Vexit – Don’t Believe the Hype

I’m writing about the“Vexit” event and topic because of the unnecessary media hype over it, the news must be pretty desperate for stories. I’m also writing about it because of the continued lack of representation and dismissal of PoC and traditional resident voices, not only in decision making forums in Venice, but also media outlets in general.

The Vexit Meeting

The “town hall discussion” was titled “Uprising.” Just the first of the many deceptive tones about this whole “neutral discussion.” Uprising would allude to something revolutionary, an opposition to a state of oppression or injustices. This contingent of new Venice residents mostly pushing this secession are not revolutionary nor are they oppressed by any means. Although I think I can imagine how being denied the instant gratification you think you’re entitled to after paying millions to live here could feel like oppression— lol.

The event did not merit the label of being called a town hall. It was clear there was no intention for a collaborative discussion, a solid Q&A,  or public comment session. Still, despite the lack of a public comment session Mark Ryavec, the Lex Luthor of Venice politics, got five minutes to speak. He proposed that we amend California law to help ensure Venice’s detachment from City of Los Angeles. So for all intent and purposes the “neutral discussion” came off rehearsed and was very much a low key business pitch for city hood.

The Vexit Panel

The panel, unsurprisingly, lacked diversity. No women, People of Color, nor any native Venetians. It was a homogenous panel not far off from the current “diversity” of the Venice Neighborhood Council who put on the event. The only semblance of diverse representation on the panel came from Argonaut News editor Joe Piasecki who was the only person I remember touching on the topics of diversity, culture, and history. He also clarified that it was Los Angeles that saved Venice from ruin in a time of poverty and KKK activity (mid 1920s) and also that some of the “neglect” is what helped give Venice it’s character. The character that they all seem to “love” but can’t stop trying to change.

Fred Gaines, Mayor of Calabasas was on the panel. Gaines was there making a case for Venice because of Calabasas’ successful secession from the City of Los Angeles in 1991. He conveniently didn’t mention the very homogenous demographics of that city which surely contributed to their success. Even Venice in it’s hyper gentrified state is much more diverse in all ways, than Calabasas. He is also a land use lawyer who, the week before, was at the California Coastal Commission (CCC) representing a group of Venice developers and architects. I swear, you can’t make this shit up. Among those architects Gaines was rolling with at that CCC meeting was one of the many VNC’s real estate sector board members Robert Thibodeau. At that very meeting Thibodeau was disparaging the folks fighting hard for land use and housing justice in our neighborhood.

Jim Murez of the Venice Neighborhood Council, the guy who cares more about trees getting harmed by LA Sanitation spray than he does for the unhoused humans they’re spraying it on, was extra amusing with all his political projecting. Talking about how “LA City doesn’t listen”, and how we’re “not getting the representation”. The very things this current VNC is guilty of toward the non-gentry status and minded people of Venice.


General Thoughts on the Idea of Venice Secession

The idea in and of itself is great (independence, accountability) but social patterns and context are key. Dismissing social and historical context is the enabling friend of racism and dismissiveness is something gentrification leaders and apologists in Venice are good at. If the homogenous racial & economic dynamic, developer profiting shenanigans, and dismissive sentiments toward non-gentry and non-white residents of Venice by the current VNC are an indicator of the direction, spirit, and foot that will launch our step into Cityhood “independence” — we’ll definitely pass.

When the Valley tried to secede back in the late 90s they put up a good fight but still got KO’d by City of Los Angeles (CoLA). The Valley’s effort to secede seemed to be made up of a pretty united front too, a unity I don’t see here in Venice at all. If we were more united I could see it possibly manifesting but that effort would be lukewarm without the backing of traditional Venice residents and essenced peoples.

The fuel for the “Vexit” secession is fueled in good part by homeless haters and general frustration with CD 11 Councilman Mike Bonin’s deceptive shenanigans. The latter probably being the only reason I would entertain the thought of cityhood idea for more than a minute.

Also from what I see, it is mostly fueled by disgruntled developer and gentrifier economic interests (Venice Chamber) getting frustrated with the fight people are bringing them. We are disrupting their privileged, instant gratification investments and turnarounds. If they can go unscathed and unimpeached on the VNC, imagine what they could do should they have access to the political power switchboard on an official city.

Don’t get me wrong, LA City government in its collective is shitty and are handmaidens to big money and are deficient in their priorities to the people. They definitely need to be held accountable, voted out and/or have their feet held to the fire in a real way. But at the end of the day, this particular instance of Venice secession comes back to their sense of entitlement, not accountability. What they really mean by claiming they are “not getting the same funding, resources, and services as other parts of the city” is:  “For all the money we’ve spent for our pretentious homes and lifestyles we shouldn’t have to deal with these adverse social scenarios.” The economic and political equivalent of their signature, tall, “neighborly” fences they like to put up.

If they really wanted to mitigate those issues they would work with traditional spirited residents like us toward racial and social justice to dismantle the gentrification train which is exacerbating the homelessness, traffic, and parking issues just to name a few. But they won’t do that because they benefit from it. 

They can’t have their cake and eat it to it too. Especially when they’re not trying to acknowledge, or respect our concerns and issues as traditional and Black & Brown Venice residents. Until then, we’ll make sure the “Vexit” train stays off the track.

5th generation Venetian, Indigenous Rights Activist and educator for youth and families in West Los Angeles, and lead coordinator of the Four Corners Spirit Run. Current Board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council (and 2014-2016). Perspectives are my own.

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