Opponents worry the project will crowd Venice Beach with commuters and threaten its recreational vibe
By Gary Walker
Plans to build a nearly 29,000-square-foot office building alongside the Venice boardwalk are in their nascent stages, but community opposition is already brewing.
Investment group Boardwalk Sunset LLC has hired prominent Venice architect Glen Irani to design the three-story structure at 601 Ocean Front Walk, currently a ground-level parking lot where Sunset Avenue meets the boardwalk.
In addition to the 22,000-plus square feet of office space, the development would include 5,254 square feet of retail, an 800-square-foot live/work space and two levels of subterranean parking.
A group of residents along or near Ocean Front Walk met on May 27 at the Sunset Avenue home of John Stein to discuss the project and strategies for opposing it.
“Were this building built as proposed, the six-block-long neighborhood behind it would suffer the pressure, regardless of any cumulative effect, from setting a precedent for office development up and down Ocean Front Walk,” Stein wrote in a handout that was distributed at the meeting. “But such a precedent would encourage more office buildings to be built on similarly situated and similarly designated commercial properties not currently zoned for office development.”
Many of those in attendance have been involved in battling other large-scale or controversial commercial and residential projects over the last decade.
While several at the meeting argued that the proposed project was not in compliance with the Venice Specific Plan or other city zoning laws, Los Angeles city planner Kevin Jones said the project site is zoned for commercial as well as mixed-use developments.
“This project 100 percent conforms to the [Venice Specific Plan]. We are prepared to counter [Stein’s] arguments on that,” Irani said.
The project has not yet reached the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee for discussion, committee chair Robin Rudisill said.
Stein expressed concert that opening up the boardwalk to creative office space could threaten the beach’s recreational and retail character.
“What would we want instead of having Ocean Front Walk turn into an office park? For me, I think it comes down to wanting things that foster community, and things that make it possible for artists and musicians to still live in Venice. This is what makes Venice unique, what draws people here and makes them want to stay,” Stein said.
Former Venice Neighborhood Council member Yvonne Guzman suggested asking Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin to call on his council colleagues to temporarily halt boardwalk construction. In April the council halted construction of large houses on small lots in east Venice and Westchester’s Kentwood neighborhood.
Stein worries that the office project would eliminate public parking spaces for the beach and nearby businesses, but Irani said the proposal and its subterranean parking structure would preserve most of the existing spaces.
Irani said the project is not designed with the Westside’s burgeoning tech center specifically in mind, but for workers and retailers who in general reflect either the traditional or contemporary creative endeavors associated with Venice.
“Venice is the creative heartbeat of the city, if not the nation. If we don’t provide creative office spaces for these types of businesses, they’re going to go other places, like Playa Vista,” he said.
Irani said the developer plans to hold a community meeting where residents can learn more details about the project, but a hard date has not been