Wednesday, October 3, 2007

WLA Planning Commission Unanimously Votes to Turn Down Ray Hotel

Sorry, it's taken so long to post this, but I've been traveling in Australia and it's been difficult to find both the time and the internet access. But I'm happy to report the West LA Planning Commission not only turned down the Ray Hotel's request for yet another continuance, but voted 5-0 to turn down the hotel as proposed. Essentially this means the project is dead unless the developers completely redesign the hotel and submits it as a new project.

I will have more details on the meeting later, but for now I can tell you the Commissioners decision hinged on two factors:

1) Councilman's Rosendahl support of the community and his letter to the Commissioners asking they deny another continuance and give the project an up or down vote.

2) YOU. Your letters to the Commission and your presence at the meeting made all the difference. Community opposition ran two-to-one against in the letters and was even more lopsided in the meeting. And since people were required to state their home address during public testimony, it was discovered a lot of people supporting the hotel didn't even live in Venice.

More details to come.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Well folks, as I write this, I can see the lights of Venice recede into the darkness beneath me, a long night of trans-Pacific travel ahead. My flight only has another 7,880 miles to go until I reach Melbourne, Australia, where I'll spend the next 8 months or so working on a mini-series for HBO. I've known I'd make this journey for months, but it's one thing to anticipate it, another thing entirely to actually climb inside this tin can, leaving everything and everyone I love behind.

And I feel like I'm leaving so much behind, so much work undone. But thankfully, the internets are a wonderful thing. They don't call it "world-wide" for nothing. Most of my work in Venice is done via email anyway, so except for the next couple of weeks (during which time I'll be on a boat in the middle of nowhere), I anticipate being as active as I've always been, sending out information and dishing Venice dirt.

I've got miles to go before I'm done, so let's get started, shall we?


Councilman Rosendahl just released this statement commenting on the Ray Hotel's latest ploy - asking the City of LA for yet another postponement of the hearing before the West LA Planning Commision.

“In recent months, one of the most talked about and controversial development projects in Venice has been the Ambrose Group’s proposed boutique hotel, the Ray Hotel, at the intersection of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Main Street. This hotel has been the subject of neighborhood council meetings, zoning administrator hearings and countless conversations between neighbors over a cup of coffee.”

“There is much about the proposal I find attractive. It would be wonderful for Venice to have a nice, upscale hotel so that our out-of-town friends and family do not have to stay in Santa Monica. The
“green” development standards that the hotel sought to achieve are laudable and need to be encouraged in the City of Los Angeles. And Deidre Wallace, the developer, has a spirit, an energy and a creative spark I truly admire.”

“However, the project as proposed fails to comply with the Venice Specific Plan (VSP), a document and a set of ground rules that a large segment of Venice feels is a precious and necessary safeguard against overdevelopment. While many Venetians would be willing to entertain certain exemptions to the VSP in an exchange for a clear public benefit, the developers of this project seeks height and floor-area-ratio (FAR) exemptions so incompatible with the neighborhood that the project could not win sufficient public support for a variance. Moreover, despite assurances from the developer, large numbers of people remain unconvinced that the project would contribute to even more traffic gridlock and to the ever-worsening Venice parking crisis.”

“I support the majority of the Venice community in its opposition to the variance sought for this project and encourage the developer to go back to the drawing board and craft a proposal that respects the Venice Specific Plan. Additionally, unless the developer is willing to make such a significant change to the project, I do not support a continuance of the matter at the next meeting of the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission.”

As I reported earlier, the Ray Hotel held an open house at Equator Books Monday night. Reportedly anywhere between 300-400 attended. It was described to me as as quite the "hipster" crowd (however you might define that), mostly supporters from the developer's list, with a number of opponents and lookie-loos mixed in. A peak at the sign-in sheet revealed quite a few Santa Monica and Brentwood addresses.

By all accounts it was a lavish affair, with an open bar providing light refreshments of organic wine and cheese. The PR firm developer Diedre Wallace hired went all out, lining the walls with colorful graphic displays, and asking people to sign a petition supporting the project or to volunteer to write letters and make phone calls.

The presentations were impressive - people were jazzed about the organic linens, the bike racks for employees, all the "open green space". Why, 55' high didn't seem such a bad trade-off for all that community benefit. Anything and everything you'd ever want to know about hotel was right there for the asking.

Except maybe a little honesty.

They told a good story, and they got to tell it the way they wanted to without the nuisance of skeptical Public Servants or Planning Officials asking pesky followup questions in a forum the developers couldn't control.

As one neighbor left the event, she looked around at the crowd spilling out into the street, and at the snarl of traffic as valets struggled to offload and park patron's cars. She thought to herself, "Oh my God, is it going to be like this every night once the hotel gets built?"

Good question.........

I've gotten quite a few emails in the last few weeks asking why I'm so opposed to this project. How could a bleeding-heart liberal such as myself be against such a "green" project, one that promises jobs to the community, preserves the Eames legacy, and puts Venice on the cutting edge of sustainable development?

The answer is simple. I'm not. I want the hotel, with all it's greeness, to grace the corner of Abbot Kinney and Brooks. I really do. I've always valued environmental sensitivity in development. On it's face, the Ray Hotel would seem to be just that. But one of the critical considerations here is treading lightly on the earth. The Ray, as designed, fails miserably in that regard. There's nothing green or sustainable about providing luxury hotel rooms for a transient population in a building nearly twice as tall and half again as dense as the law allows in a community already heavily impacted with air and noise pollution caused by too many cars crammed in too small a space.

All the green material in the world can't fix that.

Green to me means co-existing with the community that's right here, right now - not the one the Ray Hotel developers wish were here. I don't doubt for a second that Deidre Wallace is sincere about following through on her promise to create a "green" hotel. But to me "green" means doing everything the Ray Hotel promises to do without forcing the community to sell it's soul in return.

It's the difference between "green" and "green washing".

But, obviously, she doesn't see things the same way. She's stated publicly she doesn't plan on compromising one iota on her plans. Not on height. Not on density, or parking, or even serving alcohol at the rooftop pool's open bar into the wee hours of the morning. Yet they've asked the City to allow them yet another postponement, this time into October. Not to work with the community to bring the project more in scale, but to buy more time for the their PR campaign to manufacture consent.

This has been very frustrating for those of us who've been trying to get the Ray Hotel developers to respond to the needs of our community . We don't have bottomless resources, we are not paid professionals. We have jobs and time constraints and children to raise. Like you, every meeting is a hardship to us, every delay an insult. Thankfully, we have the help of the councilman, and that is no small thing.

If we want to have a voice in Venice's future, we have to keep going. We still need to make our voices heard. There are two meetings coming up next week that are critical to opening a real (as opposed to manufactured) dialogue with the developer and the City. Write to our City Officials. Just because the developer asked for another delay, doesn't mean the City has to grant them one. Especially now that our councilman won't support it. Tell the city no more stalling tactics. Our time is precious and should be respected.

Be sure to include the project number at the top of any correspondence:

APCW 2006-9483-SPE-CDP-CU-SPP-SPR-MEL - James Williams - West LA Planning Commission (or fax 213-978-1029) - Gail Goldberg - Director of Planning for the City of LA - Councilman Bill Rosendahl - Mike Bonin - Councilman Rosendahl's chief of staff - Grieg Asher - Councilman Rosendahl's Planning Director - The Venice Neighborhood Council

Attend these meetings. Numbers matter. Go.

WHERE: Westminster Elementary School - 1010 Abbot Kinney
The VNC Board still has to approve the decision LUPC made to reject the Ray Hotel's variances before it can be sent to the City. Here's another chance to make sure they do the right thing.

Henry Medina West L.A. Parking Enforcement Facility
11214 W. Exposition Blvd.(near Sepulveda)
2nd floor, Roll Call Room
If you don't go to any other meeting, go to this one. The WLA Planning Commissioners will be considering whether or not to hear the case. If they do, they'll be deciding whether or not to approve this project as is, make the Ambrose Group conform to the VSP, or some combination of the above.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Venice Neighborhood Council takes first steps to oppose Ray Hotel/Developer channels "1984"

Well folks, there's been lot's of movement on the Ray Hotel front, and we've got miles to go before we're done, so let's get started, shall we?

For those of you who don't know, the Venice Neighborhood Council had an entire Land Use and Planning Committee meeting devoted to the Ray Hotel Wednesday night. At stake was whether or not the current LUPC was willing to amend or overturn a previous LUPC decision to support the Ray Hotel in its entirety - even though the hotel asked for significant variances making it nearly twice as tall and half again as dense as anything else around it (and don't get me started about the parking!).

(TIME OUT: For those of you who want to cut to the chase, the LUPC did exactly that. By a razor-thin margin, it voted to approve a motion made by committee member Ruthie Seroussi to partially reject the most recent Zoning Administrators report - essentially saying by default that the Ray Hotel should conform to the height restrictions of the VSP, that the parking needs should be more closely re-examined, that better and more thorough traffic mitigation studies should be carried out, and that the LEEDS "green" certification be explicitly defined. There's more to it than that, but those are the bullet points............................Oh, and by the way, did I mention Ruthie just had a baby THREE WEEKS ago?)

Spurred on by a massive grassroots outreach campaign that sent 5,000 flyers into the community, over a hundred people (at its height) attended the meeting. As it turned out, many had never heard about the hotel before receiving those flyers.

Nearly everyone spoke about their common concerns - how this hotel would impact parking, traffic, the character of the neighborhood and precedents for future development. Most people responded positively to the hotel's design and it's plans for "green" construction, giving the impression they might actually support it if only Deidre Wallace and the Ambrose Group would conform to the Venice Specific Plan and provide parking that was adequate for the hotel's actual needs rather than an easily manipulated minimum standard. No one who spoke in opposition thought the benefits of green construction should be traded for additional height and density.

The response from Ms. Wallace and her supporters ranged from non-existant to ill-prepared. I found this rather odd until I later saw an invitation sent to a list of supporters. It was for an open house at Equator Books this Monday night.

The invitation says the hotel "..........should not be derailed by one small group of residents who feel they are the sole custodians of Venice."

Then it goes on to call 757 extra car trips a day "traffic reduction", precedent-setting height and density variances "smart progressive and sustainable", inadequate parking for the hotel's proposed usage "additional parking in the Venice community", and the tightly controlled open house a "transparent, comprehensive overview".

It's a wonderful and classic piece of propaganda, right up there with the Bush administration's "Clean Skies" and "Healthy Forests" initiatives. George Orwell must be doing backflips in his grave.

So I don't think Ms. Wallace ever intended to come to the LUPC meeting. Was it because it wasn't a meeting she could control?

I've even learned there were efforts to get the LUPC meeting cancelled. It was somehow "miscommunicated" to the LUPC Chair that Councilman Rosendahl wanted to lead a "town hall" meeting on the Ray Hotel instead. When contacted, Rosendahl's office had no knowledge of this arraignment and had no idea where this information had come from.

In any case, I suspect when Ms. Wallace and her people learned of the 5,000 flyer outreach they realized they had to make an appearance.

Less than 10 out a hundred people present spoke in favor the project as currently proposed. Out of those, only 3 appeared to be community members not personally or professionally connected with Ms. Wallace. Some supporters brought up legitimate points ( such as converted garages contributing significantly to on-street parking problems and that Venice residents could use some more hotel rooms for visiting guests), but others claimed the people present didn't "really" represent the community at large or accused them of ignorance for not acting on outreach they never received. Ms. Wallace's husband got up and spoke emotionally and passionately about the Venice Specific Plan being a "living document" and how it should be bended and amended to fit the needs of the "community". In this case the "community" being, well........... them.

But the highlight of the evening (or lowlight depending on your point of view) had to have been when the Ray Hotel architect, Hagy Belzberg, got up to speak. Armed with a legal pad full of hastily scribbled notes, Mr. Belzberg began this way,

"You know, I wasn't going to speak this evening............."

And you know, he should have listened to that still, small voice in his head, because what he said next did his client no favors at all.

Mr. Belzberg began by singling out stakeholders by name - some of whom were no longer there to defend themselves - lecturing the collective group on how wrong and ill-informed they were. Pointing his finger at a designated target, he would bulldoze past legitimate concerns, refuting versions of events and facts that didn't conform to his view. He did his best to paint opponents in their most extreme form - Philistines, NIMBYs, shrill and small-minded anti-gentrification, anti-development reactionaries still dreaming of Venice in its Town Council days and even before, when it was a destination for hippies seeking Utopia-by-the-beach.

Call me crazy, but I don't think personally criticizing a room full of people who already disagree with you is the best way to win over hearts and minds. By the time he was done he might have made himself feel better, but he turned the resolve of a lot of people in that room from salt to stone.

So right about now you're probably saying to yourself, "Now what?"

Well, that's a good question, because as I said before, we have miles to go before we're done. Momentum may be in our favor, but we can't count that it will stay that way. We have to keep the pressure up. Rosendahl has voiced his support for the community on this, but it's clear he's looking for us to lead the way. This is not something he can do on his own because the Ambrose Group has hired some very powerful lobbyists to put on the pressure. We have to be partners in this together.

C'mon, if Ruthie Seroussi can do it (ONLY THREE WEEKS AFTER GIVING BIRTH TO HER FIRST CHILD) so can you.

Here's what's next:

MONDAY, SEPT. 10 - 6:30PM
WHERE: Equator Books, 1103 Abbot Kinney
Don't be shy. Eat their food then pick their brains. Ask them how 757 extra car trips a day is "traffic reduction", precedent-setting height and density variances "smart progressive and sustainable", inadequate parking for the hotel's proposed usage "additional parking in the Venice community", where the valets are going to park all those extra cars, who the neighbors will have to go to to complain about noise on their rooftop pool at 3am.

WHERE: Westminster Elementary School - 1010 Abbot Kinney
The VNC Board still has to approve the decision LUPC made before it can be sent to the City. Here's another chance to make sure they do the right thing.

Henry Medina West L.A. Parking Enforcement Facility
11214 W. Exposition Blvd.(near Sepulveda)
2nd floor, Roll Call Room
If you don't go to any other meeting, go to this one. The WLAPC meeting will be considering wether or not to approve this project as is, make the Ambrose Group conform to the VSP, or some combination of the above. Numbers matter. Go.

AND IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE IT ALREADY, WRITE TO THE FOLLOWING CITY OFFICIALS AND MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! - James Williams - West LA Planning Commission (or fax 213-978-1029) - Gail Goldberg - Director of Planning for the City of LA - Councilman Bill Rosendahl - Mike Bonin - Councilman Rosendahl's chief of staff - Grieg Asher - Councilman Rosendahl's Planning Director - The Venice Neighborhood Council - Marta Evry - outreach,

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hearing Schedule

Wednesday, Sept.5th, 6:30pm - Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee.
Westminster Elementary School - 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Auditorium)

Tuesday, Sept 18th, 7pm - Venice Neighborhood Council will vote to approve or disaprove findings of LUPC.
Westminster Elementary School - 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (Auditorium)

Wednesday, Sept.19, 4:30pm - West LA Area Planning Commission
Henry Medina West L.A. Parking Enforcement Facility
11214 W. Exposition Blvd., 2nd floor, Roll Call Room

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Ray Hotel Hits Pause

From the VenicePaper:

Venice, CA, August 2, 2007--The owner/developer of a hotel proposed for the corner of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Brooks Avenue requested and received a “continuance” from the West Los Angeles Planning Commission, yesterday, August 1.

According to Kristen Montet Lonner, a spokesperson for the project, the continuance was sought in order to allow the owner “to do further work with the community and the council office.”

The Ambrose Group seeks substantial increases to height and buildable-square-footage designations currently allowed in Venice for the project, known as Hotel Ray. Hotel Ray will also need issuance of a conditional use permit to facilitate the operation of a hotel within 500 square feet of residential properties.

Such a permit was recently granted the “short-stay” hotel, Pali House, currently being developed across the street from the Hotel Ray’s site.
Staff for the West Los Angeles Planning Commission had recommended approval of height up to 45 feet, which is 15 feet above height limits for the area, but recommended against two 55-feet-high, rooftop penthouses, as well as requests by the developer for an increase in amount of floor area (FAR).

Asked if the project's owner would change the plans for the hotel during the time before the project is slated to be decided on by the commission, Lonner said there were “no changes at this time.......

To read the rest of the story go to:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ray Hotel Hearing Postponed Until Sept.19

As was rumored, the Ray Hotel people asked for - and got - a continuance for another hearing in front of the West LA Planning Commission. Thanks everyone who took time out of their busy day to come out and make your voices heard. It was an impressive showing.

The new hearing date is Sept. 19. No word yet on time and place.

It'll be interesting to see how the Ambrose Group uses the next six weeks. Will they use the time to work with the community to develop a new project that conforms to the Venice Specific Plan, provides enough parking, and will meet the needs of the neighborhood? Or will they use it to launch another PR offensive and hire more lobbyists to pressure Councilman Rosendahl (who has been steadfast in his support of the community on this issue) and City Planner Gail Goldberg?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Update On Ray Hotel Hearing Before The WestLA Planning Commission

Wednesday, August 1st, at 4:30 PM


First, I wanted everyone to know I've started a blogsite about the Ray Hotel. Hopefully, this will act as a clearing house of information about the project as it winds its way through the planning process. Most of the emails I've sent out will be archived here.

Second, I just learned the Ray developers are sufficiently freaked out about the Zoning Administrator's report that they've asked for a continuance to postpone. Unfortunately, the only people with the authority to grant that continuance are the commissioners themselves at the meeting. Which means we still have to show up because we won't know until 4:30 - at the earliest - whether or not they will agree.

So sorry to drag you all out for something that might not happen, but it would be awful if the commissioners insisted on proceeding and nobody from the Venice community was there to defend our neighborhood.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Convincing Argument Why The Ray Hotel Shouldn't Get Height Variances Recommended By The Zoning Administator

Dennis Hathaway, a local builder, makes a pretty convincing argument why the Ray Hotel shouldn't qualify for any height variances, even the lower ones recommended in the ZA's findings. Check it out:

The city planning department has recommended allowing the proposed Ray Hotel in Venice to be built to a height of 45 ft., (40 ft. for the main building, 45 ft. for a roof deck with pool and patio) which is 50 per cent higher than the 30 ft. limit set by the Venice Specific Plan. The department’s report says that this exception to regulations is justified under legal criteria for granting variances because the project site presents difficulties that developers of similar sites in the area would not encounter. According to the report, the major difficulties are:

1. That the developer will preserve and incorporate into the hotel lobby part of an existing warehouse on the site that was used by Charles and Ray Eames as an office and studio for a number of years. This (according to the developer) entails technical difficulties that require extra height.

2. That someone building a purely commercial project on the site would have an easier time, because a hotel requires deeper lot line setbacks and therefore the added height is justified in order to achieve a desired density.

3. That the proposed project is “green,” proposing energy and water conservation, recycling, and preservation of significant open space.

Unfortunately, none of these justifications holds water. Firstly, the so-called Eames studio as it now exists is 654 sq. ft. and 12 ft. high, and the developer is proposing to only preserve 1/3 of that building’s length. So it’s obvious that it will be a very small part of the overall hotel complex, and therefore the claim that its preservation requires the hotel to pushed upward the equivalent of another story is hardly credible.

Secondly, the setbacks for a hotel building are clearly more restrictive than those for a purely commercial building, but these regulations don’t just apply to the Ray Hotel property, they apply to any property on which a developer wants to build a hotel. City ordinances say that an exception to Specific Plan, such as added height above the limit, can be granted only if conditions unique to the subject property make it impractical or unduly difficult to comply with regulations. There is no such unique condition on this property. In fact, to adopt the planner’s logic is to reach the conclusion that a developer wishing to building a hotel on any commercially zoned property in Venice is entitled to an exception from Specific Plan regulations. This is completely contrary to the letter and spirit of the regulations, and in fact absurd.

Thirdly, none of the justifications related to the “greenness” of the project have any legal standing as to the granting of relief from height limits and other regulations of the Specific plan. Furthermore, one might ask why developers should be given major concessions for doing something that is socially responsible. Given the realities of our environment, it might be reasonable to wonder why all developers shouldn’t be voluntarily doing these things on all projects, or even why they aren’t required to as a matter of law without any quid pro quo.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zoning Administrator Finds That Ray Hotel Should Not Receive Most Exemptions To VSP For Height and Density

The following is a summary of Zoning Administrator's report on the Ray Hotel. The ZA's recommendations will go before the WLAPC for it's August 1st hearing. The ZA's findings aren't final and can be ignored or altered by the Commissioners.

"The proposed project has become a point of contention in the Venice community galvanizing a major letter writing campaign that has flooded this Hearing Officer’s e-mail. Most of the issues presented have been addressed in the findings as part of this report. The applicants’ did meet with the some members of the community prior to the public hearing through the Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council and other private meetings. Although these pre-public hearing meetings are not required as part of the City Planning process, they are often very important in gauging local reaction and resolving issues before proceeding to the Planning Commission. It is apparent that not everyone was involved in this process nevertheless many were able to respond through the Planning Department proceedings................

Over 160 letters (majority e-mails) have been received with comments of the proposed project. Approximately 50 letters have been received in support of the project. Supporters express the need for a hotel in Venice, the design of the building and its LEED elements, and the reputation of the applicant as a quality hotelier.

Approximately 110 letters have been received against the project. Opposition to the project is based on excessive height, increase in traffic and parking impacts, compromising the regulations of the Venice Coastal Specific Plan, and uncooperative applicant (not willing to meet the needs of the community) ........

Many of those opposed to the requests are not necessarily opposed to a hotel on this site.


1. Disapprove Specific Plan Exceptions for the following:

a. a project with a varying height from 40 feet 6 inches to a maximum of 55 feet;
b. to permit four roof access structures to exceed 100 square feet;
c. to permit a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 2.06:1.

2. Approve Specific Plan Exceptions for the following:

a. a project with a maximum height of 40-feet 6-inches for guest room floors, and 45-feet for the roof top pool deck;

b. clear roof railings that are 42 inches in height;

c. an open landscaped courtyard with a depth of approximately 77 feet from Abbot Kinney and a depth of approximately 55 feet from Hampton Drive.

3. Approve a Conditional Use to (1) permit the sale and consumption of a full line of alcohol in conjunction with the restaurant use which includes an outdoor patio area, (2) permit the sale and consumption of a full line of alcohol in conjunction with the hotel including the lobby bar, meeting rooms, and lounge areas (3) to permit a full line of alcoholic beverages to be provided in liquor cabinets to be located with the hotel guest rooms, and (4) to permit the sale of a full line of alcoholic beverages by way of room service, subject to Conditions of Approval, subject to Conditions of Approval.

4. Approve Conditional Use to permit a hotel located within 500 feet of an residential zone, subject to Conditions of Approval.

5. Approve Coastal Development Permit.

6. Approve Project Permit Compliance, as Conditioned, with the Venice Coastal Specific Plan.

7. Approve Mello Act Compliance Review.

8. Approve Site Plan Review.

9. Adopt Mitigated Negative Declaration No. ENV 2006-9485-MND.

10. Adopt the attached Findings.

11. Advise the applicant that, pursuant to California State Public Resources Code Section 21081.6, the City shall monitor or require evidence that mitigation conditions are implemented and maintained throughout the life of the project and the City may require any necessary fees to cover the cost of such monitoring.

12. Advise the applicant that pursuant to State Fish and Game Code Section 711.4, a Fish and Game Fee and / or Certificate of Fee Exemption is now required to be submitted to the County Clerk prior to or concurrent with the Environmental Notice of Determination (NOD) filing."

Friday, July 20, 2007

We need WRITTEN LETTERS by Tuesday, June 24

I've now learned that we need to provide written copies of any letters we want to send about the project to the West LA Planning Commission no later than Tuesday, July 24.


Make sure that you include the case # APCW 2006-9483-SPE-CDP-CU-SPP-SPR-MEL

For any of you who haven't sent in their letters yet, I will be happy to collect them and hand-deliver them to City Hall on Tuesday. PLEASE HAVE THEM ON MY PORCH NO LATER THAN 12 NOON ON TUESDAY, JULY 24.

My address is 758 Palms Blvd. - It's a small white house with green trim at the corner of Palms and Oakwood. I will put out a cardboard box for your letters. Please don't knock on the door, you'll drive my poor dogs nuts..............;-)

West LA Planning Commision Hearing August 1st.

Wednesday, August 1st, at 4:30 PM

To submit your comments:

The project's file number: APCW 2006-9483-SPE-CDP-CU-SPP-SPR-MEL. It must be included at the top of any correspondence.

James Williams - or fax 213-978-1029 - West LA Planning Commission
Mike Bonin - - Councilman Rosendahl's chief of staff
Greig Asher - - Councilman Rosendahl's Planning Director
Marina Martos - - Councilman Rosendahl's Assistant Planning Director
Mark Antonio Grant - - Councilman Rosendahl's Venice Deputy
The Venice Neighborhood Council -
The Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee -

Back in June, I sent out an email alerting everyone about a new 57-room luxury hotel being proposed for the corner of Abbot Kinney and Brooks (one block away from Main Street). Well, I have more information about the project, and contact information for anyone interested in giving input.

I met privately with the developers on Monday night. What I heard greatly concerned me because essentially they are proposing to put a small piece of the Sunset Strip on Abbot Kinney. Frankly, it appears our neighborhood is going to get absolutely killed on parking and traffic. As currently proposed, the developers are providing 88 parking spaces for a 57 room hotel, 80 seat restaurant, 24 seat screening room, 12 seat conference room, 3 bars, a day spa, two retail spaces (museum and surf shop), and all their employees.

Let's look at those numbers again.

57 room hotel
80 seat restaurant (which can, and probably will, hold much more if you account for the bar areas)
12 seat conference room
24 seat screening room
3 bars,
2 retail spaces (museum and surf shop)
1 day spa
an unknown number of employees.

88 parking spaces

If any one of those facilities - the hotel, the restaurant, the bars - are at capacity, the hotel will simply run out of parking spaces and their valet service will be forced to park cars on residential streets - just like every other valet service on Abbot Kinney. Worse, because these situations won't be considered "special events", but everyday overflow, hotel management will have no obligation to apply for a permit or arrange for additional parking as they would for a wedding or reception.

They are also asking to build a project higher and denser than anything surrounding it - 55' tall ( 20' taller than what's allowed by the Venice Specific Plan) and with a FAR (density) of 2.06:1, which is 37% denser than what's currently allowed.

Then there's the traffic. As I told you before in my previous email, the project is expect to generate 757 additional car trips a day. But I learned something in the mean time. Another hotel is set to break ground across the street. That's right, another hotel. This one, an extended stay hotel that I understand asked for no variances, has already gone through the planning process and is set to break ground next year.

So throw a couple of hundred car trips for that project on top of the 757 for the Ray Hotel, and now you're talking nearly a thousand extra car trips a day generated by these two projects.

Folks, I have no problem adding a hotel to Abbot Kinney, and I find the idea of building a "green" hotel such as the Ray very attractive. But my concern is the developer is using "green technology" to encourage the community and our city planners to look past the negative aspects of this project. This hotel sailed through the neighborhood council last year (with very little input from the community) largely because the developer made numerous promises to utilize " green" technology in the building process. So far, these are just promises. The Ambrose Group won't receive sustainable ratings until after construction is completed. And in the mean time, they're using this rating as a shield. Take parking for instance. The developer claims they can't include more parking because LEEDS - the agency granting the "green" certification - won't let them. The theory being that it would discourage cars and encourage public transportation. Of course this is completely counterintuitive, since all it will do is encourage people to park on the neighboring streets instead.

So, while I think the "green" aspects of this building are extremely attractive, is it worth the tradeoff? Is it "green" to build a project that is out of scale with the neighborhood? Is it "green" to generate more traffic and parking overflow than the neighborhood can handle?

Why can't "green" translate into both sustainability and compatibility for the neighborhood?

When I raised my concerns to the developer, she stated that her one building shouldn't be held responsible for all the traffic and parking problems on Abbot Kinney. But according to sources inside the architect/development community, every developer on the Westside is watching this case to see if it's going to trump the Venice Specific Plan. So the hotel may be green, but its effect is going to be concrete - lots of it.

If this is what we're dealing with, then we have to start asking the hard questions. This project does not exist in a vacuum.


Will the Ray be disqualified from receiving any LEEDS rating if it increases parking, or will it just have accept a lower rating?
What is their capacity in the public areas?
Is the green area in the front to be used as a patio for an outdoor bar & restaurant? Current renderings show this space as a park-like space with a tree out front, but does not indicate how it would be utilized.
What are the restrictions on the liquor license?
What is their security? Will the outdoor areas (roof pool area and bar/restaurant patio) be open for liquor service late into the night?
When asked about the bar in the lobby, the developer focused on it being used during the day for breakfast items. This seemed disengenuous. Ask if they would accept that liquor not be served in the lobby.
Ask if the patio and roof would be closed at 10:00 p.m. due to noise considerations.
Ask if there will be music outside and if so until what time? Will live music be permitted?


This blog has been set up to help Venetians learn about the Ray Hotel, a 57-room luxury "green" hotel being proposed for the corner of Abbot Kinney Blvd. and Brooks Ave. Posts will be added as the hotel makes its way through the planning process. Please check in often for updates.