web analytics

Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Jim Murez Gives the History of Abbot Kinney Corner Land Vacation

Note: Jim Murez, who has been on top of this for many a year, is out of town and took the time to write regarding the vacation of this land, which he designates a land grab. This is a very important issue for the community. Jim wanted to bring out the point that not all 43 pieces of land are corners but similar properties who have landscape areas between their property line and the back of a sidewalks.

Read story “Planning to Hear Vacation of Abbot Kinney Corner with Impassioned Comments by Robin Murez” for details regarding emailing Planning.

By Jim Murez
One property owner in Venice is attempting to change the past 30 years of community planning to his benefit, which could very possibly start a domino effect that includes 43 other properties, all which share similar conditions. His action is called a Street Vacation and when the Coastal Commission denied the action a few years ago, the owner decided to file a lawsuit, claiming the City should give him over 5000 square feet of Public Land. The land which is at issue includes the nine palm trees and landscape area on the Northwest corner of Venice Blvd. at Abbot Kinney.

Venice Blvd. west of Lincoln Blvd. (US Route 1) was designated as the “Ceremonial Gateway to Venice Beach” in the California Coastal Commission (CCC), Certified Venice Land Use Plan (LUP). This determination dates back to the California Coastal Conservancy workshops which were conducted in the 1980’s. Over the two years during which the workshops were conducted, over 4000 Venice participants shared their ideas and visions. The information that was collected became the basis of several plans that were to follow, including the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan (VSP), the State Certified Land Use Plan, the Caltrans Highway 187 Project and the City approved Venice Blvd. Landscaping Plan.

The first of these plans, which had to be approved and adopted by the LA City Council, the Mayor and the State Governor, was the transfer of the Venice Blvd. right-of-way (Hwy 187) west of Lincoln Blvd. The roadway in those days looked much different than it does today, and included the left-over railroad tracks from the Pacific Electric Red Car line that in the 1950’s was a trolley car for visitors wanting to come to the beach. Under the agreement to transfer the property from the State to the City, Caltrans was to fix the misalignments of streets and drainage before the City would take control over the right- of-way. The plan was approved by the Coastal Commission, who was concerned that both the local residents and visitor access were being handled properly by Caltrans and the City. This meant that Caltrans and the City were required to include parking that was being displaced, access for bicycle traffic, as well as pedestrian amenities and landscaping.

Community workshops were conducted to determine the landscaping design. The original City concept was a palm tree lined roadway, but the community quickly corrected that vision, since the business corridor of Venice, Abbot Kinney Blvd., was in the process of receiving Washington Fan Palms. The community vision for Venice Blvd. needed to be natively correct and create a canopy of shade for the ceremonial gateway to Venice. The Venice Blvd. Landscape Plan was approved and funded in part by Caltrans, who paid for the trees through an Enhancement Mitigation program that required State projects that created increased traffic to reduce the Co2 emissions generated by the project. The City permitted the plans, and agreed to produce the balance of the ground cover funds through the Venice Property Surplus Trust Fund.

Fast forward twenty plus years, and the property at 583 Venice Blvd. (the northwest corner) is sold to a new owner who decides to remodel his property. He moves the entrance from Venice Blvd. to Abbot Kinney Blvd. and, by doing so, expands his floor area. The new street address becomes 1656 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Where once the trash dumpster existed, a glass doorway into the building is added. The parking lot area is reduced by adding landscaping outside the ground floor windows. As a result, the designer pushes the parking lot onto Public Property and constructs a concrete enclosure where two trees had been planted as part of the approved Landscaping Plan.

Luckily, the City caught these errors and, before issuing a new Certificate of Occupancy, asked the owner to correct his mistakes. Instead, the owner decides to file a lawsuit, claiming that the public land should be his since the City is no longer using it for transportation uses.

It is interesting that the prior owner also tried to obtain and was denied a Street Vacation when they wanted to privatize the public land on this corner. At that time, the Coastal Commission made it very clear that this area was to be held in the public’s hands and either used for landscaping or, if it was to become a parking area, it could only be for public use, suggesting that this might be a good place for a bicycle parking area. Another property owner at the corner of Venice Blvd. at Electric Ave. was also denied a Street Vacation by the Coastal Commission for the same reason, citing that the property must be landscaped or used for public access. These are two of the forty-three properties that all share similar roadway realignment conditions along Venice Blvd. west of Lincoln. The total land that is affected by these conditions exceeds three acres.

The property owner is claiming that landscaping is not a transportation use and, thereby, he should be allowed to take back the underlying property rights. This statement could not be farther from the truth; landscaping is, and always has been, a component of creating streets – typically medians and parkways are provided. Venice Blvd. is the primary route for everyone coming to visit Venice Beach. According to the Coastal Commission, the vistas leading up to the ocean are very much an important element, and the more natural landscaped, the better.

The property owner has been offered several alternatives by the City and has chosen not to accept any of them. One option would be to relocate their trash enclosure back to its permitted location and remove the landscaping they chose to install in their parking lot. These two conditions created the problem for which they now have to get a Certificate of Occupancy. A second option they chose to deny was more of a compromise: move the trash enclosure back onto their property, purchase one parking space through the In-Lieu option in the VSP, and apply for a revocable permit from the Dept. of Public Works to encroach into the public right-of-way by about eighteen inches (an encroachment that would allow their existing fence to remain on public property). This second compromise seems like a very reasonable solution. The City could issue them a C/O and they would not have the tax burden of owning the space they claim they only want to landscape. The CCC agreed to the use of the In-Lieu option so long as the site was in general conformance and was not being expanded beyond its original footprint.

The City Attorney’s Office wants to settle out of court. They have expressed the fear that the judge could rule in favor of the property owner, in which case, the community would lose everything. Their proposal is to give the owner the land, but restrict how it can be used. The owner would be required to landscape the area and keep it open, but there would be no public use. Furthermore, the roughly 5000 square feet of land that is at stake here would allow the owner to build a much larger commercial building than what exists today, a factor that is based on the Floor Area Ratio in the local code. Settling out of court is a cheap solution for the City: no case preparation and no litigators’ expenses.

The issue as I see it is: will a judge agree with the past thirty years of City and State plan approvals, which include landscaping as part of the transportation corridor leading up to the beach, or agree with a greedy private property owner who wants to redefine our “Ceremonial Gateway to Venice Beach?”

The City hearing on this request is scheduled for Thursday, October 22, 2015, 9:30AM in City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Room 1050, Los Angeles 90012. Please attend and let the City know to fight for our rights!

Comments (2)

  1. Rick Swinger

    Meanwhile Mike Bravo and Rick Garvey were going after the 16 year old homeless vote as per Alex’s Facebook! What do they know about LUPC? Hey Teachers! Leave them kids alone!

  2. Interesting cause some of the dynamics Jim Murez is arguing, which are righteous (in this instance) are also relevant to the First Baptist Church of Venice (community resource) which he is adamantly advocating for turning into a mansion for the Penskes (privatization). I guess Black community spaces dont matter. Goes to show what a hypocritical POS he is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *