In what a staff member described as a "strong precedent," the California Coastal Commission has rejected expansion of an existing business along Venice's oceanfront because it failed to provide new parking spaces.
The commission unanimously refused to allow Galper/Baldon Associates, an architectural firm, to add new office space and two walk-up food outlets to its building at 723 Ocean Front Walk.
Lisa A. Horowitz, the commission staff planner who recommended denial of the expansion permit, said that the action reflects the commission's concern about parking problems near the Venice beachfront.
"This is a very strong precedent," Horowitz said. "The commission has been very tough on new construction from the ground up, requiring adequate additional parking for new development. In this particular case, the commission ruled that new parking also will be required for expansion of an existing building."
Michael L. Dieden, a planning consultant representing Galper/Baldon, characterized the commission decision as unfair to a firm that was a pioneer in upgrading Venice beachfront businesses.
In 1975, Galper/Baldon acquired the property, a vacated synagogue, restored the building and converted it into offices.
"Everyone would agree that the rehabilitation work the firm did on the building was exceptional," Dieden said. "But the commission now is saying that we must provide new parking on-site, a requirement that simply is not possible."
The firm proposed adding 2,600 square feet of new office space to the existing 5,000-square-foot building, as well as 750 square feet for two walk-up food outlets.
Proposed Leasing Parking
To satisfy requirements for additional parking, Galper/Baldon proposed leasing 20 parking spaces from a privately operated beach parking lot.
The commission maintained that leasing those spaces would deprive beachgoers of critically needed parking.
But Dieden said there were many unused parking spaces in the lot during the week when employees of the firm were working in the building.
"Employees do not work on weekends, when there is a premium for beach parking," Dieden said. "During weekdays, there are plenty of unused parking spaces."
Dieden said the firm has not yet decided whether to resubmit the application or make changes in it to try to satisfy commission concerns. He noted that the City of Los Angeles previously had approved the project.
"But, of course, the commission has the ultimate authority over building in the coastal zone," he said.