A family born and raised in Venice is forced to raise their daughter elsewhere — and it hurts
By Jessica Koslow
The author writes about food for The Argonaut.
My husband and I were both born and raised in Venice, and we can no longer afford to live here. It breaks my heart when I tell this to people, but we’re not alone. The people we say this to all know someone — a daughter, a friend or coworker — priced out of Venice just like us.
Forty years ago, Venice was considered undesirable. Before GQ called it “the coolest block in America,” Abbot Kinney was known as West Washington Boulevard, with only one restaurant and a string of vacant storefronts.
Venice was riddled with drugs and gang violence. As a kid I used to think people were yelling “quack” at us as we drove down Brooks Avenue. I witnessed a drive-by shooting when I was a senior at Venice High School.
My dad and stepmom handed down a love of Venice to me. My dad was drawn to the palm trees and beach air, and he lucked into renting a beautiful 1906 beach bungalow with a porch with a bunch of friends in the early ’70s. I was brought home to this communal living situation and grew up in a large and loving community. In 1982, he bought his house for $280,000. He used to say he hoped people always thought Venice was unsafe, dirty and far away from everything — so we could keep this treasure of a neighborhood for ourselves.
Growing up, I could run to the beach after school in September and October. I would sell my old toys on the boardwalk, before you had to apply for a permit to sell anything. The boardwalk was my wild and crazy playground and lunch cafeteria. I looked forward to my walk to the hot dog stand for a hot-dog-on-a-stick on Saturdays. Sunday mornings, our family walked down the boardwalk to the Lafayette Coffee Shop, which closed in the mid ’80s, and I ordered my usual fluffy waffle with butter and syrup from Ruby the waitress.
We never had an air conditioner in our house. It wasn’t needed. We lit fireworks on the beach on July 4th. My friends and I played every night until dark on our walk street. My brother had a jazz band, which put out a hat to collect money in front of the pagoda down the street from our house. Of course, my brother surfed and skateboarded. My dad bodysurfed. And I dunked under the waves as they hit my knees.
When I returned home after a day at the beach, standing in the shower, I felt good from head to toe, an all-over body calm and deep happiness. Even when my shoulders were sticky with aloe because I got sunburned more than I’d like to remember.
When I gave birth to my daughter Lily in 2014, I dreamed that she would have the same childhood as I did — growing up on Venice Beach.
In the last four years, we’ve been owner-occupy evicted twice from our Venice apartments. With a child, our family needed more stability.
So, here I sit looking out my window in Inglewood, as my daughter runs up and down our walkway, petting a neighborhood cat who has adopted us as family. I’ve been here just 31 days. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to buy a house close to Venice, where both my parents and my husband’s parents still live. They take care of Lily while my husband and I work, and so it was important that we live close to them.
I am trying extremely hard — Zen hard — to be open to change, embrace newness and get out and explore. It’ll take time to find my new favorite hangouts, routes and characters. And I know friendships will grow, eventually.
Right now though, I feel like my roots have been pulled from the ground. I wander aimlessly up and down my block trying to connect with anyone. I’m usually left feeling sad that I don’t see familiar faces and places.
But each day I feel a little closer to comfort. I’ve come to find a lot I love about my new neighborhood: the people, the food, the parks. The truth is the Venice I grew up in is probably closer to my new neighborhood than what Venice is now.
And though I miss our proximity to the beach, the cool air and the funky beach bungalow architecture, Venice still lives in me. And will forever. I’ll always have my memories (and the ability to create new ones). Our parents’ houses. My favorite spots. The breakwater. Windward Circle. The expansive sandy beach. The boardwalk. The sunsets.
Plus, everyone I know who lives in Venice complains — about the traffic, noise, homeless, tourists, trash.
Despite it all, I know they love it. And I do, too.