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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Ryavec Addresses CCC About “Historic Preservation”

Mark Ryavec addressed the California Coastal Commission (CCC) about “Historic Preservation” Friday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.

He also addressed the commission members about obstacles at Venice Beach to the visitor-serving mandate of the Coastal Act. See story “Ryavec Speaks at CCC Regarding Venice Beach.”

Rialto House
(Photo courtesy of Mark Ryavec.)

On the subject of historic preservation, I have some standing. I have restored my 1905 Islamo-Byzantine house, which was built by one of Abbot Kinney’s senior craftsman, and have remodeled the 1949 structure behind it in the same historic vernacular.

While I love the Craftsman and California Bungalow residences of Venice, there is now a pernicious move to lock in place only what exists today without acknowledging that many modernist structures have been built throughout Venice.

Over twenty years ago, I and Betsy Goldman of the Venice Historical Society and architect Michael King proposed adoption of a historic density bonus ordinance that would allow owners to expand the size of their structures, observe existing non-conforming setbacks and allow parking in sideyard setbacks if the historic vernacular of the face of the structure was maintained. In other words, we asked the City to entice owners to remodel in the Craftsman or Bungalow style by slightly relaxing then existing building codes. The result would have been larger Craftsman and Bungalow structures, while maintaining the visual look of Venice street scapes.

Councilwoman Galanter ignored our proposal and instead inserted the requirement that to receive a project permit under the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan a project would have to meet the “mass, scale and character” of the neighborhood, without giving any definition of what those words mean. Thus, for over twenty years, owners have been bulldozing one story Bungalows and erecting three-story stucco boxes that max out the building envelop. Only in a few instances have projects been stopped by residents demanding that the Planning Department apply the mass, scale and character standard.

To now legislate that no one can replace a Craftsman or Bungalow structure would be grossly unfair, probably illegal and ignores that many of these hundred year old structures are about to fall apart – I know because I spent 25 years restoring one.

It is unclear if your commission has a role in this matter. It is the City that must commit the Planning Department staff to carefully and thoughtfully revisit the failings of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan to preserve these historic structures and to craft, sub-neighborhood by sub-neighborhood – with residents – amendments to the Specific Plan that invite owners to remodel these historic structures in the same vernacular and give owners incentives to do so while also limiting to some extent the building envelope to avoid mansionization. The result may be that in some sub-neighborhoods the residents choose to encourage the continued replacement of the Craftsman and Bungalow structures with modern ones, while other sub-neighborhoods may choose to ban modernist structures and mandate that remodeling and expansion of structures be carried out in the historic vernacular of that sub-neighborhood.

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