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Approval Follows 7 Years of Negotiations : Coastal Commission OKs Venice Promenade Complex

December 26, 1985|BARBARA BAIRD | Times Staff Writer

After years of negotiations with Venice residents and community groups, developer Thomas Safran has received California Coastal Commission approval for a five-story oceanfront condominium, apartment and retail project.

Safran earlier this year received Los Angeles City Council approval for the 55,000-square-foot Venice Promenade. Now that he has the Coastal Commission's approval he hopes to proceed with construction.

"This is after nearly seven years of trying to get this project through," said Bess Barrows, a member of Safran's staff. "This time, our former opponents have become allies, and they appeared along with us (to ask for commission approval)."

She said that through lengthy negotiations on such issues as parking and affordable housing, agreement was reached with groups that formerly opposed Safran's plans--the Venice Town Council and the Navy Estates Homeowners' Assn.

A group called the Ozone Coalition opposed the project at a Coastal Commission hearing, but commissioners voted 8 to 2 in favor of it.

The project is to be built at the northern end of Ocean Front Walk between Navy Street and Ozone Avenue, on what is now a half-acre, 100-car parking lot.

Proof of Affordable Housing

As a condition of approval, the commission directed Safran to offer proof that he will provide affordable housing units for senior citizens for 30 years. Also, the commission ruled that the project must not encroach on Ocean Front Walk, according to commission staff members.

The project will feature turn-of-the-century beachfront architecture and will include 4,600 square feet of retail development on the ground floor; 35 condominiums, nine of them subsidized for low-income residents; 21 rental apartments for low-income elderly; a manager's apartment and 144 parking spaces.

The condominiums and apartments for low-income residents will be priced according to guidelines established by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Safran first sought approval in 1979 for a residential development at 151-187 Ocean Front Walk, but neighbors fought the proposal because of concerns about parking and affordable housing.

The Venice Town Council and the Navy Estates homeowners won concessions from the West Los Angeles developer, who modified the project's size and shape, parking capacity, retail offerings and housing mix.

Under the agreement finally reached with these two groups, the developer gave up plans to include a sit-down restaurant where alcoholic beverages could be served. The approved plan instead calls for a mostly residential project with a ground floor of mixed retail uses.

The project was approved by the Los Angeles City Council's Planning Environment Committee and the full council in July, and by the Coastal Commission at the close of a marathon meeting at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 18.

The commission staff had recommended that the height be limited to 38 feet and that the amount of parking be increased, but the commission approved the five-story, 56-foot project with 144 parking spaces.

Teresa Henry, an analyst for the Coastal Commission, said that commissioners believed that the 56-foot height was acceptable and would add variety to lower-rise development in the area.

Plan Approved

The commission did not discuss the staff's recommendation for more parking, Henry said, but approved the 144-space plan. Henry said the staff is afraid the parking configuration may not be adequate.

Safran must meet commission conditions--demonstrating that he can provide long-term affordable housing for the elderly and that the project will not encroach on Ocean Front Walk--before the coastal permit will be given, Henry said.

In an interview after the city planning committee approved the project in July, Jim Bickhart of the Venice Town Council said the group is satisfied with the plan as being the best compromise that could be reached.

"Accepting the final reality of the marketplace these days, we know he (Safran) has to build a fairly substantial building in order to make a profit," he said. "We would prefer a smaller building, or an all-senior building, but those things aren't possible right now."

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