Thursday, April 28, 2011

VSA Challenges Gjelina Seating Increase

VSA Challenges City Approval of 66% Increase in Seating for Gjelina Restaurant without Requiring Any New Parking

(Venice, CA/4-28-2011) Today the Venice Stakeholders Association issued a legal challenge to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission’s approval of a 66% increase in the allowed seating at Gjelina, a restaurant on popular Abbott Kinney Boulevard.

The challenge from VSA attorney John Henning states that the Commission’s increase in seating – from 60 to 100 seats – violated the requirement to give the public notice of the proposed increase, misused the routine Plan Approval process, and violated the City’s Planning Code, which only allows a 20% increase during the Plan Approval process. Henning’s letter also notes that the Commission’s action sets a dangerous precedent that restaurants can increase seating in Venice and other parking-starved areas of the City without fear of any repercussions.

“This is the oddest decision I have seen in many years,” said Mark Ryavec, the president of the VSA. “First, the Zoning Administrator found Gjelina blatantly out of compliance with its City-imposed conditions,” Ryavec said. “Then, Gjelina’s attorney admitted to the Commission that the restaurant has had 40 more seats than it is allowed for over three years.”

“I would have expected to see the Commission revoke the restaurant’s Conditional Use Permit, at least until they are in compliance,” Ryavec said. “Instead, the Commission rewarded their bad behavior, legalizing the violation with a 66% increase in their seating.”

“That’s the insult. The injury, though, is that the Commission did not require the owner to provide any additional parking for the 40 patrons who will occupy those seats.”

Ryavec noted that when the restaurant opened it was allowed to provide only one parking space because it had been in a retail use earlier and was thus “grandfathered.” With these recent decisions, Gjelina can have 100 patrons but will still only provide one parking space.

“The adjacent neighbors are incensed that restaurant patrons are taking all their parking, forcing them to park at great distances from their homes,” he said. “The City, with the Mayor’s Office leading the charge, has put the desires of the restaurant owners way ahead of the quality of life of the people who live in the neighborhood around them.”

Richard Myers, VSA’s Treasurer, added, “We support restaurants like Gjelina and are sympathetic to the parking problems faced by neighborhood-serving commercial establishments in Venice. The way to facilitate such establishments is not to throw out planning and the rule of law, but instead to plan ahead and invest in our neighborhood parking infrastructure to encourage such places to locate here and exist within the mandates of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan.” The VSA is asking the Commission to reconsider its decision. In the event this does not happen, the VSA is considering filing a suit against the City to force it to comply with its own laws.

Attachment: John Henning Letter to Office of the City Attorney, et al

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

VSA Opposes 1305 Abbot Kinney parking plan

To: Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles City Council, District 11

I am writing on behalf of our organization to ask that you require a new public hearing for the restaurant project located at 1305 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. The current iteration of this project – approved by the Coastal Commission but not the City - will set an unwelcome precedent which will exacerbate the traffic and parking problems now afflicting neighborhoods adjacent to Abbott Kinney.

We oppose the restaurant owner’s new plan to use a rooftop parking deck with steep ramp, triple-stacked tandem parking and three mechanical parking lifts to provide the required parking. Moreover, these features of the project have never been considered in any public hearing. The parking lift technology is unproven and unsuitable for a busy restaurant with constant turnover, and it would subject the neighborhood to ugly outdoor machines and constant noise 13 hours a day, 7 days a week.

In addition, the triple-stacked tandem parking on the roof would require parking attendants to constantly back multiple cars down a steep ramp onto the narrow city alley between Electric Avenue and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and then idle them in the alley or on nearby streets, where they will increase traffic congestion.

The owner should provide all required parking in easily accessible surface or garage spaces, on the restaurant site or nearby, or, if necessary, should reduce the size of the restaurant to match the available parking.

Further, we would suggest that you consider a moratorium on new restaurants on Abbott Kinney and form a task force of property owners, City departments and your office to identify short and long term solutions, such as a City parking structure, which can address the dearth of parking in this area of Venice.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Mark Ryavec, President
Venice Stakeholders Association

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