Venice is a district in western Los Angeles, California, United States. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, which features performers, fortune-tellers and vendors. Throughout the summer months, the boardwalk is actively entertaining, and this tradition continues on weekends in the winter.  It is an important tourist attraction in Southern California,  and has retained its popularity in part because it is n attractive location for walking and bicycling. . It was home to early Beat poets and artists in Los Angeles.  Its area codes are 310 and a 424 overlay. Its ZIP Code is 90291.
Venice of America was founded by tobacco millionaire 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 two miles (3 km) of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town called Ocean Park on the north end of the property, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street in the unincorporated territory. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney built on the marshy land on the south end of the property. His intent was to create a seaside resort like its namesake in Italy.
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 1200-foot-long pleasure 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. Tourists, mostly arriving on the "Red Cars" of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode Venice's miniature railroad and gondolas to tour the town. But the biggest attraction was Venice's mile-long gently sloping beach. Cottages and housekeeping tents were available for rent.
The town grew in population, annexed adjacent housing tracts, and changed its official name from Ocean Park to Venice in 1911. The population (3119 residents in 1910) soon exceeded 10,000, and drew 50,000 to 150,000 tourists on weekends. The Vernon Tigers of baseball's Pacific Coast League chose to play their 1913 and 1914 home games in Venice before returning to Vernon; at the time, Vernon and Venice were the only "wet" municipalities in Los Angeles County, i.e., where alcohol could be served to the public legally.
Attractions on the Kinney Pier became more amusement oriented by 1910, when a Venice Scenic 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. But when he died in November 1920, Venice became harder to politically 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.
The Kinney family rebuilt their amusement pier quickly in order to compete with Ocean Park's Pickering Pier, and the newly built Sunset Pier. When it opened it had two roller coasters, a new Racing Derby, a Noah's Ark, a Mill Chutes, and dozens of 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). He also initiated the first aerial police in the nation, after a marine rescue attempt was thwarted. DeLay also performed many of the world's first aerial stunts for motion pictures in Venice.
By 1925, Venice's politics became unmanageable. Its roads, water and sewage systems badly needed repair and expansion to keep up with its growing population. When it was proposed that Venice be annexed to Los Angeles, the board of Trustees voted to hold an election. Those for annexation and those against were nearly evenly matched, but many Los Angeles residents, who moved to Venice to vote, turned the tide. Venice became part of Los Angeles in October 1925.
Los Angeles had annexed the Disneyland of its day, and proceeded to remake Venice in its own image. They felt the town needed more streets for automobiles, not canals, and paved the bulk of them in 1929 after a protracted three-year court battle led by canal residents. They wanted to close Venice's three amusement piers, but had to wait until the first of the tidelands' leases expired in 1946.
In 1929, oil was discovered south of Washington Street on the Venice Peninsula. Within two years, 450 oil wells covered the area and drilling waste clogged the remaining waterways. It was a short-lived boom, that provided needed income to the community, which suffered during the Great Depression. The wells produced oil into the 1970s.
Los Angeles had neglected Venice so long that, by the 1950s, it had become 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. Cheap rents for run-down bungalow housing attracted predominantly European immigrants (including a substantial number of Holocaust refugees), 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 which later became the Sponto Gallery. Police raids occurred frequently during that era.
Venice and neighboring Santa Monica were hosts for a decade to the Pacific Ocean Park (POP), an amusement and pleasure-pier built atop the old Lick Pier and Ocean Park Pier by CBS and the Los Angeles Turf Club (Santa Anita). It opened in July 1958. They kept the pier's old roller coaster, huge airplane ride and historic carousel, but converted its theaters and smaller pier buildings into sea-themed rides and space-themed attractions designed by Hollywood special effects people. Visitors could travel in space on the Flight to Mars ride, tour the world in Around the World in 80 Turns, go beneath the sea in the Diving Bells or at Neptune's Kingdom, take a fantasy excursion into the Tales of the Arabian Nights on the Flying Carpet ride, visit a pirate world at Davy Jones' Locker, or visit a tropical paradise and its volcano by riding a train on Mystery Island. There were also thrill rides like the Whirlpool (rotor whose floor dropped out), the Flying Fish wild mouse coaster, an auto ride, gondola ride, double Ferris wheel, safari ride, and an area of children's rides called Fun Forest. Sea lion shows were performed at the Sea Circus.
Since attendance at the seaside park was too low to operate during the winter, and there was competition from Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Marineland, it was sold after two seasons to a succession of owners, who let the park deteriorate. And since Santa Monica was redeveloping the surrounding area for high-rise apartments and condos, it became difficult for patrons to reach the park. It was forced into bankruptcy in 1967. After the park suffered a series of arson fires beginning in 1970, its rotting structure was entirely demolished by 1974. Another aging attraction in the 1960s was the Aragon Ballroom that had been the longtime home of The Lawrence Welk Show & the Spade Cooley Show, and later the Cheetah Club where rock bands like the Doors, Blue Cheer & many other top bands of the time, performed. It burned in the 1970 fire. The district around POP is known as Dogtown, which was home to pioneering skateboarders the Z-Boys, as profiled in the documentary film, Dogtown and Z-Boys.Little known is that POP pier ended in Santa Monica, where Ocean Park meet the beach.
Producer Roger Corman owned a production facility, the Concorde/New Horizons Studio, on Main Street for many years, in which a large number of his films were shot. This facility was torn own to build lofts.
Attractions and neighborhoods
Venice is today one of the most vibrant and eclectic areas of Southern California and it continues a tradition of progressive social change involving prominent Westsiders. The Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the country.
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). However, like much of Los Angeles, Venice is also well-known for traffic congestion. It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the nearest freeway, and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for the demands of modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district's vehicle traffic, though, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway (SR 90) into southern Venice.
Venice Beach is understood to include the beach, the promenade that runs parallel to the beach ("Ocean Front Walk" or just "the boardwalk"), Muscle Beach, the handball courts, the paddle tennis courts, Skate Dancing plaza, the numerous beach volleyball courts, the bike trail, the improbable, Orthodox Shul on the Beach and the businesses and residences that have their addresses on Ocean Front Walk. Many vendors line the boardwalk. Legend has it the tradition of vending on the boardwalk itself was started by local artist, Sponto.
Along the southern portion of the beach, at the end of Washington Boulevard, is the Venice Fishing Pier. A 1,310-foot (400 m) concrete structure, it first opened in 1964, but was closed in 1983 due to El Niño storm damage, only reopening in the mid-1990s. On December 21, 2005, the pier again suffered damage when waves from an unusually big northern swell caused the part of the pier upon which the restrooms was located to fall into the ocean.
The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice, located north of the Venice Pier and Lifeguard Headquarters, and south of the Santa Monica Pier. This spot is sheltered on the north by an artificial barrier, the breakwater, consisting of an extending sand bar, piping, and large rocks at its end.
This spot has differing breaks depending on swell intensity, swell direction, tide and time of the day. However, with intense swells such as those of the winter of 2005/2006, Breakwater boasts a clean left.
The areas along Abbot Kinney and Grand Boulevards and Main Street form the traditional downtown of Venice. During the 1920s and 1930s, the area's nightlife was quite active, with thousands of Angelenos arriving every night by streetcar. (Before he burst onto the national scene, Benny Goodman had a brief residence as a bandleader in Venice). Nightlife boomed again in the late 1960s as the area became a center of hippie culture. Since the late 1990s, downtown Venice has been especially popular, with many bars, nightclubs, art galleries, and edgy apparel shops occupying both its older brick and Art Deco storefronts and hyper-modern glass facades.
The Oakwood neighborhood of Venice, also known as Ghost Town and the "Oakwood Pentagon", which lies inland a few blocks from the tourist areas, is one of the few historically African American areas of in West Los Angeles, although Latinos have comprised the overwhelming majority of the residents. During the age of restrictive covenants that enforced racial segregation, Oakwood was set aside as a settlement area for blacks, who came by the hundreds to Venice to work in the oil fields during the 1930s and 1940s. After the construction of the 405 freeway passed through predominantly Mexican and immigrant communities, they moved further west and into Oakwood. Small numbers of Caucasian Americans moved in or around the Oakwood area during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Venice Shoreline Crips and the Latino Venice 13 gang, which are under a shaky truce, continue to remain active in Venice. The Venice White Boys, another gang, disappeared decades before the 2000s. By 2002, numbers of gang members in Oakwood 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 resettled in the city of Inglewood .
Near the end of the 20th century, gentrification has greatly altered Oakwood. Although still a primarily Latino and African-American neighborhood, the neighborhood is in flux. According to Los Angeles City Beat,  "In Venice, the transformation is....obvious. Homes are fetching sometimes more than $1 million, and homies are being displaced every day." Author John Brodie challenges the idea of gentrification causing change and commented "...the gunplay of the Shoreline Crips and the V-13 is as much a part of life in Venice as pit bulls playing with blond Labs at the local dog park." Xinachtli, a Latino student group from Venice High School and subset of MEChA, refers to Oakwood as one of last beachside communities of color in California. Chicanos and Latinos comprise over 50% of Venice High School's student body.
East Venice is a racially and ethnically mixed, residential neighborhood of Venice that is separated from Oakwood and Milwood (the area south of Oakwood) by Lincoln Boulevard, extending east to the border with Mar Vista, near Venice High School. Aside from the commercial strip on Lincoln (including the Venice Boys and Girls Club and the Venice United Methodist Church), the area almost entirely consists of small homes and apartments as well as Penmar Park and (bordering Santa Monica) Penmar Golf Course. The existing population (primarily composed of non-Latino whites, Latinos, and Asians, with small numbers of other groups) is being supplemented by new arrivals who have moved in with gentrification.
A housing project, Lincoln Place, was built nearby by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles to accommodate GI's returning from the war and in need of affordable housing. It later came to house working class families. Lincoln Place is currently in the midst of an extensive legal battle between past and present tenants and the owner, AIMCO. The developer, which acquired the property in 2003, plans to demolish it and build a mixed-use condominium and retail structure on the site. Only 13 tenants remain, all of them elderly or disabled.
Notable residents and businesses
Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic. In the 1950s and 60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington and Philomene Long.
Prominent residents of Venice include actresses Julia Roberts, Kate Beckinsale, Lana Clarkson and Anjelica Huston, actors Tom Conway (brother of actor George Sanders), lived here in the 1960s, Nicolas Cage, Chaney Kley, Tim Meadows, Robert Hegyes, Michael T. Weiss, Fairuza Balk, Taylor Negron and musicians Perry Farrell, Evidence of Dilated Peoples, Saint John of Saint John and the Revelations, Joshua Kadison, John Lydon (who owns a sizeable amount of rental property in Venice),Ozzy from Survivor, John Frusciante, Fiona Apple and Mike Muir and most of his Suicidal Tendencies bandmates. Filmmaker Tao Ruspoli and his wife, actress Olivia Wilde live in Venice. Architect Frank Gehry is a longtime resident who has bought a huge vacant lot on Harding Avenue in Venice where he plans to build his new personal residence. Comedian George Carlin lived on Carroll Canal in Venice from 1975 until his death in 2008.
Actor Robert Downey Jr. kept an apartment on the boardwalk during the 1990s. Harding Avenue is also where the Lennon Sisters of Lawrence Welk fame grew up. Venice (band) was born and raised in Venice. Jim Morrison lived in Venice for two years where he met Ray Manzarek to form the nucleus of The Doors. Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career began after becoming a regular bodybuilder at Venice's famous Gold's Gym, whose present facility claims to be "The Mecca of Bodybuilding." Restaurateur Wolfgang Puck has owned and operated noted eateries in the area since the 1990s. Other notables include actors Viggo Mortensen, Rutger Hauer, Bryan Callen, and Elijah Wood, and film directors Henry Jaglom and Paul Mazursky. For many years, pro wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Sting were announced as residing in Venice Beach as well. Standup comedians and street performers have proliferated in Venice, Wavy Gravy and Swami X being two of the more recent hippie busker alumni. Political contributions have been sent from homes in Venice from the actor Dennis Hopper and Simpsons creator Matt Groening. South Park co-creator Matt Stone lives in Venice as well. Harry Perry, the famous street entertainer, is one of the boardwalk's key performers. Photographer Helen K. Garber maintains a studio on Ocean Front Walk. Graffiti/Street Artist and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat lived in Venice in the 80's. Immature, an R&B group from the 1990s, used to perform on the boardwalk prior to becoming famous.
World Wrestling Entertainment and WCW professional wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Sting are billed as being from Venice Beach, CA. However they actually hail from Tampa, Florida and Omaha, Nebraska respectively.
Venice is today a vibrant area of Southern California and it continues a tradition of progressive social change involving prominent Westsiders. The Venice Family Clinic is the largest free clinic in the country. The Venice Community Housing Corporation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the economic, racial and social diversity of Venice and the surrounding area, provides affordable housing, economic and community development opportunities and needed social services to low income residents. Women in Recovery, Inc., a non-profit organization offering a live-in, 12-step program of rehabilitation for women in need, was founded by a longtime resident of Venice, Sister Ada Geraghty. Geraghty and her organization on Coeur D' Alene Avenue annually honor those who've made a difference in helping women overcome substance abuse problems. The 2006 honoree for Women in Recovery was Christopher Lawford; past honorees have included Jamie Lee Curtis, Angela Lansbury, and Anthony Hopkins.
Los Angeles County Lifeguards
Venice Beach is the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Division of the Fire Department. It is located at 2300 Ocean Front Walk. It is the nation's largest ocean lifeguard organizations with over 100 full-time and 600 part-time or seasonal lifeguards. The headquarter building used to be the City of Los Angeles Lifeguard Headquarters until they were merged into the County System in 1975. The department is commonly referred to by Angelenos as Baywatch Lifeguards.
The Los Angeles County Lifeguards safeguard 31 miles (50 km) of beach and 70 miles (110 km) of coastline, from San Pedro in the south, to Malibu in the north. Lifeguards also provide Paramedic and rescue boat services to Catalina Island, with operations out of Avalon and the Isthmus.
Lifeguard Division employs 120 full-time and 600 seasonal lifeguards, operating out of three Sectional Headquarters, located in Hermosa, Santa Monica, and Zuma beach. Each of these headquarters staffs a 24-hour EMT-D response unit, and are part of the 911 system. In addition to providing for beach safety, Los Angeles County Lifeguards have specialized training for Baywatch rescue boat operations, underwater rescue and recovery, swiftwater rescue, cliff rescue, marine mammal rescue and marine firefighting.
State and federal representation
Primary and secondary schools
Venice is served by many Los Angeles Unified School District schools. The area is within Board District 4. As of 2008 Marlene Canter represents the district. Canter announced that she will not seek re-election after her term expires in June 2009.
The neighborhood is served by Coeur d'Alene Avenue Elementary School and Westminster Avenue Elementary School. Students go on to Mark Twain Middle School. High school students attend Venice High School, which is actually in the neighborhood of Mar Vista.
Saint Mark Elementary School and First Lutheran School are private schools in the area.
Los Angeles Public Library operates the Venice - Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch.
Venice hosts numerous organizations including Venice Arts: In Neighborh