Development/Gentrification

Snap Map and Greed in Venice. CA

On the days of February 28th and March 2nd, 2017, over 200 Venice residents went to Market Street to protest the overwhelming presence and effects of Snap, Inc. accumulating and utilizing an extreme amount of properties in Venice. Given the extensive media coverage, both locally and nationally, Snap Inc. released a statement that said “We don’t just have our headquarters here; many of us also call Venice home. We’ve been very grateful to be a part of this creative community for over the last four years and we’ve worked closely with local schools and nonprofits to be a good neighbor. No one could have anticipated how quickly we’ve grown, and we have already begun focusing our future growth outside of Venice.” It seems Snap, Inc. has also made a point to tell this to many of their employees who have been telling this to residents – most likely only to spread the rumor of their departure and to diminish any more talk of their expansion in Venice. They have leased properties in Santa Monica at the airport and Ocean Park Business Park, but everyone in Venice is obviously very fearful this is just an expansion and they won’t be leaving any of the properties marked on this map anytime soon – resulting in more shuttles and more of a presence within our historic town.
“No one could have anticipated how quickly we’ve grown” – NO ONE can look at this map and say this was not strategic: 23 confirmed properties with likely 14 more = 37 properties, most of them either on the beach or west of Pacific and this does not include the potential development on the parking lot next to the Blue House at 601 OFW that is presumably intended for Snap, Inc.’s flagship Headquarters, currently in litigation. Imagine the horrific long list of residents and businesses that were pushed out just for Snap, Inc. – well over 100 at least, not to mention the parking spots they have stolen and the overall tension they have created within the community among other things. The scary question is how many other properties they utilize that aren’t even on the map that we don’t know about. Or the many homes and residences they might occupy, some of which could very well have 3 or 4 or 10 people working in them under the radar. What seems to be a house with many roommates may very well be another unidentified office for Snap, Inc. and it invites the question, how many properties do they need – 2 more? 10 more? 30 more? All of them along the beach in addition to their latest acquisitions in Santa Monica? When does it end? What is their end goal? One can’t help to think that this is more than just ego and they want all of Venice solely for themselves. And to put salt on the wound is the fact that many people, some of our very own Venetian neighbors (mostly developers, property owners and VNC members) just don’t seem to even care at all.

Two weeks after those first 2 community protests, three members of the newly-formed activist group the Venice Dogz: An Alliance for the Preservation of Venice sat down with three members of Snap, Inc. in their Market Street headquarters. The first thing they told the Venice Dogz was they plan on moving to Santa Monica in 2018 and they do not plan on taking up any more retail space in Venice. So far, they have done nothing to uphold that statement. On March 9th, they opened their Spectacles Store which locals have deemed “The Official Eyesore of Ocean Front Walk” which is much more of an ugly advertisement than a retail store. The Venice Dogz were told it was only going to be a pop-up store for a “few days”, however an article came out the following day on techcrunch.com that said a “few weeks” – currently it’s now been over 3 months and word on the street is they will be selling their drones there in the near future. Then of course in early May, The Freak Show and all the retailers at 909 OFW were forced to leave after their leases expired, and the same goes for 3 businesses in the middle of Gingerbread Court around that same time. Despite the information in an article from LA Business Journal called Snapped Up, Snap, Inc. has denied having any interest in the Freak Show location, whose lease-holder’s name is SnapShot, and it remains to be seen if Snap Inc. will utilize any of these vacancies, but all signs point to them having controlled interest and first choice of occupancy in these buildings no matter what may result. Also on May 15th at the Microsoft Lounge at 901 Abbot Kinney Blvd, the programmer of the Sundance Institute Program told our source that there would be no more events in the future because Snap is moving into that space. So no more Freak Show, less mom-and-pop stores, no more events from the Sundance Institute Program, etc. all for more private offices for this one company. Snap, Inc. will point to their few philanthropy efforts and land developers and owners will say Venice is now changing for the better and this is “progress”, but displacing over 100 businesses and residents for only 1 single company is NOT “progress” especially now that they’ve created a “Snap-effect” where greedy building, land and lease owners can now make a huge amount of money by turning tourist and residential-serving attractions into office space, compelling them to kick out residents and small businesses, and turn the space into offices for big technology companies, Snap, Inc. in particular.

A big culprit in all of this that the community should be putting more pressure on is the property owners themselves who are equally responsible and seem to have no appreciation for the rest of the community or the history of Venice at all. They are, in a sense, just cashing in while they brag about their past accomplishments and current knowledge and tell everyone who will listen how much they love Venice, and then go ahead and kick out current tenants and accept an overpriced bid from Snap, Inc. OR make a backroom deal so Snap, Inc. can hold interest in the lease under a shell alias. Ever wonder how many of these property owners made deals with Snap, Inc. for ‘Right of First Refusal’ on future space available? I’m sure the number is obscene. Snap, Inc. has been waiting for many other buildings to open up so they can move into them but that will cease to happen only if the land-owners and property owners refuse to deal with them anymore and say enough is enough – this is Venice, not Snapville! Some developers are worse than others and they know who they are. And for most of them it’s a profit they can live without – they should have some self-respect and pride and preserve the history of the neighborhood. It’s a community, not a campus. Change is inevitable – but this is a cultural devastation and it’s ultimately up to them to put a stop to it. Sources say the owner of 23 Windward, previously Danny’s restaurant, made a point NOT to sell to Snap, Inc. and instead leased to Samesun, a Canadian company, which has recently opened the Surfside restaurant – they should be commended and applauded and others should do the same and follow suit – and I have no doubt the locals will respond and give the new Surfside as much of their business as possible.

Also what this map doesn’t show, that Venetians can attest to, is how small of an area this is. Most outsiders don’t realize that there are only steps between most of these properties. In addition, it doesn’t show the infesting amount of Snap, Inc.’s security guards constantly hovering and biking around between buildings or the many shuttles moving around their employees. Reports of their security hassling locals have diminished the past couple months, but the fact it was happening at all exemplifies the bullying attitude this company has towards the community. And what they don’t seem to realize is that the mere presence of these security guards creates a hostile environment – especially after past conflicts that they essentially started. It’s sad and it’s wrong and it’s a shame. All Snap, Inc. had to do was be cool and be a friendly neighbor and be an asset to Venice from the start. Evan Spiegel could be the next Abbot Kinney of Venice CA, but instead he’s the schoolyard bully known as Evil Spiegel kicking out mom-and-pop stores, taking away residents parking, displacing long-time residents, and pushing up rents and property values higher than Beverly Hills. All while creating an environment where his employees and many other millennials exert a mindset of “Who cares, Snapchat owns this town” which residents have heard on multiple occasions making all of this that much more infuriating.

This is a catastrophe and all the culprits should be publicly shamed and reprimanded – the property owners, the politicians, most of the members of Venice Neighborhood Council and all the employees & executives at Snap, Inc. that conveniently just look the other way. Personally, I don’t know how any of them can sleep at night or live with themselves. Watching landowners with the last remaining Art galleries in Venice requesting and being approved to change their zone use to office use shows the ripple effect and the blind eye to preserving the arts and culture of Venice by the very people who were voted in to protect it. And yes, the Snap, Inc. employees are responsible too. They can easily stand up and tell their superiors “we don’t condone this land-grab” and “we don’t want to be a part of this problem”, but instead they walk around in silence and allow it to transform. I was told an employee at Google said that “Snapchat and all of their employees should be ashamed of themselves and embarrassed” and I agree. It’s personal and corporate greed at its finest. It’s the upper class taking a big giant shit on the lower and middle class and on the many locals that have been in Venice longer than many of Snap, Inc.’s employees have been alive. They’re taking advantage of free-spirited, open-minded and non-judgmental people, known for being tolerant with many things that other neighborhoods are not – like noise, the homeless, and our many differences that we embrace and are so proud of that brought us to Venice in the first place. Venice is not the same as other communities, especially here in Los Angeles. It’s a section of LA where it isn’t about the Hollywood glamour or how much money you have or what you do for a living and where neighbors actually say “Hi” and befriend each other. There’s a comradery that Venetians share that is simply non-existent in other communities that is being destroyed and all that are mentioned above are at fault for this shameful (and sometimes illegal) transformation the last few years.

I find it mindboggling that anyone can condone Snap, Inc.’s obvious intent to take control of this small community and popular tourist area, and the fact that many of our own community members, in addition to city and state officials are allowing this to happen is simply appalling. It can’t be said enough, “Venice is a community – not a corporate campus.” The California Coastal Commission says “it is committed to protecting and enhancing California’s coast and ocean for present and future generations. It does so through careful planning and regulation of environmentally-sustainable development, rigorous use of science, strong public participation, education, and effective intergovernmental coordination.” As with everything in life – actions speak louder than words. On Tuesday June 6th, the Venice Dogz sent a lengthy email which included this map along with details of each Snap, Inc. property, copies of letters and photographs to Michael Bonin and Taylor Bazley at LA City and 8 members of the California Coastal Commission. We also pointed out multiple zoning laws they are breaking, in addition to residents parking being taken away at the Freak Show building and Thornton Lofts among many other things. We look forward to their response.

If you know of a property that Snap, Inc. uses that is not listed here please email us at: veniceactivists@gmail.com and visit us at http://www.allianceforvenice.org.

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