After getting approval for a major hotel on the Sunset Strip, Los Angeles architect Eric Owen Moss is striking out for still more nettlesome terrain: Venice, California, where he’s now seeking consent for a building 35 feet higher than current planning standards. That mixed-use project, proposed for one of the busiest intersections in the area, pits Moss and his well-connected development team against some of the most effective community activists in LA.
Moss and his firm head into battle with momentum from his August 6 victory in West Hollywood, where the planning commission overruled the recommendation of its own staff and gave the nod to an 11-story hotel and adjoining condo complex, set for a site at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Doheny Drive. Among other things, staffers had cited the scale of the project, which exceeds allowed height limits for the residential street at its rear border by 70 feet, and boasts a FAR of 4.07, the highest approved since West Hollywood was founded in 1984.
But the commission brushed aside such worries and instructed city officials to negotiate a development agreement for the endeavor. The approval brings valuable transit occupancy taxes from its hotel component, and developer Weintraub Financial Services has agreed to negotiate a similar payment for the project’s 48 time-share units.
In Venice, Moss has proposed a V-shaped plan on a tight, 120-by-125-foot site at 1020 Venice Boulevard, where a roughly triangular parcel is formed where Venice crosses Lincoln Boulevard. The project contains 40 apartments, of which about 30 percent would be affordable, rising five floors above a concrete platform and 5,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space. Each bar of the V would bulge toward its streetwall at midpoint. A narrow, triangular courtyard would cut through the top five floors, providing ventilation for the residential units. Rooftop solar panels would cascade down the building’s south face.
Moss, who is working with developer Valley Heart Group, is seeking several variances for the project, which falls under the purview of the Venice Coastal Specific Plan. If granted, the variances would double the lot’s density from 1.5:1 to 3:1. The project will also need to obtain permission for its 65-foot height, which far exceeds the city’s limit of 30 feet.
Representatives of the developer have cited the project’s location on a major transit corridor as a reason for the density boost. In addition, they point out, the project would generate housing stock on a currently vacant lot, provide four units of very low income housing and eight units of workforce housing, and generate solar power.
Such arguments have not swayed some Venice residents. “There’s no guarantee that there’s going to be light rail transit on Lincoln,” said land-use activist David Ewing, who is the co-chair of Council District 11’s Transportation Advisory Committee. “It’s one alternative being looked at, but it presents a lot of engineering difficulties.”
Local activists have successfully blocked big projects before, and they have vowed to do the same again. The Venice Neighborhood Council voted to oppose Moss’ designs in June, and while Valley Heart has filed an application with the city, the project has yet to be heard by a zoning administrator.