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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

LUPC Takes to Zoom for the VNC’s First Pandemic-Era Meeting

By Angela McGregor

In the six weeks since California went into quarantine, other Westside Neighborhood Councils have managed to conduct meetings online, but until now, the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) has not sanctioned such meetings.

This week, with the DONE blessing, The Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) scheduled its first meeting since early March to consider four prospective developments within Venice. It was held online via Zoom (www.zoom.us). Since all VNC business will, for the foreseeable future, be conducted this way, a lot was riding on the technical success of LUPC’s ability to conduct vital neighborhood business completely online while also adhering to the Brown Act open meeting requirements. Venetians who wish to participate in future committee and/or Board meetings should familiarize themselves with Zoom (a brief, easy to follow instructional video can be found here: https://youtu.be/fMUxzrgZvZQ).

The meeting opened with a few predictable glitches, with LUPC member Daffodil Tyminsky taking the lead role in handing computer issues. LUPC President Alix Glucovsky was listed as “Ira Koslow” because LUPC was using Board President Koslow’s Zoom account, but this was easily overlooked. A determination was made to mute all users except for those speaking, in order to avoid feedback issues, and this actually resulted in a more focused and organized meeting than in person. Roughly two dozen persons, including LUPC committee members, participated in the meeting, and a few users implemented virtual backgrounds featuring a sunny Venice Beach, complete with sand and swaying palm trees. Another benefit of the new online format was that each projects’ drawings and diagrams appeared on the computer screens of every participant, making it much easier to view them than when they are propped up in front of a room.

There were four projects on the agenda, the first of which had been heard before — the commercial project at the corner of Garfield and Lincoln, currently the site of Mittel’s Art Center (which will be relocating) and a number of vacant buildings which will be converted into a gym, a restaurant and other retail establishments. This project was originally heard a couple of months ago, and since then the developer has met with neighbors and re-jiggered the parking and traffic flow of the project such that every member of the public who commented was in favor of the project. The same was true of all the LUPC Committee members except for Barry Cassally, who deemed the project’s low-density as “morally reprehensible”. The project was approved and will be heard at the next VNC Meeting, 19 May.

Two residential projects followed, each with multiple units. The first, at 25 Rose, would convert an historic, Craftsman triplex to a duplex and, behind it on a deep lot, create another residential duplex for a total of four units where there had originally been three. This project was approved pending a Mello Act determination. A similar decision was made for the project at 709 East Brooks, wherein a single family dwelling would be demolished to make way for a single lot subdivision featuring two homes.

Finally, a 77-unit project at the corner of Walgrove and Venice Blvd. was presented. This apartment building is, according to the developer, a “Tier 2 Transit Corridor” project (see: https://planning.lacity.org/ordinances/docs/toc/TOCGuidelines.pdf) and thereby entitled to an 11-foot increase in height, a five-foot (rather than 15 foot) setback from the street and less than one parking space per apartment.

Public comment quickly made it clear that the developer had neither met with the community nor worked with LUPC staff to alleviate concerns regarding parking, shade and encroachment onto the sidewalk. During LUPC commentary, Alix Glucovsky made her dislike of such TOC projects very clear and indicated a desire to dismiss the project altogether. However the other committee members pointed out that “something dense” would be built at that busy corner eventually, and LUPC ultimately decided to continue the matter to their next meeting (which will be held prior to the May 19th VNC Board meeting) in order to give the developer time to make necessary adjustments.

The meeting adjourned about 11 pm.