A plan for a mixed-use 57-room hotel on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Brooks Avenue in Venice that received opposition in recent months from community members and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has been rejected by the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission.
The commission voted unanimously Wednesday, September 19th, to disapprove the hotel project as submitted.
The Ambrose Group proposed to construct the five-story Hotel Ray above a two-level subterranean parking garage containing 88 spaces at 901 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice.
The proposal received the support of community groups last year, including the Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee and the council’s Board of Officers but it continued to be an issue of contention for some residents who expressed concerns particularly with the hotel’s size. Other concerns were related to traffic and parking issues.
Residents in opposition said the project’s challenge to sections of the Venice Community Specific Plan, which limits projects with flat roofs in the area to 30 feet, were unacceptable. Rosendahl had also cited the hotel’s exceptions to the Specific Plan as an issue of concern and said he would not offer his support unless the developer made changes.
The West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission sided with those in opposition when it denied a planning staff report that recommended that certain Specific Plan exceptions be granted.
Resident Dennis Hathaway, who had come out against the proposed Specific Plan exceptions, was pleased with the commission’s denial.
“The exceptions to the Specific Plan were so large in terms of height and density,” Hathaway said. “It would have set a terrible precedent for other developers to ask for more.”
The plan for the 48,000-square-foot project included 1,165 square feet of ground floor retail space, a 3,950-square-foot restaurant and an approximately 2,750-square-foot health spa.
A portion of the storage facility that was part of the studio complex of furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames was to be incorporated in the project. It was also proposed to have sustainable or “green” features for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, including landscaped open areas and solar panels.
The Ambrose Group sought to obtain plan exceptions allowing a maximum height of 55 feet and a floor area ratio of 2.06-to-1.
Laurie LeBoy, another resident who had issue with the exceptions, was also pleased to see that the commission responded to community concerns.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” LeBoy said of the commission vote. “I think they’re finally listening.”
“We have a law that’s in place and either you believe in it or you don’t,” she added, referring to the Venice Specific Plan.
Prior to the planning commission vote, the Venice Neighborhood Council voted to support a Land Use and Planning Committee recommendation to support the project staff report with several conditions, including that the project height conform to the Specific Plan.
The disapproval by the area planning commission came as a disappointment to project developers, who said they had worked for two years to bring the project to Venice.
“The vote was disappointing after such a long process,” said Kristen Lonner, a spokeswoman for the developer.
Lonner said project developers had received a lot of positive response from the community and worked to address resident concerns since they first presented the plans. Aware that the project would challenge the Specific Plan, developers appeared at public meetings and held open houses to meet with residents, she said.
“We feel that there was extensive community outreach and extensive support,” Lonner said.
James Williams, West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission executive assistant, said the commission may reconsider the project if the developer returns with a proposal that is a “better fit” with the Venice Specific Plan.
But Lonner said the Ambrose Group has not decided if it will return with another hotel proposal.
“We’re evaluating our options at this time,” Lonner said.