By Gary Walker

Venice homeowners who have been fighting a developer’s plan to build up to 15 homes on three lots across from the Abbott Kinney Library have succeeded in getting an earlier approval of the project overturned.
The development proposed for 522 S. Venice Blvd. would include five single-family homes and five attached duplexes — a 25,450 square-foot project on a 18,484 square-foot lot, according to a Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee staff report.
A large home being used by a video production business currently occupies the site.
Opponents criticized the proposed three-story project, as tall as 43 feet in some places, as oversized and out of character for the area.
Representatives for the developer, Kalnel Gardens Inc., did not return calls or could not be reached.
The Venice Neighborhood Council voted to oppose the project twice this year, but the project was later approved by the Los Angeles Planning Commission, despite substantial community opposition.
Homeowners appealed, and on Dec. 4 the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission overturned the earlier approval.
Kalnel can still make an appeal to the Los Angeles City Council, though local Councilman Mike Bonin has said he would vote against it.
“Simply put, the project is just too big for the property,” wrote Bonin in a letter to the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission before its decision. “Many of the block in the area contain only 15 or 16 houses, which means this project proposes an entire block’s worth of development on one lot. The proposed project also lacks thoughtful design and instead proposes large expanses of unarticulated facades that tower over the neighborhood.”
Echoing the concerns of neighborhood council members, Bonin also criticized the proposed building as out of compliance with zoning laws, too tall for the surrounding area and a potential traffic hazard due to a planned driveway along narrow and congested Mildred Avenue.
A report by the neighborhood council’s land use committee had also expressed concerns about the developer’s “proven record of ignoring community recommendations” and that the project’s fencing and narrow setback would create traffic visibility problems.
“What we wanted was for the project to be a little more in scale with the neighborhood and adhere to the Venice Specific Plan [which sets development guidelines],” said Regan Kebbe, who lives less than a block from the proposed project.
Actress Alley Mills, a resident of the Venice canals who was one of two people to appeal the project’s approval, hopes the appeal’s success will start “a wave of community unity” against overdevelopment of the area.
“[The appeal] shows that if you’re willing to work together as a community, you can find a solution to anything,” Mills said.
gary(at)argonautnews.com

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