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Snap Inc.’s Growth Is Pissing Off Its Neighbors

You can pick out the Snap Inc. employees strolling through the company s beachside Venice, California, neighborhood with relative ease. Snapchatters, as they refer to themselves, walk around Venice with company badges clipped to their pants, MacBooks in hand, and stylish sunglasses resting on their noses. And unlike many people in Venice, they wear shirts.

Snap s headquarters are in Venice Beach. The funky west Los Angeles hood has long been something akin to the Haight-Ashbury of Southern California, home to bodybuilders, artists, dropouts, and weirdos. It s the kind of place where you can buy pot more easily than a cheeseburger. But ahead of its massive IPO, as Snap has swelled to 1,859 employees scattered across the skate-friendly malecon and beyond, neighbors charge that it s disrupting not only messaging, but also a vital piece of Los Angeles.

They re turning it into a horrible business park.

They re turning it into a horrible business park, Dave Martinez, a local barber and longtime Venice resident, told BuzzFeed News of Snap s effect on the area. Closing shops, locking business doors, and making it office space. Streets that were alive with neighborhood and food and drink are now just locked front doors with security guards who are shooing the exact same people who lived in the neighborhood away.

Asked about Snap s appetite for Venice real estate, Cesario Block Montano, owner of Venice Originals a local skate shop that recently went online-only offered a simple analogy: They re like a fucking shark. Unlike its major competitors Facebook, Google, and Twitter, Snap s operations aren t consolidated inside a big corporate campus. Instead, the company is scattered across at least nine buildings throughout Venice, a handful of which are clustered on the same Market Street block. The setup makes for a company more integrated with its neighborhood, but also one butting up against local culture as it grows. Snap s presence is apparent throughout Venice, a town with a population of just over 40,000. You can see it in subtle ways: Local eateries like Tacos Por Favor have been transformed into de facto corporate cafeterias, complete with sign-in sheets at the register and cashiers checking Snap badges. There are other, more explicit signs as well: security guards biking around the streets in grey polos inscribed with Snap Inc. Security logos.

Snap s expanding Venice footprint has taken over space previously occupied by local businesses over the past two years, including a local bar called Nikki s. It s messed up, man, local skater Rene Flores told BuzzFeed News. They re closing off everything.

A spokeswoman for Snap declined to comment.

The name of Nikki s is still etched on the sidewalk outside of its former digs. Look past the security guards when the building s door opens, and you ll see Snap employees eating and drinking inside. On the Nikki s Yelp page, now emblazoned with an all-caps CLOSED designation, an old review advises, If you re not coming here for a happy hour in Venice, you re a fool.

It s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. What s going to happen? Snap has irked some locals that worry about the company s effect on Venice culture. There is a tremendous amount of land they are renting that is now all dead space, Venice Neighborhood Council President Ira Koslow told BuzzFeed News. It s sort of creeping. It s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. What s going to happen? That s not an unreasonable question, particularly for Venice, which has undergone a number of dramatic transformations since its its inception in the early 1900s. The neighborhood has moved from a canal-laden amusement area, to a music mecca, to a tech haven, with many iterations in between. A Snap-dominated Venice, some locals say, is just the region s latest reinvention. I see Snapchat and all the other startups here as just another point in that evolution, Juan Bruce, founder of the Venice-based Epoxy, told BuzzFeed News.

Indeed, local tech employees say Snap s decision to headquarter in Venice has enhanced the area s tech scene, drawing in new talent and driving growth. I moved back here from Boston, expecting an influx of startups at the intersection of entertainment and tech to pop up around Snap, Zack Servideo, partner at Venice-based Fabric Media, said.

Snap s Venice operations have also been a boon to some restaurants. Just seeing the revenue we re getting in the winter months, it s definitely helping, Ryan Steed, partial owner of Wild Poke, a lunch spot popular with Snap employees, said. About 30 Snapchatters show up to Wild Poke for lunch every weekday, he said. Snap is trying to be a part of the Venice community in ways that go beyond merely patronizing the local shops. The company is funding a program called Codetalk at Venice s St. Joseph Center that offers low-income and homeless women coding and design classes. It s also funded showers at Safe Place or Youth, a Venice nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless young people.

Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told BuzzFeed News that Snap s presence will likely be a net positive for Venice. For each job in the local tech sector in a city, five additional jobs in the local service sector will be created in that city in the long run, he said. Twitter s Market Street headquarters in San Francisco, he said, generated more jobs outside its walls than inside. It s good for retail, it s good for restaurants, it s good for all the local businesses that exist, he said. The bigger question is housing costs. The answer to that question looks bleak. In the last two and a half years, housing prices in Venice have risen noticeably, according to Suzy Frank, owner of Abbot Kinney Real Estate. A two-bedroom, one-bathroom home that used to rent for $4,000 a month two years ago is now going for $5,000 $6,000, she said, adding, You cannot buy anything in Venice for under $2 million. The increase in housing costs, Frank said, is largely the result of an ongoing influx of tech workers and entertainment professionals in the area. A longtime Venice resident, Frank said she s not bothered by these changes. It s called progress, she said.

It s called progress.

Progress for some, hardship for others. Venice s rising real estate prices have left some longtime residents struggling to make rent in a town that was once far more affordable. I wouldn t be surprised if I m next, said one Venice local who has seen a number of friends leave the area thanks to rent increases. Snap is hardly the sole architect of the change Venice is currently undergoing, but its flashy public profile has made it a lightning rod for locals who view its ongoing expansion with dismay and resentment. SAVE DOGTOWN! GET OUT SNAPCHAT, screams a front-page editorial in the February edition of the Free Venice Beachhead broadsheet.

Penned by Venice local Mark Rago, the editorial accuses Snap of using the community like a private campus and calls for protests against the company. It s bad enough they have an entire street where a beloved local bar used to be, but now they have all of these other properties all over the community, Rago writes. And worse they just don t seem to care about locals or the character and spirit of our neighborhood. They are transforming our neighborhood into a private commercial district thus destroying the community in a way that s reminiscent of a military occupation! Rago s is an incendiary screed that speaks to the anger and bewilderment that Snap s rapid expansion has inspired in many Venice locals. It s not only the change that s getting to people, it s the rapidity with which it s occurring, and the sense that it is utterly inexorable.

It s happening at a whiplash pace, said Martinez, the longtime Venice barber. Before you can even figure out what s going down, the next business has closed and Snapchat has locked the doors and put a security guard up front.


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  2. ^ the February edition of the Free Venice Beachhead broadsheet (

Allegations of Montreal police corruption are ‘troubling’: Coderre


A bombshell report alleging the Montreal police department ousted two inspectors who were poised to go public on corruption within their force is troubling and needs to be investigated as thoroughly as possible, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said Wednesday. In an address to the city executive committee, the mayor said Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet continues to enjoy his full confidence and support, as do the rank and file of the force. Montreal police have asked the S ret du Qu bec to review certain cases by the municipal force s internal affairs division in the wake of an investigative report in which two former high-ranking Montreal officers claim they were ousted after they were ready to report allegations of corruption on their force.

Yesterday we all saw the program J.E., said Coderre, referring to the TVA network s investigative news program. The facts reported are troubling and extremely serious, and I see that immediately afterward our police chief contacted the director of the S ret du Quebec and asked that an investigation be done on the issue to see if there were any other pertinent details.

It s quite troubling meetings in hotels and so on I hope all of this will be examined (and) I fully support, we support, Mr. Pichet in this effort.

I spoke to (Quebec Public Security minister) Martin Coiteux and clearly what s important is to ensure trust in our institutions. The fact we re doing this investigation will allow us to preserve that trust.

In the TVA report, two former Montreal officers say their department fabricated evidence in an effort to silence them. Parti Qu becois leader Jean-Fran ois Lis e and Coalition Action Quebec leader Fran ois Legault called Wednesday for the provincial government to send the Bureau des enqu tes independantes to investigate the allegations against Montreal police.

The way to re-establish trust is not to have police investigating police, Lis e said.

Vast majority do an unblemished job

In Quebec City, Coiteux said the BEI would not investigate because it doesn t have the training or the mandate to do so. Mandating the SQ to handle the investigation was appropriate because they have the resources and the investigators, Coiteux said

In a statement released Wednesday, the BEI said its first mandate is to investigate when an individual is killed or seriously injured during a police intervention or while in police detention. But the public security minister can also, in exceptional cases, mandate the BEI to investigate other cases involving a public security officer or allegations of criminal infraction committed by a police officer, the organization noted. Last summer, the BEI was given the mandate to investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct involving on-duty police officers. Montreal s police brotherhood said it had long complained that the police department s disciplinary measures suffered from a tragic lack of credibility that ignored the usual rules of justice, and called on Quebec s public security ministry to overhaul the force s internal investigation division to restore confidence.

No one can pretend that there is no problem, and we are demanding that the minister take the means to fix it, union vice-president Andr Gendron said. The SQ investigation was insufficient, the union said.

Coderre said how the SQ conducts its investigation is up to them. But in the meantime, Pichet and the department s personnel enjoy all of my support.

We ll do the work that has to be done, he said. But what s important is that the vast majority, the men and women of the Montreal police department, do an unblemished job and act in a professional way.

From the beginning (of his mandate as chief), you ve seen Mr. Pichet act on the internal management (of the force). If there are things we should know, the investigation will let us know what happened. I think we ll let the police do their job, let the SQ do their investigation and they ll have our full co-operation if required. Pichet said Tuesday night he had asked the SQ to review certain investigations carried out by his department. Also on Tuesday evening, Martin Coiteux took to Twitter to say the facts raised (by the report) are serious and deserve concrete action.

Coiteux wrote he had spoken to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and both agreed that public trust in our institutions must be assured and that light must be shed on the allegations.

Inspectors off the force since 2013

Former Montreal police inspectors Jimmy Cacchione and Giovanni Di Feo have been off the force since June 2013. Cacchione, who was assigned to security at Montreal-Trudeau airport, and Di Feo, who was responsible for community services, allege in the report they discovered a case of corruption within their force at the start of 2012. Cacchione told the investigative program J.E. they were prepared to send a letter to the public security minister and the media to expose cases of corruption within the Montreal force. The two former police officers maintain they have yet to see the evidence that resulted in their being thrown off the force. They were suspended without pay in June 2013 following a disciplinary investigation. Amicable agreements between the two and their former department were reached afterward.

According to the TVA report, both men, who describe themselves as whistleblowers, believe that after having examined certain documents, the Montreal police department s internal affairs division fabricated evidence to silence them.

Report references BCIA security

The TVA report contends the Montreal police department suspected the pair had questionable acquaintances, including Luigi Coretti, who ran the BCIA security firm. Coretti faced charges of fraud, uttering false documents and using fraudulent documents to produce false company returns, but the case against him was dropped last November because of unreasonable delays in getting to court. Former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister Tony Tomassi pleaded guilty to charges of fraud against the government after having used a credit card provided by Coretti to buy gasoline, even though the MNA had a government travel allowance.

In Quebec City, Lis e described the revelations about the Montreal police internal affairs department very troubling.

There are a certain number of allegations, Lis e said. But there are repeated troubling allegations in the SPVM. And he called on the Liberal government to call in the province s independent police investigation unit to look into the allegations instead of the SQ. Another observer who seemed unimpressed that the SQ had been called in to investigate the allegations raised by the TVA report is Quebecor CEO and former Parti Qu b cois leader Pierre Karl P ladeau, whose media empire includes TVA.

The management of one police department investigates the management of another police department. Is that the best way to proceed? wrote P ladeau on Twitter Wednesday morning, including a link to the network s report on Montreal s turning to the SQ for an investigation.

Philip Authier of the Montreal Gazette, and Presse Canadienne contributed to this report.

Kai Nagata on Quebec City and the ominous trajectory of Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant

The suburban hotel ballroom was packed with more than 400 conservative activists, college students and curious reporters. On stage, a bespectacled Calgarian was railing against what he called the fascist theocracy of militant Islam. This was in Sainte-Foy, Que., but the crowd didn t seem to mind that he was speaking English. They laughed, cheered and applauded throughout his speech.

That s how I first met Ezra Levant. It was October 2010 and I was covering the launch of R seau Libert -Qu bec for CTV. The Quebec Freedom Network, which claimed inspiration from the U.S. Tea Party movement, aimed to boost right-wing politics in a province traditionally dominated by the debate between sovereignty and federalism.

Levant was still months away from launching his show on Sun News Network, which preceded his current project,[1]. Back in 2010, Stephen Harper was the leader of a minority government. Donald Trump was still hosting The Apprentice on NBC. Just down the road from the hotel in Sainte-Foy, it would be another six years before the boom of rifle fire cut short the evening prayer at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Qu bec.

A terrible mistake

I lived in Montreal and Quebec City from 2007 to 2011 as controversy deepened over reasonable accommodation, then religious symbols both polite ways of talking about Islam. I watched columnist Richard Martineau wear a burqa on television and listened as talk radio hosts whipped up fears around honour killings, sharia law and terrorism.

Last month when news of a mass shooting at a mosque splashed across my TV, I felt horrified but not entirely surprised. As it turned out, police arrested a young man named Alexandre Bissonnette whom former classmates[2] described as a pro-Trump, anti-immigrant Internet troll.

But police also arrested a Laval University student of Moroccan descent, who later told reporters he had been shoveling snow outside the mosque when the attack began. Released in the morning, police took pains to stress that Mohamed Belkhadir was a witness, not a suspect but it was too late.

Kai Nagata On Quebec City And The Ominous Trajectory Of Rebel Media's Ezra LevantA tweet posted initially by Fox News falsely reported that the suspect in the Quebec mosque shooting was of Moroccan origin. The tweet was subsequently deleted. Screengrab from Twitter

Hours after Belkhadir had been freed, social media users, news outlets and even the Trump administration were still using his arrest to feed a narrative about violence by immigrants.

It s a terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant, and why the president is taking steps to be proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to our nation s safety and security, said White House press secretary Sean Spicer, amid pitched debate over the administration s travel ban.

The same morning, Ezra Levant s Rebel Media launched the website and began to solicit donations. What s going on here? What are the facts? asked the crowdfunding pitch[3]. Can we trust the mainstream media to tell us the truth about such a controversial and sensitive subject? A video crew was dispatched to Quebec City to uncover the truth.

Levant defends Rebel coverage

Quebec has become home to a lot of radicalization, reported[4] video host Faith Goldy from outside the bloodstained mosque. There are several teens that have fled the province and are understood to be fighting with the Islamic State in Syria. Goldy then drew a link to a supposed rivalry with another mosque. Her video was uploaded to YouTube, where The Rebel boasts more than 580,000 subscribers.

Canadians can make up their minds as to whether our reports are relevant or not, Levant told me in response to questions sent by email last week.

Police, he points out, held a formal press conference announcing the arrest of two suspects. Several hours later, they changed their minds. I think that surprising about-face, and the PMO s bizarre demand that journalists delete contemporaneous reports of the police s first statements, deserves more journalistic inquiry, said Levant. But I don t dispute the latest official version.

I wrote back: Is it important for The Rebel to base its independent journalism on facts? Of course, he replied. And to ask who-what-why-where-when-how questions about those facts. Like what is the explanation for the eyewitness account of someone shouting Allah Akbar? Levant continued: Normally journalists ask questions like those before trial. But in this case, the needs of the political-media narrative about Islamophobia took precedence.

Levant and Goldy were both speakers at a rally in Toronto last week organized by The Rebel to protest a motion by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, which calls on the government to condemn Islamophobia.”

More lies from the White House

The Friday following the attack, I attended a public funeral for three of the victims in Quebec City s cavernous convention centre. During the ceremony religious leaders, diplomats and politicians worked together to weave a common message about tolerance and inclusion. It falls on us to defend the values that are important to us, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a speech.

The same morning, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway went on live TV and talked about a terrorist attack that never happened. She called it the Bowling Green Massacre . Challenged by reporters, Conway later backed down, saying she misspoke . But soon the president upped the ante, accusing journalists of ignoring terrorism.

It s gotten to a point where it s not even being reported, said Trump. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that. Trump has yet to publicly acknowledge the shooting in Quebec City, which claimed six lives.

This past weekend he referred to another supposed incident in Sweden. You look at what s happening in Sweden, he said at a rally in Florida. They took in large numbers. They re having problems like they never thought possible. Hundreds of journalists around the world then had to clarify that nothing of note had happened recently in Sweden.

It might be funny, if fact-checking Trump weren t such a Sisyphean task.

The resources expended by news outlets to correct, challenge or debunk the administration s alternative facts far outweigh the effort it takes for the president to go on TV and invent new ones. This endless game of whack-a-mole proceeds while Trump undermines the media itself, belittling White House correspondents and branding outlets like the New York Times fake news.

Winning, winning, winning

The president s lies and fabrications have caught progressives off guard, as it becomes clear that huge swathes of the U.S. electorate believe Trump rather than the reporters who cover him. His feud with the press is not a liability it s a powerful part of his brand.

The only profession people despise more than politicians is journalists, says Ezra Levant. The joy that average Americans take in watching Trump abuse self-important journalists is something that can unite all of us. Polling would appear to support that.

Gallup s 2016 annual survey[5] of Americans trust in the mass media found just 32 per cent of people have a fair amount of trust and confidence in newspapers, radio or TV outlets to report the news fully, accurately and fairly . The number drops to 14 per cent among Republicans.

Earlier this month, the same polling firm registered President Trump s approval[6] rating at 40 per cent.

Here in Canada the numbers aren t as low, but the trajectory is startling. The Edelman Trust Barometer[7] registered a 10 point drop over the last year in public trust toward both government and news media, which now sit at 43 and 45 per cent respectively. Thirty one per cent went so far as to agree that the media was to blame for the country s problems.

At the same time, 49 per cent said they never or rarely change their position on important social issues. Fifty five per cent admitted to ignoring people or organizations with whom they often disagree, suggesting increased polarization, even disagreement over basic facts.

Stranger than fiction

This much I know firsthand: the bullet holes in the windows of the Grand Mosque of Quebec are real. I saw the caskets with my own eyes, talked to grieving members of the congregation, watched a kid cry who had lost his father. But to piece together the overall event what happened that night, who the suspect is I still rely on facts gathered by professional reporters. Most of us do.

That search for a shared truth is more fraught than ever. Journalism faces huge challenges already as audiences scatter, revenues drop and resources for in-depth coverage melts away. Now the fourth estate is facing a frontal assault by the most powerful public office holder on the planet, while not-quite-news sites chew into the market.

However you classify The Rebel, it is one of Canada s fastest-growing media brands, providing a home to hundreds of thousands of viewers fed up with legacy news outlets.

On this side of the border those voters are waiting for a political vehicle to channel their anger, to accelerate the dismantling of what they see as a misguided liberal cultural and economic consensus. In that context, last month s mosque attack can be seen as a test case for challenging what Levant called the political-media narrative.

One of the speakers who joined Levant on stage that day in Sainte-Foy back in 2010 was Maxime Bernier, now vying for the leadership of the Conservative Party. At The Rebel s Freedom Rally last week in Toronto, four other Conservative candidates hopped on stage, including Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Pierre Lemieux, and Brad Trost. These are not fringe characters. One of them may be chosen leader of the Opposition come May.

In the meantime, two things are likely: public trust in institutions will continue to crumble, and confusion over what is real will grow. Politicians who tap into both trends may be in a position to deliver big surprises.


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