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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

VCH Names Venice Median Project Reese-Davidson Community

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Rendering of proposed Venice Median project to be built between North and South Venice Blvd and east of Pacific.

Venice Community Housing and Hollywood Community Housing have named the proposed Venice Median Project the Reese-Davidson Community.  They have named the Community Arts Center after artist Gregory Hines.

These are words and facts from the Venice Community Housing Monthly Newsletter.
Arthur Reese worked in multiple ways to found and build Venice in the early 1900.  He was considered the lead decorator of buildings and attractions, helping to establish Venice’s unique style. He was also the first African American homeowner in the neighborhood.

Rick Davidson was among the founders of Venice Community Housing, and was a tireless advocate, architect and artist working toward an equitable Venice, region, and world.

Venice Community Housing will honor longtime Venice resident and artist Gregory Hines by establishing the Gregory Hines Community Arts Center.

“We are thrilled to be honoring the amazing and varied contributions of these three community leaders,” read the newsletter.

Dennison Clarifies Misconceptions, Answers Questions About Venice Median Project

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Side view of Venice Median project that is proposed for the area between North and South Venice Blvd, Pacific and Dell.

By Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing

Venice Community Housing, Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and Eric Owen Moss Architects look forward to helping alleviate the City’s housing and homelessness crisis, as well as promoting the arts and adding other benefits to the Venice community, through a well-designed and well-managed affordable and permanent supportive housing community on the parking lots at Venice-Dell-Pacific.

We are working to incorporate community feedback into the preliminary design proposals, moving closer to final designs, and preparing other documents for the City’s approval process. There are no large community engagement events scheduled for August and September, however, we are attending smaller events upon invitation.  Please reach out any time to venicedellpacific@vchcorp.org to invite representatives of our team to discuss the project, timeline, or other related issues.

If you are new to this list, please visit VCH’s website at www.vchcorp.org for background information on this site and proposed project, as well as previous Q&A.

Correcting Errors and Clarifying Plans

The Venice-Dell-Pacific team recommends that people join this email list and/or visit www.vchcorp.org to access up to date and accurate information about our plans for the site.  All information distributed by our team will have our names and contact information on it.  In response to many people inquiring about recent information being distributed via flyers and websites without contact information, one purpose of this email is to respond to some misinformation about the site and our plans.   Please reach out to us anytime for updated information, or to clarify other information received.

Zoning/Height Misinformation: A height of 45 feet will be allowed due to planned commercial uses.

Clarification:  It is likely that we will be applying for RAS3 zoning to accommodate for non-residential uses such as community arts space and micro-enterprise/small scale retail.    However, height limits specified in the Venice Specific Plan apply regardless of zoning designation, and are limited to a maximum of 35 feet for this site.

Setbacks and Density Misinformation:  The property is being designed without setbacks from the sidewalk and to maximize density.

Clarification:  The current design approach provides a range of setbacks, with a minimum of a five foot setback provided around the perimeter of the site.   A 15 foot setback is proposed along the canal and a number of areas on the ground level are intermittently deepened to be up to 30 feet from the property line.   The current design approach also includes a varied roofline, with heights ranging from 25 to 35 feet.   This approach meets or exceeds all setback requirements and height limits in the Venice Specific Plan, and therefore does not maximize density.

Design/Final Renderings Misinformation:  The designs/visuals presented at prior public meetings are final, and represent what the project will look like.

Clarification:  We do not yet have a final design or final renderings.  Early-stage project massings, which show a general shape and size of a building without details, were shared for conversational and community input purposes at a workshop in July.   Photos of those preliminary drawings have been shared by others as if they are actual project designs or renderings, and they are not.   More detailed designs will be included in the application for City approvals, and the designs may continue to evolve throughout the approval process.

Number of Units and People Misinformation:  The proposed project will house 500 people.

Clarification:  The current proposal includes 140 units, a combination of studios (including artist lofts), one bedrooms and two bedrooms.   The exact combination of unit sizes has yet to be finalized, but using best estimates and VCH’s current occupancy rates, including the reality that most formerly homeless individuals live alone, the estimated number of people that will likely be housed at the site is about 250 – 275.   Even if every unit, as currently configured, had the maximum number of occupants, the maximum total residents would be 420.   Neither HCHC nor VCH has experienced any building maximizing its occupancy, and don’t expect that at Venice-Dell-Pacific.

Project Cost Misinformation:  The cost per unit will be $700,000, including land costs.

Current Status:  The City is retaining ownership of this land, preserving the current parking use, and adding value to the land by including other uses including the urgent Citywide need for affordable housing.   Therefore, estimates being circulated of “$700,000 including land value” are inaccurate, as there is no transfer or sale of the land.  In our application to the City, we estimated total development costs (including construction, permits and fees, necessary consultants, required building reserves, and other costs) at $340,000.   We will release updated estimates as plans and financing are closer to finalized.   The average cost of building permanent supportive housing in the City of Los Angeles is between $350,000 and $400,000 per unit, but the savings in public funds associated with providing long-term housing to homeless people far outweighs the upfront cost.

Non-Profit Affordable Housing Development Misinformation:   The development team includes corporations that stand to profit from the project and/or can sell the buildings at market rate.

Clarification:  Both Venice Community Housing Corporation and Hollywood Community Housing Corporation are non-profit affordable housing developers, and in accordance with our respective articles of incorporation, we are obligated to irrevocably dedicate this property, and all of our properties and funds, to charitable and public purposes.   The buildings on this site will be required to be used as affordable housing for at least 55 years.

Environmental and Traffic Analysis Current Status:  An Environmental Impact Report, including traffic analysis, will be completed for this project.   It is not complete now, because it is related to the final project proposal and will take about 12 months to complete both the study and the public approvals of the report.   The reports are public documents, and require public hearings and City approval.   Updates on the progress and public input opportunities will be announced on this email list.

Recently Submitted Q&A

Questions and other input can be submitted to venicedellpacific@vchcorp.org. Will units for people with disabilities be included at this site?

Yes.  At a minimum, we will provide a specific number of units that are fully accessible, along with accessible common areas, as required by law.  We are also likely to use funding for development and/or rental subsidies that further target and/or prioritize people with disabilities, such as the new No Place Like Home state funds, the County’s Housing for Health program, and others.  However, we are not yet at the point of financing the project, so the specifics of the populations to be served aren’t yet known.  We will keep people updated as we go through the process, but it is certain that people with disabilities will be served by this project.

Will the City have public hearings to discuss what goes into the Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA)? 

In our experience, the City generally does not hold public hearings to inform the content of a DDA in advance of drafting.  However, there is a public approval process for any DDA, which includes public testimony.

Your website states that an application to develop the site will be submitted to the City in September.  Does this mean all public input on design and other related work is over?  Does this mean that at this time we will know what the project is going to look like, number of units, square footage, etc.? Does it make sense to apply to develop the site now if the development agreement has not been approved yet? 

The project approvals will likely take 12 – 14 months, and there are a lot of public hearings and other interactions during that time so public input on design and other related work does not end when the application is submitted.   The application will include our proposal details, and is a public document and will be made available.  Lastly, it does make sense to start the process prior to approval of a development agreement, as the development agreement is just one part of the overall approval process.  We need to go through the development process concurrently – not all of the steps happen sequentially.

VCH Director and Architect Moss Unveil Plans for Venice Median

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A crowd anxiously awaited the unveiling of the plans for the Venice Median last week at the Pacific Resident Theatre on Venice Blvd and then vented their responses.

Becky Dennison, director of Venice Community Housing, introduced Eric Owen Moss, the architect. Moss wanted to explain the process that took place in determining the structure/s that he was going to introduce to the audience but members in the audience kept heckling him to show the building.

He explained that he had met the setback and height limits of the Venice Specific Plan and in some cases had exceeded these requirements. With the proposed RAS3 zoning, which means Residential Accessory 3 that translates into a combination of commercial and R-3 zoning, he could go a maximum of 45 feet. He did show an example but it got confusing to the audience. One architect said this zoning was the closest to the RFQ/P  requirement of R-3 with commercial added.

His design puts the required 188-parking spaces in the front building (on Pacific) and puts the required parking for all the residential and commercial units in the second building (near Dell). Apartments are planned to wrap around the parking, which is to be in the center, and the commercial will be on the first floor. The final design will incorporate the public boat access and access for the City maintenance contractor and the required parking for both.
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He showed views in mockup form of the surrounding buildings which he said he tried to capture the various roof-line variations into his design. The design consists of two buildings separated by the canal.  This is what will go in structures.

  • Housing = 75,000 sq ft
  • Neighborhood serving retail/Social enterprise/Flexible arts spaces = 10,500 sq ft
  • Parking = 420 spaces (including 188 existing public parking spaces); Footprint of parking = 37,400 sq ft (continuous ramp layout)

This is the largest piece of property to be developed in Venice, probably since Abbot Kinney’s day. The MTA lot on Pacific-Main, yet to be developed, is larger. The Thatcher yard lot is smaller.

One thing one can count on about Venetians is that the number of people in the group is equal to the number of opinions.

In general people were concerned that the design was not charming, when Moss explained that charming meant a combination of old and new. It looked to them like a large building even though it displayed a lot of architectural relief. Not enough play area for children. The roof will be grassy area; the beach is a block away. Why commercial, “if we are housing the homeless.” At previous workshops, people wanted commercial space.  One person said he would like to move in.

Below is the timeline for the project from final design to funding and pictures of various sides of the buildings.

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Image shown is between the buildings where the canal is.

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Side view.

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Front view of commercial.

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Looking at east end of building facing Dell Ave.