We don’t like change. It’s just in our DNA as humans. We have to work on ourselves to not be afraid of change. And if we peel another onion layer, it’s our fear of the unknown. So anytime we’re faced with change, it’s easier to come up with all the ways a change is risky, scary, bad and any other negative adjective we can think of. And this bias probably served us well in our caveman days, so there’s a reason we tie it to our survival. Why am I writing about all this? Because right now, Venice (the neighborhood in Los Angeles, not city in Italy) is going through a change threatening the survival of its artistic community.
Some residents believe with Snapchat, Google, and other major tech companies opening up shop, in what some call Silicon Beach, there’s been a predictable spike in property values. Great for them. Bad for anyone making less than $300k a year. Cue good ol’ gentrification.
This is affecting renters and small businesses alike such as Altered Space Gallery, Venice Bistro, and Roosterfish. After speaking with local artists at the Venice Art Block, we learned that they’ll be forced out by July 1st, because landlords are doubling their studios’ rent. And because Venice has been founded on artistic inspiration and creativity since the ’50s, this change threatens its core identity. Artists can relocate and still make their art, but who will Venice be without its artists? And who will the artists be without Venice? Will this change be for the better or for the worse?
I understand there’s arguments in favor of gentrification. For example, if we consider Venice’s other identities – gang violence – many cite gentrification and heavier police patrol as heroes. Gang wars were a huge problem in the ’90s, and have died down in recent years, making it a much safer neighborhood. However, gang members who were priced out of the area, relocated to Inglewood – failing to address the underlying problem, but simply displacing it. So gentrification, once again, comes out in favor of the few and the wealthy, while being a band-aid solution to bigger problems.
I can’t help but grieve for our shortsightedness in choosing profit at the cost of real community. But I also can’t help but wonder about possible alternatives to gentrification, ones that really improve the lives of many, regardless of how much money is in their pocket. Call me a dreamer, but like John Lennon said, I’m not the only one.
With so much creative juice in Venice, from its artists and its tech companies, there’s always another way. What could that way be? Help us brainstorm, share your ideas with us on our Facebook page.