Don’t we all? Don’t we all need money for rent, in some way, at some time? At least, don’t most of us? Like the man portrayed in this street art, most of us need to pay rent or mortgage and/or HOA fees. The artwork is by artist Gustavo Zermeno and painted on the wall of a popular bar along Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice, Los Angeles. It’s a wry commentary on the cost if living in America’s second megalopolis.
At present in Los Angeles, there’s simultaneously a housing shortage and a building boom that can’t construct new housing fast enough to meet rising demand. Housing prices and rents have skyrocketed in the past few years. Perhaps nowhere is more emblematic of ridiculously expensive rents than Venice, the one-time rundown beach town on L.A.’s westside that has been thoroughly gentrified the past decade.
A few blocks inland from the beach, Abbot Kinney Blvd. serves as an expensive, bougie-hipster main drag cutting through the heart of Venice proper. It’s home to fashionable restaurants, cafes and boutiques for luxury brands big and small, and attracts tons of tourists.
The narrow boulevard is named after the property developer of Venice. In the late 19th Century, Abbot Kinney had a vision for a beach town, inspired by Venice, Italy, and its canals and architecture, that would be a cultural and recreational mecca. Kinney probably never imagined a Venice that would someday become a seaside slum nor — after gentrification — the epicenter of “Silicon Beach” tech and media companies. Nor did he likely imagine the vast sums of money people are willing to spend now to live there now.
Which brings us back to Zermeno’s street artwork. The man depicted in the painting is Mr. Abbot Kinney himself.