Jul 29, 2014

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.

Venice and Marina del Rey Border Dispute Spills Into 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?"


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.

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