Prominent artists, city divided by an alley

Times Staff Writer

Plans have been drawn and ribbons have been cut for a much-needed new parking lot in a gentrifying part of Venice, but now the project has been temporarily halted due to objections of neighbors. If there’s no agreement by March, Venice could lose two of its most prominent local artists.

When Laddie John Dill, known for his paintings and large cement and metal sculptures, signed a lease on a warehouse on Electric Avenue in 1983, that stretch of Venice was known more for vagrants and heroin dealers than high art. He was joined two years later by fellow Chouinard Art Institute alumnus Ed Ruscha, and the pair fenced in an area in the back alley to use as a work space.

In the two decades since, that small plot of city-owned land and several other nearby parcels have become hot property. In 2006, Councilman Bill Rosendahl began pushing an idea that had been on the council’s agenda for roughly 20 years: transforming several parcels into metered parking spots.


“Some guys showed up and said they wanted to park cars right up against the side of our building. We explained they’d be breaking the building code because this is an M-1 zone, light manufacturing, and we need our rear access,” Dill says.

In addition, the north side of the alley sits at the top of an incline about 5 feet higher than Abbot Kinney Boulevard itself. Every time heavy rains come, the alley floods, according to Dill.

The start of the parking lot construction was delayed in part because of objections of the artists and their supporters.

“The first six months, we are working on that drainage and the sewer issues,” Rosendahl says. “So those will be resolved.

“You can’t stop change. What you want to do is work with change in the most constructive way possible,” he adds.

Echoing that thought, Dill says, “We all loved Venice the way it was a long time ago, but time marches on. There are a lot of things about Venice that are much better now. I’m not against Venice gentrifying. I actually welcome them to fix the [alley], but they’ve gone about it in such an amateurish way.”