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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Tony Bill Addresses Snap Protestors Regarding Snapchat

protesters
Market Street 2 March, the day Snapchat went public. In addition to the commotion created by the TV crews, protesters were prevalent protesting Snapchat, which is now Snap, Inc. with the New York Stock Exchange Symbol SNAP.  Most just call it “Snap”  now.

By Tony Bill, Actor, Director, Writer and Market Street Resident

“Snapchat has been changing the face of Venice, pushing a vibrant beach community into a corporate tech campus to support their 1800 employees…when there is a viable corporate tech area in Playa Vista just a few miles away.” A Venice Activist

“Market Street, once a jumble of restaurants and artists’ studios, has become a ghost town, vibrant and accessible only to those who can enter buildings with corporate I.D.s and eat for free.”  The New Yorker

Dear Snap Protestors,

Welcome to Market Street! You certainly livened up our normally quiet little block 10 days or so ago. It was fun to see you; all several dozen disgruntled, distressed (to say nothing of disdainful) neighbors complaining about the end of the world as you know it…twice turning out in your clown outfits, shorts and silly hats, and toting your skateboards, surfboards and placards, performing for yourselves and Channel 4. (It’s no surprise these days that loud, colorful, outrageous and insulting claims get press attention, no matter how ill-informed they may be.)

But, really…Snapchat is “changing the face of Venice”? What “face”? Certainly not The Boardwalk’s. Surely not Abbot Kinney’s. And you can’t mean Market Street’s, which for the 40-plus years I’ve been there, has never had a face. In fact, with the exception of the solitary restaurant that operated, in all three of its iterations, almost without signage, there hasn’t been a visible or public space on the street since Aaardvark’s Used Clothing Store closed two years after the owner, Joe Stromei, died in 2008.

I could walk you down Market, both then and now, and point out that there are few windows open to that street; that the 18 spaces are occupied by people who work in private, in tolerant proximity. On Market, we’ve been doing our thing(s) behind closed doors and plain walls for decades. So what’s new? Do you know the history of our street? Doesn’t sound like it:

1) Nikki’s bar. 4 years ago, Nikki’s business was marginal, they were at the end of their lease and, frankly, were bad tenants and neighbors…unless you enjoy 2 AM street fights, drunks breaking bottles and arguing, guys peeing or puking in your doorway and defecating in your alley. It was the site of vice-squad busts, neighbor complaints, and numerous Health and Fire Department penalties. It was poorly maintained, and the kitchen was in shambles (food was hardly their forte.) The bar equipment barely functioned. On their closing night, their regular (and not atypical) customers expressed their affection by trashing the interior, breaking windows, and inscribing their initials in walls and bathroom mirrors. (I know, I know…some of you thought it was fun.) Nobody on Market misses it for a minute.

It’ll open again in the future as 72 Market Street, the Venice pioneer restaurant from which it sprang. That’s because Snap stepped up and invested more than their landlord could afford to restore it. It’ll again be a clean, classy, civilized joint you can enjoy. (If you still yearn to get wasted, dance on tables, pick fights, and puke on the sidewalk, I know a couple of places on The Boardwalk.) Until that day, Snappers get to eat there for free and you don’t. Get over it. (Or go to one of the shelters that enjoy the same food Snap donates every day via foodfinders.org)

2) The so-called “Private Crosswalk” on Pacific and Market. For decades, long before Snap, this previously unmarked intersection, one of the busiest between the beach and the rest of Venice, has been a treacherous contest between drag-racers from the Windward traffic light and unwitting pedestrians who correctly, but naively, assume that California pedestrians have the right of way. Snap pushed it through when no one else would or could. But it’s not private; it belongs to everyone. (Thanks, Snap.) Nevertheless, you demonstrators blocked it, and Pacific traffic in both directions. Well, you sure showed us! (Thanks, demonstrators.) If you still want to boycott it, try crossing Pacific one unmarked block north, at Horizon, where your chances of survival are about 90/10.

3) And, speaking of traffic: how about the parking and traffic calamities ascribed to Snap? Did you know that most of their Market St. employees don’t drive to work? Didn’t think so.

4) Security. And what’s the problem with Snap’s security men and, please note, women…except for those goofy Smoky the Bear hats? Until 4 years ago, we had to clean the sidewalks, gutters and alleys of Market ourselves. Daily. Trash, bottles, needles, vomit, (thanks, again, Nikki’s!) doorway piss and poop, vagabonds and their leftover junk…daily. Does anyone find that scene attractive enough to lament its passing? Snap keeps it clean now, and safe. Is that a problem? Not for us. Several years ago, one of our residents was – and this is not a misuse of the word – literally carved up, standing next to his studio, by a homeless guy he had befriended and helped. And is anyone naïve enough to expect tech companies, architects, filmmakers, et alia to open their doors to passers-by? The last time you tried to stroll into Google, didn’t they have security? Did you peek in their windows or hang around their front door? In fact, has anyone, uninvited, been inside our studios and workspaces on Market Street? No? Well, that’s why we moved there.

5) Displacement. Behind those locked doors on Market St., Madonna and Basquiat cohabited; Randy Newman and Dudley Moore and Andy Summers composed and recorded; Costa Gavras, James Brooks, Oliver Stone, Hal Ashby, Frank Pierson, Barry Levinson, and many others wrote, edited and screened their movies. (Google them, kids.) I ran into Bob Dylan coming out of 73 one night. Major artists have come and gone, but…contrary to such uninformed depictions (a “jumble…”) as in the recent New Yorker article quoted above…there hasn’t been a gallery there in well over 10 years. The last major artists on the street were Robert Graham, who died in 2005 and Larry Bell, who happily found a larger and cheaper space nearby around 2012. The L.A. Louver moved out over 20 years ago. Notice all the closed doors and blank facades? Our little street is not the Hollywood Bowl; you can’t buy a ticket to watch us. People have always been quietly and privately creating their own things there: things that have later become famous and appreciated.

Sort of like what Snap is doing right now.

Let’s check again in 2 or 3 years, when all Snap’s leases have expired (they’ve bought almost nothing…two small spaces that I know of; another myth.) By then, they’ll probably have moved their entire operation out of Venice to the Santa Monica Industrial Park at the airport. You remember the airport?…before the traffic gridlock created by that city’s slickers who retired on the payola they exacted from real developers…guys who knew how to build ‘em big and tall. It’ll soon be another Playa Vista…right in our own back yard. Full of tech companies and the jobs and customers and taxes they’ll be sending to another town. Just like you wanted.

Oh…and the “face” of Market Street? It’ll look almost exactly like it did thirty and twenty and ten years ago. And today.

Thanks for reading this,
From the oldest guy on the street.

Comments (7)

  1. Steven Burns

    I’ve been around here for 12 years and have met some Snap people. They are innovative and very creative people – everything the true Venice has long been about. Most of our community WELCOMES SNAP and thanks them for the improvements and donations made to our community, but the media won’t report that or the facts Tony has posted.

    This all reeks of a shakedown by these so called ‘activists’to me – looking for handouts, in the guise of ‘mitigations’, for their organizations.
    I defend your right to protest, but as “IWANTTOTALK…” states, they are bringing in people from all over LA, but not from our community, to protest that which the community approves of overall.

  2. Heather

    As a third generation Venice/Marina resident I say Thank You Tony! It always wonderful to hear from long long time residents who really get what Venice is at it’s best, and can do happily without the “worst”. I feel like most of the people who protest and squawk about issues like the Snapchat are not actually from here, nor have they lived here long since they showed up. RIP Aardvarks….never been the same since.

    There are far greater things to protest than a good and friendly use of Market Street, and one ‘would think’ people had jobs they were missing out on going to….or maybe that is the issue…Market Street houses talented hardworking people at Snap. Working Venice/Marina residents who raise families, follow the rules, go to work or run a business (creatives, artists, teachers, corporate people, waiters, actors – alllllll kinds!) and contribute to our community are increasingly viewed as the “bad guys” due to their location of workplace or business ruining all the possible hangouts for thriving dereliction and tolerated drug use, mistreatment of our streets, sidewalks, and alleys for the disposal of needle, feces, and urine. Now, the less one contributes ,the more one expects( and I don’t mean financially, but by being a decent kind helpful civilized human being with a sense of purpose in making things better). Venice/Marina once was where people worked for a living, at the Air Craft giants nearby in the 40s’50s and lived in all the houses that haven’t been torn down into Mc Mansions yet. They had A place to go to work so you could live in a home and raise their kids and thrive in their community as well as contribute to it. That was seen as a good thing.

    In so much of Venice/Marina Over development is a rampant problem, but what you describe is a very good use of existing structures who are far better neighbors than most. God forbid someone place a crosswalk! I wish they would at Yale & Washington! I wish Snapchat was where Walgreens is! The Oxford Triangle could benefit from better safety, more cleanliness, less needles, and less drugged out transients.

  3. Anonymous

    Corporate fat cats going after protester is just un-American and undermines the fabric of Venice,

  4. Jack Herman

    Both Flyn Cooley and Tony Bill miss the point about Market Street. The problem isn’t with what Snap is doing there. The problem is with their security guards treating Market Street like private property which it isn’t. It is a public street and Snap has absolutely no legal right to instruct their security guards to tell people that they cannot be on that street. None.

    • Flyn Cooley

      Seems like comments are not getting posted…

      Jack, good to hear your thoughts. What people are being told they cannot be on that street? I go down there quite often, the cross walk makes it so convenient.

  5. Flyn Cooley

    Thank you for voicing this opinion, which is actually more like facts than opinions, really. I just moved back to Venice abut 2 weeks ago, and a lot of the false information from the “protesters” was obscuring my perspective. I’ve since heard some other well informed opinions like your own, and I now want to help end this stupid fight, and start a useful dialog that helps people see that Snap can be (and probably already is) a community leader in many ways. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

    As a college kid in Venice (around 2005), learning about art, and working for a local artist, it was clear to me that Venice is not only about the extravagant and flamboyant things on the boardwalk. I know that Robert Irwin (one of my favorite people), would not have operated on Market Street in a flashy studio with attractive signage, or windows for the public to see in. Market Street is on the cover of Irwin’s book, “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees” – That must mean he liked Market as a quiet, modest place for focusing on work and creativity. This influential artist lived life basically (and literally) as a hermit at times – I’m pretty sure this can be quite crucial for some creative people, and it sounds like Snap may have similar motivations for being on Market. Who could blame them for wanting to be there, what a street for creative minds!!!

    I wonder if any “protesters” will come across this article. I wonder if they have taken the time to look for recent news online about their town, or to talk with the community about what others are saying and feeling. If they do, I sure hope that they want to talk instead of yell.

    • IWANTTOTALKWITHYOU

      THESE PROTESTS ARE JUST TEST RUNS. WE ARE PLANNING MORE SOON. WE ARE CONNECTING WITH ALL PARTS OF LOS ANGELES THAT HAVE BEEN GENTRIFIED BY THESE JERKS. ONE THEME THAT WE WILL DELIBERATELY GET MEDIA COVERAGE FOR ARE THE SIGNS THAT WE ARE POSTING CITYWIDE. WE PLAN TO HAVE AROUND OVER 3,000 PROTESTERS AT VENICE BEACH IN A COUPLE WEEKS. THE NUMBERS KEEP GROWING SO WE MIGHT HAVE CLOSE TO 4,000. I AM THE ORGANIZER. WE YELL BECAUSE THEY DON’T WANT TO LISTEN. I WANT TO GIVE YOU A CLUE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF VENICE AND AMERICA. IT’S GOING TO BECOME VERY UNPREDICTABLE STARTING NOW. IT’S GOING TO TAKE 5-7 YEARS JUST TO GET SOME HOMELESS HOUSING STARTED. SNAP IS NOT GOING TO LIKE THAT. THAT’S THE WAY WE WANT IT. WE HAVE SCIENTISTS HELPING US AT THIS TIME. THAT’S HOW FAR WE’VE COME. LOOK FOR US IN THE MEDIA STARTING NEXT WEEK.

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