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A pricey Venice loft steals a historic name. Laddie John Dill and others say: "It's the antithesis of Dogtown."

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Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 11:14 AM



click to enlarge dogtown_logo_med.jpg
Lance LeMond, you're a second generation Dogtown skater, ("third generation, technically" you correct us), you make your living through an online skateboard store, you are calling the L.A. Weekly from the newly "ollied" skatepark in Venice, you helped organize its opening day. Can you afford a unit in the new Dogtown Station development?

 "Oh my gosh! $819,000. For a loft?!?," LeMond finally sputters when he's done laughing. "None of the Dogtown skateboarders could [afford that]."

It's the merry, merry holiday season, but as it happens, if you're an original Dogtown skateboarder, you may not be able to afford to go home again. Here's why:

A press release e-mailed to the Weekly on December 22 trumpeted

the mind-bending news that actor Bradley Cooper is moving his offices

to a "Stunning Dogtown Station Loft In the Heart of Venice." But

evidently the development's price-tag is a little prohibitive for the

locals. The top price for a unit soars above $1 million. LeMond can't think of a skater capable of affording the new housing.

click to enlarge Jeff Ho, at right, dropping by Scott Anderson's shaping room
  • Jeff Ho, at right, dropping by Scott Anderson's shaping room
Jeff

Ho is one of Dogtown's three founding fathers, along with Skip Engblom

and C.R. Stecyk III, and he at least tries to be helpful about

prospective buyers among the locals.  "Maybe Tony Hawk. He's got a

video game" bringing in nice income, Ho says, wryly suggesting Hawk as

a potential buyer.
 
When Ho and LeMond stop laughing, they and

others describe the relationship between the recent pricey development

and multiple generations of Dogtown denizens as tenuous as best. To

them, the 35-unit development on Main Street in Venice is appropriating

a name that was once sacred to skateboarders the world over.

Dogtown is and was a moniker for the geographical location on the Santa Monica/Venice border that the Weekly has previously noted was the center of the breakthrough language of the board.

Never mind Stacey Perala's hyperbole in two movies on the subject, the

local language and the culture did indeed change the course of

skateboarding's history.

Skaters are not alone in deriding the

posh new housing that has so oddly appropriated  Dogtown's name. "It's

not even on the site of where Dogtown was," says artist Laddie John

Dill, who is more akin to a civic leader than Venice's

politically-oriented neighborhood council president Mike Newhoue.

Dill tells the Weekly

that he "refuses" to use the name Dogtown when speaking of the housing

project, and he points out that, technically speaking, Dogtown was

about a mile up the street. It's 1970s-era core was Ocean Park.

Have things changed, and is the loft project somehow the center of the skate universe today?
Absolutely not, says Dan Levy, assistant editor of Juice

magazine, who describes the true center of this world as  "15,000

square feet of concrete" poured onto the sand -- the new skateboard

park.

Levy, one of the friendliest names in skateboarding,

can't summon up a single name of a Dogtown skater who could buy in to

such a tony development. The vehement opinions have more to do with

Dogtown's ephemeral implications--what it meant to those who became

part of what skater Jesse Martinez once called a "tradition" rather

than a physical location.

 Dill, who knows his history well

enough that he can put a precise address to Dogtown, explains: "To me,

Dogtown was more of a state-of-mind that was centered right at 2001

Main Street."

"It meant something to people," says Ho. And as

this writer has previously noted, Dogtown offered many of the area's

lost souls a sense of place and worthiness. Amidst the 1970s backdrop

of wrecked families, wretched drug destruction and, in some cases,

abject poverty, Dogtown was not just a place but something to be.

"We've all talked about the name on that loft when they first put them up," says LeMond. "It has nothing to do with Dogtown."

 "It's

the antithesis of Dogtown," states Dill. "The idea of a housing

development is not what Dogtown is about. I think it's kind of false

advertising. I think they're trying to woo you into the Venice

lifestyle that barely exists anymore: 'You can be a part of this by

having a loft.'"

"What they've done is taken some meaning and

used it to stand for a certain type of lifestyle. It kind of bloodies

it up," says Ho. "That word [Dogtown] was coined by Craig Stecyk. He

was the one who dubbed it that name. And anyone who tries to say

something different is fucked up."

Ironically the Dogtown

Station not only takes the name created by Stecyk, but leverages a

former ghetto to sell units beginning at $800,000. In times past, the

area was "what you think of when you think of Compton today," says

LeMond, who lived in Inglewood during the heyday of the skate era.

Ironically,

Ho does finally discern a connection between the loft's location and

actual Dogtown lore. "That [site] used to be the lumber company.... I

used to go buy wood there when I worked on the shop on Main Street," he

says, meaning the Zephyr Surfboard Shop where skaters Tony Alva, Stacy

Peralta and Jay Adams all connected.
 
"I used to buy template

wood [there]. Masonite and two-by-fours, to do my projects and build

walls in my shaping room," says Ho, who still shapes surfboards as a

solo artist and has refused to use his own Dogtown street credentials

within a corporate context. He points out that such mom-and-pop

businesses have vanished. Instead there's the behemoth Home Depot.

"It makes me ill," he tells the Weekly. "What's really happening to our society here?"

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