History’s Not for Sale: A fight for the First Baptist Church of Venice

The Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec opens a dance ceremony with incense and prayer at the First Baptist Church of Venice during a community rally for the church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

The Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec opens a dance ceremony with incense and prayer at the First Baptist Church of Venice during a community rally for the church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

 

The sun peaked through a hazy Sunday afternoon outside the First Baptist Church of Venice (FBCV), where a group of supporters rally on the corner of Westminster and Seventh Avenue. The FBCV is located in the historically black Oakwood neighborhood of Venice Beach, and was recently purchased by media tycoon Jay Penski owner of Rolling Stone, Variety, and billionaire heir to automotive giant Roger Penski. Penski and his wife, Elaine Irwin, a former Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein model, have plans to convert the space into a single residency with a 11,750 square foot mega-mansion plan. Long time Venice locals and supporters have fought against the destruction of the church with an organized rally encouraging the crowd to donate to the ongoing legal battle over the fate of the church. The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 30th at a Westside Planning Commission meeting. Lot designations and the displacement of people within the California Coastal Zone have prompted several initiatives to be filed with the Planning and Land Use Commission and the Los Angeles Superior Court. Gentrification is a prominent issue, making it harder for those born and raised in Venice to remain in the area.


A group gathers for a final prayer circle, during a community rally organized by Save Venice, to show support for the First Baptist Church of Venice. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

A group gathers for a final prayer circle, during a community rally organized by Save Venice, to show support for the First Baptist Church of Venice. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

Laddie Williams (foreground) brings water to demonstrators during a community rally organized by Save Venice, to show support for the First Baptist Church of Venice. Mike Bravo can be seen in the background and has been an key organizer behind the efforts to save the historically black church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

Laddie Williams (foreground) brings water to demonstrators during a community rally organized by Save Venice, to show support for the First Baptist Church of Venice. Mike Bravo can be seen in the background and has been an key organizer behind the efforts to save the historically black church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

Members of the Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec, prepare to perform ceremonial dance at the First Baptist Church of Venice during a community rally for the church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair

Members of the Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec, prepare to perform ceremonial dance at the First Baptist Church of Venice during a community rally for the church. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair

A group gathers watching, photographing, and filming, the Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec, who perform a ceremonial dance during a community rally for the First Baptist Church of Venice on Sunday, April 14, 2019. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

A group gathers watching, photographing, and filming, the Aztec Dance Group, Xipe-Totec, who perform a ceremonial dance during a community rally for the First Baptist Church of Venice on Sunday, April 14, 2019. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair)

David Busch a local Venice Beach homeless person and social activist says, "I'm a white homeless person who has been saved by black peoples food and love and care, that's the work of God, and that's the things that they have done in this community."on the stairs of the First Baptist Church of Venice during a rally for the church which is slated for a conversion. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair

David Busch a local Venice Beach homeless person and social activist says, "I'm a white homeless person who has been saved by black peoples food and love and care, that's the work of God, and that's the things that they have done in this community."on the stairs of the First Baptist Church of Venice during a rally for the church which is slated for a conversion. Jay Penske owner of Variety and Rolling Stone Magazines purchased the church with plans that include a roof top deck, in an attempt to convert it into a single residence mega-mansion for he and his wife Elaine Irwin, former Victoria Secret model, and former wife of John Cougar Mellencamp. Sunday, April 14, 2019, Los Angeles, California (Victor Noerdlinger/Corsair