Until recently, Venice Beach was known as a scruffy, bohemian spot: inhabited by creatives, hippies and the homeless and disproportionately afflicted by crime and gang violence.
Today, though, the neighbourhood’s rents are among the highest in Los Angeles, and its main drag, Abbot Kinney, is all hip restaurants and designer clothing stores. Last year, GQ magazine sealed its fate by calling Abbot Kinney “The Coolest Block in America”.
Much of the new money comes from the tech industry. Google’s LA HQ is in Venice, and other firms have followed it there, earning the area a new nickname, “Silicon Beach”.
Yet while the yuppies appreciate the lingering aura of cool, long-time local residents and independent businesses are concerned about being priced out. An identical debate is under way, on a grander scale, up the coast in San Francisco, where relatively wealthy Silicon Valley employees are routinely accused of making the city blander.
On Saturday, GQ held its own event on Abbot Kinney, promising “a day of style, eats, drinks and good times”. Among the attendees, however, were activists from the group “Save Venice”, which rejects the approval of the publication it dubs “Gentrification Quarterly”.
One man with a striking haircut and a T-shirt that read “I Hate Venice (Because of You)” waved a handwritten sign saying “Hipsters Go Home”. I brandished my smartphone and asked if I might take his picture. “No!” he replied. “Because you’re going to post it on Instagram!” He wasn’t wrong.