Malibu Trekker @ thecityedition.com ----- Post #6 - April 4, 2010
A Taste of Italy? Not really, but this "Venetian" canal system offers affordable waterfront property if you don't mind sailing in a small boat.
The Canals of Venice
Most visitors hankering for a day on the beach never see the other prize attraction that Venice has to offfer. Strange, too, because the old canal system gets its water from the ocean. Some of the passages were paved over long ago, so from the Boardwalk, they look like wide sidewalks between houses. Even these waterless passages have their esthetic, however. You find it in the breezy, bungalo type of architecture, the profusion of trees and insect-attracting shrubbery, and a sense of remoteness despite their rather obvious proximity to summer migration routes.
While the main streets in town are drably packed with overpriced, often poorly maintained apartment buildings, these little side streets boast some of the neatest architecture you'll find in California. Every house here is a throwback to the bygone days when our homes were our castles, no matter how compact, and we passed many a leisure hour therein. Who needed HD television and the internet back then. There was the picket fence to maintain, and door hinges to repair. And vertical landscaping was all the rage.
But to get back to the canals, you can access them by walking south down Pacific from the intersection of Winward about three blocks. You'll see a big parking lot on the left, bordered by one-way streets heading east-west. This is Venice Blvd. You can walk through the lot then pick up the bouvelard with the traffic moving east. The first overpasses crosses a canal, and here you make a right and descend down the walkway on either side. One is shown below on the left.
Wheelchair-accessible ramps and walkways make the canals ideal for a morning bike ride.
The canals were dug first by hand, then steam dredging equipment, beginning in 1904. They were the brainchild of a tobacco mogul named Abbott Kinney, who envisioned Venice as the resort town it would eventually become. With the advent of the automobile, however, the canals became a hindrance, so that most were filled in by 1929. Fortunately, the waterway still extends far enough to provide local residents with a quick run to the grocery story via canoe.
And if the quaint bungalos near the boarwalk are noteworthy, some of the houses along the canal merit the cover of Architectural Digest. You see a fair amount of solar-paneled structures in this neighborhood, with generous vertical real estate devoted to windows and decks. And the designs span the range of styles, from Spanish Hacienda to space age condominiums. and the occasional mooring or dock.
The canals are thoughtfully spanned by bridges constructed a block apart.
What a different universe this is when compared to the rest of L.A. County. And such a departure from the cold hard reality of California's economic malaise. You can't help but wonder what all the people residing here do for a living. In a place like Malibu, the answer to that question is obvious, but in Venice, any Tom, Dick or Luisa has access to your front door. That would give pause to a celebrity, especially one who's routinely hounded by the paparazzi. Maybe this is where the studio creative executives drop anchor, given Culver City is just a few miles away. Or the cinematographers.
Next time I go for a ride there, I'll ask around. It's kind of a quiet place, though. I'm more likely to cross paths with a gaggle of geese than the head of Sony Pictures.. In any case, if you'd like to read more about the canals, visit wetlands.net.
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