Venice Timeline




  • The abandoned Pacific Ocean Park pier burned in a spectacular night fire. About half the pier (the outer end) was consumed in the arson fire. Transients living beneath the structure set nearly 70 additional fires from 1970 until it was finally demolished completely in 1974.

  • During the 70's Venice was marked for slow growth as political groups with the help of the newly created California Coastal Commission managed to mount opposition to any project that would alter the character of the community. They felt that the poor had just as much right to live in Venice as the rich people who were buying property to develop. They realized that rapidly rising property values were on a collision course with the community's entrenched low-income population. The Venice Town Council's goal was to delay or at least scale down any project that might affect surrounding property values and the rents landlords charged. They preferred empty ugly lots and a general slum look if need be, anything but upscale development. However, what they didn't foresee was Venice's rebirth as a major tourist destination.


  • The city constructed a bicycle path adjacent to Ocean Front Walk. The path, part of an 18 mile long route extending from Torrance to Santa Monica, exposed Venice to thousands of bicyclists who would have otherwise avoided the seedy looking area. They stopped to watch weight-lifters work out at the outdoor weight pen, or listened and watched the occasional entertainer.


  • Summer nude sunbathing on Venice Beach, mainly north of the Venice Pavilion, gained national media attention. Venice was unprepared for the onslaught of sexually-repressed Americans who came to gawk or participate. LAPD officers, dressed in blue shorts and T-shirt patrolled the freak show. While the non-elected Venice Town Council championed everyone's rights, the Los Angeles City Council saw things differently. They voted 14 to 1 to ban nude sunbathing. But it was too late to turn back the clock for people had discovered that Venice existed and was actually a pleasant and relatively safe place to visit during the day.


  • Entrepreneurs, seeing increasing weekend crowds, were beginning to change Venice's character into a tourist destination. Tom Sewell and Roger Webster had earlier converted a dilapidated building at Windward and Pacific into boutiques and restaurants, when Robert and Mary Goodfader transformed a boarded up warehouse on Ocean Front Walk into a bookstore and outdoor Sidewalk Cafe. The latter became a hang-out for local artists and writers in the area. Goodfader also leased space at several nearby parking lots and rented stalls at $40 per month to local artists and flea market vendors.


  • Jeff Rosenberg leased a space from Goodfader and began renting roller skates out of the back of his van. He called his operation Cheapskates. He rented skates with innovative polyurethane wheels that allowed skaters to glide easily over rough concrete and asphalt surfaces. Venice's wide open Ocean Front Walk and smooth bicycle path made it a perfect outdoor roller rink. When two other small rental stands also leased space in Goodfader's lots, Jeff moved into a storefront on Ocean Front Walk near Westminster. Others like Suzanne Thomas and Phil Lacey moved their operation into a vacant storefront of Windward. Once the media began publicizing the new fad, these shops were soon grossing $6000-8000 per week. The Los Angeles city mayor in a gesture of largess declared "Venice is the roller skating capital of the world."

  • After city officials told the police to hassle street musicians who played "illegally" on public property, Jingles organized the Street Musicians Union to fight the ban.

  • After city officials condemned the Lighthouse and Outrigger canal bridges on the Venice Peninsula that allowed beach residents easy access to nearby Marina del Rey, Jeffrey Stanton built his own 50 foot span at Hurricane Street. Residents donated money to finance the $100 three foot wide bridge that was built with the help of teenagers. When Los Angeles discovered the illegal bridge several days later, they discovered that it required a coastal permit to be removed. The Coastal Commission allowed its removal with the condition that they spend $60,000 to repair the nearby Lighthouse bridge. Seven of the nine commissioners spared Jeff a jail term because he built it unselfishly to serve the community.


  • The high point in Venice mural art occurred in the years 1979-81. Terry Schoonhaven after painting several other Venice murals with his Fine Arts Squad, painted solo a mammoth 50 x 100 foot "St. Charles Mural" on the side of a hotel on Windward. John Werde painted his "Fall of Icarus" on a wall along Market Street, while others painted on walls throughout the community.



  • Unfortunately the roller skating fad had peaked in 1979 and was dying by the end of 1980. Numerous skating businesses folded or went bankrupt. However it did little to dampen the public's new enthusiasm for Venice. Thanks to world wide publicity and the fact that it was one of the few places to walk in Los Angeles, 50,000 to 75,000 visitors on weekend days made Venice the second most popular tourist attraction in Southern California. New businesses selling T-shirts, sunglasses and other tourist items were thriving. Jeffrey Stanton, a local photographer, started the Venice Postcard Company after he discovered competitors didn't have one single postcard available that showed Venice's Ocean Front Walk, its entertainers, roller skating, or even Venice's canals.


  • The fiercest winter storms in more than 50 years pounded the Southern California coast. Huge waves quickly eroded Venice's wide beach and threatened homes. Waves sometimes washed in beyond Speedway alley and flooded many underground parking garages on the Venice Peninsula. Venice's fishing pier's approach ramp collapsed after sand beneath it was washed away. Portions of Venice's huge beach parking lots were also washed away, and nearby communities like Santa Monica lost most of their piers. Although a new access ramp to the Venice Fishing Pier was constructed in 1983 and the pier was reopened, it was condemned as unsafe in 1986 when its concrete deck began to crack and blister. Salt water had seeped into its reinforced concrete interior and rusted the rebar.


  • Venice's popularity as a tourist attraction was at its height during the summer the Olympics were held in Los Angeles. Live daily TV coverage at Venice Beach showed the world one of Los Angeles' unique tourist attractions. Athletes on many nation's teams visited the Venice boardwalk and the route of both the men's and woman's marathons was on Pacific Avenue only one block from the beach.



  • Venice became a hang-out for inner city black gangs. On hot summer Sunday afternoons nearly 2000 gangbangers would loiter in groups along Ocean Front Walk. Sometimes there would be minor skirmishes between rival gangs and occasionally a shooting. When fifty youths went on a rampage one Sunday, the police over-reacted and closed the boardwalk and beach. People were told to go home while media helicopters from CNN and the national television networks broadcast the event live. Tourists stopped coming and the business community suffered.


  • After nearly thirty years of talk, Los Angeles refurbished Venice's six remaining canals. The project took nearly eighteen months and was paid for partly by an owner's assessment. It cost $6,000,000.
  • Venice's new library on Venice Blvd. and Venice Way opened in July. It had taken nearly ten years of community meetings involving site selection and architectural design review before it was built. Since the old library served the Oakwood ghetto, community activists didn't want it relocated. The problem was the old site was too small and lacked parking. The city, however owned most of the Venice Boulevard medium strip which was centrally located. Then when the architectural plans were presented, residents said that it looked liked a prison and wanted something uniquely Venice. While the new library's exterior resembles a plain box with a strange truss roof design, it resembles a cathedral once inside. The truss supports 6000 square feet of glass skylight that fills its interior with light. The truss system forms a cross like in a cathedral, and the octagonal reading room on its south side resembles a nave. The building was built at a cost of $3,000,000 and is completely high tech with computer catalogs and Internet public access.


    • Once voters approved a bond issue to improve parks and recreational facilities, $10,000,000 was allocated for refurbishing Venice's Ocean Front Walk and its closed fishing pier. After two years of community meetings to determine how the money was to be spent, residents split into factions. One group, favoring no change, wanted to retain the ocean front's funky deteriorated asphalt look that was obviously attractive to the poor third world visitors. However, the other wanted to attract an upscale crowd with a brick surface and improve Venice's declining business. In the end neither group won as the Parks Department chose concrete, their favorite paving material. While the community expected work to begin in Fall 1996, it will be delayed at least one more year because an endless number of bureaucratic permits have to be obtained.

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