Chain Reaction

24 May

There is a large part of me that is sad to be leaving Venice Beach. Even though I’m only going an hour (or 30 minutes with no traffic, two hours during rush hour) inland, I’ll miss the bohemian life of the beach-dweller, being able to roll out of bed, head down to the boardwalk to grab a cup of Italian press coffee and a muffin; to look out at the beach feeling the salty sting in the air, watching the sidewalk vendors setting up their displays…

In fact, I already miss it.

It’s sad but true – the Venice I moved to 7 years ago is not the same enclave of funky coffee shops, greasy pizza joints and strange artsy people. Sure, some of these places still exist, but they are becoming much rarer. In fact, a few months ago, we just got our first real chain store close to the beach (there are a couple two blocks inland, but these new ones are sadly just a few steps from the boardwalk) – a Coffee Bean. Of course, the Coffee Bean is cattycorner from another independent café called Café Collage; along with the Coffee Bean a Campos Tacos (local chain) and Quiznos sub and Flight Centre have magically appeared. I guess that it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks and the big fast food chains move in, replacing the mom-and-pop hot dog and pizza stands that dot the boardwalk.

Just within the past 6 months, Abbott Kinney Blvd, one of the main shopping streets has undergone a massive transformation. The old houses and office buildings from Venice’s early hey-day have been quickly replaced by steel and concrete post-modern structures, casting shadows on what was a fun street to walk along and slowly edging out any non-conformist, non-trendy stores. Skater punks no longer sport dreads or look high on heroin, crack, or meth; instead they wear American Apparel t-shirts, are ripped, and look like GQ models. Last week while grabbing a veggie tamale at the Tortilla Grill, one of the remaining affordable places on the street, part of me thought that at least it was cool there were still no major chain stores along this strip yet. That is, until I looked across the street. In big pink and white letters, standing out eerily among the more demure painted store signs was a Pinkberry Yogurt Shop.

With each coming week, it seems like the edginess that I so cherished and loved is giving way to mainstream culture – a haven for yuppies and those with bank accounts that can afford the unrealistic rents. Older business are slowly being priced out by tripling rents, newer, slicker, more generic places moving in. Even though this is true in most other places, like San Francisco and Santa Cruz, it seems particularly distressing that this change is happening in Venice, since traditionally Venice has signified everything that is revolutionary, bohemian and unconventional about American counter-culture.

The voices of rebellion are quickly being replaced by those of the complacent – people who don’t care about much more than their tax-breaks and home appreciation costs; people who don’t give to the community, but instead move in, take what they can get, drive up prices and then leave within a couple of years.

I hope that Venice doesn’t entirely become the bastion of the rich and famous. It is the most popular tourist attraction in So Cal, after all (even more popular than Disneyland, apparently). Unfortunately, the developers don’t realize that part of the attraction is the funky craziness, and the last thing we need in LA is yet another sterile amusement park-type place with a bunch of big box stores.

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6 Responses to “Chain Reaction”

  1. knitplaywithfire May 24, 2007 at 8:46 pm #

    People move to funky neighborhoods because they are different but they want their favorite shops and such. And they bring them in and change everything. I read recently that the guy who started the Muscle Beach contest is not allowed to have anything to do with it anymore because the city has taken it over. What a shame!! It is like here when people move out to the country and complain about the smells. They really complain about the manure smell but it really only lasts a few days. Get real people.

  2. Liz May 25, 2007 at 1:39 am #

    That is so sad. I hate that so much of this country has become standardized. Not that I hate some standardization, but it’s getting ridiculous.

  3. Rina May 25, 2007 at 5:05 am #

    My partner and I passed through LA last year. I took him to Abott Kinney and was aghast at the gentrification that had taken place. I knew it as an artist enclave back when. It’s really too bad to have the neighborhood absorbed into the consumer fetishist culture of LA. %@#$! urban rentier capital. Where I live, Rockridge in Oakland, used to be a mixed race, mixed income neighborhood 20 years ago. Since then it’s been completely transformed into a rich white colony. And these new residents are totally against building multifamily housing nearby in the name of “preserving the character of the neighborhood.” The hypocrisy kills me.

    On a brighter note, every time you write a thoughtful post like this I’m inspired to write one on the same theme! So if you see me act on it, don’t think of me as a copycat; immitation is flattery 🙂

  4. Katy May 25, 2007 at 3:08 pm #

    Sadly, that is happening more and more in America. In Pittsburgh, where I live, the mom and pop type of stores are closing their doors simply because they can’t compete with the Walmarts, Targets and everything else. I loved to stop and get an iced tea at little cafe, only to find it had shut down because of a Starbucks opening up a few doors down. So not fair.

  5. myhobbyisyarn May 26, 2007 at 12:56 am #

    The city I live in is almost exclusively chain stores. The independent ones don’t make it, because people won’t go in them. Who knows, though, maybe in the future since it’s trendy to be organic, etc., the chain stores will lose their popularity.

  6. katknit June 22, 2007 at 10:47 pm #

    Have you been tagged for this one yet? If not, you are now!
    http://yourehistory.wordpress.com/2007/06/23/ive-been-tagged/

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