Edition 14
September 12, 2014


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.


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.



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.


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.”


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 council office.