By Pegarty Long
Two of Venice’s oldest houses are about to make way for a new mixed-use project which will include a fine dining glass-enclosed restaurant and two apartments on the building’s second level.
The now boarded-up homes are located at 811-815 Ocean Front Walk (OFW). They were built circa 1905 and represent two of the few remaining original houses on Venice’s OFW. The owners of the property, Vera and Gary Sutter, have submitted an application to the city for a “new mixed-use project consisting of two residential units and a ground floor restaurant with full alcohol bar.” There will be subterranean parking with mechanical lifts and tandem parking with parking attendant.
The owners say that the project fully complies with the Venice Coastal Zone Specific Plan.
A community meeting, hosted by the architect, John Reed, was held on January 19 to present the plans and renderings for the project.
Long-time residents from the surrounding area attended. A large percentage of the attendees were from Park Avenue, the Venice street which will be most affected by the project.
The plan is for two residential apartments, a fine dining restaurant that will seat 100 and a bar in the back that will seat 16. Hours of operation will be Sunday to Thursday 8am to midnight and Friday and Saturday 9am to 1am. There will be 28 underground parking spaces for the patrons and the building’s residents. No spaces will be allotted for surrounding Venice residents. It will take about 14 to 16 months before construction can begin, given the many applications that must be submitted, and 14 more months of construction, according to Reed.
The chief concerns of the residents were backed up traffic, pollution from the traffic, and noise by the comings and goings of the patrons in the late restaurant hours.
Their small alley, Park Court and surrounding Speedway, a one-way alley, would be the only routes to the restaurant, and street parking in the area is scant.They did not think that 28 parking spaces could accommodate two apartments and a dining room of 100 seats plus 16 in the bar. Reed countered that there would be layered and elevator parking plus valet and that that would help. The residents believe that would cause backed-up traffic on both Park and Speedway while the cars are being parked. Reed countered that they expect much walk-in business from the people on the Ocean Front Walk. Residents emphatically did not think so. They thought that people on the Ocean Front Walk generally are there for sun and fun and not for fine dining, nor would they be properly dressed for it. They also reminded Reed of the midnight curfew on Ocean Front Walk. Reed responded that the patrons would be asked to leave from the back area during the curfew hours.
Residents also raised the question that those patrons who want fine dining with open bay windows overlooking Ocean Front Walk might find the Ocean Front Walk scene offensive, sometimes even repulsive, and not conducive to fine dining. Reed said he lives in Venice and he knew what the scene was, and didn’t think that would be a problem because the bay windows of the restaurant could be opened or closed.
Residents brought up the transients in the area and the many who sleep around Park Avenue at night. Reed answered that the owners of the property and he had been in contact with “Mike” (Councilman Mike Bonin) about this and that they were assured by Bonin that he was working on the the problem and it is being resolved.
On the issue of excessive noise, besides the comings and goings of traffic and people from 8am until 12 midnight or 1am each day of the week, Reed was made aware that on Ocean Front Walk musicians are drawn to playing in front of restaurants and other eating places and disturb residents by playing loudly and frequently, often with bongos. These musicians would attempt to get restaurant patrons’ attention and money. The residents were assured by Reed that the building will block any noise because of its sheer size.
Reacting negatively to these statements, the residents also voiced their concerns about the underground water problems that arise when digging deeply into the ground for the underground parking in this area of Venice. They advised the architect to seek consultation with the builders of Thornton Lofts, a large condominium with underground parking a few blocks away. That project was stalled for over a year and went over the estimated budget because of the water that surfaced while digging. Venice, which is located right by the ocean, was built on landfill. (As many seasoned Venetians know, when founder Abbot Kinney flipped that coin in the air and won the toss to choose which of two large areas of real estate to build on, he famously chose what seemed to be the least desirable for his dream of a Venice of America… a swamp.)
When Reed was asked why he did not design a building which would incorporate the existing historical buildings in his design he answered, “this is what the owners want”.
At the end of the meeting Reed thanked all for expressing their concerns.
The project will be presented to the Venice Neighborhood Council land use and planning committee. Time and place can be confirmed at: http://www.grvnc.org.