Black Hotel Owners Reclaim a Gentrified Space in World-Famous Venice Beach

The hotel's founders, Kamau Coleman and Michael Clinton, share how their innovative space honors Venice’s past and inspires future generations.

Few places are more iconic in the American imagination than LA’s Venice Beach. Even if you’ve never been to its world-famous boardwalk, Venice Beach has long cemented itself in pop culture thanks to appearing in countless TV shows and films, among them White Men Can’t Jump, Baywatch, the recent Barbie movie, and many more. Thanks to enduring images of (white) bikini-clad girls rollerblading and buff (white) dudes playing volleyball on the sand, nobody could fault you for not knowing that Black people played an integral part in giving Venice its reputation as a haven for artists, musicians, and creatives. 

But a new innovative hotel concept in the heart of the ocean-adjacent community is working to ensure people know the real history of this rapidly gentrifying space––and show what Black entrepreneurial success looks like. 

“I realized that is our opportunity to tell these untold stories of Black and brown contributions to the success of this area,” says Kamau Coleman, co-founder of Redline and his business partner Micheal Clinton. “We realize it's [gentrification] happened all over the country. “This place was designed to be a beautiful space and to tell these stories. And we want  Black and brown folks to come here to inspire them.” 

The boutique hotel is called Redline––the name a direct and deliberate nod to the practice of redlining, i.e., the legal, government-sanctioned deterring of Black people from buying homes in white neighborhoods. Once deemed the “slum by the sea,” Venice is now home to multi-million dollar residences. As tech companies have pounced, it’s growing into the trendy-named “Silicon Beach,” causing rents to rise and lower-income residents to flee. Redline, which boasts four individual apartment-style guest suites, is a quiet nod to Black resilience and economic power, as each suite tells a bit of Venice's history in its unique way but also includes nods to modernity as well––including artists in residence program that collaborates with artists to create in the space. With help from creative director Sophea Samreth, the Redline team dug deep to excavate images and artifacts that pay homage to the Black people who helped make Venice a destination in the early 1900s-1920s. 

“We've been able to license archives [from Black families who settled here] so you’ll see exclusive photos you're not going to get anywhere else. All of these historical elements are woven into the design of the space. We tell the history of Venice from the early 1900s, then the beatnik period, the period of time that you mostly think about when you think about Venice, with the roller skating and the surfing, and then the last unit is dedicated to the future and arts.” 

Venice didn’t start out as Black per se; the community was built with the vision of a white man named Abbot Kinney, who wanted to replicate the canals of Venice, Italy, and create an escapist, fun atmosphere on the beach. To do so, he enlisted the help of Black workers, giving them opportunities for jobs when no one else would, even refusing to do business with people who discriminated against them. As work and word spread, more Black people took up space and worked to have a stake in the community; Coleman says the Redline building, erected in 1964, was owned by a Black man who bought properties in the 1980s. It sat dormant in recent years until Coleman partnered with Clinton, and they began renovating it two years ago. After investing more than a million in upgrades, Redline is now a showpiece by the sea. It includes a 1,200-square-foot roof deck overlooking the ocean, where they plan to offer everything from rooftop yoga to social gatherings and more. It’s an impressive feat, not least since only 2 percent of hotel owners are Black. 

“We have the connections, we have the intelligence, we have the sophistication and we're starting to get access to the capital,” Clinton says. “That's the only way you start to get beyond just the ability to buy your house. And so until you see it, until you realize that other [Black] people are doing it, you don’t think it’s obtainable. That's a big part of what we're doing, and what we're hoping to kind of inspire with Redline.” 

Check out the Redline Hotel here.

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