Andrew Deener, a University of Connecticut assistant professor who lived in Venice for six years while receiving his Ph.D from UCLA, describes the tension facing Venice – and many American cities – between cultural diversity and urban grime and the recent influx of wealthy residents that have renounced the suburban lifestyle but may still expect many of its benefits – like clean streets, low crime rates and good schools.
In his book “Venice – a Contested Bohemia in Los Angeles,” that was released in July, Deener attempts to relate the new issues facing Venice to explain a cultural phenomenon that is taking part throughout the country – new wealthier residents sometimes clashing with established lower and middle-class residents.
“Urbanites generally give lip service to their search for diversity, but when they see what it means to share spaces – especially with individuals of different socioeconomic backgrounds – they become more cautious and critical,” Deener found.
This sounds like a typical gentrification process. Wealthier or higher-class residents are attracted to Venice because of its lower prices compared to other nearby locations and its gritty nature. However, when these new residents move in, they tend to want amenities more in line with their lifestyles and tastes, which eventually cleans up the grit, and the amenities plus their wealth tends to raise property values, which forces lower-income residents out. It may not be that Venice can retain its gritty character forever; neighborhoods and communities do change over time and local leaders and residents would have to fight hard to keep the community the way it is. At the same time, it is not surprising that existing residents may not greet incoming wealthier residents with open arms as their presence can change the community into something different.