Los Angeles Magazine
By Fred Schruers
The industries that have sustained Los Angeles have often been conspicuous: oil derricks, phalanxes of tourists, sprawling aerospace facilities, the port’s towering gantry cranes, and the garrisoned studios of the Dream Factory. But the businesses that compose what’s called Silicon Beach tend to be hidden, untethered from physical space. All you see of them are the buildings that house the staff and the Teslas that signal their bosses’ wealth as their algorithms and innovations dictate our daily cyber-cadences and transform the neighborhoods they populate in Silicon Beach.
The prosperity of L.A.’s tech sector can be felt up and down the coast, from Santa Monica to El Segundo. Since setting up shop in an old Craftsman on the Venice Boardwalk, Snapchat—or Snap Inc., as the company has rechristened itself—has bought and leased scattered outposts large and small (what local spokesman for the boho elite Jack Hoffmann calls “bat caves”), booting less muscular firms to the curb. The execs barely paused for a round of $12 craft IPAs as they repurposed landmark buildings along Market Street and refurbished a row of small businesses off Abbot Kinney at Venice Boulevard (good-bye, sweet mole sauces of Tlapazola Grill). Google at one point seemed ready to pursue a similar strategy after establishing a 500-employee complex centered around the famous Frank Gehry Binoculars Building at Main and Rose. But then in December 2014, the company doubled down on its taste for sheer physical scale, paying nearly $120 million for 12 acres in Playa Vista; for an undisclosed fee it also laid claim to the neighboring hangar Howard Hughes had built for his massive flying boat, the Spruce Goose.
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