Friday, October 4, 2013

UPDATE: Abbot Kinney Hotel Developer Backs Down On Height But Mass/Scale/Traffic/Parking Still A Nightmare

Developer's rendering - Abrams' hotel as seen from the corner of Broadway and Electric

First, the good news

As I alluded to in my brief post Wednesday night, developer Dan Abrams backed off his demand to build up a precedent-breaking 4 stories only hours before his project was to come before the Venice Neighborhood Council's Land Use And Planning Committee (LUPC) for a vote.

This is a significant victory for the community, and only happened because of the intense pressure you put on City officials and the developers in the last couple of weeks. Over a hundred of you packed the meeting Wednesday night, and of the 30+ speakers who gave public comment, only 4 or 5 came out in favor of the project as planned - even knowing that the 4th floor would be lopped off. Hundreds more who couldn't make it to the meeting wrote letters in opposition.

100+ Venetians gather in opposition to the hotel

Venetians voiced a variety of concerns, top of the list being parking and traffic, followed closely by the project's remaining mass and scale, the fact that it's across from an elementary school, and the lack of outreach on the part of developers and LUPC.  Indeed, despite multiple LUPC meetings. and carefully orchestrated developer-led meet-and-greets, many in the room felt blind-sided, having no idea this project existed until they received a Venice For Change email or saw a blog post here, on Yo! Venice, or on Facebook in the last couple of weeks.

One neighbor question why we even needed another hotel in Venice, when there are literally dozens of existing hotels within a 5 mile radius. A search on the travel site, reveals there are already 19 hotels within a 2-mile radius of the project.

Another neighbor concurred, saying "We need another hotel in Venice like we need another food truck."

So what happens next?

Having conceded the precedent-breaking 4th floor, Dan Abrams and his developing partners withdrew their project from LUPC's consideration. Abrams told me the project would need to be redesigned in order to add back at least some of the hotel rooms lost in the process. So at some point the redesigned hotel will be back up for a vote at LUPC, and if approved, the Venice Neighborhood Council. Once it passes those hurdles (and even if it doesn't ) the project will eventually have to go to the West LA Planning Commission for a vote.

So yes, Wednesday night was a significant, and positive, milestone for our community, but it's only one sign post on a very long road. We have miles to go before we're done. Here are the significant problems remaining:

Mass and Scale: 
This project still takes up most of a city block. It will take up the entire back of the block between Westminster and Broadway (where the open parking lot is now) and all but two parcels in the front.

developer's renderings - notice the two stories above Joe's. 

The developers like to present the project as modular, saying they will "preserve" Joe's restaurant and the Venice Place Building, but the developer's own plans and renderings tell a different story. The hotel will build two floors above Joe's and will build up on either side of Venice Place. So "encased" might be a better word than "preserved".

Abrams made it clear to me that even without the 4th floor, he intends to stick as close to his original proposal of 92 rooms as possible. That means we're still dealing with the same potential traffic gridlock as before.  In  2007, DOT estimated  that the proposed 57-room Ray Hotel would generate 757 net new car trips a day on Abbot Kinney.  The Abrams hotel as proposed would be nearly twice the size and would presumably generate nearly twice the traffic. That traffic from Abrams' hotel will back up on Abbot Kinney, Broadway and Electric as cars, taxis, trash trucks and delivery vehicles cue up to service the hotel and deposit its guests. (I asked Abrams to produce the traffic study he paid for and been citing for months now, but he demurred, saying they were working on a new study and would release it when updated)

Hotel will sit where the French School is now.
When asked if he's providing enough parking for the project, Abrams will very carefully say they're providing what they're legally required to. What they won't tell you is if they're providing enough

Abrams is proposing 172 parking spots, which sounds like a lot......until you factor in how much you'd need to service 92 hotel rooms, a 100 seat restaurant, a bar, a spa and at least 80 employees.

The reality is that hotel/restaurant/bar patrons and employees, given a choice between paying for parking at the hotel or parking for free on our streets will park for free on our streets. We already see that every day with restaurants like Gjelina who provide virtually no parking thanks to convoluted planning laws.  And since we live in the Coastal Zone, the California Coastal Commission will not allow us to have residents-only permit parking to mitigate the hotel's overflow.

Keep the pressure on

Abrams likes to say he's a nice guy, and he certainly talks a good game about being a "local", listening to "concerns", and "dialoguing" with the community.  But as nice as all that sounds, the only thing that matters are actions.

When push comes to shove, he's demonstrated an unwillingness to make anything but cosmetic changes to his project unless pressured to do so. That 4th floor didn't come down until the very last moment, and only after intense pressure and scrutiny from the community. At Wednesday's meeting, he was only too happy to drag out that old developer's canard that if we don't let him develop his project, some bigger, badder developer would come along and build something worse.

"The property will be developed", said Abrams.

So we need to keep the pressure on. Sign up at to get on our mailing list. Bookmark this blog for further updates.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"We Need Another Hotel In Venice Like We Need Another Food Truck"

100+ Venetians pack the Oakwood Rec Center to oppose Abrams' hotel project.

I'll have to make this short, folks, it's been a long day and there's lots to process. 

As a neighbor I am beyond grateful for the 100+ community members who came out tonight to the Venice Land Use and Planning Committee meeting to voice your opposition to Abrams' 92-room hotel.  Your comments were amazing, insightful, creative, cogent and concise. 

One Venice resident voiced her concerns better than I ever could, "We need another hotel in Venice like we need another food truck."

Thanks to all the pressure you put on the developer, he's finally agreed to the easiest concession - reducing the hotel's height from 4 stories to 3.  But we have miles to go before we're done. 

Though the height reductions will reduce the overall number of hotel rooms, it won't be by much, and after talking with Abrams, it was clear he would try to replace some if not most of the 12 rooms that would have been on that 4th floor. And Abrams and his partners still have not made any adjustments to scale and mass, nor have they dealt with the inadequate parking or the traffic issues this project would generate for the surrounding neighborhood. 

So this is far from settled. The hotel must now go back to the drawing board and come back to LUPC for a vote. Stay tuned and stay engaged folks, it's going to be a long and bumpy ride. 

More details soon.