web analytics

Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

LA Times Stories Pertinent to Venice

Mansionization. LA Times has article regarding “Bel-Air mansion builder ordered to remove work.” http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-belair-mansion-20150408-story.html

Walgreens LA Times has article “Walgreens to close about 200 U.S. stores.” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-walgreens-store-closures-20150409-story.html

LA Times columnist Josh Stephens addresses the fact that LA has too few bars in “LA’s parched bar scene.” http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-stephens-bars-20150409-story.html

An LA Times editorial regarding Mayor Eric Garcetti’s vision for LA had to do with Garcetti’s 20-year strategy for fighting pollution and climate change while also addressing poverty and economic inequality. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-sustainable-city-plan-20150410-story.html

Planning to Hear Rennie Conversion

328 Rennie Ave will be heard 26 February, 10 am, City Hall, 200 North Spring Street, Room 1050, 90i012.

Owner wants to do a one-lot subdivision for the conversion of an existing three-unit apartment into a three-unit condominium with seven parking spaces.

All comments and questions can be addressed to Joey Vasquez, 213-978-1487, Joey.Vasquez@lacity.org.

Councilman Bonin Wants Mello Ordinance

Councilman Mike Bonin made a motion today to get an ordinance on the books implementing the Mello Act for the City.

“For the past 15 years, the City has been implementing the Mello Act through a set of interim guidelines,” wrote Councilman Bonin. “The only way that we can make sure the City is following the Mello Act the way it was intended is to finally get an ordinance on the books implementing the Mello Act, and, in the meantime, to make sure that the City is doing everything it possibly can to follow the rules that we do have.

“The Mello Act is a state law, adopted over 30 years ago, that is supposed to preserve, replace, and develop low-income and affordable housing in the coastal zone. In recent months, I have grown extremely concerned about whether the City of Los Angeles is properly following the provisions of the act, and is fulfilling its obligations to protect affordable housing.

“So today, I introduced a motion intended to direct the City to take steps that it should have taken over a decade ago by replacing the interim Mello Act provisions with a permanent ordinance; to get clear, on-the-record answers about how or whether the City has been complying with the guidelines, and to figure out what more the City can do to protect affordable housing in the coastal zone, including requiring rigorous third-party financial analysis of applications covered by the Mello Act.”


Venice is Eclectic!

1712 Washington Way, House of Yesterday

1712 Washington Way
(Photo courtesy of architect Alon Zakoot.) 1716 Washington Way, House of Tomorrow

Shakespeare said “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” House on top was built in the 1920’s and remodeled to reflect such. It is yesterday of almost a century ago. House on right is what is proposed for today for lot next door.

This is Venice!

(Photo courtesy of Regan Kibbee.)

LUPC to Meet Tonight

Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) will meet tonight, 6:45 to 10:15 pm at the Terrace Restaurant, 7 Washington Blvd, near the Venice Pier.

West LA Area Planning Commission Appeal Hearings will be Wednesday, 4 February, 4:30 pm, 11214 W. Exposition.

758 Sunset Ave
416 Grand Blvd
418-422 Grand Blvd

Upcoming Coastal Commission Appeal hearings—Thursday, February 12, 2015, Pismo Beach, CA

1214 Abbot Kinney
1511 Abbot Kinney

Both appeals related to in lieu parking, both being appealed by Coastal Commission Executive Director Dr. Charles Lester, Robin Rudisill and James Murez

2709 Ocean Front Walk (new SFD), North Venice Subarea (PENDING NEIGHBOR OUTREACH)

ZA-2014-3072-CDP and ENV-2013-2051-CE
CITY HEARING: not yet scheduled
Project Description: Construction of a new 3-story, 5,400 sq ft SFD w/roof deck, in the Dual Permit Jurisdiction Coastal Zone, RD1.5-1-0 zone
LUPC Staff: Gabriel Ruspini
Applicant: Henry Ramirez

75 Windward Ave (CUP for WTF), North Venice Subarea ZA-2014-3979-CUW and ENV-2014-3980-CE

CITY HEARING: not yet scheduled
Project Description: Conditional use for new rooftop wireless telecommunications facility LUPC Staff: Kathleen Rawson
Applicant: Lena Mik, rep for Verizon Wireless

16 Topsail St (add habitable area, side yard ZA adjustment for duplex), Marina Peninsula

ZA-2014-4417-ZAA and ENV-2014-4418-CE
CITY HEARING: not yet scheduled
Project Description: Exterior & interior remodel of (E) 2-story + mezzanine (3-story) SFD, & 447 sq ft addition of habitable area (enclosing (E) balcony). (E) 1st floor consists only of garage, storage & egress. ZA adjustment to allow 3’ 6” east/west side yard setbacks in lieu of required 5’ 6” side yard setbacks for buildings having 4 stories in the R3-1 zone. Project results in 4-story duplex.
LUPC Staff: tbd
Applicant: Brian Silveira

635 San Juan Ave (3 units); Oakwood Subarea—Condos? 3 units deemed Affordable by

Housing. Pending Mello
determination by City Planning
ZA-2014-2514-CDP and ENV-2014-2515-CE
Project Description: Demo 3 apt. units & replace with 3 condo units, RD1.5-1 zone LUPC Staff: Mark Kleiman and Gabriel Ruspini
Applicant: TBD
FOR POSSIBLE ACTION: Motion on recommendation for 3 units deemed affordable by HCID

627 Oxford Ave (SFD); Southeast Venice Subarea—pending HCID Mello review—

Determination Letter issued on January 23, 2015, Appeal period expires 2/6/15
ZA-2014-2141-CDP and ENV-2014-2142-CE and DIR-2014-4314-VSO-MEL (11/18/14)
Project Description: Demo SFD/construct new 3-story SFD w/att 2-car (on lift) garage, & Mello determination, R1-1 zone
LUPC Staff: Robert Aronson & Mehrnoosh Mojalalli
Applicant: Matthew Royce

625 Oxford Ave (SFD); Southeast Venice Subarea—pending HCID Mello review—

Determination Letter issued on January 23, 2015, Appeal period expires 2/6/15
ZA-2014-2137-CDP and ENV-2014-2138-CE and DIR-2014-4316-VSO-MEL (11/18/14)
Project Description: Demo SFD/construct new 2-story SFD over basement w/att 2-car (on lift) garage & 1 uncovered parking, & Mello determination, R1-1 zone
LUPC Staff: Robert Aronson & Mehrnoosh Mojalalli
Applicant: Matthew Royce

710 California Ave—MELLO?

811-815 Ocean Front Walk; North Venice Subarea,

ZA-2014-3007-CDP-CUB-ZV-SPP-MEL and ENV-2014-3008-EAF
Project Description: demo of 9 res units & constr of mixed-use project consisting of 2 res units (8,456 sq ft) over 100-seat ground floor restaurant (2,691 sq ft) with CUB for full alcohol & hours of Sun-Thurs 8 am to 12 midnight & Fri/Sat 9 am to 1 am; request for parking variance to allow mechanical lifts & tandem parking w/parking attendant, C1-1 zone, Dual Permit Jurisdiction Coastal Zone
LUPC Staff: Gabriel Ruspini and Kathleen Rawson Applicant: John Reed

1712, 1712 1/2 & 1712 3/4 Washington Way (2-lot small lot subdivision), Southeast Venice Subarea CONTINUED PENDING CASE REVISION

ZA-2014-1728-CDP-ZAA-MEL and AA-2014-1730-PMLA-SL and ENV-2014-1729-EAF
CITY HEARING: not yet scheduled
Project Description: Preliminary parcel map to create a 2-lot small lot subdivision, and Mello determination, request to permit a 10’ front yard for 1712 and a 6’ front yard at the 2nd floor line for the Mildred setback in lieu of the required 15’ front yard, and request to permit a 4’ side yard in lieu of the required 5’, in the RD1.5-1-0 zone LUPC Staff: Mehrnoosh Mojallali
Applicant: Alon Zakoot

Zoning Administrator to Hear OFW Units

6401 to 6405 Ocean Front Walk will be heard by Matthew Quan February 5, 9 am at West LA Municipal Building, 1645 Corinth Ave., 90045.

Owner is seeking a coastal development permit to allow the addition and remodel of two, two-story duplex dwelling units totaling approximately 4,840 square feet, into a four-story over habitable basement, approximately 10,513 square-foot single-family dwelling with attached five-car garage, on an approximately 5,100 square-foot lot. Property is zoned R-3. Owner wants to have a 3-foot northerly side yard setback in lieu of the minimum 7 feet otherwise required in the R3 Zone; and a Mello Act Compliance Review for the removal of a total of three dwelling units; all on property located within the Dual Jurisdictional Area of the California Coastal Zone Commission Authority Area.

Questions or comments can be addressed to Matthew Quan, 310-978-1320; matthew.quan@lacity.org.

City Hires Attorneys to Fight Homeowners

By Gerald A. Silver


Historically Los Angeles has used its own City Attorneys to defend the City in land use, CEQA and Brown Act litigation. The frequency of these types of lawsuits has increased because the City has failed to adhere to the requirements of CEQA and the Brown Act. This failure has strained the capacity of the City Attorneys to provide CEQA advice and defend CEQA litigation impacting the City’s own public projects.

The City Council has authorized a three-year contract to hire a panel of four outside land Use/CEQA Counsels to defend the City in land use, CEQA and Brown Act litigation. It is indefensible for the City to spend precious taxpayer dollars hiring outside counsel to defend itself against residents.

Land use entitlement approvals that are granted by the City include a condition requiring the developer to defend and indemnify the City in the event of Real Party litigation. The change of practice to exercise its rights to the defense and indemnification from developers has not been tested. The City could incur massive legal expenses hoping it will be reimbursed by developers. There is no guarantee that all or part of the expenses incurred will actually be reimbursed.

On August 28, 2013 over the strong community objections, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to approve the 325 residential unit Il Villaggio Toscano (IVT) project at Sepulveda Blvd. and Camarillo. The IVT developer received entitlements to build 325 multi-family residential units and 52,000 square feet of commercial with 1,206 parking spaces. Height of the buildings would be 82 feet. The gross floor area for the project would be 582,359 feet. The project adds 5,800 new daily car trips.

Attorney Robert Silverstein was hired by the Sherman Oaks Residents For a Safe Environment to protect the public interest. (Sherman Oaks Residents for a Safe Environment v City BS145096LASC). The lawsuit was filed against the City because residents in good faith believe that the entitlements granted by the City were invalid on land use, environmental approvals and Brown Act grounds.

Residents rightly objected to the traffic, noise, congestion, infrastructure damage and pollution that the massive 8-story, 325 unit apartment buildings would bring. The EIR was devoid of meaningful mitigation measures and contained many flawed conclusions. The lengthy document obfuscated traffic, congestion and infrastructure problems while going on at length about tangential matters ignoring mitigation measures that are required by CEQA.
The EIR reached faulty conclusions claiming impacts were reduced to “less than insignificant” when in reality the impacts are significant.

The City Attorney is now hiring an army of outside lawyers to fight the residents who believe that the land use and environmental entitlements were granted improperly. The solution to this dilemma is for the City to scrupulously abide by State law, stop granting faulty entitlements and avoid engaging in fruitless litigation against residents. The City should not spend another dime ganging up with outside law firms to defend environmental and land use entitlements that were approved improperly.

To learn more about Council File No. 14-1606, go to:

259 Hampton Appeal Hearing Play by Play

259 Hampton
Sauce at 259 Hampton.

This project was approved by planning and was appealed by Ilana Marosi as an unfit project for Venice. Marosi did her homework, garnered a group of residents within 500 feet of project, added concerned residents of 320 Sunset and residents affected by 600 Mildred (Kim’s Market), and presented her case. She had crime statistics, alcohol licensing data, and photos of how store was operating as a restaurant with only an approved take-out use. She had maps showing social services within area and schools.

This is a classic case of how to win against the odds. Marosi’s appeal was upheld and decision was unanimous last week. And yes, we all know that even with the best of facts, laws with us, etc., we sometimes lose.

Venice Update does a “hats off” to this group of concerned citizens who took their precious time to make Venice a better, more lawful place. Roxanne Brown does a superb job of reporting this incident.

By Roxanne Brown

Sauce inside
Operating as restaurant with tables inside.

Sauce patio
Operating with patio service.

Here is what I mean. 259 Hampton, currently called Sauce, has a permit for retail/take out, but has been operating as a sit down restaurant (with tables inside and outside on the sidewalk) for five years. Without going through Venice’s Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) and the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC), the city approved “change of use” to a restaurant with liquor license and roof top deck, even though it is a mere 15 feet from residents’ homes, on a block with churches, day care and a synagogue – and provides no parking.

Sitting behind me at the hearing, all together in a row, were Stephen Vitalich (architect for 259 Hampton, 320 Sunset’s Gjusta, and 600 Mildred’s Kim’s Market), Sam Marshall (architect for 259), and Fran Camaj (owner of Gjelina, GTA, Gjusta at 320 Sunset, and 1301 & 1305 Abbot Kinney).

Sitting near me in the front row were Ilana Marosi, the appellant, and Robin Rudisill, chair of Venice Land Use and Planning committee, along with residents owning properties and living within 500 feet of 259 Hampton. These residents say they were unaware of this project until Marosi informed them of the appeal. Members of Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset and Stop 600 Mildred (both similar problematic projects) were also in attendance.

Prior to 259’s appeal being heard, Chris Robertson, director of Land Use and Planning in Councilman Bonin’s office asked Marosi to step out of the hearing room and meet with representatives from City Planning, Kevin Jones (who replaced Greg Shoop), Zoning Department’s Theodore Irving, and 259’s architects, Stephen Vitalich and Sam Marshall. Two other people, not shown, were also there. It was a male and female who refused to give their names, but later identified themselves to me as the owners of 259 Hampton.

Marosi said she felt she was being coerced by this group of seven people as they attempted to convince her to delay the hearing, arguing that they had just discovered there were two different sets of plans approved for 259 Hampton.

Marosi declined delaying, as she thought the city already knew about the discrepancy in plans. After all, she knew, so how is it they didn’t? Marosi asked Robertson about this. Robertson reluctantly admitted that she had reached out to city planners eight days ago [to discuss the issue], but had heard nothing in response.

There were four representatives from the city. In addition to Jones and Irving, Senior City Planner, Shanna Bonstin was there, along with Katherine Phelan, Deputy City Attorney.

The Appeal Hearing began with Jones from city planning stating, “…planning department recommends that you deny the appeal…sustain the determination.” Irving confirmed that this was also zoning’s stance. City planning and zoning urged the commission to delay the hearing for two weeks so that they could get the plans in order.

President of the Area Planning Commission, Thomas Donovan, said that since the appellant and residents had already waited [nearly four hours] to be heard, the commission would hear the case. Venice residents at the hearing welcomed his strong stand.

In addition to President Donovan, the Commission consisted of Commission Vice President, Joseph Halper, and three Commissioners: Esther Margulies, Marian Merritt, and Lisa Waltz Morocco.

Commissioner Morocco began with the fact that 259 Hampton is in a county tract allowing 2 on sale [alcohol licenses] plus 2 off sale (total of 4) and there are currently 12 on sale and 3 off site (total of 15). She further noted an LAPD report showed there were 539 crimes in the area – four times the citywide average. She had a copy of the LAPD’s letter (evidence provided by the appellant) stating that the LAPD wanted no more liquor licenses in the area. She asked, “How could the city approve this?”

Irving replied, “It’s a tourist attraction, not a typical neighborhood, being a destination place. This is why ZA [Zoning Administration] approved CUB [Conditional Permit – Beverage] and we still stand by that approval.” Here I must tell those of you who were not there, “tourist destination” was an answer oft repeated by Irving. If you’ve seen Saturday Night Live’s “cheeseburger, cheeseburger” skit, you get the idea.

Commissioner Margulies, who happens to be a resident of Venice, stated, “One person’s tourist attraction is another person’s neighborhood.” Margulies also asked, “How can you call for noise mitigation and then say it’s only required if it’s feasible?” The city’s response was convoluted.

Commission President Donovan asked why the CUB was for five years as opposed to the normal two years. Irving answered, “We don’t want to be punitive at this stage.”

Vitalich was given the first opportunity to speak and stated that the, “Appeal should be denied as the planning department recommended.” Vitalich then said the wait had been so long that the applicant had left and the hearing should be delayed.

Vitalich began to present the project, when his colleague Sam Marshall walked up to the microphone, interrupted Vitalich and said, “The planning department, zoning department and council’s office took us outside, told us that this would be continued. As a result, the applicant has left along with a lot of people that were going to be here. We just want this on the record. We were told this was not going to be happening this evening.”

Irving looked at Commission President Donovan and said, “You already started this process. You’re more than welcome to continue it.” A bit later, Irving interjected that city planning and zoning do not have the authority to stop the hearing.

Vitalich went on to address noise mitigation, saying he had submitted a 12-page report done by an audio expert. Unfortunately, the commissioners hadn’t been given this report in their case review paperwork. Nor was it in the case files when Marosi twice reviewed them prior to the hearing.

Vitalich addressed parking by saying that the applicant was agreeable to valet parking and taking advantage of beach parking at the end of Rose Avenue, which is ½ mile away. Commission Vice President Halper said, “Excuse me, I don’t believe you legally can do that. I don’t believe the Coastal Commission would approve the use of beach parking.”

Marosi addressed residents’ concerns. The retail/take out at 259 Hampton, Sauce, is already operating illegally as a restaurant. Concerns with change of use include: increased noise, traffic, congestion, lack of parking, near a beach access route, too close to residents’ homes, daycare, schools, synagogues, and over concentration of alcohol licenses.

It was now residents’ turn to speak and testify. Here are some highlights.

James McCullogh, a sound engineer who has worked with Katie Perry and a long list of celebrities, testified that even if 259 Hampton were enclosed (proposal is for open rooftop deck), residents would at best have a 50% increase in ambient noise level. He went on to say, “It’s hard to grasp the concept of good neighbor – what use are conditions (going to provide) when the applicant has been illegally operating for five years. This doesn’t give any substance to laws.”

Noel Gould, a recording engineer with an impressive resume,testified that sound gets out through windows and open doors, and it bounces around – it echoes, echoes, echoes. Plus, he said sound travels higher and wider at night due to the inversion layer and can also do so during the day with dense cloud cover. Gould testified that people for blocks around would be hearing the noise from 259 Hampton.

Gabriel Ruspini, a VNC LUPC member, speaking here as a concerned resident – pondered out loud, “How a private project could be approved when it encroached on the public right of away.” In plans/renderings, it seems the rooftop deck hangs over public right of way. Currently, 259’s restaurant tables on the sidewalk block public right of way.

Brad Looney, a surfer who manages 236 Hampton and was there to represent 12 units, testified that he is seeing waste being dumped down the alley between 259 Hampton and residential units along that alley. Since 259 doesn’t have a permit for restaurant, they also don’t have the required dumpsters and methods of disposal for toxic products. Every night Brad watches 259’s personnel pour liquid down the alley. “It runs down the gutter and into the ocean.”

Sarah Shoup stated, “Building and Safety knew 259 was operating illegally and didn’t enforce it. We can’t let 259 change of use happen, because the city can’t control conditions.”

Robin Rudisill, LUPC Chair, there as a concerned resident asked, “Why is city planning putting such projects forward? Why does the city reward illegal operations – no violations, no penalties?” She could not understand with 259’s open-air plan, serving alcohol at all hours, how could noise be mitigated?

Roxanne Brown I spoke and noted that on the CUB application, a copy of which I had in my hand, the question whether this project was within 1,000 feet of churches, synagogues, schools had been answered with a “NO.”

I then presented a map showing that the 200 block of Hampton contains two churches, a synagogue with pre-school/day care and St. Joseph’s Center, which provides daily religious services and day care. One church is 32 feet from 259 Hampton, Synagogue – 360 feet, St. Josephs – 265 feet and St. Clement Catholic Church – 515 feet.

Parking was a big subject. Elaine Spierer summed up the views of many, “These virtual parking places that are approved you know they’re like in the ozone. You can’t park virtually. And worse than that they never collect the money from these people. It’s just like a shell game.”

Amanda Borja spoke. She lives behind Gjusta at 320 Sunset with her toddler and husband. She spoke about how noisy having a bakery next door is – delivery trucks, cars, patrons talking. With that much noise from a bakery, how could the city consider a restaurant at 259 Hampton?

Borja went on to say, “This project in no way benefits the Venice Community. We have an overabundance [of restaurants serving alcohol]. Tourists – why do they hold more weight than the residents? This isn’t Universal Studios or Disneyland. It’s a beach. Alcohol benefits the business, not the community.”

Borja said she can’t get her stroller near 259 Hampton with so many people, skateboarders, bicyclists, pedestrians, and many vehicles, at this congested intersection of Rose and Hampton.

Ed and Diem Zobrist reside in San Francisco and were here for the hearing. They own a multi-unit property across the street from 259 Hampton, where their children live, along with other residents. Mr. Zobrist expressed his concerns about how narrow Hampton is, how little parking already exists, and people constantly doing U-Turns (the 200 block of Hampton ends and a one-way going the opposite direction begins at Marine). He said they already hear loud people coming and going [to and from restaurants serving alcohol] on Main Street – keep them on Main.

Mr. Zobrist also said to me, “I’ve heard of 6 months and a year for conditional use. Five years is ridiculous. That would mean the city and residents have five years to decide whether having alcohol at 259 is a nuisance – could be a five year nightmare.”

Lori Geller (she and her husband own a multi-unit property across from 259) noted how proud they are of their property and that her tenants are professionals who need sleep.

Geller went on to say, “Valet – that made my heart race. That’s all my tenants need – valets swinging around the block. Design an open aired building – this is insane – on a street with churches and synagogue and kids – that’s even more insane. To think that I’m standing here seven hours – if you walked on our street, you’d all be laughing. That’s how insane this project is. It cannot happen.”

Sergeant Robin Richards stated that the Los Angeles Police Department opposes the project, due to high concentration of alcohol in the area, and the impact it would have on the neighborhood.

Vitalich’s closing remarks included, “If the [city] staff recommendations are to deny the appeal and the staff recommendations are all based on merit and evidence then I think the commission has a responsibility to be consistent with that.”

Marosi was then given the opportunity to speak. Venice Update captured her closing remarks in last week’s report.

The Commission asked Robertson to weigh in with Bonin’s recommendation. Robertson stated, “We’re not taking a position on this project at this time. We don’t have plans showing what was approved…so without adequate information, we’re uncomfortable.”

Prior to their decision, the Commission had more questions; one regarded having a handicapped parking space. Shanna Bonstin, Senior City Planner said she would “have a go” and stated that with zero parking available at 259 Hampton, a handicapped space is not required.

The Commission’s President, Vice President and Commissioners then each stated reasons for their conclusions. In unanimous agreement, the Commission voted to uphold the appeal and deny the proposed project at 259 Hampton. Residents rejoiced in hearing the Commission’s voice of reason.

SUMMARY – Brown’s Opinion
All of the Area Planning Commissioners could decipher the information and make a decision based on the plans on file. Marosi was able to sort through the confusion and decipher the plans and information. [Note to the city: You may want to hire Marosi.]

Citizens throughout LA are experiencing what we experienced at this hearing. The city appears to favor moneyed special interests that flout the laws. The city seems to be greasing the wheels for them.

It appeared obvious that the applicants had been assured their project at 259 Hampton would go through. In my opinion, the city seems to be accepting lies on the CUB application, approving and providing conflicting plans, and playing a game of confusion – not to mention coercing the appellant.

Wouldn’t it be less costly in time, money, and energy if the city advocated for businesses that follow procedures (LUPC and VNC review), obey the laws and are considerate and respectful of their neighbors? We’re all for those businesses!

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.

Will Salao of ABC to Speak at LUPC

Land Use and Planning committee will feature Will Salao of the California State Office of Alcohol and Beverage Control, 6:30 to 9 pm, Tuesday, 6 January at First Baptist Church, 685 Westminster Ave., Venice 90291.