- 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
- 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
- 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.