Real Estate Investors and Big Tech Threaten the Vibes in Venice

Any Southern California native knows that Venice Beach flaunts an image of quirkiness, funkiness, and weirdness through its colorful residents and culture that permeate the beach front. But Venice’s distinct culture of “charming weirdness” and its bohemian community may be under threat as tech companies, upscale retailers, and speculating real estate investors move into the growingly popular area.

Third-generation Venice resident and community activist, Laddie Williams, complains, “There are a lot of shenanigans going on to hyper-gentrify this area, almost make it a beachfront resort. They are killing our community.” Williams is referring to the local tech boom that’s happening in Venice Beach (now being referred to as “Silicon Beach”), specifically Google and Snapchat opening offices in the oceanfront district. On top of that, skyrocketing real estate prices are pushing longtime residents out and corporate chains are replacing independent artisan shops.

This influx of new money is leaving many Venetians shocked and upset. The main street, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, was once an epicenter of Venice cool with artisan shops and antique stores, but is now transforming into an upscale outdoor mall full of corporate name brands. Stunningly, a piece of commercial property on the boulevard sold for $44 million to a New York partnership, forcing the ejection of Hal’s, a landmark bar and grill. It was even a shock when the same property sold for $20 million two years ago. Many other independent stores have been priced out of their long-time homes.

Residential real estate has also been affected by a surge of big international investors. Residential bungalows are being emptied and flipped, raising the median home price from $832,000 to $1.4 million.

Others wonder why anyone is surprised that beachfront property in one of the nation’s largest cities would experience such growth. Tony Bill, an Academy Award winning producer and owner of the buildings that house Snapchat, said, “It’s like, what did you expect? How long did you expect that Venice would be a depressed, inexpensive, inactive haven for people who can’t find a cheaper place to live? Venice is not known, and shouldn’t be known, for its starving artists. It should be known for its accomplished artists. . . . If you’re accomplished, you can afford to pay the rent.”

What are your thoughts on the changes Venice Beach is seeing? Do you think this is the natural course of growth for such a popular area to take?

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