Offering a mix of residential and commercial uses at one of the primary intersections in Venice, a proposed development designates a portion as affordable housing, but some community members have assailed the project’s planned 65-foot height.

Developer Valley Heart Group LLC has proposed to construct a 36,000-square foot residential complex consisting of 40 multi-family units and 5,000 square feet of commercial space at 1020 Venice Blvd., the southwest corner of Lincoln and Venice boulevards. Four of the units would be designated for very low income tenants and eight units would be identified as workforce housing.

The project would include two levels of subterranean parking and would rise six stories, including ground-floor retail, for a maximum height of 65 feet. Project spokesman Jerry Neuman said the complex would provide 69 parking spaces and would offer green features including solar panels on the south side of the building and roof.

The planned development, designed by renowned architect Eric Owen Moss, has an opening on the southwest faÁade to allow for ocean breezes and includes a 3,200-square foot interior courtyard. Representatives of the developer presented the project plans at a meeting of the Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee Wednesday, May 27th.

Neuman said the project aims to serve a transit-oriented environment at a primary Venice intersection with several bus lines operating in the area and a potential future light rail, as well as fulfill affordable housing needs.

“This project was conceived with the understanding that there is a need for density along identified transit corridors and a need for housing at an affordable level,” Neuman said.

“That intersection of Lincoln and Venice is one of the most prominent intersections and as such, having an iconic building is important, so we went to a world renowned architect.”

Eric Owen Moss Architects has designed a variety of projects both nationally and internationally, including university facilities, office buildings, corporate headquarters and theaters such as a multi-theater performance center in Los Angeles.

While some residents say they support the concept of a mixed-use project at the property, they have taken issue with the proposal’s challenge to the Venice Community Specific Plan, as it rises to 65 feet, more than double the plan’s maximum allowable height of 30 feet. Community members note that many Venice residents were involved in creating the Specific Plan and say that its requirements need to be respected.

“If the height were to be allowed it would just blow apart the Venice Specific Plan,” said Harris Levey, member of the Presidents Row Neighborhood Association, which has opposed the project as presented.

Resident Laura Silagi also spoke of the Specific Plan challenge, saying “Developers are constantly coming in to Venice and asking for more than is allowed so the community has to fight the same fight over and over again.”

Residents say they fear that such exceptions to the plan would set a precedent for other future developments.

“It’s a stalking horse for every other developer that wants to blast our Specific Plan,” Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee co-chair Challis Macpherson said.

Community members have cited other potential impacts with the development such as traffic at an already congested intersection and access/egress onto a residential street, but are primarily concerned that the project is out of scale with the neighborhood.

“We are a beach community and we can’t support a building of this size,” Levey said. “It’s a really nice project but it doesn’t belong here.”

Neuman rejected the claim that beachside communities can not support six-story projects and said the development aims to conform with the Venice community.

“The goal is to create a green building that is architecturally recognizable and in alliance with the Venice community and its forward thinking nature,” Neuman said. “We think it’s an important intersection in the community and providing a building that establishes a sense of place is important.”

The developer appreciates the concerns of the community but in regards to the project size, the developer believes there is a philosophic difference with the community on the need to provide density along a transit-oriented corridor, Neuman said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he previously spoke with developer representatives and encouraged them to set aside 30 percent of units as affordable to help accommodate the housing need. The councilman said it is still too early to take a position on the development and he will wait to see what the community decides.

“I challenged (the developer) to get 30 percent affordable and to get the community backing; if you don’t get (the backing) you don’t get my support,” he said.

After receiving input from residents at the May 27th meeting, the Land Use and Planning Committee voted to oppose the plan as presented. The proposal is scheduled to be addressed by the full neighborhood council at its meeting later this month.

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