By Anthony Castillo
Here at the Beachhead we devote a lot of space to the proposed mega development projects like 1414 Main Street, the hotel on Abbot Kinney, the Google land grab, and others past and present. And we’ve done so and will continue to do so for good reason. But in just the last year or less I’ve noticed a quieter form of gentrification going on just one block over from me in my neighborhood along the two blocks of Brooks from Lincoln west to 6th Ave. It’s what I like to call the “blight of the big box house.” We’ve all seen them, those huge square two or more story homes that take up almost all of the lots they are built on and stick out like sore thumbs amongst the other smaller, older homes they are built between.
But now along this two block stretch of Brooks soon it may be the older, small homes that will stick out like sore thumbs, as more and more big box homes go up in the places where once stood a home that gave this street the character it once had. Those homes are rapidly (at times it seems almost over night) being replaced by this hideous new breed of box. What the heck the designers of these things have against a pitched roof I will never understand. Just pitching the roofs would help them blend in just a little bit better with the existing surroundings, but still not make these huge multi story squares any less of a blight, which is what they are. They only serve to strip away the family character of this working class neighborhood and drive more of the long time residents out of Venice.
I’m all for home improvement, and I understand that due to termites, bad plumbing or out-dated electrical wiring, some older Venice homes may be in need of some serious renovation, or worst case scenario, torn down. But is the big box house the only alternative to what stood before? How about building a new Craftsman style home or a Spanish Mediterranean looking one that doesn’t take up every square inch of the property. Many home owners have been building larger dwellings in their back yards while still keeping the front house in tact. That’s fine with me, because unless you go down an alley or look really hard you may not even notice them, and the view from the street is still one of a quaint old Venice neighborhood.
As property values continue to rise with the likes of Google moving in and Joel Silver setting up shop in what should still be the Venice Post Office, it seems that many Venice residents are selling their properties and taking the money someone is offering them to leave Venice. But what has happened on Brooks is something akin to a cancer cluster near a toxic dump sight. The concentration of this mass exodus is truly stark, over a dozen and counting. Hopefully with the moratorium placed on de minimis building wavers the march of the big box home will be stopped. Let’s work to keep this from spreading to other streets in the Oakwood area of Venice. And if you are going to sell your property, don’t sell it to someone who is planning to level your home and put a big box in its place. You may be leaving Venice behind, but the rest of us will still be here and we don’t want to live on streets lined with mini sky scrappers.
Above: New construction that thankfully does not look like a box
By Anthony Castillo