By Jim Smith
Venice may have been founded in 1905, but it didn’t become the City of Venice until May 29, 1911.
On that day, the good citizens of Venice voted to change its name from Ocean Park City to Venice.
Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice, had originally been one of the city fathers of Ocean Park, an independent community in the early days of the 20th century. He broke with his partners in 1903, and developed the south end of OP into what became known as Venice. But it was still officially Ocean Park, until a petition was circulated which culminated in the overwhelming vote to call it Venice.
In 1911, Venice was a booming community. New businesses and houses were going up everywhere. The Venice Daily Vanguard reported one summer day when 35,000 people came to the beach. Imagine!
There were restaurants, hotels, theaters, free outdoor concerts, the amusement pier and bars that, contrary to neighboring cities, stayed open on Sunday.
The paper reported the astounding sale of a large home on Rialto Avenue for $6,000. Most houses went for much less.
Interested in renting? Here’s a six-room cottage, fully furnished, including a piano, for $25 a month.
Both houses are probably selling today for 100 to 200 times as much, even though they are 100 years older.
Venice needed a high school to save its teenagers a long commute to school. In short order, the Venice Union High School – a merger of the Ocean Park and Playa del Rey school districts (soon to be Venice and Playa del Rey), was created. It took over the old Bath House on the Lagoon where our Post Office is currently located.
By August, Venetians were voting on a petition from the Walgrove Avenue area and from Playa del Rey to be annexed by the new city. It passed overwhelmingly, and swelled the size of Venice from its small beginnings as Venice of America which clung to the beach. After 1911, our city went all the way to Imperial Highway.
Does Venice Have A Future?
Venice has a great history. Our small community has become known worldwide for creativity, invention and alternative living.
What will it be like in 2111?
If the danger of losing our uniqueness in the sea of Angelino mediocrity wasn’t enough, we are at risk from global climate change as is the rest of the world, perhaps even more so.
Pacific storms combined with rising sea levels could rip up our beaches and flood Venice as it subsides and oceans rise.
Without cityhood, it is difficult to envision a sea wall being built in time to hold back the water.
We may have to contend with too much salt water, and not enough fresh water. Can we depend on the DWP for a steady supply of water if drought dries up the Southwest and Sierra Nevadas? Again, without cityhood can we expect a desalination plant to be built in Venice that would convert sea water to fresh water?
Rising waters may force us to return to the old days of using canals instead of streets. New housing construction may begin with long poles driven deep into the soil to keep our homes afloat.
The original Venice in the Adriatic understood that its well-being depended upon its marriage with the sea.
Likewise, as global climate change proceeds and food supplies become less abundant, we may find that our survival depends on Venice fisher folk harvesting fish, seaweed and algae.
Even if the world elites change course and take dramatic action to avert climate disaster, we’re still stuck cheek and jowl next to a larger city with a different goal – maximizing profits. And there are billions in profits to be made by converting Venice into an upscale and sterile resort for the wealthy. It’s only the tenacity of several generations of Venetians that has prevented it from happening already.
If Venice has a future it will include the poor, the middle class and the rich. There will be lots of Blacks, Latinos and whites of many backgrounds.
It will continue to be a place that honors its artists, its poets, its odd balls and dissidents. To keep Venice, with all its warts and scars, we all have to become dissidents to the dominant culture that otherwise will suck us into a shallow, zombie-like, consumerist lifestyle.