STOP BONIN FROM MAKING VENICE A PERMANENT HOMELESS HUB

The biggest development in Venice since the days of Abbot Kinney…

THE MONSTER ON THE VENICE CANALS

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Location

On Grand Canal, Historic District, Tsunami Zone, Susceptible to Sea Level Rise, Beach Parking Lot

The Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals will be constructed on a 2.8-acre parcel in a residential area straddling Grand Canal at the Venice Boulevard entrance to Venice Beach, a block from the southern edge of the Venice Boardwalk. The parcel is so large that the Request for Qualifications / Proposals issued by the City for the project expressly stated: “Proposed Development Strategies do not need to include the entire site.

The building site is the largest remaining tract of open space in Venice and overlaps the Venice Canals Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It also encompasses the legendary Red Car Bridge.

The Certified Venice Land Use Plan designates land abutting the Venice Canals as “natural and coastal recreational resources” and provides that “the only permitted development adjacent to the canals … shall be habitat restoration, single-family dwellings, public parks and walkways, subterranean or surface public-parking lots, maintenance activities and emergency repairs.”

The site is in a designated tsunami zone at one of the lowest points anywhere along the Santa Monica Bay.

According to the City of Los Angeles, there is a high water table at the site that makes construction on the site challenging and studies show that Venice Beach and the Venice Canals are “particularly susceptible to sea level rise already.”

In fact, Mike Bonin allocated nearly $250,000 from the Venice Fund to study sea-level rise in Venice and has publicly stated that he expects low-lying portions of his district – such as the building site – will be underwater within 50 years.

The site is currently one of Venice’s primary beach parking lots, providing 188 standard parking spaces for beachgoers.

It was supposed to be used for the development of 600 parking spaces to alleviate Venice’s chronic parking shortage for Venice’s residents, visitors and businesses.

PROJECT FEATURES

Residential Units, Recreations, Public Spaces and Parking

The Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals comprises two three-story complexes – the West Complex and the East Complex – totaling 104,140 square feet of developed space, including 64,280 square feet of residential space, 2,255 square feet of retail space and 5,365 square feet of common area, as well as a 3,155-square-foot art studio and an 810-square-foot restaurant. Each complex has a multi-level parking structure in the middle completely surrounded by residential units – Texas Donut” style.

The parking structure in the West Complex is three levels and the parking structure in the East Complex is five levels. Subterranean parking is extremely limited due to the high water tables on the site.

Together, the two parking structures provide a total of 360 parking spaces, comprising 254 standard spaces and 106 spaces that can only accommodate compact cars.

Residential Units

There are 140 residential units including 68 units of Proposition 2 “No Place Like Home” (“NPLH”) housing, 68 units of affordable housing, and 4 manager units. The average unit size – excluding the manager units – is 449 square feet.

The typical housing project in Los Angeles, by contrast, is between 30 and 75 unitsand Councilman Bonin originally told Venice residents that the project would accommodate up to 90 small units.

PROP 2 / NPLH Housing

As a matter of state law, the target population for Proposition 2 housing includes persons with “serious mental illness,” including symptoms of psychosis, violence and suicidality.

Proposition 2 housing was not part of the original proposal for the Project. The developer, Venice Community Housing Corporation (“VCHC”), is only using Prop 2 funding for the Project because Prop HHH funds have been wiped out by epic overspending that has caused the City to deliver less than 6,000 of the 10,000 supportive housing units promised to Prop HHH voters.

Along with the Lincoln Apartments (adjacent to St. Mark School), the Marian Place Project (adjacent to Ecole Claire Fontaine Preschool) and Rose Avenue Apartments (near Whole Foods), the Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals is one of four Prop 2 housing projects that VCHC is currently building in Venice.

Affordable Housing

SPOILER ALERT: NO ARTIST LOFTS

Affordable housing units are reduced rent units for individuals making between 30% and 60% of the Area Median Income.

VCHC originally represented that the East Complex – the larger of the two complexes – would largely comprise “affordable artist lofts.”

Current plans for the Project, however, show no artist lofts – just 17 affordable micro-apartments with live/work zoning (most of which measure 385 square feet or less) interspersed among the Prop 2 housing.


There is no sober living requirement, no counseling or work requirement and no priority for Venice residents for any of the units in the Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals.

Recreation

VCHC plans to build out every last inch of the site, so there is no room for the recreational space required by law. VCHC paid an “in lieu” fee to the City to waive its legal obligation to provide recreational space on site and to secure the right to make use of Linnie Canal Park — and other local parks — instead.

The project also has a dock on Grand Canal for residents, their guests and other visitors to launch boats into the Venice Canals system for recreational purposes.

Public Spaces

As noted above, the public spaces include more than 5,000 square feet of retail space and a small restaurant. VCHC has stated that such space will be used primarily for “social enterprise” that provides “jobs or job training for homeless and low-income people.”

There is also a 3,155 sq ft “art studio” directly on Grand Canal.

Parking

As noted above, the Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals uses Texas Donut” architecture to accommodate two vertical parking structures.

The West Complex is wrapped around a three-story parking structure and the East Complex is wrapped around a five-story parking structure.

Together, these parking structures provide a total of 360 parking spaces – including 254 standard spaces and 106 compact spaces – for beach parking, the 140 residential units, the retail space, the restaurant and the art studio (as well as existing amenities in the area).

The site currently provides 188 standard parking spaces in a surface parking lot for beachgoers.

It was supposed to be used to develop 600 parking spaces to alleviate Venice’s chronic parking shortage for Venice’s residents, visitors and businesses. Instead, it is very reasonable to conclude that adding only 220 spaces, of which 50% are compact spaces, for 140 residential units and sundry retail spaces will actually reduce Venice’s parking capacity.

DESIGN

Exceeds Height Limits, Extensive Roof Decks, Popcorn Finish, Substandard Sidewalks and Setbacks

The Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals is designed by Eric Owen Moss, who is known primarily for “low-rise commercial buildings” on the Hayden Tract in Culver City that the The New Yorker describes as “discordant” and “unfinished.”

You can see some examples of Eric Owen Moss’s other work here.

The renderings largely speak for themselves, but, in brief, the complexes are three-stories and 35-feet high with extensive roof decks (complete with turrets and canopies) overlooking the Venice Canals and surrounding areas.

There is also a 70-foot bell tower with community room – and a roof deck of its own – on the northwest corner of the West Complex.

The renderings VCHC shared with the public showed a smooth concrete finish, but more recent drawings (that VCHC has not shared with the public but that we discovered attached to a recent filing with the city) clearly show a popcorn finish.

There is a dock on Grand Canal for launching boats into the Venice Canals system and VCHC paid the City a fee to use Linnie Canal Park in lieu of providing recreational space on the 2.8-acre building site.

There are substandard 5-foot setbacks on the ground level and no setbacks at all for portions of the Project above ground level. Also, as set forth below, VCHC is seeking variances to narrow surrounding streets and sidewalks.

EXEMPTIONS, VARIANCES & AMENDMENTS

Environmental Review, Public Hearings, Character, Height Limits, Setbacks, Sidewalks and Parking

VCHC promised Venice that the Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals would undergo “the highest level of environmental review” (including reviews relating to parking, traffic, noise and public safety) under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) but is now seeking a categorical exemption from CEQA, as well as public hearing exemptions.

VCHC and Bonin also stated that approval by the California Coastal Commission would be required, but they appear to be backtracking on that as well. In fact, Bonin is fast-tracking certification of the Venice Local Coastal Program in an attempt to get the power to issue Coastal Development Permits – and approve the project – without Coastal Commission review.

Similarly, the City Council and the Request for Proposal / Qualifications issued by the City both expressly stated that any development must comply fully with the Venice Land Use Plan.

The Venice Land Use Plan, however, expressly states that the “only permitted development adjacent to the canals  … shall be habitat restoration, single-family dwellings, public parks and walkways, subterranean or surface public parking lots, maintenance activities and emergency repairs.”

In any event, VCHC is seeking at least the following concessions in connection with the project (in addition to their categorical CEQA Exemption and public hearing exemptions):

          • WAIVER of requirements to “maintain consistency of community character”
          • AMENDMENTS to the Venice Community Plan and the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan converting the Venice Median from “open space” to “commercial” and stripping all references to “open space” on the Venice Median from the Venice Community Plan
          • INCREASE of applicable height limits from 22’ to 35’ on the south side of the Project facing the Venice Canals
          • ELIMINATION of the ascending setback requirement for roofs 30′ or higher
          • INCREASE of applicable height limit – and complete ELIMINATION of any setback – for the 70-foot “cantilevered architectural campanile”
          • ELIMINATION of the varied roofline requirement (plus additional height allowances for roof deck turrets and canopies)
          • FURTHER REDUCTION of substandard sidewalks and roadways on Dell Avenue, Pacific Avenue and Venice Boulevard
          • REDUCTION of residential parking requirements

PROJECT COST

At Least $1,337 / Sq Ft (Compared to $377 / Sq Ft Sale Price for Existing Silicon Beach Condos)

VCHC originally projected costs of $340,000 per unit.

Financial records that FBV secured through public records requests, however, show that VCHC is now projecting development costs of $68 million for the residential portion of the project, or approximately $470,000 per unit of Prop 2 or affordable housing in the project excluding parking, land and overages.

The average unit size for Prop 2 and affordable housing in the project is 449 square feet, so that comes to $1,046 / square foot – again, excluding parking land and overages.

Conservatively valuing the lot at $35 million and assuming construction costs of $25,000 per residential parking spot, the projected costs are more than $600,000 for a 449-square-foot unit of Prop 2 or affordable housing – or $1,337 / square foot.

In December 2019, by contrast, the median sale price for a 1,120 square foot condominium in Los Angeles was $444,950 – or $377 / square foot.

Take Action to Stop the Monster

Send a 1-Click Email opposing the Reese-Davidson Community on the Venice Canals

Support legal action, public relations and grassroots mobilization.

Support FBV

All donations are strictly confidential and are used to support legal, public relations and outreach efforts.
$
Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Donation Total: $100

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