The intersection of Venice and Centinela boulevards is where two of West L.A.’s largest arterials pump and redirect traffic. At rush hour, massive articulated buses packed with passengers rumble through the intersection and since the light cycle favors traffic on Venice, traffic stacks up on Centinela. Based on noise alone, Venice and Centinela would seem to be the center of things, but I don't believe that's the case.
If Mar Vista does indeed have a center, it is located 300 yards east of that intersection, at Grand View and Venice boulevards. It is there that every Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mar Vista residents turn out for the Mar Vista Farmers' Market. Food vendors and organic farmers set up tents, and organizations such as the Mar Vista Green Committee and Homeboy Industries meet and greet people.
On weekdays, even without the farmers market, Grand View and Venice stays central to Mar Vista. The post office is the understated centerpiece, generating a steady flow of pedestrians and drivers with packages in tow. On the adjacent corners are and . Floyd’s competes with the coffee shop as the hip, central meeting place, while Pepy’s serves up great diner food.
Viewed from the intersection of Grand View and Venice, Mar Vista begins to make sense. Spiraling out from the junction is the doughnut shop, the bike shop(s), the cleaners, the laundromat, the soap shop, the elementary school, the library, the pet store and the food, the better food, and the best food in the area that some people call Downtown Mar Vista.
As a co-founder of opposite the Venice Grind, it was the bright yellow Top Tomato Market space on Grand View Boulevard that originally attracted me to Mar Vista. The space remained empty for so long that I felt we could negotiate an affordable rent and score a location in the middle of the farmers' market action. That didn't happen, but I did discover what few outsiders knew: Mar Vista is definitely an up and coming neighborhood. In December, the hip Mar Vista Galleries finally opened in the Top Tomato location, filling one more downtown.
Although Venice and Centinela is a center of sorts in Mar Vista, it represents the old way of doing things; where communities have little control over their destiny, where streets are designed for cars, sidewalks are narrow, no one complains about businesses without a streetside entrance and billboards are more prevalent than benches.
Grand View and Venice on the other hand, is all about community control, and most importantly, fun. Floyd’s opens its windows to the public and lets the air in; donuts is open 24 hours to feed your sugar cravings, and you can get inked at the next door. And best of all, Grand View and Venice has the greatest farmers' market I've ever seen.