The Abbot Kinney Hotel is not the problem

Re: “Abbot Kinney Hotel plan clears first hurdle,” news, Feb. 27

The decision by the Venice Neighborhood Council to embrace responsible redevelopment was evident with the approval of the Abbot Kinney Hotel proposal.

An issue that became contentious and emotional, the decision to embrace this kind of project makes sense at so many levels. Architectural integrity, an expansion of commerce, greater tourist reception and jobs for locals certainly makes sense to me.

If one didn’t know any better, you would think someone was trying to build the MGM Grand and Abbot Kinney was now the Las Vegas Strip! But much of that rhetoric was put to rest when the architect who presented on behalf of the project made a truthful, passionate and facts-based plea to approve a hotel that is in compliance with the Venice Specific Plan.

Like it or not, Venice has changed.

But the change has to do with increasing residential home values, driven by market speculation and the notion one can maximize every square foot of living space per parcel with the application of the small lot subdivision.

Because of the accumulation of tear downs replaced with what I refer to as the “March of the Big Glass Houses,” longtime tenants have been driven out of the community because of the outrageous rents that continue to gentrify Venice.

For those who believe Venice is either diversified or affordable, think again.

A cursory examination of homes sold in January reveal the average price per square foot now north of $800 and almost every transaction in excess of $1 million. To own in Venice, one now needs to be a millionaire. To rent in Venice, one now needs to earn more than $100,000.

While a changing Venice hovers like a cloud over this project, the real issues of residential property mass, scale and character are the true cause for concern — not the construction of a boutique hotel by a reasonable Venice local like Mr. Abrams, which will create jobs and foster a sense of diversity in what is an international tourist destination with demands for hotel occupancy.

For some reason, Venice has now awoken to the reality that it has changed and changed dramatically.

But to try to use this project as a way to vent about that change is misguided.

Redevelopment in Venice will continue as long as small lot subdivisions and other attempts to replace the traditional beach bungalow with glass boxes (and no open space provisions) on these parcels become the norm rather than the exception.

This issue of change and the kind of change one wants should continue to be a topic of fervent discussion for all Venetians.

Nick Antonicello