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Venice and Marina del Rey Border Dispute Spills Into Thailand

Samantha Page, the founding editor of Venice Patch, sets the record straight on where Venice ends and Marina del Rey begins. Dispatch from Thailand.

Journalists are horrible know-it-alls, but please don't hold that against us.

Our sincere desire to know absolutely everything – and talk about it – is partly what enables us to produce stories day after day. It's certainly what got us into the field to begin with. Non-professional news bloggers, you're included here.

Even among the best of us, a passion for truth and accuracy is as much rooted in personal pride as it is in professional ethics. It's our job to know things first– and to be right. We thrive on facts, and we will argue them to the death. This was as true of me when I lived in Venice as it is now, in Bangkok.

My own Venice pedigree is weak. I started at Venice Patch in September 2010, new to the neighborhood, relatively new to Los Angeles, and faced with a daunting task: to know and report everything going on, not tomorrow, not next week, but today. Yesterday even.

But Venice is more fun to get to know than many places. One can talk about the galleries, the boardwalk, the restaurants or the weather. But the element that makes 2.4 square miles of Los Angeles particularly Venetian is pride. People who are "from Venice" let you know it. People who have lived here for six years round it up to "almost 10." People who moved here at age 22 have lived in Venice their "whole life."

And everyone thinks they get it. But – and here's where my ego kicks in – not everyone is a journalist.

After living in Venice precisely one year (my lease expired three days before I flew to Thailand), I know the neighborhood better than some people who have lived there for decades (although not you, of course, dear reader). I know who represents Venice in every segment of government. I know how many people vote. I know where all the schools are and how well they score. I know the names of who makes money and who doesn't, who owns land quietly and who shapes the social scene. If I don't know you, personally, I can only say I'm sorry. If I'd stayed longer, I'm sure we would have met.

And I know, for a fact, that the Marina Peninsula is part of Venice.

Many of the people who live south of Washington, north of the jetty, between the beach and the canal, think they live in Marina del Rey.

They don't.

They pay (Los Angeles) city taxes, they vote for a representative to (Los Angeles) City Council, and they live in Venice. Abbot Kinney planned their canal, just as surely as he planned the rest of them, and the Marina Peninsula was annexed to the City of Los Angeles with the rest of Venice in 1925.

I can appreciate that this information is new to some, but imagine my shock last fall when I found out that my Marina del Rey counterpart at Patch – Paul Chavez, the man charged with knowing the boundaries of his own region and the current editor for Venice Patch – didn't believe me.

"Washington is the line," Paul Chavez told me, and his friends concurred.

At dinner at Mercedes Grill (on the south side of Washington, still in Venice), I was harangued, or possibly baited. "Prove it," my so-called friends said, all of whom had lived in Venice longer than I.

But no amount of proof seemed to sway them. Hearsay, on the other hand, was doing a good job.

"Is this place in Marina del Rey or Venice?" one of my dining companions asked the bartender – bartending might be the only profession more didactic than journalism – as if he would know for sure. The most generous thing I can bring myself to say is that he had an opinion. 

"It's Marina del Rey," he said. "90292."

Yes, OK. Marina del Rey's zip code is 90292. And the south side of Washington does indeed get mail via "Marina del Rey, CA 90292."

But I have news for you, and for that bartender: The U.S. Postal Service doesn't give two shakes about local lines. It's more efficient to deliver mail to the peninsula out of Marina del Rey's post office, and that's all the feds care about. In other words: A postal designation is no kind of designation at all. By the way, there are spots in Pacific Palisades that get mail from Santa Monica, but people don't seem to try to erroneously claim that locale.

At dinner that night, I was steaming. Yes, I'm a know-it-all, but I expect to be believed! The dinner is notable for two elements:

I slapped Paul. ("It stung," he said recently. "It still stings." My apologies, Paul. As wrong as you were, violence is never the answer. I will say, to your credit, you took it well).

And I got hushed. I lost the argument. No one believed me.

I don't recall every moment of that dinner with utter clarity. This was, after all, more than a year ago, and not a small amount of wine had been drank, but the gist of the conversation is that I embarrassed myself with some rather forceful declarations about Venice's boundaries.

It wasn't until a few weeks later, when census data started coming out, that I was able to convince my fellow journalist that Venice encompassed that sliver of land we call the Marina Peninsula. Census data don't lie.

For the rest of the year, while I slowly got to know more and more Venetians and more and more quirks of the neighborhood that I now call home, I occasionally ran across someone who wasn't totally familiar with Venice's contours. Shortly before I left town, I had one of those conversations.

"I live in Marina del Rey," a barfly told me just outside Hinano, gesturing across the street.

"You live down there?" I said. "On the peninsula?"

He nodded.

"You live in Venice," I said.

A quick "What do you mean?" was all it took for me to start breaking down the argument. You have a Marina mailing address, but you vote in the city; Marina del Rey is defined as unincorporated county land, but you're incorporated.

When I got into voting precincts, I was really rolling. I paused to see how my subject was taking it all in.

"So... what do you do again?" He asked, totally credulous about my geography, but apparently worrying for my mental health. "You look like you have maps at your house devoted to this."

I do, I suppose. I have online maps saved to my desktop. I have mental maps. I care about boundaries, as much as the Cambodian and Thai nationals fighting over an Indian temple along that border do. I just don't have a police force to patrol them. (Nor would I hope to).

A defining characteristic of a journalist is that, beyond pedagogy, we care about the truth. As much as we might get railed when we misstep, and rightly so, we care about accuracy. We want to know precisely what we are talking about. If it happened here or it happened there, it matters to a journalist.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I had the opportunity to bring my argument to Thailand.

On the very first day at my new job, I was invited (read: ordered) to help produce the Southeast Asia Property Awards, an end-of-year swank-fest for luxury developers, real estate agents and hangers-on, held at the Amarin Hyatt in central Bangkok.

I was chatting casually with another American reporter, Byron, when the small talk naturally turned to where we were from. I told him I had moved from L.A.

"What part?" he said.

"Venice," I said, undoubtedly and understandably a little smug.

"I lived in Marina del Rey!" Byron said."Oh, yeah? What part?"

"Outrigger."

Long pause.

Who would have expected that I could bring my Marina Peninsula diatribe to Southeast Asia? I was elated!

I have learned, in the last year, to be a bit less forceful about the issue than I was in Mercedes Grill, while I was proving my bona fides as a Venice reporter. I gave Byron a short little lecture, but I didn't press the point.

"I'll have to look that up and see if you're right," he said.

"Oh, I am," I said, and we dropped it.

Three days later, I got an email from Byron at my new job. It read, in part, "I have done some research on Marina del Rey boundaries and you seem to be absolutely correct... If only I knew while there that I actually lived in Venice, I would have felt so much cooler!"

Smug doesn't begin to describe it. In all seriousness, though, I was happy to weed out just a little bit more of Marina del Rey misinformation.

Interestingly, residents of the peninsula seem to be split on whether my relocation of them into Venice is a positive or a negative event. The guy outside Hinano was slightly chagrinned to no longer be a Venice outsider (I think he was a sailor), but my Bangkok acquaintance was clearly delighted.

I can sympathize with the latter. If you're of the right mindset, nothing is better than living in Venice. It gets back to the pride thing. And, of course, for people like me, it's nice to know (almost) everything about the town you live in.

In fact, I took to the area so much that still say I live in Venice, even though I'm some 8,000 miles away. My pledge to accuracy goes only so far.

killerweed January 25, 2012 at 03:00 PM
This argument goes all the way back to when the Marina first came along in the 60s and real estate salespeople figured out that the Marina had more cache than the run-down Venice of that era. So they started calling parts of Venice "Marina del Rey" or "Marina adjacent" and the wanna-be's they were trying to squeeze extra money out of in the process went along with the scam, presumably to improve their self-images. That led to the "Venice Peninsula" being renamed the "Marina Peninsula." Now, with the wanna-be's really taking over Venice, maybe we should just rename the whole place "North Marina" and give them the property value jolt their various elitist crusades indicate they're so desperate for. If you can't enhance your wealth and prestige with hard work, maybe you can do it with bluster, marketing and sleight-of-hand. That's what's in a name!
Kelly Hartog (Editor) January 25, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Sam! Lovely to hear from you. I hope Thailand is treating you well.
Ashley Beasley January 25, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Love this article! Thanks for keeping in touch with us while abroad, Samantha, and always givin' it to us straight!
carolyn rios January 25, 2012 at 04:19 PM
delightful writing Samantha, we miss you, about to call our first meeting for next years' BBQ. Maybe you cn come back that week, don't now dates yet.
Gary January 25, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I don't buy it
Sara Fay January 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Sam! Loved this. Hope you're doing well!
90291 January 25, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Killerweed is right, they wanted to call South of Washington Marina because Venice was messed up back then. When the post office opened and they routed the Venice mail through 90292, that pretty much sealed the deal and it is considered "Marina" by many. If you look at the Neighborhood Council Map, you see what is what however. I found this map on YoVenice where the issue of the peninsula actually being part of Venice has been discussed many times over the years: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/4792582368_2263266cb7_o.jpg
Ned Callahan January 25, 2012 at 09:12 PM
32 years ago we moved from Glencoe, East of the Marina, to Eastwind, West of the Marina. At the time Venice was thought of as the "place where Senator Ribicoff's daughter was murdered" and was not what it is today. It hadn't been discovered by the Trust Fund Babies nor the Hollywood elite. In fact, for most folks, if you lived in Venice it was cool if you lived "in the canals" and OK if you lived "on the peninsula", otherwise you lived "at the beach".
Jake Rome January 25, 2012 at 10:13 PM
A neighborhood is defined by the people in it. Pointing to this old map vs. that other reference misses the point. These aren't cities with defined boundaries... there's an unincorporated part of the community of Marina del Rey and part of the community of Marina del Ray is incorporated into the City of Los Angeles. Whether those residents of Los Angeles consider themselves to be a part of the Venice neighborhood or the Marina del Rey neighborhood is independent of any maps, any proclamations. That's how neighborhoods are born, not at city council meetings with an army of cartographers, but among residents living on same street, around the block, and deciding that they're homes constitute this community. It's not a difference that can be settled with a neat of facts, because it's not a difference that's been created with a neat set of facts. It's simply reflection of who we choose to be.
Paul Chavez January 25, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I agree with Jake. The way a community self-identifies itself shouldn't be discounted just because some old maps and signs say differently. I also think the U.S Postal Service's designation of the Marina Peninsula as 90292 and Marina del Rey shouldn't be tossed to the side either. Remember that scene in "Miracle on 34th Street" when the postal workers delivered all those letters to Kris Kringle, legitimizing his claim of Santa Claus -- the same principle is at work here. Let's hope we don't start talking about the border between Del Rey and Marina del Rey, too. Ugh.
Scott January 25, 2012 at 10:41 PM
You can say you live wherever you want, but if it's an emergency and you need help you better be damn accurate. I know I'm in Venice, but the few times I've needed to call 911 I had to be very descriptive because my address is hard to find.
Paul Chavez January 25, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Good point, Scott. Safety first. LAPD responds to the Marina Peninsula while the L.A. county sheriff's department responds to Marina del Rey.
Jim Smith January 25, 2012 at 10:56 PM
When I came to Venice in 1968 the Marina seemed miles away, as did the rest of the world. There was a sign on Pacific just south of Hamburger Square (Washington) that read "Venice Peninsula." Nothing out there except oil wells and an occasional house. It was a refuge for artists like Robert Farrington and poet/musicians like Jim Morrison. Later, as the Marina expanded, we wore tee shirts that said, "Venice is not Marina del Rey." We neo-Beats and "heads" (what hippies called themselves) had such a different lifestyle and outlook than the "swinging singles" of the Marina. The roadsign was changed to read "Marina Peninsula" as the Yuppies moved in. The Post Office added to the confusion by changing the zip code for south Venice to 90292. Even today there are businesses north of Venice Blvd bearing the name "Marina." The Beachhead published an old map of the City of Venice last July which showed our beloved community nearly encircling the swamp that's now called MdR. See http://www.freevenice.org/Beachhead/July2011/Beachhead-color.pdf It's the wealthy, the politically connected and the ignorant that proclaim loudly that they live in high-status Marina del Rey. My experience is that most people in the Oxford Triangle, along Washington and in the Peninsula know they are Venetians, and wouldn't have it any other way.
Jared Morgan January 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Whatever, I've still lived in Venice longer than all of you.
Westlawn neighbor January 28, 2012 at 03:16 AM
Jim Smith, that was a Great post. I lived in Venice ( California, 90291 ) for 12 years -- starting around 1974. I remember the popular "Venice is not Marina del Rey" T-shirts. I had never seen that old map of the City of Venice. Thanks for the link. Since the closing of the "Boys and Girls Club of VeniceThrift Shop," I have not picked-up an issue of the "Free Venice Beachhead" newspaper. The smug people who live on the ‘Marina Peninsula’ have been hanging-on to the notion that they have their own "Private" beach -- and resisting efforts to extend Ocean-Front-Walk and the Bike Path in front of their homes. { Horrors ! } The fact that the "Marina" Peninsula is actually in Venice (and the City of L.A.), weakens their bogus argument against extending the Venice bike path South of the Pier (Washington) to the MDR channel. I strongly believe that the Ocean Front Walk & Bike Path extension is long overdue.
LeeAundra Keany April 26, 2012 at 11:19 PM
I noticed this when I put "Venice" into the Redfin search field. It correctly identified the peninsula as Venice... (but curiously, not the Oxford Triangle)
3ringquercus June 12, 2012 at 07:55 PM
Just because the peninsula has been incorporated into the City of Los Angeles, it doesn't necessarily make it Venice. There are plenty of neighborhoods in CA that have incorporated and unincorporated areas, and (due to the overlay of different agencies, both local and federal--postal, fire and police, utilities, etc.) the same area may be designated multiple ways. The community of Westlake Village is in both L.A. and Ventura Counties, and one part is an incorporated city and the other's in the City of Thousand Oaks, but they share the same zip code: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westlake_Village,_California
Patricia June 12, 2012 at 11:18 PM
30 years ago when I lived on Fleet we had a choice of using Venice or Marina del Rey on our mail. I chose Venice, snootier folks picked Marina del Rey. Suppose that has switched ends by now. However, I knew then it was REALLY Venice and some folks just wanted to up grade and call it Marina del Rey.
Jim Smith June 13, 2012 at 01:29 AM
The peninsula was within the city limits of the old City of Venice. It did not "incorporate" into Los Angeles. It was annexed - in a questionable election - along with the rest of Venice into L.A. In fact the peninsula may have been the reason L.A. went to great lengths to annex Venice. Oil was discovered on the peninsula, conveniently shortly after the annexation. It was called the Venice Oil Field and covered the peninsula with derricks for many years. The Peninsula was populated by Venetians long before the County dug out the swamp that became Marina del Rey. It was a haven for Venice artists, including Bob Farrington, Wallace Berman, Charles Brittin, James Garner, Ray Manzarek (The Doors), as well as Ron Kovic. Farrington's book is available at Small World Books on Ocean Front Walk. It has lots of photos and commentary on the Venice Peninsula. Calling the Venice Peninsula "Marina del Rey" is like calling Central Venice "the Windward Circle." Realtors and developers seem to make up new names whenever it suits them.
Dude July 14, 2012 at 04:59 PM
For that matter, Playa del Rey is also Venice... It still has a Venice zip code.

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