Meet Andru, LA’s Neighborhood Manager
– VOL. 12
Senior Neighborhood Manager Andru Cantu isn’t just eager for Venn to launch with a huge impact in Los Angeles — he’s passionate about it. As a Southern California native, he’s familiar with the challenges that currently face communities in LA, and he’s also optimistic about LA neighbors who have the benefit of finding belonging right at their fingertips.
Andru’s outgoing and friendly personality has made him a leader in the Venn community, and these qualities shine through his enthusiastic answers to our questions below. We chatted with him about his local insights and how he hopes Venn will benefit the lives of LA’s neighbors.
Q: What originally drew you to the Venn community?
A: I’m in LOVE with LA. I eat, breathe, and bleed LA. When I found out that I could have a job in which I could build a community in my neighborhood AND show people how to love LA the way I do, I was sold.
Q: In your mind, what makes Venn’s impact different?
A: Venn stands out in a digital world. We use our digital component to connect people in real life, instead of trying to connect them digitally. Everyone wants to belong to something, so why not start at home? Venn works with landlords in apartment communities, so you’ll have a neighbor literally feet from you. You should know them, and they should know you! Beyond knowing neighbors, we love to get people connected to the neighborhood. We partner with local businesses to not only make them known to residents, but to also create an audience, and drive business.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the positives that will come from Venn launching in LA?
A: The pandemic has left so many people feeling lonely. LA, in particular, was hit hard with mandated shutdowns and isolation. There is an enormous void of loneliness that Venn can help to fill. DTLA (Downtown LA) was hit hard with business closures and a “resident exodus.” Venn is here to bring the neighborhood back, and recreate a thriving community where everyone belongs.
Andru and a DTLA Neighbor met at pop up event in March 2022 and took little time jumping into a competitive Jenga match.
Q: Given that LA has a LOT of neighborhoods, what are some of the biggest challenges for Venn Neighbors?
A: I feel like this might be too obvious of an answer, but TRAFFIC is one of the biggest challenges facing neighbors! A seemingly-straightforward commute of 10 miles can take up to an hour if traffic is snarled.
Q: For someone like you who was born and raised in Southern California, how do you see identities changing in various neighborhoods?
A: I think that gentrification is the biggest driver for the change in neighborhood identity. Don’t get me wrong: I love a high-end boutique vintage shop, but when that boutique supplants a staple neighborhood restaurant where the food is authentic and the staff knows your name, that really creates a sense of dilution of the neighborhood culture. It’s happening all over LA.
Q: As a Venn Sr. Neighborhood Manager, which types of community opportunities make you the most enthusiastic?
A: I absolutely love partnering with local businesses to support them and get them in front of Venn’s neighbors. For me, having a hand in creating a vibrant ecosystem in neighborhoods where neighbor-business interactions are underpinned by friendliness, love, and the desire to support means so much.
I’m in LOVE with LA. I eat, breathe, and bleed LA.
Q: If you had to name three pieces of local LA neighborhood knowledge, what would they be?
A: First, NEVER use the 405 Freeway! Second, the best view of the city can be found at the Griffith Observatory at Griffith Park. Third, there is a really cool mnemonic device they used to teach kids in the early 1900s to remember the named streets in Downtown LA, from east to west: “From MAIN we SPRING to BROADWAY, over the HILL to OLIVE, oh, wouldn’t it be GRAND to HOPE to pick a FLOWER at FIGUEROA.”
Q: For anyone just moving to LA for the first time, what would your biggest tip be, for finding a sense of belonging at home?
A: If you can’t find something to love about LA, you’re not looking hard enough. We have such a diverse city that you can find literally anything here to make you feel connected. Our food scene is second to none, we have amazing shows (whether it’s an underground techno party, or a full-production Broadway musical), and people are friendlier than you think! Don’t be afraid to ask locals for recommendations.
Dang! There goes the game. As Venn Senior Neighborhood Manager and resident Jenga pro, Andru is always up for another round.
Q: Lastly, what are your favorite LA “hidden neighborhood gems?”
A: First, inside of the LA Public Library (Downtown) is a huge rotunda. If you look up, you can see a bronze light fixture with a glass globe at its center, and you’ll see the zodiac fully represented in bronze. Beyond the zodiac, there is a beautiful painting on the domed ceiling and it’s full of stars and sun rays. Second, there is a bar called the Frolic Room in Hollywood on Hollywood Boulevard, and it’s a dive, but it’s also one of the last places in LA for a reasonably priced cocktail! Finally, don’t waste your time going to any of the crazy beaches in Santa Monica. If you drive up the Pacific Coast Highway and continue through Malibu, there are three amazing and secluded state beaches: La Piedra, El Pescador, and—my personal favorite—El Matador.
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