Venice is a boho beach town and has been longtime haven for artists, new agers, road-weary tramps, freaks and free spirits. This is where Jim Morrison and the Doors lit their fire, where Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped himself to stardom, and the place the late Dennis Hopper once called home.
In the early twentieth century, crowds thronged to this ‘Coney Island on the Pacific’ to be poled around by imported gondoliers, walk among Renaissance-style arcaded buildings and listen to Benny Goodman tooting his horn in clubs.
These days, tech and entertainment dollars have fueled a hard charging gentrification that is changing this once low-key enclave with a strong sense of community. Still there are more indie boutiques and cafes than chains, and there’s plenty of innovative architecture and public art.
The Boardwalk, the bike path and the beach are the traditional attractions here, but the whole area’s worth a wander.
Residences and streets
Many of Venice’s houses have their principal entries from pedestrian-only streets and have house numbers on these footpaths. (Automobile access is by alleys in the rear.) The inland walk streets are made up primarily of around 620 single-family homes.
It lies 2 miles away from the nearest freeway, and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district’s vehicle traffic, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway (SR 90) into southern Venice.
The Venice Canal Historic District is noteworthy for its man-made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his Venice of America plan. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in Southern California.
The canals are roughly bounded by Eastern Court on the east, Court A on the south, Strongs Drive on the west, and Court E on the north. There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal). The beautifully lit canals with gondoliers and arched bridges drew widespread publicity and helped sell lots in the development.
The canals were renovated in 1992, with the canals being drained and new sidewalks and walls being built. The canals re-opened in 1993 and have become a desirable and expensive residential section of the city.
The residential district surrounding the remaining canals was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. However, in recent years, there has been extensive renovation work on many of the old houses, and many large, modern houses have been built.