An Open Letter to the Residents of Venice from Proposed Abbot Kinney Hotel Developer

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I asked Dan Abrams, the developer of the proposed Hotel on Abbot Kinney, if he and his team would like to share their plans with the community here on Yo! Venice!, as most of us cannot attend the various meetings in which such projects are discussed.

From the Abbot Kinney hotel team:

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent weeks and months about our proposal for a hotel on Abbot Kinney.  We’ve heard tons of support and excitement, along with a number of concerns.  We have had 3 community meetings and are looking forward to our 5th Land Use and Planning Committee (LUPC) meeting tonight.  We have had countless personal meetings and casual conversations with community members and stakeholders and will have many more.  Most recently, we had a booth at the Abbot Kinney Festival on Sunday where we spoke to many of you – it was great to get that one on one interaction with people to help familiarize the community with the project.

Hotel on Abbot Kinney: Abbot Kinney Front View 1Rendering: proposed Hotel as seen from Abbot Kinney

As Venice locals who love this neighborhood, it’s always been our priority to seek out the community’s feedback and improve the project with that feedback in mind.  We’ve already done quite a bit of listening and making changes and will continue to do so.  It’s not an easy process as, naturally, different people have different points of view – it’s been said that if you get 4 Venetians in a room you’ll get at least 5 different opinions.  But we’re doing our best, and truly appreciate that one of the many wonderful things about Venice is how much people care about and get involved with their community.

As we move forward, we would like to correct some misinformation that’s been circulating about the project.  With that in mind, we encourage you to visit our informational website: www.abbotkinneyhotel.com.  The FAQ section is specifically intended to address a lot of the questions and concerns that have arisen, and we have pasted it in its entirety at the bottom of this letter.  We hope you’ll click around on the site and start to get a sense of what we’re all about.  This is just a start, and the site will grow as the process moves along.

Hotel on Abbot Kinney: AK and Broadway 2Rendering: proposed Hotel as seen from Abbot Kinney at Broadway

We also want to share an important announcement regarding the project.  As many people know, we’ve been proposing to build a partial 4th floor for the hotel.  This would require that the project be granted an exception to the Venice Specific Plan’s height restriction.  For more on how we’ve been approaching this request for an exception with the community, click here.

Opinions on this request for an exception have been widely varied: many feel, as we do, that it helps the project in numerous ways; many feel that the 4 very low-income affordable apartment units on site we proposed are an equitable exchange to the community for the exception we’ve requested and set a positive precedent for the granting of a Specific Plan Exception; many don’t know or don’t care about the height limit; and to be sure, many feel very strongly that no project in Venice should exceed the height limit under any circumstances.

After a lot of listening, discussions, and much consideration, we have decided to remove our request for the height exception, and will make the project work without the 4th floor.  We’ve determined that the burden of being the project that sets the bar for what is a justifiable exception is not one we want as part of this project’s legacy.  Therefore, as an expression of our long-term commitment to the community, and in order to foster a productive process going forward, we feel this is the best course.

Hotel on Abbot Kinney: Electric Ave View 3Rendering: proposed Hotel as seen from Electric Ave

We know we’re never going to please everybody, but our sincere intent is to do something positive for the future of this community, and we’d like to move forward in that spirit.  Yes, we are trying to build a successful business, but equally important to us is to contribute something that has multiple, lasting benefits to this neighborhood that we love.

(Note: the website and the FAQ’s still reflect the project with the 4th floor.  We will begin changing it to show the revised project as soon as possible.)

One of the few things it seems most Venice residents would agree with is the desire to keep Venice local and independent, and that’s one of the biggest driving forces behind our endeavor.  Change is often uncomfortable, but we’d much rather see locals contribute to the process than leave it all to big brands and corporations.  The property remaining in its current state is not one of the viable options.  We feel we have an excellent concept and the right team to execute it.

As always, we look forward to more meaningful dialogue with our friends and neighbors, hope you’ll reach out directly if you have questions or concerns and really appreciate any feedback and support.

The Abbot Kinney hotel team – Dan Abrams, David Hertz, Steve Edwards and Greg Reitz

FAQ

In this FAQ, we will try to address some of the details and common questions about the project.  This list is by no means complete, and we will add to it over time.  Please reach out to us for more information if your questions are not answered here.

Q: Who’s doing this project?
A:  Locals.  Not a big hotel company.  See Team Section.

Q: Why a hotel?
A: Because we love great, independent, boutique hotels, and a hotel has much greater community-serving potential than another office building or set of high-priced condos.  A hotel creates jobs, provides communal spaces, and ideally, generates enough revenue to support myriad social and cultural programs for the enjoyment and benefit of the local community.  We’ve heard from many of our friends and neighbors who love the idea of having a hotel in the neighborhood, and can’t wait for it to open.

Venice has roughly 16 million visitors a year and very few hotel rooms.  We’d like to give some of those people a place to stay at night rather than driving back to their hotel in Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, or elsewhere.

This is one of the few blocks in the neighborhood designated as “Community Commercial”, where a hotel is described as a “preferred use” in the Venice Local Coastal Program.  Among other things, this means it wouldn’t be that easy for other hotels to be developed in the immediate area.

Q: What kind of hotel will it be?
A: Independent, boutique, with a Venice-inspired look and feel, and as locally-integrated as possible.  A place where any Venetian would be happy to have a friend, family member, client, or colleague stay.  A place that will become one of the new favorite spots for coffee, meals, drinks, casual meetings, and just hanging out. We will showcase local artists, incorporate pieces of Venice history, and reach out to the community in as many ways as we (and hopefully you) can dream up.

Q: How many rooms will the hotel be?
A: (this will now change) 74 rooms in the first phase.  Assuming it’s successful, we’d add 18 more rooms roughly 5 to 7 years from now in a second phase, for a total of 92.  For comparison, the Hotel Erwin is 119 rooms. In Santa Monica: Casa Del Mar (129), Shutters (198), Viceroy (162), and the smaller boutiques: Georgian (84), Shangri-La (70), Oceana (70).

Q: What stays and what goes away?
A: Joe’s, Primitivo, and The Venice Place building will stay.  We will build above Joe’s, but stepped back significantly from the edges to reduce the visual impact.  The small office bungalow behind Primitivo will be removed.  Willie Jane’s building will be redone, expanded, and will become the hotel restaurant.  The new garden at 1033 AK will most likely relocate to the roof of the hotel.

Q: What about Dr. Jerry’s Sculpture Garden?
A: It stays, possibly in a modified form in collaboration with Dr. Jerry.  The courtyard/garden has always been one of our favorite things about the property.  In fact, it was the inspiration for our plan to double or triple the size of the current courtyard area, providing indoor/outdoor common space that we see as the beating heart of the hotel, and a place for the community to come relax and socialize.

Q: How tall will the project be?
A: (this will now change) It will have varying heights – from 1 to (possibly) 4 stories. Our proposal is to only have the 4th floor in the center of the property, significantly set back off the edges so there will be no additional sightline or shading impact over an allowable 3-story building.

We are asking for this height exception because we honestly feel it makes the project better in many ways. The twelve 4th floor rooms also make it much easier to keep the existing buildings for Joe’s and Primitivo.  But we are not making this request in a vacuum.  We have offered what we believe are compelling community benefits in exchange for this exception. If it is determined that it is not an acceptable or equitable exchange we will remove our request for the 4th floor.

Q: How much parking will the project have?
A: The project will be parked to the Venice Specific Plan code (or above) at approximately 178 parking spaces. Parking will be largely underground using an automated mechanical parking system.

Q: Will you be eliminating street parking?
A: No.

Q:  Won’t the project create a lot of extra traffic and congestion?
A:  We have hired very experienced professionals, done our research, and made changes to the project to reduce this impact.  The traffic will get a bit heavier overall, but unlike with offices, apartments, or condos, hotel traffic is diffused throughout the day and not concentrated at peak rush hour.  There are currently 3 restaurants on the property, and there will continue to be 3, with one being a bit larger than it is currently.  An alternative project with ground floor retail and office above, which is the most financially attractive option, would produce much greater traffic for the area.

We will be encouraging guests not to bring a car, so they can better experience Venice as many locals do, on bikes, skateboards, and their own two feet.  We will have bikes and skateboards available for free, and are investigating other creative traffic mitigation strategies.

As far as congestion, we increased the size of the valet court on the property so any queueing cars can easily get off Electric.  We eliminated back up driveways onto Electric, and we put the dedicated loading and trash on Broadway.  We are also adding a sidewalk on the southwest side of Electric, and putting utilities underground (no poles) so people can walk and bike on that side of the street.  Congestion from trucks is covered below.

Q: How will the project deal with increased trash?
A: According to a study by Terry A. Hayes Associates the project will have an estimated 95% increase in trash above current uses.  We’ve designed the project’s trash area to be 3x its current size to accommodate the increase.  Additionally, it will use compactors, and it will be completely enclosed.  No additional trash truck trips will be needed above the current condition as the space will be bigger.  The increased amount of trash will only fill up another 10% of the trash truck that already comes to the property.

Q: How will the project deal with increased deliveries?
A:  Deliveries will increase somewhat, but we will try to coordinate deliveries among the uses.  We have created two loading zones that have a turnout in addition to the width of a normal parking space.

Q: What will the impacts of construction be?
A:  Construction is never fun for the neighbors and neighborhood, but we will do our very best to mitigate the effects of building this project.  We will have more specifics on this effort over time.

Q: What community outreach have you done?
A:  We have had 8 community meetings and will hold more.  We have had many personal meetings with community members and stakeholders.  We continue to develop and change our plans based on constructive feedback from the community.  We encourage you to come to a meeting or reach out to any of us directly to get more information on the project and give us your thoughts.

Q: Abbot Kinney Hotel – is that it’s name?
A:   No, we don’t have a name for it yet.  We have a couple of names we like, but no firm decision.  We’ll keep you posted!

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