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West L.A. Planning Board Approves Disputed Venice Walk-Street Project

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By Paul Chavez, Venice Dispatch

The West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve a two-story redevelopment project on a quiet walk-street near Abbot Kinney Boulevard after the owner acquiesced to changes sought by neighbors.

The board voted 4-0 to approve a project permit for the demolition of two existing single-family dwelling units at 1627 So. Crescent Pl. and the construction of a new two-story single-family dwelling on the lot.

The project by applicant Rodger Klein had been appealed by walk-street neighbors Gigi Gaston, a writer-director whose mother was the last wife of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, and her partner Sophie B. Hawkins, a singer best known for her 1992 hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.”

The project’s third proposal approved Wednesday lowered its height from 27-feet to 24-feet and it was scaled back from three stories to two stories. The project’s earlier proposals fell within zoning requirements, but were appealed due to concerns over mass and scale.

Sarah Dennison of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Land Use and Planning Committee had been assigned to the project and told the commissioners that committee members were “confounded” by subjective mass and scale judgments of projects. Jake Kaufman, chair of the land use committee, asked the commissioners for more guidance in regards to determining if a project’s character, mass and scale is appropriate.

Thomas Donovan, vice president of the West L.A. Area Planning Commission, told Kaufman that commissioners were unable to prejudge projects and were reluctant to establish character, mass and scale guidelines.

Arnold Springer, a longtime Venice resident, spoke during public comment and urged permit reviewers to walk down the street and examine the streetscape to determine if a project fits within the character, mass and scale of the neighborhood. He and other neighbors were opposed to earlier plans for the project.

Gaston said afterward that she was pleased with the way things turned out.

“It was a unified neighborhood wanting to keep their neighborhood as a neighborhood and Mr. Klein and his team actually listened to his neighbors,” Gaston said. “I kind of feel like we have the ending of a Frank Capra movie. We the people and we the neighbors can stay within the limits of mass and scale.”

She also thanked the commissioners for listening to and considering the concerns of neighbors.

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