The Neighborhood 1 The Gjelina Group 0
A near-total turnover of the Venice Neighborhood Council and LUPC Committee members last Spring, has actually changed the focus of the ‘deciders’ to what’s good for Venice and its unique neighborhoods. And, most important, it is that our community representatives are now really paying attention and listening to what residents tell them they want for their community. The arrogance is gone. No longer are the residents told to “eat your spinach and be quiet.”
Last week’s public Zoning Administrator meeting on the application for the Gjelina Group to change their bakery operation at 320 Sunset into a full restaurant and bar with outside patio, brought out a crowd who came prepared to tell their stories to the ZA. Resident after resident described the negative impact the bakery already has had on their unique neighborhood and how it would devastate this quiet community.
The ZA came prepared with a deep understanding of the project. The Gjelina Group came unprepared to answer most of the questions nor did they come with the necessary new parking plan. For that reason alone, the ZA took the project off the table for further consideration. But that was really just the beginning of a very bad morning for the Gjelina Group.
After all of the residents who wanted to speak were done, the captain and a sergeant from Pacific Division LAPD, spoke strongly against approval of the project because of on-going neighborhood problems and the current saturation of alcohol licenses in Venice. Venice has more ABC licenses per population than any other place in the city. They suggested they would re-visit approval for an alcohol license in 6 months to a year. Next, a representative from Building and Safety spoke and reiterated that the current bakery permit does not permit any seating whatsoever on the property. All the milk crates and benches must to be removed and absolutely no eating permitted in the parking lot. He further questioned whether its current actual use is really a bakery as a “bakery” is defined in the building code. Finally, he questioned the double use of parking credits and noted that the legal use of the “parking lot” Gjelina leased in order to obtain a restaurant/bar permit is actually vacant land and not parking lot.
Finally, a representative from our council member Mike Bonin’s office, Chris Robertson, read Bonin’s strong clear opposition letter to the project into the record. Further, she stated that the council office is reviewing the use of ‘grandfathering’ to avoid providing for the current parking requirements for new and change-of-use projects. In addition to the grandfather issue, the council office is also focusing on the use of ‘in lieu’ fees to purchase parking spaces to satisfy parking requirements. These virtual parking spaces and parking credits for phantom spaces are at the foundation of Venice’s extreme parking deficit and its inability to get ahead of the problem.
This may be the first time when residents have come together, persistently voiced their concerns to their representatives, and the system actually worked for them. All the residents who banded together to make this happen should be congratulated. It was a near-herculean task to reverse an outcome that was believed inevitable and they did it. Now, hyper vigilance is the order of the day.
The Gjelina Group is unlikely to accept the will of the neighborhood. They are used to getting their way and getting around Building and Safety rules. They should be expected to bring out their high-power expensive land consultants who will be chartered to get their restaurant/bar operating — no matter what the legal obstacles are or what the neighborhood wants.