Venice, Los Angeles

Venice is a neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles within the Westside region of Los Angeles County, California.

Venice was founded by Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it was annexed by Los Angeles. Venice is known for its canals, a beach, and Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile (4 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, and vendors.

19th century

In 1839, a region called La Ballona that included the southern parts of Venice, was granted by the Mexican government to Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes, giving them title to Rancho La Ballona.[1][2][3] Later this became part of Port Ballona.

Venice Pavilion and Ship Cafe, c. 1905–1913
Windward Avenue, 1913

Venice, originally called "Venice of America", was founded by wealthy developer Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town, 14 miles (23 km) west of Los Angeles. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought 2 miles (3 km) of ocean-front property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property, called Ocean Park, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney, who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like the namesake Italian city.[4]: 8 

When Venice of America opened on July 4, 1905, Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot-long (370 m) pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. Kinney hired artist Felix Peano to design the columns of the buildings.[4]: 22  Included in the capitals are several faces, modeled after Kinney and a woman named Nettie Bouck.[5][6]

Fireworks display over the lake at the old Venice Amusement Park around 1915

Tourists, mostly arriving on the "Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode the Venice Miniature Railway and gondolas to tour the town. The biggest attraction was Venice's 1-mile-long (1.6 km) gently-sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.[citation needed]

The population (3,119 residents in 1910) soon exceeded 10,000; the town drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends.[7][citation needed]

Amusement pier
Special edition of the Venice Daily Vanguard, dated July 19, 1913. A female figure labeled "Prosperity" is gesturing toward the Venice Amusement Pier at bottom left.
People strolling by the dance hall on the amusement pier, c. 1900–1920
Crowds between 17th and 34th streets, with roller coaster in background, c. 1900–1920

Attractions on the Kinney Pier became more amusement-oriented by 1910, when a Venice Miniature Railway, Aquarium, Virginia Reel, Whip, Racing Derby, and other rides and game booths were added. Since the business district was allotted only three one-block-long streets, and the City Hall was more than a mile away, other competing business districts developed. Unfortunately, this created a fractious political climate. Kinney, however, governed with an iron hand and kept things in check. When he died in November 1920, Venice became harder to govern. With the amusement pier burning six weeks later in December 1920, and Prohibition (which had begun the previous January), the town's tax revenue was severely affected.[citation needed]

The Kinney family rebuilt their amusement pier quickly to compete with Ocean Park's Pickering Pleasure Pier and the new Sunset Pier. When it opened it had two roller coasters, a new Racing Derby, a Noah's Ark, a Mill Chutes, and many other rides. By 1925, with the addition of a third coaster, a tall Dragon Slide, Fun House, and Flying Circus aerial ride, it was the finest amusement pier on the West Coast. Several hundred thousand tourists visited on weekends. In 1923, Charles Lick built the Lick Pier at Navy Street in Venice, adjacent to the Ocean Park Pier at Pier Avenue in Ocean Park. Another pier was planned for Venice in 1925 at Leona Street (now Washington Street). For the amusement of the public, Kinney hired aviators to do aerial stunts over the beach. One of them, movie aviator and Venice airport owner B. H. DeLay, implemented the first lighted airport in the United States on DeLay Field (previously known as Ince Field). After a marine rescue attempt was thwarted, he organized the first aerial police force in the nation. DeLay performed many of the world's first aerial stunts for motion pictures in Venice.[citation needed]


By 1925, Venice's politics had become unmanageable because its roads, water and sewage systems badly needed repair and expansion to keep up with its growing population. When it was proposed that Venice consolidate with Los Angeles, the board of trustees voted to hold an election. Consolidation was approved at the election in November 1925, and Venice was merged with Los Angeles in 1926.[4]: 8 

Many streets were paved in 1929, following a three-year court battle led by canal residents. Afterward, the Department of Recreation and Parks intended to close three amusement piers, but had to wait until the first of the tidelands leases expired in 1946.[8]


In 1929, oil was discovered south of Washington Street on the Venice Peninsula, now known as the Marina Peninsula neighborhood of Los Angeles. Within two years, 450 oil wells covered the area, and drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. The short-lived boom provided needed income to the community, which otherwise suffered during the Great Depression. Most of the wells had been capped by the 1970s, and the last wells, near the Venice Pavilion, were capped in 1991.[9]


After annexation, the city of Los Angeles showed little interest in maintaining the unusual neighborhood. Most of the canals were filled in and paved over, and the former lagoon became a traffic circle. The neighborhood lacked the automobile-centric, homogeneous character that the city sought to cultivate in the post-World War II era, and was perceived as a dated, obsolete remnant of earlier decades' land speculation.[10]

Los Angeles had neglected Venice so long that, by the 1950s the neglect had led to the area being labeled the "Slum by the Sea". With the exception of new police and fire stations in 1930, the city spent little on improvements after annexation. The city did not pave Trolleyway (Pacific Avenue) until 1954 when county and state funds became available. Low rents for run-down bungalows attracted predominantly European immigrants (including a substantial number of Holocaust survivors) and young counterculture artists, poets, and writers. The Beat Generation hung out at the Gas House on Ocean Front Walk and at Venice West Cafe on Dudley.[11]

Past gang activity

The Venice Shoreline Crips and the Latino Venice 13 (V-13) were the two main gangs active in Venice. V13 dates back to the 1950s, while the Shoreline Crips were founded in the early 1970s, making them one of the first Crip sets in Los Angeles.[citation needed] In the early 1990s, V-13 and the Shoreline Crips were involved in a fierce battle over crack cocaine sales territories.[12]

By 2002, the numbers of gang members in Venice were reduced due to gentrification and increased police presence. According to a Los Angeles City Beat article, by 2003, many Los Angeles Westside gang members had resettled in the city of Inglewood.[13]

Housing and homelessness
Graffiti in Venice decries the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority as a scam, 2023

Venice Beach is one of the hardest places in the United States to build new housing due to stringent zoning regulations and pervasive NIMBYism.[14] Between 2007 and 2022, the number of available housing units actually decreased, despite a massive increase in property values and construction activity over the same period.[14] The neighborhood was developed early in the history of Los Angeles, and as such much of the housing stock predates the current system of zoning regulations by decades. In the areas along Pacific avenue, many early 1900's multifamily buildings still exist, some housing as many as 30 units on a single lot with no parking. Current regulations mandate lower housing densities (most commonly 1 unit per 1,500 square feet of lot area).[15]

As per a 2020 count, there were nearly 2,000 homeless people in Venice,[16] up from 175 in 2014. Many of them take up residence in tents and tent cities.[17] An LAPD official said that the increased homeless population has contributed to a spike in crimes in Venice in 2021, despite any statistically significant proof of correlation.[16] In February 2020, the city opened a 154-bed transitional housing shelter at a former Metro bus yard.[18]

^ diseno Rancho La Ballona ^ "Redondo". USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer. 1896. ^ "Map of old Spanish and Mexican ranchos in Los Angeles County". Archived from the original on July 27, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2014. ^ a b c Elayne Alexander; Bryan L. Mercer (February 2, 2009). Venice. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-6966-6. Retrieved January 9, 2013. ^ "Peano's Faces of Venice Beach – Los Angeles, California". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved April 17, 2018. ^ "Betsy Sells Venice". Venice Vanguard Newsletter. September 2005. Archived from the original on April 18, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2018 – via These cast iron sculptures were done by Felix Peano, an Italian sculptor whose work achieved more than a modest degree of fame at the turn of the century. Peano was an intimate friend of Jack London and was well known in the San Francisco Bay area. He was employed by Abbot Kinney to add his embelishments to the dream called Venice of America. The faces on the columns are classical in style, easily traceable to the influence of ancient Rome. Yet Peano did not go all the way back in time for his inspiration. He found it in a young girl of 17 who was living on the ocean front in 1904, watching Venice grow around her. "It was almost an embarrassing moment," explains Nettie Bouck. "Felix Peano was at our house, actually at that time it was the house of my future father-in-law, Mr. Bouck. I don´t know why. He just all of a sudden reached out and grabbed me. He was an Italian gentleman and very, very emotional. And he held my face, my hands, put his hands on my face and looked at it." Peano insisted that he would use those features in the work he was doing for Mr. Kinney. They showed up as the female face atop the Windward Avenue pillars. "Well, it was not a likeness of me, but the face, the contours of my face, gave him the idea to use it for the heads on the columns. There was really no big story or history about it," insists Mrs. Bouck, "except that he got a little bit over-enthusiastic I guess." ^ Rogers, Sam; Steuart, W.M (1921). "State Compendium California" (PDF). Department of Commerce. 14: 196. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey. "Debunking Venice's Historic Myths". VENICE HISTORY SITE. Retrieved April 22, 2019. ^ Doherty, Shawn (October 29, 1991). "With Oil Wells Capped, Venice Beach Looks to Cleanup". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 22, 2019. ^ "FHA Area Description of South Venice". Mapping Inequality. March 3, 1939. ^ Cite error: The named reference venicewest was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Davidson, Ronald A.; Entrikin, J. Nicholas (October 2005). "The Los Angeles Coast as a Public Place". Geographical Review. 95 (4): 578–593. doi:10.1111/j.1931-0846.2005.tb00382.x. hdl:10211.2/1731. JSTOR 30034261. S2CID 159996450. ^ Romero, Dennis (November 6, 2003). "Gangster's Paradise Lost". Los Angeles City Beat. Archived from the original on December 24, 2007. Retrieved February 15, 2008. ^ a b Kusisto, Laura (July 16, 2017). "Venice Beach Is a Hot Place to Live, So Why Is Its Housing Supply Shrinking?". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 29, 2022. ^ ^ a b "Venice described as 'constant emergency zone' as calls grow for action to address homelessness crisis". KTLA. May 25, 2021. Retrieved June 8, 2021. ^ Johnson, Scott; Kiefer, Peter (January 11, 2019). "LA's Battle for Venice Beach: Homeless Surge Puts Hollywood's Progressive Ideals to the Test". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link) ^ Cheney, Alex (February 26, 2020). "Venice temporary homeless shelter opens with 154 beds, some dedicated to youth living on streets". ABC7 Los Angeles. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
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