Accuse City of ‘Piecemeal Zoning’ : Activists Vow to Fight Changes in Venice Plan

Times Staff Writer

Accusing the city of Los Angeles of the “piecemeal zoning” of Venice, community activists have vowed to take a hard line against changes in the Venice community plan until it is adopted by the city and endorsed by the state Coastal Commission.

“We are tired of acting like policemen against every planning change,” said Morris J. Stavnezer, a Venice resident. “The basic problem is that we are continually confronted by changes in the community plan before the city has adopted a total plan for Venice.”

Stavnezer is a member of the Venice Town Council, a community-based group generally opposed to intensive commercial development in Venice.

Stavnezer, other members of the council and other Venice residents are particularly upset with three proposed changes in the community plan scheduled to be heard by the City Planning Commission on April 17.


Backed by Developers

The proposals are advocated by the developer-owners of the property and were introduced for city consideration by City Councilwoman Pat Russell.

They would change the zoning from residential to commercial on the west side of Main Street between Navy Street and Rose Avenue, change residential zoning to commercial on a lot on Brooks Avenue west of Lincoln Boulevard, and change a parking zone to residential on a block fronting Ballona Lagoon.

Venice residents voiced their opposition to the changes at a meeting conducted by the city Planning Department on Tuesday to solicit community views on the proposals.


With the exception of the developers and their representatives, no one at the meeting endorsed the proposals.

“I resent changes to the community plan and will work to destroy them,” said Arnold Springer, a Venice resident and member of the Venice Town Council. “I’m really outraged at the changes.”

He said that the Planning Department should be devoting its energies to completing the Venice Community Zoning Plan and preparing a local coastal plan that will be approved by the state Coastal Commission, before making specific zoning changes in the community.

The Planning Department is attempting to make zoning conform to the community plan, according to David Gay, Venice community planner in the department.


“But that does not mean that we should not consider changes in the community plan that make sense,” Gay said.

Gay said the department does not yet know when the city will attempt to adopt a local coastal plan for development that must be approved by the state Coastal Commission.

Work Halted

The city stopped work on such a plan three years ago when the commission rejected a blueprint for development of the Marina/Venice Peninsula. The commission said the plan lacked protection for the environmentally sensitive Ballona Lagoon, gave no timetable to complete Ocean Front Walk from Washington Boulevard to the Marina Channel, and did not provide enough parking for public access to the beach in the southern end of Venice.


“Obviously,” Gay said, “we have to go back to the commission with another plan. I do not know when that is going to happen.”

Ylene Weiss, who lives in the Ballona Lagoon area, objected to the proposal to change the southernmost block on the east side of the lagoon from parking to residential because the city is drawing up a parking plan to provide public access to the beach.

“It does not make sense to remove land zoned for parking until the city satisfies the Coastal Commission that adequate parking will be provided in the area,” she said.

Stavnezer agreed with Weiss on the Ballona Lagoon property and voiced misgivings about the proposed change on Main Street, even though the Venice Town Council had given preliminary approval for Main Street plans submitted by developer Harlan Lee.


Lee, who also owns the Ballona Creek block, is proposing to construct a mixed-use building on Main Street, including condominiums, some units of federally subsidized housing for senior citizens, public parking and commercial stores.

No Clear Plan

“We were in agreement with much of his plan,” Stavnezer said. “But we are concerned about piecemeal zoning of the community without a clear plan yet in place for development of all of Venice. Without a plan in place, neither we in the community nor developers who want to build know what to expect.”

Similar opposition was expressed to plans for the Brooks Avenue site, owned by Pasquina Crescentini. She wants the change of zone to expand her business on adjoining property at 835 Lincoln Blvd. W. Don Tollefson, vice president of the Venice Town Council, said that it bothered him that most zone changes result in a loss of sites for potential housing.


“How come it is not the other way around, with developers seeking zone changes from commercial to residential?” Tollefson said. “There are certain red flags raised in the community when proposals are made to eliminate another residential zone.”