The Abbot Kinney Hotel (Venice Place)
First Hearing – September 8

The developers, after a couple of years, finally submitted their environmental report to City Planning. Most everyone expected Planning to sign right off on it and push this project on, and they did exactly that. Now it proceeds to the public hearing process.

We think its non-sensical new name ‘apartment hotel’ (that’s an 80/4 ratio of hotel rooms to apartments) may assist this commercial project to elude the Venice Specific Plan’s restriction against tying more than 3 commercial lots together. At this point, only the community can force a more thoughtful project out of the developers.

ImagineVenice wrote a few previous articles on this near city-block-long project comprised of an 80 room hotel, 4 apartments and a multitude of restaurants and other hotel services. When the writers first met with the developer years ago, we expressed support for a hotel in principle, and put forth a simple notion, one which more than likely would engender community support for the project — Build Less and Charge More. The developer demurred and said he was going to build to the ‘hotel model.’ One can only assume that this ‘model’ is one which the likes of Starwood, Hilton, or Marriott would find attractive as an acquisition property, ensuring a very big future payday.

Our concern is that this hotel being built over 8 lots is designed in such a way that it would negatively affect the nearby residential Oakwood community forever. We think this current scheme comprising more than 50,000 feet, creates ongoing risks to the children of Westminster School. Additionally, we believe that paramount and essential to any good hotel project would be a serious intention to control the truck traffic and car flow it generates. These are important and worrisome issues and they are being glossed over with PR and by various promo ‘meet and greets.’ We doubt there are many pesky neighbors at these ‘outreach’ events to ask the hard questions. There is an intensive PR effort to ‘put lipstick on a pig.’

We know it is hard to believe, but this huge development does not have an off-street loading and unloading area. Why? Because the city code says that developments without an alley don’t have to have loading areas. But wouldn’t you think that a developer projecting real concern and love for the Venice community would allocate the necessary land to take all the delivery trucks and trash trucks off the street? Instead, the project will load entirely from three curbside parking spaces on Broadway. These 3 spaces are expected to handle all truck pick-ups and deliveries. We are expected to believe that like magic, trucks will arrive in synchrony and fit perfectly into these three curbside parking spaces.

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It would have been the right thing if the developer wanted, and was willing to give up, revenue earning land for this essential need. Clearly no moral imperative propelled them to do it for the benefit of the community. Imagine, in 2016 a huge project is going up without an off-street loading area.

It doesn’t matter how many inch-thick surveys and elegant reports with pages and pages of charts are generated by paid-for hotel consultants. They all say this project will have no on-going negative impact on the Venice community. The results of bad planning is all around us now. How much more of it should the community have to endure?

We believe that all the fancy promised amenities of this project will do nothing to offset the forever damage it will cause Venice. The developer claims they are filling a need for hotel rooms for visitors — but who will protect the residents from more traffic congestion and over-building in the community? Our old infrastructure just can’t take much more of it.

So, what we have here is a giant project, the largest in-fill development ever built in Venice, which has the same truck loading standards as do our old historic buildings on Abbot Kinney. Venice is forced to accept, adapt and live with the conditions grandfathered long-ago. Must we now shut our eyes to the endless number of double-parked huge delivery trucks and those that fill the center lane of Abbot Kinney knowing that it will most certainly increase. We are an old town. We live daily with a parking mess created in the 1930’s and 40’s. Why must we accept a 20th Century solution in 2016? It does not have to be this way.

When a new 80 room hotel, its 4 apartments and all the restaurants, retail, offices and spa are in full operation, traffic will surely get worse for Oakwood and for most of Venice. Trucks and cars are already directing themselves inland to avoid the growing congestion on Abbot Kinney and Lincoln. The alternate route mobile App Wayz aggravates people now by directing traffic into residential neighborhoods. But who can blame people for using it? It is just one of the tools people will find even more necessary as they try to move around this town.

As we said originally to the developers and which we repeat again here — Build Less and Charge More. There is still time to reduce the size of this huge project, provide essential off-street truck loading and un-loading and develop a traffic mitigation system to keep hotel-generated traffic out of the Oakwood community and protect the safety of school children.

The community has an opportunity to weigh in and voice their concerns about this very important and powerful development.

The time is now.