Is the Coolest Neighborhood in L.A. Overheating?
From actors to agents and producers, Hollywood's top talent treasures the idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind neighborhood, though the calm is threatened by increasing commercialization and rising prices.
One a Westside wasteland of burned-out hippies and off-the-grid artists, Venice, Calif., is about to see just how much more change it can handle. As revealed Sept. 24, Anjelica Huston is in the process of selling her nearly 14,000-square-foot compound (listed at $13.9 million) to investors who plan to turn it into a Soho House-style social club by the sea that, in the words of its founders, will be dedicated to "gourmet bathing activities" like "hot-spring excursions and seltzer-water tastings." Median residential list prices in the neighborhood -- which, along with Santa Monica, is becoming known as Silicon Beach (especially since Google moved in last year) -- have jumped 16 percent compared with 2011. The restaurant scene, already on the map with nationally acclaimed Gjelina, has lured one of San Francisco's most revered chefs, Jeremy Fox, who's about to take local gastronomy to another level when his new Barnyard opens in November. And chic retail stretch Abbot Kinney Boulevard -- where a Pinkberry once caused cries of over-commercialization -- is now the victim of spiking rents as global brands like Gant Rugger move in. "We're experiencing the beginning of what we saw on Melrose Place," says Rose Apodaca, co-owner of local home accessories store A+R. "The reason why people come here is because there are stores you can't find anywhere else. I hope it keeps its charm and quirkiness." It's a far cry from the late '70s, when pioneering resident Tony Bill moved in. "People thought I was crazy. As I glibly put it at the time, I prefer clean air and dirty streets to the other way around," says the director-producer-actor. But for the many industry people who call it home, its laid-back, community-minded vibe hasn't been seriously damaged. Says Maha Dakhil, a motion-picture agent at CAA: "Venice nights soften the edges of days spent in the thick of business. Some of my best ideas are hatched in Venice. I try to quickly commute those ideas over to Century City before they evaporate with the morning mist."
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