Chapter 1 Oakwood
Developer Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America could not have been possible without the working force of hundreds of African-Americans who migrated from the South to build and service Kinney’s dream. Segregated by covenants, blacks where forced to live in servants quarters—in an area now called Oakwood—and had limited access to the amusements found in the resort town. Though still restricted, Venice life was far different from the South, and provided a new generation of African-Americans far more possibilities for home-ownership and self-reliance.
With the construction of the Santa Monica Freeway in the late 1940's, hundreds of Latinos were forced to relocate to Venice—then still affordable—and the two groups lived side by side, both ignored and avoided by the creative class. Although Kinney’s vision of the ideal city collapsed, the social and cultural seeds that he planted remained unchanged, as artists, activists, dissidents and health-minded individuals began to claim Venice as their own.
With the rise of the civil rights movement and the hippie era, Venice began to glide, as drugs, social programs and low-income housing changed the nature of community and race relations. In the 1980's, the crack-cocaine epidemic that took hold of inner cities across the US left an undeniable mark on the small beach town community, pitting brother against brother and creating one of the country’s worst gang warfares. Today, the allure of living near the beach and becoming part of the creative class is recalibrating property values in the area and adding to the ongoing demographic shift.