Editorial: Affordable Housing Plan is Right for Venice

Posted February 3, 2016 by The Argonaut in Columns
A piece of Venice real estate does not come cheap.

A two-bedroom bungalow on the once-derelict Venice canals just sold for $2.65 million — an astounding $1,998 per square foot, the highest square foot home sale price in Venice since before the Great Recession.

But that’s chump change compared to commercial real estate prices on formerly industrial Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Last year the building that had housed Hal’s Bar & Grill, Casa Linda and several retail spaces sold for more than $44 million, which pencils out at above $5,000 per square foot.

Now Joe’s Restaurant, which has been classing up the boulevard for 24 years, is calling it quits on Valentine’s Day, in part due to rising rents. Roosterfish, a fixture on the other end of Abbot Kinney for 36 years and the Westside’s last remaining gay bar, is also being priced out due to a rent increase and will close down in May (see page 11).

Change has always been the norm for Venice, but never before has change raised the price of admission for living and doing business here so high.

As longtime local restaurateur Daniel Samakow tells us in our story about Joe’s and Roosterfish, many who treasure Venice’s unique cultural identity worry that national chains looking to cash in on Venice’s cool factor will end up pushing out the very locals who made the place cool.

It’s a plausible scenario. Increased housing prices have already been pushing out many of the working- and middle-class people who helped
define Venice’s now oh-so-desirable sense of place.

That’s why we applaud to build housing — at least 35% of it low-income housing — on the former MTA bus yard at Sunset Avenue and Main Street.

Politically speaking, the idea is a winner on two fronts: 1) Slow-growth advocates love that it takes a massive retail or office complex off the table, and 2) many longtime locals recognize that Venice is in desperate need of housing that people who make less than six figures can actually afford.

Critics of the project are correct that no single development is going to reverse Venice’s housing affordability crisis.

But the larger point is that, instead of making Venice more expensive, these three acres of prime real estate will become an anchor for socioeconomic diversity in the present storm of gentrification.

That’s important, because without such diversity Venice just wouldn’t be Venice.

As this week’s stories about the grassroots Community Healing Gardens initiative (page 16) and the take-all-comers Mardi Gras celebration (page 19) suggest, Venice’s eclectic spirit is still kicking.

Long live Venice.

One Comment


    Artists are also being forced out of Venice by rising prices and other dynamics.
    We do need affordable housing for maintaining diversity and the Venice “spirit” but that must include an emphasis on retaining our creatives. We need affordable housing for artists!

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