LA’s City Planning and Building and Safety departments, which we could not reach last week, have finally spoken up on the now-imperiled M Cube in Venice. To remind you LA City Council on Thursday rejected designer Mark Baez’s request to allow his floating modular, glass-clad, cube shaped apartment building an exception to remain two feet above the Venice Specific Plan’s requirement of 30 feet. Baez asserted that building inspectors informed him too late that the building was too tall, that his contractor bungled the height, and that the city was nitpicking over a height limit that other buildings are able to surpass. Baez may now resort to tearing down the building instead of going through with the costly changes. City planner Kevin Jones and building and safety investigator John Kelly beg to differ.
Jones says that Baez knew that his building had to be 30 feet tall; the project, he said, was granted that height in 2002 as part of a discretionary action allowing him to raise the height from 25 to 30 feet, and the 30 foot height was specified in his plans submitted to the city. “If you tell us that your building is going to be 30 feet in height then it has to be 30 feet in height,” said Jones. “When you are an architect and you prepare plans it means you are legally responsible for following all the laws that are in place,” he added. His planning report concludes that, “A Specific Plan Exception is not appropriate relief post hoc from a hardship created through negligence or misrepresentation.” Jones added that while some buildings in Venice can have mechanical systems measuring up to 35 feet, the buildings themselves must still measure under 30 feet.
As for the contractor error, Kelly said it wasn’t his department’s fault that Baez built the project higher than planned. ”That’s between him and his builders isn’t it?” he said. Baez must now come to terms with the city’s criminal proceedings against him. Baez has been living in the building and renting out units for years despite lacking a certificate of occupancy (that was held up due to the height limit battle).
Baez answered: “Their side of the story suggests that I didn’t have any approvals and I just built it on my own. I got every approval, every sign off to where I was,” said Baez. He acknowledges “Yes, the drawings indicate that the building was to be 30 feet; the result was an oversight by myself, my contractor, and everyone else.” That includes the city, who he still contends sent him mixed signals all along.