There have been a number of articles written about the shortage of housing in Los Angeles, especially on the Westside, a shortage that has exacerbated housing prices and intensified commuter traffic to and from the Westside neighborhoods. With the influx of new high tech jobs around “Silicon Beach,” demand to live close to those jobs has driven up home prices in the coastal communities nearby – namely Venice, Mar Vista, Santa Monica, and Westchester. With the new light rail system bringing commuters as far west as a block from the Santa Monica Pier some of the congestion may be eliminated, but it’s likely that much of the commuter traffic will continue.
In the Mar Vista community where I live, a large 50-unit, 5-story project is being proposed along Venice Boulevard. The maximum building height along the boulevard is presently only four stories, which this project will exceed. The site of the project will be along a section of Venice Boulevard that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has designated as one of his Great Streets program sites. The Mayor and City Councilman Mike Bonin are presently working with local residents to determine what they would like their “Great Street” to look like. The problem with this 50-condo development is that it will impact not only the neighborhood, but will also impact the developing vision of Venice Boulevard.
The developer is proposing to max out the site as a housing-only project. The building will have no ground floor retail and will not be mixed use. By doing so, the developer will be eliminating any street level interest the site could project. Being on the north side of the boulevard, the site receives great sunlight throughout the day and would be an ideal location for a café or restaurant. By having services on the ground floor local residents would be more likely to walk to services that would be close to home, thereby reducing traffic. And integrating these businesses into the landscape would go a long way to improving the quality of life in the community.
I have represented a number of developers over the years that have developed condominium projects, one of which was mixed use. While doing so I became acquainted with a large, four story new construction apartment building that not only designated the ground floor area as mixed use, but added another level of parking below their building in order to provide parking for the residents and the buildings patrons. I snapped a few photos of the building so people could get an idea of the possibilities.
On my return from taking the photos I stopped for lunch at Tender Greens in West Hollywood, and took a photo of the ground floor mixed use there as well.
I would love to see smart development that incorporates this type of usage with sensitivity to the local residents and not just about maximizing a developer’s profit. Rather, let’s maximize the true potential of this opportunity.