While a local developer plans to move forward with a proposal to construct a mixed-use development at the site of a Metro bus yard in Venice, some community members are expressing their opposition to the project as it is presently proposed.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board of directors has approved an agreement with the Venice-based developer RAD Jefferson, LLC to exchange the MTA Metro Bus terminal property at 100 Sunset Ave., Venice, for construction of a new transportation center in West Los Angeles.

Under the agreement, MTA plans to swap its 3.13-acre Venice bus yard property for a 4.66-acre site on Jefferson Boulevard, between Rodeo Road and National Boulevard in West Los Angeles, where RAD Jefferson plans to build a state-of-the-art transportation facility for MTA.

As part of the land-swap agreement, RAD Jefferson will gain title to the Venice MTA bus yard property, which is bordered by Main Street, Thornton Place and Pacific and Sunset Avenues.

RAD Jefferson has proposed to demolish the existing Venice bus yard facility and construct an approximately 255,766-square-foot mixed-use development consisting of 208 residential condominium units and 10,000 square feet of retail space at the site.

The proposed Sunset development would include 14 individual buildings varying in height from three to five stories, 30 feet to 56 feet in height.

The project also includes 39 density bonus units, of which 17 would be affordable to “very-low-income” residents, said Bill Christopher, MTA consultant.

But some Venice community residents have come out in opposition to the proposed development, primarily in relation to the project height and density.

“It’s too big and too tall,” said Challis MacPherson, Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee co-chair.

“I would like to see something smaller there that would relate more to Venice.”

The topic of the proposed project’s size was a main issue addressed at the Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee meeting Wednesday, October 19th, when committee members voted not to support the project as it is presently proposed.

Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council members also voted to not support the presently proposed project at a special council meeting Tuesday, October 25th.

Venice community members are opposed to RAD Jefferson’s plans to seek exceptions to the Venice Community Specific Plan in regard to allowable height and floor-area ratio at the bus yard site.

The city Planning Commission is scheduled to address recommendations by city planner Jon Foreman on whether the Specific Plan exceptions should be approved or denied.

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 27th, in Van Nuys, but the developer plans to ask for a hearing delay.

The Venice Specific Plan limits height for buildings with “varied rooflines” in the community to a maximum 35 feet, but RAD Jefferson seeks an exception to allow for a maximum height of 56 feet.

The developer also seeks an exception to allow for a ratio of 1.88 square feet of floor area to one square foot of land, when the Specific Plan allows for a maximum of only 1.5.

But the Specific Plan, which was created with the help of some community residents, has been in place for many years and community members do not favor any challenges to the plan, MacPherson asserted.

“We will not roll over on the Specific Plan,” said MacPherson, who added that height is the most important aspect challenged in the plan.

Christopher said that if the proposed height were to be lowered, it would create a more dense development on the ground.

“If there is more height it can allow for more open space,” he said.

While RAD Jefferson representatives presented some proposed changes at the land use meeting, including a reduction in the number of total residential units from 214 to 208, many community residents in attendance agreed that the proposed project is too big.

“The revised proposal remains too tall and too dense,” Steve Freedman said.

“I’m opposed to the project with the density, size and architecture of it,” Grass Roots Neighborhood Council vice president Naomi Nightingale said.

The MTA had considered a move from its 100-year-old Venice bus yard facility for many years, Christopher said. With the land-swap agreement, the developer will be able to construct a project at the bus yard site that is suitable to all parties, he said.

“We have a project in Venice that makes sense for MTA, the developer and the community as well,” Christopher said.

But some community members do not agree that the proposed project is in the best interest of Venice.

Resident concerns include increased traffic in the area, not enough affordable housing units, and too much development. Some residents support a moratorium on community development.

“This is the wrong project in the wrong place,” resident Jim Smith said.

“This has to be for the community first,” resident Marta Evry said.

The project’s proposed gated community component has also concerned residents, but the developer now plans to include a publicly accessible walk street through the development.

Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose 11th Council District includes Venice, has also expressed opposition to the currently proposed project.

“While most Venetians would agree that housing or mixed-use development is far preferable to a noisy, air-polluting bus yard in the heart of Venice, the nature and design of this project are incompatible with the community’s vision, need and desire,” Rosendahl wrote in a letter to Foreman.

Rosendahl said he was “troubled by the exemptions sought from the Venice Specific Plan” and would only support the exemptions if they were overwhelmingly supported by the community.

The councilman added that the developer should work with the community and Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council to develop a proposal that will “serve the community and reflect its character.”

In addition to voting to not support the presently proposed Sunset project October 19th, Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee members supported a motion that any future proposed projects at the bus yard site must meet certain conditions.

Among the conditions would be:

n a maximum height of 35 feet;

n installation of stop lights on Sunset Avenue and Main Street;

n all parking provided on-site, and

n inclusion in the development of ten percent of units for very-low-income residents and ten percent for moderate-income residents.

The Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council also voted to support the proposed conditions.

Christopher said the developer understands the community’s concerns about the Specific Plan exceptions and will consider the list of proposed conditions.

“We will do everything we can to accommodate the list of conditions,” Christopher said.

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