Venice Beach artist’s small photo series balloons into series tackling urban crisis: ‘Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?’

William of England
By William of England 7 Min Read

Branfman began with solely the obscure concept that she needs to be documenting the rising drawback of evictions and housing unaffordability in her beloved west Los Angeles neighborhood. The author and activist lamented that Venice, the place vacationers flock to the well-known boardwalk and Muscle Beach, has been slowly shedding its traditionally bohemian vibe and changing into one other enclave for the rich.

Word unfold about her photo mission and earlier this 12 months Branfman began internet hosting neighborhood conferences the place residents may share their experiences with evictions that pressured them to maneuver out of the realm and, in some circumstances, into homelessness. Some folks recited poems. Others expressed themselves by work. And the extra academically-minded amongst them started compiling housing and eviction statistics.

Branfman’s preliminary notion to simply shoot just a few images has culminated in an unlikely however bold art-meets-data exhibit titled “Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?” It’s on show by Saturday at Venice’s venerable Beyond Baroque gallery, a hub for cultural occasions and activism relationship again to the late Sixties.

“The idea was to illustrate the problem, to show what we’ve lost. You know, make it visual so people would walk in and be a little shocked, and want to do something about it,” Branfman stated on the gallery this week.

Venice turned a middle of the Los Angeles homelessness disaster in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, when camps sprouted up in residential neighborhoods and alongside the sands. The nation’s second-largest metropolis additionally has 46,000 residents who’re homeless among the many total inhabitants of 4 million folks, in response to the most recent survey.

The space was a flashpoint due to its visibility as a metropolis landmark — the boardwalk attracts an estimated 10 million guests per 12 months. A sure edginess at all times coexisted with a live-and-let-live ethos within the artsy seashore neighborhood, however the widening of the wealth hole has turn out to be more and more obvious as tech corporations moved in and glossy fashionable properties went up.

As constructing homeowners search to usher in extra deep-pocketed renters, longtime residents discover themselves coping with lease will increase that overwhelm their funds. Some 80% of low-income Los Angeles renters pay over half their earnings towards housing prices, in response to information launched this week by the nonprofit Angeleno Project.

While Los Angeles is on observe to satisfy sure objectives for brand spanking new housing set out by latest poll measures, “supply is severely behind demand,” the report discovered.

“Some 3,500 housing units are at high or very high risk of losing their affordability terms, threatening to push more families into homelessness,” stated the report. “A significant dip in affordable housing that started in 2022 post-COVID-19 continues to trend downward.”

Upon coming into Branfman’s exhibit, guests are confronted by her images on an unlimited and detailed map depicting, block by block, lots of the almost 1,500 rent-controlled models she says have disappeared from the housing market in Venice over twenty years. In many situations, the buildings have been offered to massive companies which can be more and more shopping for up properties and jacking up rents.

The map, and far of the exhibit, pins a few of the blame for the issue on the Ellis Act, a 1985 California legislation that gave landlords broad authority to evict tenants in rent-controlled buildings for redevelopment, after which later listing the identical models at market charges. Branfman stated she was “Ellis Acted” when she was evicted from a Venice house in 2003.

“Too many tenants are afraid to fight back. And most don’t know what their rights are under the law,” she stated. And even when tenants do file complaints in opposition to landlords, she stated, town very not often prosecutes the claims.

On the wall reverse the map is a free-verse poem made up of quotes about why many renters are have been afraid to tackle landlords, akin to: “I don’t want any trouble” and “My neighbors aren’t documented and they’re afraid if they say anything they’ll be targeted.”

Upstairs there are work and mixed-media collectible figurines that the artist Sumaya Evans calls “dignity dolls.” Evans, who was homeless in Venice for years earlier than just lately discovering housing, stated creating artwork gave her a way of self-worth when she was dwelling on the streets.

“You get used to being ignored as a homeless woman. People are blind to you when you’re outside,” she stated. “And so being a part of of a project like this, being a part of a community, is just so healing.”

Branfman and different housing activists are hopeful that change may include measure that’s certified for the 2024 poll. The initiative that can go earlier than voters would increase native management by overturning a 28-year-old legislation that prohibits lease management on single-family properties, condos and rental models that have been constructed after 1995.

After the exhibit closes Saturday, Branfman hopes to discover a dwelling for a few of the installations at a library or college. Most of it’s going to dwell nearly by itself Instagram web page.

“The rest of it will be on display in my apartment,” she laughs.

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