On October 17th, Len Judaken, the developer of 522 Venice, will go before the Venice Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee to present plans for the property. Click here to download the meeting agenda. Below is the press release from the developer as well as the letter he has sent to community members.
In an open letter to Venice leaders and arts and affordable housing activists, developer Len Judaken has offered to double the number of affordable housing units his project would require and to invest in and work with a community-based effort to create an art park in Venice.
Mr. Judaken’s company, Kalnel Gardens, owns the property at 522 Venice Boulevard. While the company is entitled by right to develop 10 residential townhomes on the site, they have submitted to the Venice Neighborhood Council and Los Angeles planning agencies a request to expand the project to 12 units. To do so, they have asked the City to return to the development site a fragment of land, originally taken by Los Angeles for street improvement, which have been completed and the City no longer needs.
The expanded project, Venice Garden Lofts, will trigger a legal obligation to provide 1 unit of affordable housing under the Mello Act.* In his letter to the community, Mr. Judaken offers to double that number, providing 2 off-site low income units in Venice.
The letter also addresses the desire of a few Venice art advocates to use the fragment of land for an installation of ceramic sculpture. Mr. Judaken proposes, instead, to fund and work with a group of Venice residents to create a permanent art park for the community. His letter suggests that one possible site for the art installation could be Centennial Park, next door to Abbott Kinney Library, a gateway to Venice which would feature permanent and rotating works of art.
The Kalnel proposal is now before the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Planning & Land Use Committee, which will meet to consider the offer on Wednesday, October 17 (6:30 PM, Oakwood Recreation Center, 767 California). The public is welcome to attend.
* The City’s Mello Act rules require affordable housing for a project of this size and that a project that provides 10% for very low income housing is entitled to a 20% density bonus. Accordingly, Kalnel has applied to the City of Los Angeles to construct a total of 12 units.
Letter to the community from developer Len Judaken:
October 1, 2012
Over several months, as my family’s company has drawn its plans to develop the property at 522 South Venice Boulevard, I have met with many Venice community leaders and organizations. Those conversations have convinced me that an opportunity exists which can generate positive change for Venice. I am writing to ask that we work together to create that change.
I have been grateful for the support some have expressed for our plans, but I have also listened carefully to the objections of others. Some of those objections are technical, involving specific sections of the Los Angeles codes governing new development. We are carefully evaluating and addressing each of those and, at the suggestion of residents, we are prepared to consult a recommended Venice-based architect to make sure our design reflects concepts for new construction that Venice would like to see.
Beyond the technical issues, many community leaders have shared with me their vision for a better Venice. Their discussions have given me insight into two issues of great importance to the community’s residents.
First, Venice is firmly dedicated to making sure that affordable housing is part of its residential mix. This desire is so strong that Venice-based community organizations invested time, talent and significant resources in successful litigation which mandates that sizable developments in Venice provide affordable units. Our company admires that resolve. We also share it.
Second, Venice has a strong commitment to promote and celebrate the arts. In fact, some have suggested that a small patch of land, that was previously part of our property and was acquired some years ago by the City for street purposes and is no longer needed for those purposes, be used as an art park. However, that fragment is important to our development plans, so we’ve asked the City to return it.
The return of the City fragment will allow us to build a project of sufficient size (12 units) to contribute affordable housing units as envisioned by the Mello Act and the Venice Town Council’s settlement with the City. Without that fragment, our project will remain at 9 units, generating no affordable housing at all.
In fact, although 10 units on the site would require the set aside of one unit of affordable housing, we want to double that. As part of our project, we are ready to set aside two existing units we own in Venice as very low income housing, reducing their rents from $1,750 down to about $613. It is my intention to set aside the 2 affordable units for veteran and/or senior to the extent that is permissible.
At the same time, our family will commit resources and funds to a community-wide exploration of options which could produce a broader, more interactive arts showcase than the small patch of land can sustain. As one example, Centennial Park, just across the street from our property and next door to Abbott Kinney Library, might become a gateway which celebrates Venice’s thriving arts community with permanent and/or changing sculptures, art works, workshops and more. There may be other opportunities as well and we are eager to explore them with Venice leadership.
My family and I are asking for your help and support in this matter so that the small plot of land can be returned to its original intent. Your support will help expand the supply of much- needed very low income housing and launch a new arts showcase area in Venice.
Please join us on October 17 when the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Land Use Committee is scheduled to take up our proposal and again soon after when the full Neighborhood Council meets.
If you cannot attend those meetings, please let the Neighborhood Council know of your position on our plans by writing to them: Venice Neighborhood Council at P.O. Box 550, Venice CA 90294 or via email at info@VeniceNC.org.
I am also happy to hear from you about our plans and welcome your comments or suggestions. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, I’d be happy to talk with you about our plans and your thoughts about them as well – give me a call at 310-838-1816.
Let’s work together to enhance Venice’s reputation as a progressive and arts based community.