Following the $6.3 million sale to Jay Penske's Penske Media Corporation, which publishes Rolling Stone and Variety, locals have been campaigning to keep the First Baptist Church of Venice standing.
According to Christian News Now, Penske intended to turn the church into a family house complete with a terrace and a carport.
Residents in the area, on the other hand, were taken aback, labeling Penske's intentions "sacrilegious."
Similarly, protesters blame Venice's "gentrification" on "gang injunctions" that pushed Latino and Black people out. They also attribute increasing property cost to the "tech boom."
Residents claimed the church offered a safe refuge from such issues.
Also taken into account were the memories of Bishop Elmer Lawrence Holmes. In his 40 years as pastor of the First Baptist, he was said to have mentored children and others who had been affected by "gang violence and injunctions," Christian News noted.
His community also recalls him leading peace marches throughout Venice and defending the interests of his neighbors on local planning committees. He was also reported to be a staunch advocate of road safety measures and regular road maintenance.
According to a report from the city, "his leadership, insistence on good character and proper behavior extended beyond the Church in the examples of principles repeated and demonstrated through dedicated parishioners,"
The First Baptist Church of Venice began in 1910 within a pioneering Black neighborhood. Congregants helped erect the church at Oakwood, where Blacks could traditionally buy land near the shore.
Before being sold for $6.3 million to Jay Penske, who runs Rolling Stone and Variety magazines through his Penske Media Corporation, the church served the neighborhood's African-American and Latino communities until 2017.
So in subsequent years, people opposed to the demolition of the church by a corporate entity gathered frequently outside Venice's First Baptist Church in protest.
Laddie Williams, an Oakwood resident for many years, felt compelled to act when she learned of the sale. She sat defiantly outside the church stairs, which she said were poured concrete on by her grandpa and his sons in the late 1960s. She was reported to have sat outside the church since learning about the transaction.
Christian News Now said that the almost four-year campaign of residents seems to be gaining progress, as the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission decided in June to designate First Baptist Church of Venice and the surrounding parking areas as a "historic cultural" landmark.
"It took four years, but we were relentless," Naomi Nightingale, an Oakwood resident and educator, told the outlet. "We're still fighting because we still know that they haven't given up."
Similarly, several members of Save Venice, which is trying to save First Baptist Church in Venice, said they became involved after witnessing Williams outside the church. Following George Floyd's death, the cause gained traction. In solidarity, anti-police brutality demonstrations in favor of Black Lives Matter took place in Venice.
Today, the alliance for the preservation of the church transcends all lines of ethnicity. Individuals who are nonreligious, indigenous, Black, Latino, and white are among those who support the cause.
During a rally protest last June, even actor Ben Affleck was reportedly spotted holding a "Save First Baptist Church of Venice" sign.