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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Kaplan Sheds Light on Mass, Scale, Character Draft Document

By Sue Kaplan, Chair, Ad Hoc Committee on Mass, Scale, and Character

It’s election season, so people are shouting about things that would be better discussed amicably. I’d like to clarify a few things about the work of the VNC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Mass, Scale, and Character, which as you know I chair, and of which I am very proud. I’ve seen a lot written about it over the past weeks that contributes a lot of heat but very little light.

1. The purpose of the draft report is to begin giving working definition to policies that already exist in the Venice Specific Plan and the Coastal Zone Land Use Plan. For years, these were simply ignored. Now they are being implemented, both by the City and the California Coastal Commission, but without consistent guidelines. The purpose of this committee’s work is to make those guidelines consistent, fair, and efficient.

2. The committee’s draft report is just that, a draft. It was never intended as a final report. It is a working document we have put out as a starting point for public comment, further revision, and fine-tuning. We have been welcoming comments and criticism from all.

3. The report is the product of consensus among all eleven committee members. It also incorporates much from the public comments we have received prior to publication.

4. The most important part of putting together this draft was getting the process right: creating a collaborative space in which people of widely varying views were able to sit down together and work toward a common goal as neighbors.

5. The public comment period was widely announced, yet criticisms I’ve read lately have been from people who did not submit comments when they could have been incorporated in this draft. I hope anyone feeling aggrieved will participate timely going forward.

6. There are a couple of misunderstandings about specific items.

a) One is about the formula for FAR, which stands for Floor-to-Area Ratio. This is a standard planning tool for limiting the size of a building by setting a maximum limit on the amount of floor space allowed when building on a lot of given size. In other words, if you are allowed a floor area that is 50% of the size of the area of your lot, that would be expressed as an FAR of .5.

The FAR we used for the draft report was .45. This was the City’s proposed FAR for single-family dwellings included in the Baseline Mansionization ordinance. (It has since been raised to .5). However, since Venice lots are nearly all smaller than the City standard, many people feel the standard FAR would be overly restrictive. Not to panic. We recognize that this is going to take more public input and more consideration of surroundings. We look forward to digging farther into it.

b) Another concern is that we only dealt with single-family dwellings. This was partly a practical matter. We had to start somewhere, and single-family dwellings were the easiest starting place with the greatest impact.

However, some have worried that by doing so, we had abandoned the concerns of those who are being displaced from neighborhoods as multi-family housing is demolished by speculative developers to make way for big box homes.

It’s important to understand that our rules are to be applied to any single family home, whether it’s built on a lot with single-family or multi-family zoning. This makes a multi-family lot much less tempting to developers, since they won’t be able to build a big box house on it. It also includes Small Lot Subdivisions, since they consist of houses that are legally single-family homes that would be subject to the rules.

If the VNC asks us to move forward, we’ll also tackle multi-family buildings like apartments and condos, as well as commercial buildings.

I hope this helps explain a project that may seem obscure and worrisome to some. Our goal is to protect the Venice we know and love for all Venetians.

Comment (1)

  1. Nick

    I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. The MSC Committee has been working on this for two years. TWO YEARS! And numerous people reading the draft figured out the FAR problem in about two minutes!! This means one of two things, either the Committee knew full well what it was doing and only with severe and unexpected push back are they retracing their steps (how very Trumpish), or two, they are completely clueless about how any of this works, which is even scarier since they are supposedly the “experts” advising the VNC on this matter.

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