Essential California: A boost to protect a historic black church in Venice

Hello and welcome to Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday January 14 and I’m Robert J. Lopez, written from Los Angeles.

Naomi Rossignol remembers when parishioners flocked to the First Baptist Church of Venice, an imposing A-shaped building that was a local institution for black residents.

Many church members came from the surrounding neighborhood of Oakwood, one of the few places where black residents were allowed to live near the beach in the early 1900s when they arrived to provide labor work to the developer. Abbot Kinneyto build a seaside attraction on the model of the Italian spa town.

“The church symbolized culture, it symbolized family, it symbolized faith,” Nightingale, 75, a longtime Oakwood resident and college professor, told me in a phone conversation this week.

The church was founded in Oakwood in 1910 and moved to the corner of Westminster and 7th Avenue after the current structure was built in 1967, according to city records.

Over the years, the First Baptist congregation dwindled as gentrification transformed Oakwood and the rest of Venice. The neighborhood became whiter as black families sold their homes or went overpriced, which I wrote about in an op-ed for The Times. After struggling with millions of dollars in loans, the church sold its property in 2017 for $11.8 million, court records show.

Like my colleague Robin Abcarien reported in 2020, the church and its property across the street on Westminster Avenue were purchased by Jay Pensk, managing director of Penske Media, and his wife, a former Victoria’s Secret model Elaine Irwin, who planned to build a massive house overlooking Oakwood Park.

Nightingale, along with other residents and supporters, rallied to save the church. They have written letters to city officials and held vigils and protests, including an emotional rally attended by hundreds in June 2020, after a Minneapolis police officer was killed. George Floyd.

In September, the city council voted unanimously to designate the First Baptist Church as a historic-cultural monument. “The church is firmly rooted in the cultural history of the community,” the councilman said. mike bonin, who represents the region, wrote in a motion supporting the designation.

A Bonin spokesperson told me this week that the councilman strongly encourages the building owner to work with the community to come up with a plan that benefits everyone. Among the ideas, the spokesperson David Graham Casso said, is to make it a community center.

Public records show that the property was resold in 2020 to a limited liability company represented by Lee Polster, a Los Angeles real estate broker. He could not be reached for comment.

The project architect, Robert Thibodeau, said in a phone interview that he hadn’t spoken to Polster in about six months and was unsure about future plans for the property.

Thibodeau, who sits on the Venice Neighborhood Council, said he understood the building’s cultural and historical significance and noted that its design preserved the structure’s A-frame facade.

“We are going to work in collaboration with the city and with what the people want,” said Thibodeau. “That was always our intention.”

At the moment, the building’s windows and doors are boarded up and its paintwork is badly faded. A banner hanging on the wall reads: “Black Prayers Matter”.

(Thanks to Times Research Librarian Scott Wilson, who helped me gather property records for this report.)

And now, Here’s what’s happening across California:

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STORIES FROM THE

From paleta maker in Southeast Los Angeles to dessert purveyor at Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood. Lauda Flores moved with her family from Mexico to Los Angeles as a young girl. His parents opened Los Alpes Paletería in Huntington Park, an ice cream shop that offered over 100 flavors, including a popular “frijol” flavored paleta. Flores eventually opened Sno Con Amor, which offers homemade snow cones and snow pops. Next month, his desserts will be featured at Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. L.A. Tacos

The power of EPAs and private fundraising. As a parent who sent their children to public schools, I’ve seen firsthand how schools in affluent areas have been able to collect more money from parents for everything from art supplies to higher salaries. teachers. A new LAist report has created a database showing that Los Angeles Unified School District parent organizations often cover significant costs in affluent and gentrified areas. The report raises questions about whether this contributes to inequalities in public education in the nation’s second-largest school district. list

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Legal weed, broken promises. That’s the title of a series of occasional Times reports to be published this year that examine California’s multi-billion dollar cannabis industry, estimated to be the largest legal pot market in the world. Voters across the state approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016. But many of the promises touted by supporters of historic legalization have proven elusive. The series kicked off Thursday with an investigative report by my colleague Kiera Feldman, which documents a key reform championed by legalization advocates: creating a legal route through the courts that would allow people to erase past convictions. for marijuana or reduce them to a lesser charge. . It was a step intended to help right the injustices inflicted on the poor and communities of color in the so-called War on Drugs. But did it happen like this? Los Angeles Times

Student loan provider to clear $1.7 billion in debt after lawsuit. California and other states have settled a lawsuit filed against Navient, one of the nation’s largest private lenders. Navient will provide $95 million in restitution to borrowers and cancel $1.7 billion in private debt for borrowers across the country, California law enforcement officials said. Californians are expected to receive about $11.5 million from direct restitution and $261 million from private debt forgiveness. Sacramento bee

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICE

Convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy denied parole. Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the 1968 murder of Kennedy at a Los Angeles hotel the day after the charismatic senator won the 1968 California Democratic presidential primaries. de Kennedy, who was considered a leading presidential candidate, turned the tide of the presidential election during a turbulent chapter in United States history. In a statement, Newsom described the murder as one of “the most notorious crimes in American history.” Los Angeles Times

Rapper accused of hitting fan for autographs. Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, is being investigated by Los Angeles police for assault and battery. The incident happened early Thursday outside the members-only Soho Warehouse club and hotel in downtown Los Angeles, police said. Ye reportedly punched and pushed the fan who was looking for an autograph. By the time the police arrived, Ye was gone, and the fan refused to receive medical treatment. Los Angeles Times

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

Home coronavirus tests will soon be covered by insurance. The demand for home tests has been high and they have been difficult to find and afford. But soon, people with health insurance will be able to have the cost of their home test kits covered by insurers. The Times’ Utility Desk explains the ins and outs of who is eligible and what at-home testing is covered by insurers. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIAN CULTURE

New Korean restaurant is creating buzz in the Bay Area. Joodooboo, a highly anticipated restaurant specializing in Korean-style homemade tofu and vegetable sides, known as banchan, opened this week in Oakland. Lines of customers formed outside the restaurant during several neighborhood previews in December. Joodoobo also sold dozens of banchan subscriptions — essentially a pledge to eat its Korean side dishes for a month. Chef Steve Joo has teamed up with Julya Shin. Joo has worked at several restaurants renowned for California cuisine, including the venerable Terra in Napa County. San Francisco Chronicle

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: 74, mostly cloudy San Diego: 69, mostly cloudy San Francisco: 59, partly cloudy San Jose: 62, rather sunny Fresno: 58, mostly cloudy Sacrament: 64, rather sunny

AND FINALLY

Today california memory is of Eloise Cohen:

Our family (two parents, three siblings) was traveling to California in September 1963, leaving Minnesota so our father could start a new job in Thousand Oaks. We were in an Oldsmobile sedan and a tire blew in the 101 freeway fast lane at Sunset Boulevard. We all got out and waited for a break in traffic and ran to the shoulder while my brother gradually drove the car through the lanes so we could change the tire. The trunk was full to bursting with all of our belongings, and we had to unload everything to access the spare tire and reload. I think of how lucky we were to survive that first night in California every time I pass Sunset Boulevard.

If you have a memory or a story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please limit your story to 100 words.)

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Jerry B. Hatch