An Embarrassment of Riches
… Searching for a BLT on Abbot Kinney (continued)

Donut Star opens with CBS news coverage… Salt & Straw the hippest of ice cream shops out of Portland, readies its arrival in Venice.

And now Granola Bitch which Google says is founded by a ‘holistic food coach’ has twittered its coming entree on to the street of the fabulous.

Fala Bar just opened. It’s another Vegan place. There is a little irony with this one: it replaces Pork Belly BBQ!

We are the new Aspen.

Who would have thought that this off-of-center street where owners actually ran their stores, would morph into the new must-be place for the retail world’s corporate rich.
The new shops are staffed with very young gorgeous blonds – who won’t be there in six months.

But, the truly amazing fact of all this excitement of our ‘new new’ is that these shops are opening with a secret weapon… they don’t care if they make a profit. Rents are running around $12+ a foot now and you’ll need to sell lots of ice cream cones and donuts to turn that bottom line black. Maybe they will.

$6 donuts, $5 artisanal coffee, $10 smoothies, $12 juices, faux bacon, casual cashmere and one organic shop after the other pops up and still not a damn BLT offered on the street!

Corporations are not people.

ImagineVenice

Snapchat!

Time and again, our city fathers boast about the new “Silicon Beach.” They are practically ecstatic over the influx of start-up tech companies opening up shop in our beach community. At the same time they curry favors with our new elite. Our elected ‘deciders’ want that newcomer money to fund their upcoming elections. They are blind to the collateral and negative issues this tech rush generates. These new arrivals need politicians to grease the skids as they blast through city codes and it’s permitting processes. They expect plenty for their political donations. They burden our tiny and old infrastructure with their demands and do little if anything to support the needs of our community. Our ‘new economy’ nouveau riche spend millions on lobbyists to assure they get what they want. It’s time they spend some of those millions on their newly adopted town.

Have these newcomers done any real good for our little community? Has Snapchat, the voracious predator now taking control of a huge proportion of our limited commercial space while loudly proclaiming how they ‘love the Venice culture’ done anything at all for any of our local organizations and groups dedicated to working for the betterment of the many people here truly in desperate need? Little if any of their huge startup funding from Wall Street and Silicon Valley venture capitalists has found their way into Venice to support our desperate housing issues, homeless programs, healthcare programs, gang problems, schools, or disabled resident’s programs in any significant way.

This billion dollar start-up is sucking up our choice commercial properties with the determination of a Vegas high-roller. At the same time, their growing number of employees happily proclaim themselves Venetians and excitedly take the many gifts our unique community offers them.

Commercial building after commercial building has been snapped up by Snapchat. Many long-term commercial tenants were evicted. More prime properties will soon be added to Snapchat’s commercial building stable. Plans advertised for new shops and restaurants are happily scratched by landlords anxious for Snapchat dollars and long leases.

What will happen to Venice when this Silicon Beach star settles down and wants to consolidate its large work force under one roof, picks up stakes and moves on over to the Playa Vista business park? The lure of all that easy parking, cheaper leases and other amenities built there just to lure new economy companies is beckoning. Oh, they probably will retain some small presence here to keep their newly acquired edgie Venice status and that caché a Venice address offers. But one day soon they will leave, fed up with our frequent and growing gridlock traffic conditions and all those annoying things which tax even the most committed Venetian. They won’t be the only Silicon Beach star who migrates South for greener more spacious pastures. Think about it.

These Silicon Beach startups are really transients. Their leases are just five or ten years and all have sublet provisions. When they begin their exit, they will leave behind an army of real estate agents scrambling to find subtenants to take over their massive amount of commercial space and relieve them of the burden of all their leases. No one knows what effects the inevitable real estate dump will have on Venice real estate or on the entire Venice community. But, sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, these temporary Venice residents will pick up stakes and their presence here will be just a fading memory.

Hey, Snapchat! While you are here and enjoying all that Venice has to offer you, commit yourselves! Step out of your fabulous mode and jump into Venice’s deep well of need and start doing some real good for our little beach community.

In a blink of an eye

…the historical character of a building is obliterated.

That’s what just happened on Abbot Kinney.

A new brand, marketing ‘casual cashmere’ clothing to our new eliterati punched the street in the nose the other day with each stroke of its paint brush. A paint brush loaded with the whitest, glossiest white paint coated one of the streets oldest original brick buildings — three coats thick.

The new wonder brand and its vision is a progeny of Lululemon money. Its website is so slick and young and so fresh it takes your breath away. They are here to soak up the street’s coolness — and rake in the dough.

What this brand doesn’t have, in all its fabulousness, is a respect for its good fortune.
How was it possible they did not want to just lovingly enhance Sunya Currie’s amazing historic building and feel practically blessed they got the lease.

These visionaries are the ones you hear extolling the fabulous ‘sense of place’ they feel here — just like they experience at The Grove! They see Abbot Kinney as a cool image-builder while they destroy its cultural and historic persona. That unique persona is what made the street so special but they don’t see anything but dollar signs.

Welcome to the neighborhood Kit and Ace.

Now please put your paint brush away.

 

Our Own Abbot Kinney Tsunami

So many construction projects are underway right now on Abbot Kinney that the only way to give you a picture of what we are becoming is to list them.

El Vino was replaced by Portland’s beloved and almost ready to open Blue Star Donuts.

Cuyana out of San Francisco has opened a pop-up shop in the old Juicy Leaf space.

Juicy Leaf moved down the street into a former woman’s clothing store.

The Butcher’s Daughter restaurant is under major construction in the former Local 1205.

Salt & Straw (again from Portland) will be opening in the old Casa Linda location.

Casa Linda and a Mini-Hal’s are moving into the Primitivo space.

Vince, the chain, opened their two stores this past weekend. One of the stores was to be occupied by Mini T’s.

Luxury cashmere clothing shop Kit and Ace is under construction in the Sunya Currie building.

Topo Ranch is gone. New tenant not yet known.

Current Elliott is opening in the Jack Spade space.

Industry of All Nations has opened in old A & R Space.

Jewelry store to open in LFrank location.

Sweaty Betty out of UK to open in Mona Moore Space.
 

We Try Again – A Parking Solution for Our Council Member’s Consideration

Everyone knows that Abbot Kinney is in desperate need of parking. Parking is not only for the patrons who shop and eat on the street but no one is focusing on all of the employees and general workers on the street who are forced to park all day in adjacent residential streets.

Some time back, ImagineVenice proposed a parking solution to former Council member Rosendahl. It was met with silence. Here we go, with another shot at it:

We propose a reversal of course with the ‘Centennial Park’ property. While the idea of a park in Venice was doubtless an immediate ‘yes,’ no one really gave enough consideration to who would actually use this park on the medium strip on Venice Boulevard. We have had years to observe that families do not take their kids to play in this park because it is too dangerous for the children. With traffic whizzing by on both sides of the park parents can’t let their children run free and explore. Because it is located in an unfriendly location, you rarely see any local resident relaxing, reading a book and enjoying a bit of green space with all the traffic noise. Transients find its emptiness attractive. Right at this moment, community members are getting approval to refurbish the tired landscaping in this park. We propose a U-turn before more money is spent on a mostly unused park. While a noble idea the park has not panned out to be a good one.

ImagineVenice proposes again that the median strip be re-graded, paved, gates installed and dedicated entirely to employee parking. Vendors could subsidize any monthly costs for their employees. And, best of all, this solution takes the parking space hunting pressure off the employee and returns the residential streets to the residents.

We hope our council member will give this simple parking solution serious consideration. It would solve many parking problems around here and it is not a mega-expensive project. It would make truly efficient use of pretty useless land.

Our next edition will re-visit the proposal for re-activation of the old Venice Historical Society’s shuttle to run on weekends in a loop between Venice Boulevard to Rose Avenue with the shuttle stop at the Westminster School parking lot.

The Abbot Kinney Hotel (Now Venice Place Project)
Where Are We Now?

A hotel in Venice on Abbot Kinney. This could have been a true landmark development. It could have been neighborhood friendly and a real enhancement to the community now and in the future.

Soon, we can expect that the new permutation of the old program will be up for review and consideration at the Venice Neighborhood Council and the LUPC. And, shortly thereafter, the Zoning Administrator will be holding a hearing on the project. Residents will have an opportunity to voice their views and listen to other views before the ZA, both for or against this project.

Perception by many is that the new design with its separated buildings does nothing to reduce or eliminate its former built-in problems. Primarily, the negative effects on the Oakwood community and increased traffic and truck congestion will be neighborhood changing. Many worry about the likely deleterious effects in the safety arena as all of its trucks will be loading and unloading at the curb on Broadway creating new risks for the school children who use Broadway as their main route to Westminster School.

There is nothing wrong with the idea of a hotel on Abbot Kinney. The problem with this project is that it will exacerbate the already congested area with its idling trucks waiting to load and unload at the Broadway curb. Have you ever seen a trash truck pick up at a curb? Can you imagine the huge Budweiser truck easily making a delivery at the curb?

The developer chose not to allocate land to take all these trucks off the street and direct their exit back to Abbot Kinney and thereby keeping them from using the Oakwood community’s residential streets as an alternate exit route. The use of streets to load and unload was done in 1940. We know better now. When you have lots of land and can easily dedicate some of it to solve this problem, you should use it. Yes, this land won’t be revenue-generating land but what it would generate would be a huge amount of appreciation and goodwill from the community.

It is very important to understand that the traffic assessment made for this project does not reflect actual realities on the ground. The Department of Transportation (DOT) uses ‘tables’ and ‘schedules’ and outdated historical data. It concentrates all of its deliberations on ‘signalizing’ and pays little attention to intersections which are not ‘signalized.’ It made no actual real-time study of the traffic action at all the intersections and residential streets near this huge project nor did it review the impact on already heavily used 4th which is the most direct route to the Santa Monica Freeway. While this is the way DOT ‘assesses’ traffic, to believe it is reflective of the realities in Venice is foolish.

An opportunity for greatness has been lost.

The Project Approval Process is the Wild West

Hardly a day passes when a new approved project filled with exemptions, exceptions and questionable mass and scale issues doesn’t pop up. Who cares? Is anyone watching? The answer is no. No one is really watching. If anything happens around here to rein in the scofflaws it is because of an accidental observation or fed up reaction to it from some resident. And that happens only when an alarm bell is ringing really loud.

The damage that has been done to Venice because of simple ennui and ‘benign neglect’ by the ‘deciders’ is way beyond what any of you realize. Only when you start adding up the approvals and inconsistencies from Planning and Zoning Administration over the past seven years or so does the magnitude of the damage done to this small town become powerful and meaningful to Venice’s quality of life. Much of the parking deficit and increasing gridlock problems are self-inflicted, caused by careless decisions from various departments. They need a mandate to do no harm. None of the deciders are concerned if decisions they make might be harmful in the future. If they can mark that box in an application with an X they are good to go.

The bottom line: Planning does not plan. There is no charter from its highest level to plan. Enforcement does not enforce. Enforcement rarely happens no matter how egregious the offense might be. Only when residents make ‘big noise’ with the higher-ups does a problem even get anyone’s attention. This problem is at every level in the city. When you can’t get anyone’s attention, your temperature boils and you worry that if a real big problem happens around this place we are going to be in real trouble — this town is run like some kind of Banana Republic. Anything goes.

If we did not have an active and attentive council office things would be much much worse. But why should residents have to turn to the council office to get ‘saved.’ They shouldn’t. Why should residents have to be the sheriff around here to try to effect a system that works — fairly and thoughtfully?

When you look more deeply into the approval process it reveals many ‘discretionary’ approvals and ‘interpretations’ allowing for reduced parking, no parking at all, restaurant expanded service areas without required parking and worse. Never are these discretionary decisions made with concern if it is good for the community. The latest revelation was that Planning actually made ‘discretionary’ decisions on a project under the purview of the California Coastal Commission. They have no authority to do that. But they did it. The Planning Department has become the actual ‘enemy within.’ This needs to be reined in and fast and a new mission put forth which will look at projects requiring discretion with eyes focused on what is good for neighborhoods and what will be good for the longer term.

If projects actually were planned within the scope of the current Venice Specific Plan many arguments would never develop between developers and residents. When the plan is silent on a particular issue, Planning should be directed to make their ‘discretionary’ decisions in concert with the spirit and intent of the Venice Specific Plan. The VSP is the superior ‘decider’ in Venice and it should be respected not thwarted by using creative loopholes.

The VSP is a plan that needs updating for sure. Changing conditions in Venice these last 10 years demand its update. But, for the moment, it is the operative document. Applying the city code to Venice issues as an override to the VSP is wrong and illegal.

Is there anyone at the top of the Planning and Zoning Administration departments who will step out — take a little risk of shaking things up — and take a hard look at the mess their decisions have created here in Venice? We’re hoping. What else can we do?

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