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Bonin inserts jurisdiction over boutique hotel project in Venice: Here’s what that means

Councilmember Mike Bonin is asserting jurisdiction over a hotel project in Venice. A project approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council and the WLA APC after eight years of public hearings, multiple downsizing revisions, numerous accommodations, and concessions to alleviate parking, density and environmental concerns.

 

The Los Angeles City Council approved the motion on consent to allow Bonin to assert Sect. 245 of the Los Angeles City Charter, a motion rarely used by council members, allowing jurisdiction over the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission’s (WLA APC) actions.

 

The motion was folded into a group of motions voted on by the City Council on Tuesday, August 25, 2020.

Members of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) were not alerted to the motion, violating the Empower LA Early Warning System. The Regulations of Early Warning Systems establish procedures for receiving input from Neighborhood Councils before decisions by the City Council, City Council Committees and boards and commissions.

 

 

James Murez, who owns an adjoining property supports the project said “It’s disheartening that any councilmember would insert themselves at the last minute into a project that has already cleared the Venice Neighborhood Council and the West LA Area Planning Commission – especially with a motion on consent without honoring the proper Empower LA procedures –and a project that has gone through eight years of a myriad of clearances.”

 

Sec 245 and a motion to remove it

In May, Councilmember Paul Kortez from Council District 5 put forth a motion to remove Section 245 of the City Charter to eliminate the ability for the City Council to overwrite the actions of planning commissions and instead align the City Council’s oversight of planning commission decisions with the authority and process in place for all other city commissions. 

 

In his motion Kortez stated, “This subsection of the Charter gives each City Councilmember immense land use control over the cases within their respective districts.” Adding that while this authority is rarely used and actions taken using 245 are made publicly, the option is too vulnerable to misuse behind closed doors.

20-0609_mot_05-19-2020

Several public statements were attached to Koretz’s motion, including an article including a recent report by Jack Humphreville, LA’s Corrupt City Council: Silence is Deafening.

 

The Venice Place Project 

 

The subject of Bonin’s action was The Venice Place Project, which is a proposed development of a mixed-use structure located on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. The mixed-use includes a hotel that would consist of 78 guest rooms along with four dwelling units. The project would also house a restaurant and retail space, including a market and room for office use. 

 

 According to public records, The Venice Place Project has a long history that includes thorough and exhaustive Environmental Impact Reports EIR, and vetting at two zoning administrator hearings for more than four hours each, with dozens of speakers and public comment at each. In the past eight years, project leaders have also hosted 25 community outreach meetings, open houses, and received support from the Venice Neighborhood Council, the Los Angeles Business Council, the Venice Chamber of Commerce and hundreds of members of the Venice Community. The project has also had more than 800 letters of support. 

 

The application for the hotel project was first filed in 2012 with the City. According to public documents, as a result of substantial community engagement between 2012-2014, the project size and scale was reduced to be entirely consistent with the Venice Coastal Land Use Plan, the Venice Coastal Zone Specific plan and the LAMC.

 

Background and approval/denial from WLA APC

 

Yelena Zeltser, UNITE HERE Local 11, Keep Neighborhoods and People Organized for Westside and Renewal (POWER) made the appeals. 

 

Among the appeals, the WLA APC took up, a look at the traffic analysis. A determination in the appeal’s documentation showed that LADOT approved all project trip generation calculations during the study scoping process. In addition to the rates identified in the Specific Plan, rates per hotel unit and per 1,000 square feet of commercial floor area were also approved.

 

Keep Neighborhoods First also issued an appeal. The appeal argued The Project would demolish three affordable single-family residences subject to the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Mello Act.

 

A Determination issued by the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA), ) dated July 6, 2010, found that no affordable units existed on the property. LAHD’s determination found the property has been a daycare center since 2004.

 

Also stated, since the proposed project includes constructing four new Residential Units (dwelling units within an apartment hotel), the project would not result in a conversion and would maintain a residential use on the project site. 

 

 On August 7, 2020, on a 3-0 Vote, the WLA APC voted to approve a liquor license, a conditional use permit to allow the hotel to be built within 500 feet of a Residential Zone, a Site Plan Review for the construction of a mixed use project with more than 50 rooms and Mellow Act compliance review. The project was approved and all outstanding appeals were denied. 

Next steps

 

According to rules of Sec 245, members of the Planning and Land Use Management PLUM committee need to take action within 21 days. PLUM will then send their vote to the City Council. No meetings have been scheduled to date. 

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jamie@thevenicecurrent.com

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