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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

VNC Seeks Applicants for 2015-16 Community Improvement Project Funding

The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) is now accepting applications for community improvement projects in which funds up to $5,000 will be awarded to local groups and individuals to improve the quality-of-life in the Venice neighborhood.

Administered by the Venice Neighborhood Council, the VNC reserves the right to alter the amount due to reduced funding by the City of Los Angeles.

Applications will be accepted from Venice stakeholders and community based organizations. A community-based organization must be comprised of five or more Venice stakeholders. Qualifying organizations include homeowner associations, non-profits, neighborhood block groups, watch groups, faith-based organizations, PTAs and service organizations.

“Community Improvement Projects must provide a demonstrable benefit to Venice. The goal is to enhance Venice through beautification, community participation, education or capital improvement on public property,” noted President Mike Newhouse.

All projects submitted must conform to the funding guidelines of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment www.EmpowerLA.org.

Application packets are available by contacting Ivan Spiegel, who serves as the program administrator. He can be reached via e-mail at parliamentarian@VeniceNC.org

All applications must be mailed and postmarked by Wednesday, April 1, 2015.

All applications should be mailed to:
Community Improvement Projects
Venice Neighborhood Council
PO Box 550

Actor Begley to Speak at First Green Venice Expo

Ed Begley, Jr., actor and sustainable green activist, will serve as keynote speaker at the first annual Green Venice Expo noon to 6 pm 28 February at the Mark Twain Middle School, 2224 Walgrove Ave.

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!

VNC Meets Monday, not Tuesday

The December Venice Neighborhood Council Board Meeting is scheduled for Monday, 15 December, 7 pm at the Westminster Elementary School Auditorium, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Normally, the VNC meets the third Tuesday of the month.

The agenda includes Board request of a Cumulative Impact Study to update environmental analysis last initiated for the 2004 Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan, discussion on a City Short-Term Rental motion, several neighborhood improvement requests and residential Land Use permit applications.

VNC Approves Many LUPC Projects

Venice Neighborhood Council Tuesday approved the projects 450 Sherman Canal, 26 30th Avenue, 416 Grand Avenue and 251 Lincoln Blvd.

The wall for 204 Hampton, St. Joseph Center, was not approved as it was not approved at the Land Use and Planning Committee.
See article “Saint Joseph Center Gets Bad DOT Grade.

VNC Recommends Bathrooms for Oakwood

Venice Neighborhood Council approved a recommendation to install bathroom facilities at the north end of the Oakwood Recreation Park.

At present, the only available bathroom facilities are in the recreation center at the south end.

VNC Says No to Beach Ice Rink

Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) said no to proposed ice rink at the Venice Beach.

Many speakers brought up the fact that there is a drought. The requirement for 39,000 gallons of water is not a viable plan. One person said it wasn’t just the water but the electricity to keep it cold. One Native-American brought up the fact that there is a drought and water is sacred.

Some asked why an ice rink. Many suggested a roller rink, if there has to be a rink.

Cecilia Castillo, council office field deputy, stated that the councilman was looking into a viable alternative to ice.

Stotler Hands Job to Valentine

Helen Stotler, Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) elected secretary, hands over reins to Kristopher Valentine, who was selected by the board to replace Helen. Helen said job was too much for her to adequately handle along with her regular job.

VNC Asks to Be Part of “Shared Community” Group

Letter was sent to applicable City officials asking that Venice have a seat on forthcoming shared community work group and that Venice be considered as a large part of shared community analysis.

The shared community or short-term rental (STR) market grows in size in proportion to the beach proximity. But it is blossoming throughout Los Angeles, particularly near tourist attractions.

In Venice short-term rentals (STR) are illegal with the exception of property zoned commercial. Venice has no R-4 zoning which is the lowest in density to allow the short-term rentals. So unless property is zoned commercial, it is illegal. Yet, Venice residents or entrepreneurs operating STR businesses in Venice are subject to a 14 percent hotel tax. Some pay; some don’t. It is illegal but one must pay the tax!

It is big business and it is growing. Many claim that the short term market eliminates a neighborhood. It becomes a hotel, not a group of houses with long-term occupants, all of whom know each other. One has to ask himself: Would I want to live next door to a house that is used as a short-term rental?

Real estate brokers Tami Pardee and Denise Fast were queried regarding such. When selling a piece of property, one has to disclose any problems with the property. Both brokers were asked if a short term rental in close proximity had to be disclosed. Both said no

“No- that is not necessary unless there is a nuisance like barking dogs or loud noises,” messaged Tami Pardee.

Denise called and also said the problem would be noise.

So from this, one can decide for himself whether to disclose or not when selling. Is that short-term rental a party house that makes a lot of noise? It seems fortuitous in this age of litigious people, one would be wise to consider such

Many questions arise regarding the short-term rental market. The answers have not been forthcoming because the market has grown rapidly, particularly in Venice. It has affected the value of properties that are to be used as short-term rentals and all the other properties in close proximity,

It has affected the rental market because owners want to make the big bucks, and in so doing, this has taken much of the normal rentals off the market. Supply and demand.

Letter follows:

Attn: Sharon Gil and Richard Williams

Re: Council File 14-0593 Sharing Economy-letter requesting focus on Venice as a distinct residential community/Venice community impact statement general comments

Dear Members of the Sharing Economy Work Group,
Please be advised that at a regularly held public meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Board of Officers, on September 16, 2014, the following Motion was approved as part of the Consent Calendar by a 14-0-1 vote:

The VNC Board shall send a letter to the L.A. City Council Sharing Economy Work Group
recommending and making it very clear that the Venice Community deserves to be included in
preparing the Work Group’s report and recommendation to the City Council; and that the VNC Board recommends that as the L.A. community most severely negatively affected by short-term rentals that City Councilperson Mike Bonin strongly support us in having a seat at the table of the Work Group; and further, the VNC Board recommends that the CAO, CLA and other members of the Work Group focus on the positive and negative impacts of the recent exponential expansion of the short-term rental market on Venice as a distinct residential community of the City of L.A., and that they carefully research and analyze the impact of non owner-occupied short-term rentals on the availability of long term housing stock in Venice, the number of rent controlled units in Venice, and on the quality of life and socio-economic diversity in Venice’s residential neighborhoods (including commercial zones with rent-controlled properties).

Approved by LUPC on 9/2/2014 by a vote of 7-0-0
Supporting Documentation:

Mike Newhouse

VNC to Hear Seven LUPC Cases Tuesday

Venice Neighborhood Council will hear seven Land Use and Planning (LUPC) cases at their Tuesday meet 7 to 10 pm, Westminster Elementary School Auditorium, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. The cases are:

    225 S. Lincoln Blvd. (“Whole Foods Market”)
    701 Lincoln (“Locali”)
    665 Vernon Ave (single family residence)
    600 Mildred (fka “Kim’s Market”)
    1620 Electric Ave (single family residence)
    425 Washington Blvd. (“Charcoal”)
    2707 Ocean Front Walk (addition to existing 2-story duplex)

Kims Market

Most contentious of these is the Kim’s Market at 600 Mildred which was turned down by the LUPC. Kathleen Rawson, who handled the case for LUPC, recommended denial based on the parking and traffic, noise, and incompatibility with the neighboring use, which is all residential of one density or another.

The owner wanted a change of use from a 1613 sq ft market/deli with takeout to a restaurant with 600 sq ft of service floor area with 24 indoor and 36 outdoor seats and a full line of alcohol for the restaurant. Latest proposed hours of operation were to be 7 am to 11 pm Friday and Saturday, and 7 am to 10 pm Sunday thru Thursday.

Parking was proposed to be in parking lot in the median on Venice Blvd or in the parking lot at the Library, which are both several blocks from the establishment.