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.

 

The Golden Egg Has Cracked

When did it happen?

It started quietly, slowly. Just a fine crack. First signs? Was it when we happily waited in a long line to order a cup of coffee off a menu of rare coffee choices.  That’s when a cup of coffee became precious.

Take a look. We’re not us. We left funky, unique and fun. We are now shiny, slick, fabulous — and ordinary. The ship sailed.

Our edginess is gone.  It sold for $17.

Shops we have lost on Abbot Kinney. We miss them.

Floral Art
Just Tantau
Colcha
Jin Patisserie
Venice Vintage Paradise
Plantation
Digs
Stansbury Collection
Mini T’s
Koola
Glencrest Bar-B-Que
Surfing Cowboy
Euphoria
10 Women Gallery
Madley
Stroh’s
Altered Space
Double Vision
Lilly’s
Equator
Alderly Edge Furniture Design
Wabi-Sabi

 

UPDATE

The Abbot Kinney Shuttle

Councilman Bonin’s office is taking a look at possible re-activation of the Historical Society’s antique shuttle. Don Novack of Hal’s has worked hard on this to make this dream a reality. ImagineVenice asked for help from the council office to get parking permitted in the LAUSD Westminster School parking lot. A shuttle on Abbot Kinney would have incalculable positive impact on all businesses on the street. We are hopeful a shuttle does become a reality — if it does, it will be because of the influence and efforts of our

UPDATE

Historic Building “Renovation”
Now a Shadow of its Former Self

The new owner-developer of 1349-53 Abbot Kinney finished neutering one of the street’s most historic and interesting buildings. Shopping center storefront windows and doors replace the original fenestration which was formerly framed with vintage classic wood details. Its one-of-a kind leaded glass clerestory windows were ripped out. Since this developer did not employ an architect skilled in vintage property restoration he got what he knows. The building is now a bastardized version of its former self complete with mis-matched bricks. But don’t despair — this developer is meeting his goals — old tenants were pushed out and the new tenants will be paying upwards of $16/foot!

Alas, it is always about $$$. Rare is there a mix of principle and money. Fortunate for Venice and Abbot Kinney, we got lucky when we got that kind of buyer with investment firm Blatteis & Schnur who bought five properties on the street last year. They knew what they bought and knew it was essential to protect and preserve their new historic buildings purchase. They set about first restoring the former Equator space paying real attention to details and authenticity. The new Junk Food now calls this space home. The rest of the space is carefully being prepared for the new Blue Bottle coffee shop. Replacing their roll-up garage door with glass even looks good the way this developer did it. Another fine quality restoration by Blatteis & Schnur is nearing completion just across the street. It is almost ready for the imminent opening of Rag & Bone.

We would love to see the Venice Historical Society step up to the plate and help identify, preserve and protect Venice’s historic architectural buildings. We hope they noticed the loss of 1345-53 Abbot Kinney and are motivated to take on this challenge.

Life continues on the “coolest street in America.”

 

UPDATE

The Hotel Project – Where are we now?

This project is really The Electric Avenue Hotel. If this design moves forward the damage it will do to Oakwood and Venice will be felt forever. There were many design decisions which could have been made to avoid this inevitable destruction to a quiet community. The city’s Planning Department had an opportunity to insist on truck traffic and patron traffic mitigation. They know about the traffic congestion we have in Venice.

Instead, Planning did what it always has done — it ignored clear and obvious future problems and simply made more business-as-usual decisions. A little controversial risk taking and a few out in front thoughtful community oriented decisions were needed. That has not happened. Now this project will be dumped in the lap of the Zoning Administrator for scrutiny and public comment.

We foresee devastation to the now quiet Oakwood community. Truck and patron traffic will inevitably use Oakwood streets instead of Abbot Kinney. Oakwood will become an alternate route to avoid the current traffic backups now a daily occurrence on Abbot Kinney. Since all the hotel and restaurant ingress and egress is on Electric Avenue, expect gridlock on Electric. The inevitable new traffic route through Oakwood residential streets will slam this neighborhood.

As of now, no Zoning Administrator review and public hearing has been scheduled. There is no final sign-off from Planning. The final information for the environmental report has still not been submitted for Planning’s review. We do not know what the hold up is. There is still no truck off-street loading and unloading with driveways designed to direct the trucks for a return to Abbot Kinney.

This hotel project could have been good for Venice. Instead its design and use all of legal loopholes to circumvent the spirit and intent of the Venice Specific Plan was the order of the day. “Putting neighborhoods first” was not its mission as it pushed forward with determination to get max profit potential as it built to the “hotel model.”

A brilliant opportunity has been lost. Venice will pay a big price for this immense failure of vision if this project is built as presently designed.

320 Sunset Avenue

Gjelina’s application received a stunning rebuke from the Zoning Administrator. The Zoning Administrator found so many insufficiencies with the “Change of Use” application, it was placed on a complete hold.

The loud and large outcry from Venice residents in opposition to Gjelina’s latest adventure was actually heard by the City. Criticisms of the project are now receiving real scrutiny. FINALLY! The community is clear in its opposition to another late night Fran Camaj restaurant and bar operation slapped right up against their residences. The intrusion of alcohol into a neighborhood without any other businesses serving alcohol — and serving alcohol until 2am — amplifies the total saturation of ABC licenses in Venice and people are fed up. Camaj’s well-earned reputation as a bad neighbor didn’t help his application. His intentions to only operate a “bakery” in the Sunset space raised neighborhood suspicions when his bakery permit morphed into a full-fledged restaurant and bar — the residents be damned! — is clearly the applicant’s attitude.

The Black BeastThe “Black Beast,” 1305 Abbot Kinney

And now we come to the “Black Beast” nearing completion at 1305 Abbot Kinney. This is Camaj’s latest adventure. Shortly the “noodle” restaurant will be ready for patrons and the pending liquor license application will go active. Another ABC approval for a bar operation in Venice is on the table. Another restaurant without sufficient parking is coming to the street. Once residents realize that this building will house Gjelina #3, the reputation of the devastation from the parking intrusion, and loud late night noise from Gjelina just a couple of blocks south, will scare the beejesus out of them. Get ready for the hurricane-in-waiting on this one… it’s been lurking out in the Pacific and is close to blowing ashore.

Venice, a Neighborhood of Strangers

Imagine buying a home on one of Venice’s streets only to find out that you really have no true neighbors — that your neighborhood is not a real neighborhood. What you thought were properties housing your new neighbors are actually buildings occupied by transient renters. Imagine in the mornings seeing maids with carts moving up and down the street… just like you see in the hallways of any legitimate hotel. Will it be safe to let your kids play outside with nothing but strangers surrounding your home and roaming your streets 24/7?

About 2000 units of Venice’s housing stock have been captured as short-term rentals by Airbnb, VBRO, Flipkey, Globe and others, for inclusion in their available rooms to rent-by-the-day operations. These units are no longer available for rent unless you want to rent a room by the day. On the short two blocks of Dudley, there are already 12 entire buildings which have been taken over as short-term rentals. This is not a situation where a homeowner is renting out their home while they go on vacation — it is a mass takeover of our rental unit stock with transient one night renters and as weekend party houses for reunion meetings and the like. The public relations for the syndicators is that this is the new “sharing economy,” but none can tell you just what is being shared. The best we can figure is that all the sharing is between the investors and the operators of Airbnb and the rest of them.

This is a stealth takeover of our housing stock by investors and owners eager to participate in this new gold rush. Short-term rental operators and syndicators will do more to destroy our community than any bad development ever could.

Los Angeles has an ordinance on the books which prohibits any rental of less than 30 days. It is not being enforced. The city is choosing not to enforce it because of the lobbying influence by Peers.org. The lobbyists for Airbnb, and others, are working city-by-city to get these short-term rental restrictions removed. The reason cities have short term rental restrictions is to maintain its housing stock and keep neighborhoods stable and safe.

The lack of enforcement of the short-term rental law will de-stabilize our neighborhoods and destroy our community’s cohesiveness forever. This is a big deal. We should all be worried. Keepneighborhoodsfirst.com is the “headquarters” to learn more about this very, very important issue. They need your support — check it out.

Welcome to Our World

Does anyone not understand why so many of the original members of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) and it’s important Land Use Committee (LUPC) were
either not re-elected or voted out? They were replaced with residents who are fed up with the attitude of business as usual. May 18th was a resoundingly loud and clear expression of the community’s discontent. The community wanted off its current path of exemptions, exceptions, and destruction that the prior VNC and LUPC were on. The massive no vote was a loud cry to take back our neighborhoods and put them into the caring hands of those who want to preserve Venice.

A skeleton now remains of 1353 Abbot Kinney. The first near-total destruction on Abbot Kinney of one of the street’s original brick buildings has been accomplished. A ghost of its former self remains. How sad for Venice.

Despite many people sounding loud alarm bells nothing stopped Mr.Shabani’s demo team. They turned one of our key brick buildings with its amazing leaded glass clerestory windows, original wood detailed facade and perfectly scaled shop windows into something common. Dear reader, if you would like to see what a thoughtful quality restoration looks like, take a look at the the work being done right now at 1103 Abbot Kinney, the Junk Food Clothing Co.

A LUPC member actually wrote Councilman Bonin’s office defending this massacre as merely a “repair” of the facade. Is there any wonder why Venice residents demanded
the VNC regime change?

We hope that the Venice Historical Society will strongly focus on protecting the rest of Abbot Kinney’s historic brick buildings now that one of the first brick buildings on the street has been destroyed. Who better to protect the heritage of our community than the Venice Historical Society?

As we move forward, optimism has replaced a sense of doom. We now hope that a project which damages our community and contradicts our Venice Specific Plan’s intent, will not be approved by the VNC or the city. Venice residents expect all future project approvals to be based strictly on what our local land use plan intended for our community. It won’t be easy to reverse course with Planning or with VNC’s criteria for approving projects. The broad interpretation of our Venice Specific Plan used by city Planning and our VNC must cease.

The people have spoken. Now it’s time for VNC and city planning to listen.

Simple Solutions to Complex Problems

venice_historical_shuttle_smDon Novack of Hal’s has an idea on how we can reduce traffic congestion on Abbot Kinney and its surrounding streets. Sitting with Don in The Gallery at Hal’s, he told ImagineVenice about his investigation into getting the Venice Historical Society Shuttle up and running again. He thinks it can happen. Don thought the Abbot Kinney Merchant’s Association might want to support a free shuttle. A free shuttle operating on Abbot Kinney may just be one fun and nifty ticket to solving at least one piece of our parking and congestion problems. We would like to see an Abbot Kinney shuttle operate nights and weekends.

To pull this off, we need a place where diners and shoppers can park and pick up the shuttle. The most obvious satellite lot is the huge parking lot at Westminster School. We need our council office to run interference for us with LAUSD and effect an arrangement attractive to both Westminster School, LAUSD, and the city with some fair split of parking revenue. This won’t be easy but we believe our council office can pull this off.

ImagineVenice asks our council office to open up a line of communication now with LAUSD and make this uncomplicated and cost free solution a reality. It’s not too often that the city is asked to make something important happen which won’t cost the city a dime and this is one of those times!

Sometimes there are simple solutions to complex problems.

6″ Louboutin Heels

WARNING! Before reading Edition 12, take one Alka-Seltzer or have a very stiff drink!

Why did Abbot Kinney become LA’s most special and unique shopping and dining destination?

Answer: (pick one, it might be hard!)

A) It isn’t like the Santa Monica Promenade

B) It isn’t like the Beverly Center

C) It isn’t like Melrose

D) It absolutely, positively is not like The Grove

E) This land of the un-washed is just too funky for the Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive crowds

F) The street is a vibrant, mixed up mess of just about everything (mostly wonderful)

So what’s the big deal?

Answer: (pick one, it might be hard!)

A) Walking on Abbot Kinney is unlike walking anywhere else in LA

B) The street is a vibrant, mixed up mess of just about everything (mostly wonderful.)

C) No Gap (yet)

D) No Banana Republic (yet)

E) It still has its original historic buildings (this one just moved on to the endangered list.)

Hard to pick just one, right? Okay, go ahead and light a candle to the Blessed Mother that ALL OF THE ABOVE are true — sometimes we just can’t believe we are so lucky that we are still who we are, despite a few bruises along the way.

THREAT LEVEL — THREAT LEVEL — COLOR RED! COLOR RED!

New owner, Mr. Shabani, of the “Hal’s Block” has almost emptied out the building of tenants on Abbot Kinney and on California. Now this Beverly Hills developer can raise rents and bring Rodeo Drive to Abbot Kinney – he’s already begun destroying the historic brick and wood facade and all the aesthetics essential to this amazing block. Evidently all he knows is that GQ anointed this the ‘cool’ street and it is where the money is — and he’s here for the taking. Not only does he not have a scintilla of understanding of Venice culture or our essence, he actually has no clue why he actually paid $20 million for his rag-tag oh-so-old buildings. We invite you to take a look at what he has in store for us. (Play the game of figuring out what is missing from this promo piece.)

1349-1355 Abbot Kinney
529-533 California

Newmark Grubb Knight Frank proposed rendering
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank proposed rendering
Newmark Grubb Knight Frank proposed renderingDoes it have to be this way? Not according to Blatteis & Schnur who recently spent $17 million on the street with their buy of multiple historic brick facade buildings. They sure ‘get’ it and understand the real value of what they bought. Their upgrades leave untouched the historic brick facades and old custom woodwork. Unlike Shabani, they value the specialness and the essentialness of what gives the street and our community its unique irreplaceable essence. Remaining completely intact their buildings history and architecture, they are attracting quality tenants of like mind. Not much of a difficulty when you know what you bought and love what you own. Proving they got it right with the upgrading and recent opening of the unique Junk Food and the prepping for openings of Rag & Bone and Blue Bottle.

1103 Abbot Kinney

IMG_6547_smBlatteis & Schnur ‘gets’ us.

Envision this dear readers… 6″ Louboutin wearing Beverly Hills glitterati elite stumbling down our lousy sidewalks after circling madly for a half hour to find that elusive parking space on their way to Casa Linda for a bit of our local flavor and a taste of their magnificent tortilla soup (okay, they’re really on their way to hip Gjelina!) — ooops, sorry, guess that can’t happen… Shabani’s real estate leasing advertising piece has expunged Casa Linda — so much for leases! Is our beloved wonderful Hal’s still there?

Can we view Shabani as anyone other than Public Enemy #1? What else do you call a guy who buys into the heart of the street and spits in the face of Venice and its history? He disrespects us and is actually blind to our unique culture which defines what and who we are — he has no clue.

1349-1355 Abbot Kinney
529-533 California

IMG_6534_sm

A Venice Classic

We are not historic building preservationists nor do we claim any particular expertise in building preservation. We just know what is outright wrong for Abbot Kinney and this so-called ‘remodel’ is an absolute travesty.

This is the first time that one of Venice’s historic, classic commercial buildings has been assaulted. It feels like a funeral.

ImagineVenice