Thursday, December 12, 2013

UPDATE: News About The Abbot Kinney Hotel, None Of It Good

Latest hotel renderings as they appear on the developer's website
Folks, I hate to bother you so close to the holidays, but I've been hearing some disturbing news about the massive block-long hotel complex being proposed for Abbot Kinney Blvd. and none of it is good.

To review, after being turned away by the community in October and forced to remove the fourth floor, developer Dan Abrams' project was literally sent back to the drawing board. He would have to create new plans and submit them to the community to review before he could proceed further.

We've waited two months for those new plans. But instead of coming to the community and presenting them in a transparent and open manner where they can be reviewed and discussed by everyone at the same time in a public forum, it seems Abrams and his development team is withholding information and engaging in a PR campaign of private meetings and carefully parsed talking points.

Yesterday morning I learned the developer had submitted a draft of the revised project to Venice Land Use and Planning Committee member John Reed a week ago, yet those plans have yet to appear on LUPC's website or on the developer's own website

Then later in the day I started receiving emails from Abrams' supporters, who had evidently been provided a list of talking points to share during a private presentation given to them earlier in the week (more on those talking points in a minute). According to the email, supporters were told at that meeting the project would be fast-tracked through LUPC next Wednesday, December 18th - only a week before Christmas. Yet no agenda
Proposed site of the Abrams hotel
has been set so far for next week's LUPC meeting.

What do the developers know that the community doesn't?

My concern is that the only thing that Abrams and his development team learned from encountering the community's opposition in October was how to avoid as much of the community as possible in the future. I can find no other explanation for this kind of behavior.

If Dan Abrams and his investors have truly created a project "conceived, grown, and curated by people living in, connected to, and caring for the unique community of Venice" as their website claims then there's no need for the secrecy and obfuscation. It's that simple.

But instead, we're left with new plans only some supporters have seen, a crucial planning meeting that may or may not happen next week and a set of highly misleading talking points.

Here is what we do know:
  • As far as we can tell based on the limited information we have (and the artist renderings on the developer's own website), the only thing that's substantially changed with the hotel is that they've lopped off the 4th floor. But we knew that two months ago.  
  • The hotel complex still takes up the entire block between Broadway and Westminster, with a partial carve-out for two parcels the developers don't own. There's nothing else on Abbot Kinney that even comes close to it in terms of mass and scale. 
  • The hotel complex will still have close to the 92 rooms originally proposed. Abrams has tried to obfuscate this point by claiming "Phase 1" would only be 70 rooms and "Phase 2" would be 18 rooms, but in fact this was always the plan, regardless of the height of the development. When I met with Abrams earlier this year, he told me he could not make the hotel pencil out at anything less than 80 rooms. And when I talked with him before the October LUPC meeting he told me he would try to restore as many of the hotel rooms from the lost 4th floor as possible.
  • The hotel complex would still cause major parking and traffic headaches for the surrounding neighborhoods. The developers are claiming traffic for the hotel would be much less at "peak hours" than an alternative office/retail project, yet a 2007 DOT report estimated a 57-room hotel proposed for Abbot Kinney would generate 757 net new car trips a day.  Abrams' hotel as proposed would be nearly twice the size and would, presumably, generate nearly twice the traffic.  Expect permanent gridlock on Abbot Kinney, Broadway, Westminster and Electric as cars, taxis, trash trucks and delivery vehicles cue up to service the hotel and deposit its guests.
  • The developers also claim their parking "allows employees to park for free." Well, they could also "allow Martians to land and claim our women" but that doesn't mean it's going to actually happen. It's an empty promise, with the burden of enforcement on us (if it can be enforced), not the developer. Good luck with that as you circle the block endlessly looking for any street parking not already taken up by hotel patrons and employees looking for the free parking that already exists in front of your home. 

So now what?  

The Venice Land Use and Planning Committee is not legally required to post an agenda for the December 18th meeting until Sunday, December 15th. So all I can tell you for now is to please keep next Wednesday night open in case we need you to show up.  

As soon as we know more I promise to send you information on the hotel's new plans, who you need to write emails to if needed, and if we need you to come out next week.

So please stay tuned for further news! 

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