A mixed use 57-room hotel planned for Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Brooks Avenue in Venice continues to be an issue of contention for some community members but project developers say they remain committed to addressing community concerns.

The Ambrose Group, project developer, plans 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 48,000-square-foot project includes 1,165 square feet of ground floor retail space, a 3,950-square-foot restaurant and an approximately 2,750-square-foot health spa.

As part of the project, two existing structures at the site are to be demolished and a portion of the storage facility that was formerly part of the studio complex of furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames is to be incorporated in the project.

The spa hotel is also proposed to have sustainable or “green” features for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, including landscaped open areas, solar panels, heat exchange systems and usage of recycled materials.

“This is an iconic, sustainable hotel,” said Deirdre Wallace, Ambrose Group president. “This is going to bring a much needed amenity to Venice.”

The project was first presented to the Venice community in December 2005 and has since received support from community groups, including the Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee and the council’s Board of Officers.

Nearly a year after the Neighborhood Council voted to support the Hotel Ray as presented, the project has been revisited by the Land Use and Planning Committee as residents in opposition continue to express concern, particularly in regard to the hotel’s size.

Residents in opposition have expressed various concerns at public meetings such as traffic and parking issues but a primary focus of contention has been the project’s challenge to sections of the Venice Community Specific Plan.

The Specific Plan states that the maximum height for projects with flat roofs in the area is 30 feet, but Ambrose Group has proposed a maximum height of 55 feet in one portion, a plan some residents say is unacceptable.

“The whole community worked very hard for a long time to reach the compromises that are embodied in the Specific Plan,” resident David Ewing said.

The project is also proposed to have a floor area ratio of 2.06-to-1, while the Specific Plan has a maximum floor area ratio of 1.5-to-1. The developer has sought to obtain exceptions to the Specific Plan for height and floor area ratio requirements, but some residents claim those are not justified.

“We’re opposed to the city granting piecemeal exceptions to the Venice Specific Plan,” resident Dennis Hathaway said. “The Specific Plan came about with a lot of community involvement and it’s the voice of the community.”

Others have voiced their frustrations with the amount of development that continues to come into Venice and surrounding communities, and say that the Hotel Ray would be too large for that location.

“I feel it’s very out of proportion to the community,” resident Laurie LeBoy said.

While some community members agreed that the hotel will be too big for the site, they applauded the project for offering green features and incorporating a portion of the Eames studio.

“I think it’s exciting that the developers are looking to build sustainably,” said resident Kate Lutz. “But the footprint is going to be too big for the neighborhood as it’s currently planned.”

Wallace said the developer has received a lot of positive response from the community regarding the project and will continue to work with concerned residents on the issues of height.

The developer was aware that the project would challenge some Specific Plan requirements and has been committed to addressing resident concerns, appearing at public meetings and holding open houses, Wallace said.

“We’ve been reaching out to various groups in the community,” Wallace said.

Kristen Lonner, a spokeswoman for the developer, said Ambrose Group has worked with the community since it first presented the project plans.

“We’ve worked with the community for almost two years and we will continue to work with them, particularly on parking,” Lonner said. “We won’t stop the community outreach effort.”

In response to ongoing community concerns, the Neighborhood Council Land Use and

Planning Committee revisited the project Wednesday, September 5th, with a Department of City Planning staff report prepared by zoning administrator Jim Tokunaga.

According to the staff report, the project developer has requested Specific Plan exceptions for a maximum height of 55 feet and a maximum floor area ratio of 2.06-to-1, but city planning staff have recommended disapproval for the floor area exception, as well as the top height of 55 feet.

Planning staff have instead recommended a specific plan exception allowing a maximum height of 40 feet, six inches for guest room floors and 45 feet for the rooftop pool deck.

At the September 5th meeting, the council’s Land Use and Planning Committee voted to support the City Planning staff report with several conditions including that the project height conform with the Venice Specific Plan and that the traffic study be redone.

The committee is scheduled to address its staff report recommendations at the Venice Neighborhood Council meeting Tuesday, September 18th.

Land Use committee chair Challis Macpherson noted that the committee has already supported the hotel and she remains in favor of the project.

“This project is uniquely designed and it has a lot of open space,” Macpherson said.

The Hotel Ray proposal is scheduled to be addressed by the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission Wednesday, September 19th, but Wallace said the developer has requested to move the item to the meeting scheduled Wednesday, October 17th, to allow for more time to meet with the community.

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