June 19th is the official community or neighborhood day in Oakwood Park, Venice. It is a celebration of peace, culture, and pride for the Venice 13 and Venice Shoreline Crips gangs, that once dominated the area. You can see lowrider cars circling the park, red plastic cups full of beer, rappers and singers on stage, pictures of loved ones hung on a fence murdered in the line of fire, plates full of barbeque, Latino and African American people engaged in unison, and people throwing up gang signs. It is a different landscape from what you normally see on polished Abbot Kinney Blvd just a few blocks away. The Oakwood area, also referred to as Ghost Town, is one of the very few places on the Westside of Los Angeles where you mostly find a minority presence. Since the 1930’s and 1940’s, African Americans moved in to the area during racial segregation as a settlement was carved out for them to work in the oil fields. Mexican Americans followed suit shortly thereafter when the 405 freeway was built throughout their communities, thus forcing a further move west.
The Venice 13 gang was formed in the 1950’s as a result of Ghost Town being a “ghetto by the sea” and poverty-stricken area neglected by the city of Los Angeles. Its cheap housing attracted counter-culture artists and poor European immigrants, thus allowing the gang to dominate the drug trade, and their customers included those same artists, other hippies, and some high-income residents nearby. With high unemployment rates and racial tensions in the area at the time, the Venice Shoreline Crips formed throughout the ’70’s, and during the crack boom of the ’80’s they became heavily involved in the drug trade. The Shoreline Crips and the Venice 13 gangs maintained a peaceful relationship until 1993 when the Mexican Mafia declared a peace treaty for sureño gangs, but encouraged them to go to war against African American gangs. The Culver City boys began first by kicking out the Shorelines from the Mar Vista housing projects, then the Venice 13 gang declared war against the Shorelines, and soon the Shorelines were being attacked by other sureño gangs like Sotel and Santa Monica. About 55 people were killed during the blitzkrieg.
After street gang injunctions were imposed on the gangs in the ’90s, a strong wave of gentrification, and local minority residents priced out of homes, the Oakwood area has become another yuppie enclave. A low-income housing community just east of Lincoln Blvd is now being advertised as ‘condo-living’ just a few blocks from Abbot Kinney Blvd. Now you see white people wearing jeans and open-toe sandals walking their dogs, small cottages being converted into functional Bauhaus-style boxes, high wooden fences with bright-colored doors, and transplants flocking from the Midwest and East Coast to claim their stake in what they’re now calling Silicone Beach. So while people claim the organic and local flag, the changes in the area are the antithesis and anything but. The changes around Venice on Lincoln, Abbot Kinney Blvd, Rose Ave, and others are completely polished, agenda-driven, and elitist. The average home for sale in Venice is now more than one million dollars. The new wave of gentrification in Oakwood has created a new form of racial segregation, and its called the Westside Apartheid.