach. Venice was annexed into Los Angeles in 1925 when its politics became unmanageable. Los Angeles had neglected Venice so long that, by the 1950s, it had become the "Slum by the Sea." With the exception of new police and fire stations in 1930, the city spent little on improvements after annexation. The city did not pave Trolleyway (Pacific Avenue) until 1954 when county and state funds became available. Low rents for run-down bungalows attracted predominantly European immigrants (including a substantial number of Holocaust survivors), and young counterculture artists, poets and writers causing an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington and Philomene Long.http://www.venicebeach.com/about.php
Venice is today a vibrant area of Southern California and it continues a tradition of progressive social change involving prominent Westsiders. The Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the country. The Venice Community Housing Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the economic, racial and social diversity of Venice and the surrounding area, provides affordable housing, economic and community development opportunities and needed social services to low income residents. Women in Recovery, Inc., a non-profit organization offering a live-in, 12-step program of rehabilitation for women in need, was founded by a longtime resident of Venice, Sister Ada Geraghty. Geraghty and her organization on Coeur D' Alene Avenue annually honor those who've made a difference in helping women overcome substance abuse problems. The 2006 honoree for Women in Recovery was Christopher Lawford; past honorees have included Jamie Lee Curtis, Angela Lansbury, and Anthony Hopkins.
Venice Beach is understood to include the beach, the promenade that runs parallel to the beach ("Ocean Front Walk" or just "the boardwalk"), Muscle Beach, the handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, the numerous beach volleyball courts, the bike trail and the businesses and residences that have their addresses on Ocean Front Walk. The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of street ball and numerous NBA players were developed or recruited from these courts.
The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice, located north of the Venice Pier and Lifeguard Headquarters, and south of the Santa Monica Pier. This spot is sheltered on the north by an artificial barrier, the breakwater, consisting of an extending sand bar, piping, and large rocks at its end. This spot has differing breaks depending on swell intensity, swell direction, tide and time of the day.
Prominent residents of Venice include actresses Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, and Anjelica Huston, actors Tom Conway (brother of actor George Sanders), lived here in the 1960s, Nicolas Cage, Chaney Kley, Tim Meadows, Robert Hegyes, Mark Valley, Michael T. Weiss, Fairuza Balk, Taylor Negron and musicians Perry Farrell, Evidence of Dilated Peoples, Saint John of Saint John and the Revelations, Joshua Kadison, John Lydon (who owns a sizeable amount of rental property in Venice), Ozzy from Survivor, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fiona Apple and Mike Muir and most of his Suicidal Tendencies bandmates. Photographer Lauren Greenfield has lived in Venice since 1972.
The World famous Venice Beach Boardwalk is not to be missed. If you are visiting the Los Angeles area, you owe it to yourself to come to Southern California's number one visitor attraction. Stretching about one a half miles along the manicured sands of the Pacific Ocean, the boardwalk is a large part of what makes Venice unique. On the west side of the "walk" are hundreds of street vendors and performers. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken glass walking. Mimes to musicians, jugglers to jesters and everything in between make up the human landscape. You can have your fortune read, get a temporary tattoo or have your name written on a grain of rice. If souvenirs is what you are after then the boardwalk is the place to go. The Westside offers unique arts and crafts, odds and ends and one of kinds only obtainable here. Paintings, photos, rocks of various sorts and sculptures are among the popular offerings. On the Eastside are the store fronts of the boardwalk. Here you will find every sort of t-shirt under the sun. From the politically motivated to sexually charged to the plain old Venice Beach t-shirt there is sure to be one for everybody. In addition, there are tattoo and piercing stores, skate and surf shops, medical marijuana dispensaries and more. You can buy sun glasses, vaporizers, beer and shoes. This is all in addition to the large selection of restaurants, juice spots and bars. In summary, packed into its one and a half mile, the boardwalk has more diversity in demographics and retail then probably anywhere else in the world. There is reason it so famous. Come and see for yourself!
Additional info from Wikipedia:
This 2.5 kilometer boardwalk has a bike path, rollerskaters and skateboard ramps, restaurants, sunglasses, and plenty of tourists. Venice beach is famous for muscle beach, where body builders work out. California Govenor Arnold Schwarzenegger worked out on Muscle Beach and made Golds Gym famous in the 1980s.
Visitor survivor tip:
Bring plenty of $1 dollar bills when you walk along the Venice Beach Boardwalk. If you watch an entire performers show or appreciate an artists work, please leave a tip. They work very hard to make your stay enjoyable at Venice Beach.
A Lesson for Jacksonville?
Venice Beach is an example of what happens with an urban environment where creativity and innovation is fostered within a compact and pedestrian scale atmosphere. It is a place that has become a unique destination and not a pass through.
Article and photographs by Ennis Davis