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