Friday, February 21, 2014

Venice Reacts To The Abbot Kinney Hotel Vote

400 Venetians packed Tuesday's night meeting about the Abbot Kinney Hotel.


Here's the joke about Venice: you get four of us in a room, you'll get twelve different opinions. But Tuesday's vote to approve Entrepreneur Dan Abrams™Hotel megaplex would seem to be the exception, because the overwhelming majority of Venetians who cared to comment on the issue are united in their opposition to the outcome.

Here's a small sampling of reactions so far. To be fair, I'll start off with a letter from one of the hotel's most ardent supporters, Corbin Smith, a Venice resident who's been very public about his opinions via local blogs and email chains.

To give you a bit of context, Corbin is objecting to the reaction of residents, primarily from Oakwood, who became very vocal at the meeting when they realized they would be completely shut out from making any public comment on the hotel:

Thanks to you who came to last night's excruciatingly chaotic VNC Board meeting; there was a huge crowd there, maybe 2/3 opposed to the hotel proposal.  Things got rowdy with the chair at one point threatening to stop the proceedings and asking specific people to leave, and also threatening to cut off public comments entirely.  A large and vocal number of those opposed often boo-ed and cheered and verbally challenged the procedures.  

At times, I wanted to ask the most (to me) offensive of them whether this is the way they're teaching their kids (or want teachers teaching their kids) to engage in public discourse.  It seemed to me, at least, that there's little respect either for process, or the law.  The formal presenter for the opposition continued her sound-bite-get-em-riled-up strategy (Marta Evry, from Venice for Change).....using misleading and outright deceitful tactics, and they loved it.  It was the "community" against the elite and the big bad money-hungry developers. I found it pretty disgusting.


Now on to the rest of the community's reactions. To protect people's privacy, I am using initials and omitting street addresses unless given permission to do otherwise.

It was very disappointing to see the VNC board approve the measure for the proposed hotel on Abbot Kinney. The voices and bodies in attendance against the motion were clearly in the majority......


There are too many contortions bundled into this single project to allow the community - this active, passionate community - to consider the impacts thoroughly. Consolidating 8 lots does not serve the community. Driving out a place of education for condos does not serve the community.

We heard that Dan is a nice guy. Being a 'nice guy' is good for the community, but does not make his project beneficial to the community. Venice residents are not opposed to change. This community grew organically and that process keeps it human. We believe this hotel is an imposition and unnecessarily self-serving. 


S.C.
R. P.
San Juan Ave
___________________________________

Hi Marta,

I want to thank you for your presentation last night, and for all the work you and your colleagues have done to bring out the truth about this project. It was inspiring to see roughly 400 people show up, and a hundred of them stand for the whole time. And they certainly did appreciate and support your presentation.   


J I
Venice
 ___________________________________

As 28 yr. community-minded residents of Electric Ave. in Venice, my wife and I would like to state our opposition to the proposed hotel project....
 

Parking, traffic congestion, sidewalks, over-proliferation of alcohol sales, are a few of our concerns regarding this project and until these matters can be addressed in a cohesive manner to enhance the quality of life all parts of the community, this hotel should not be allowed to proceed as planned.


J S
Electric Ave.
Folks seemed to be particularly incensed by remarks from Tom "the days of parking your car in front of your home are over" Elliot, one of the 9 board members who voted in favor of the hotel.
Why is Tom, a VNC board member, not concerned for his constituents who'd have to park far from the house and walk home – at night – in the 'hood. Lest we forget, Venice still has a bit of 'hood, try as it might to gentrify, gentrify.  There are car break-ins, burglaries, stabbings, shootings.  A pregnant woman was raped and murdered on Electric, not that long ago. How often do we all go to ******** in the middle of the night when the helicopter is hovering above our house, then roll back to sleep, oh it's only a few gunshots on the next block.

I own a house a block from the hotel and it scares me to death to think of a 24-7 hotel of activity and truly not being able to park in front of my house. I don't live in the silver triangle, or closer to Millwood or Palms or on the other side of Pacific. I live in Oakwood and the proposed hotel affects the quality of life for myself and all my neighbors.

When I imagine a hotel across the street from Westminster School on Little Electric Avenue and visualize all the people who'd hang out at events, the bar, the restaurants, coffee bar I see the 405 in our own backyard. Lines  of traffic, congestion on AK, Electric, Broadway, Westminster, Brooks, etc.  I see the challenge of getting home, unloading the groceries, getting the kids in the car, packing for a trip, and yes, being vulnerable to crime.

Amy Alkon, a writer who works out of her Electric Ave. home, also took issue with Elliot's remarks and vote.

I can park in front of my home because I'm a prisoner there, to a great extent. I can't leave because I can't get a parking space again if I do (without driving around for 30 minutes sometimes) -- thanks to others like you who voted in Gjelina, which brings in hundreds of people a night and has not one parking space. I don't expect one in front of my home -- but I don't think it's good to have cars tooling around a neighborhood, wasting gas, spewing fumes, to support businesses which move into areas where they can sleaze the residents by turning their blocks into parking hell.

You don't represent the community -- you represent destruction of the community. And I'm not some anti-business lefty.  But I see that Electric Avenue will be home to honking and horror, thanks to you. Proud of yourselves?  
  
Elliot, to his credit, wrote back to Amy to defend his vote. It's a very long response and I want to post it in it's entirety, so I'll end on his letter.

If we ever hear back from Marisa "if you weren't informed about the hotel it's because you didn't want to be informed" Solomon, you all will be the first to know.

Thank you for taking the time to write. Your note was heartbreaking. I honestly respect your opinion. I can imagine that it must not feel like I do, since I voted contrary to your position and contrary to many people in the room. However, this decision was the hardest one I've made since being on the council. In the end, I decided to cast my vote first and foremost as a resident of Venice, since I've lived up or down the street from this project site for the past 25 years. As I tried to communicate before the buzzer last night (and clearly not very eloquently), I believe that development on this site is not a matter of "if", but "how big". I viewed this proposal as far more in scale and in character than many of the others I've seen in the neighborhood. To me, 60+ hotel rooms will not make a "blip' on the traffic radar along Abbot Kinney. 6000+ apartment units in MDR already has.

Further, I would like to retract my statement that "The days of being able to park in front of YOUR home are over", and change it to "The days of being able to park in front of MY home are over" -- and have been for about 10 years now. What's new however, is the "Carmageddon" that has perfectly gridlocked my street from one end to the other during rush hour. Also it's also been quite some time since I've tried to use Electric Ave as a shortcut. Why then would I cast my vote the way I did?

I just cannot agree to a "zero growth" policy in Venice, and here's why:

Anyone who knows me, knows that my ideas for living and commuting in Venice are downright radical. As a student of urban planning, I ascribe to the school of "New Urbanism". New Urban architects, developers, community activists, and historic preservationists, accept that growth and development will continue to occur. So instead of trying to block it, they seek to direct growth in a positive way. On the flip side, developers who adhere to this philosophy, build community trust, because they demonstrate a genuine interest in the environmental quality of the neighborhood. And, as the community becomes safer, more attractive, and provides more transportation choices, the local economy thrives.

By the way, the principles of New Urbanism are not new. They are a direct response to our increasingly car-dependent culture. The precepts of New Urbanism reduce "car-dependancy" by promote cycling, walking and new modes of public transportation like electric shuttles and ride-sharing. They also promote a high level of "self-containment" -- people working, playing and living in the same location. They have a positive effect on the local environment. By providing safe options for people to walk, bike and use public transport, there are fewer automobile emissions.

Communities with strong alternative transportation policies, (like my home town of Boulder, CO), see a reduction in automobile emissions. Over the last several years, fewer people in Boulder drove alone, and bicycle and transit trips increased. As a result, the city cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by half a million pounds.

As a "transportation radical", I am an advocate for change in public policy, development practices and design codes in Venice, in order to promote a sense of community, and to actually discourage automobile traffic by the beach. Commuting by foot or bike is a zero-emission form of travel. Most daily trips around Venice can be made on foot or by bike. Let's provide the infrastructure, like bike lanes, bike parking and cross walks to allow the people of Venice to get out of their cars! Pedestrian and bike-friendly improvements not only reduce emissions and fuel consumption, but also promote good health!

Let's make Abbot Kinney a "living street" -- a boulevard designed with the interests of pedestrians and cyclists in mind -- a social space where people can meet and children can play - a street that aims to reduce the dominance of motorized vehicles.

Many communities have embraced pedestrian mobility as an alternative to building models that favors cars. They realize that dependency on automobiles is environmentally unsustainable. Alternatively, more pedestrian traffic increases social interaction and civic pride. We, as stewards of Venice, should reconsider our low-density housing and our car-dependent culture.

Isn't it interesting that around one hundred years ago, the Pacific Electric Red Car steered its way into Venice Beach. Soon thereafter, General Motors began the systematic dismantling of the "largest inter-urban electric system in the world". Now, a century later, perhaps it's time we came around full circle, and embraced Abbot Kinney's original vision of an alternative life-style and an alternative transportation system once again.

Again, thank your for your attendance and consideration. In the words of our great Parliamentarian, Ivan Spiegel, "If you don't like what they have to say, throw the bums out". I stand by his words and mine.
Sincerely,


Thomas Elliott

3 comments:

  1. It's interesting that you quote me in a PRIVATE email that I didn't send to you or make a public document, Marta. All's fair game in your world, I guess (including taking down comments on your blog that don't agree with you). And if you read what I wrote carefully, it's YOUR interpretation of my objection to lack of respect that implies I was aiming at any particular group. I was not, would not, and won't.

    I stand by what I wrote - and am glad you gave it a wider audience.

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  2. New Urbanism seems to be subscription to arrogant confidence and complacency about development. Imagine if everyone just gave up their goal at the mere recitation of a defeatist remark. Pilgrims are running out of land to develop and the common folk are pushing back. Hopefully Venice wakes up from this scenario.. the majority dont want the hotel yet the majority on the council vote for it, all these new employees and 60 rooms invite people with cars and that's reducing the car dependency? go figure...too many things to touch..

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