The Venice Neighborhood Council's Land Use and Planning Committee met Wednesday night for what turned out to be a long, emotional display of livelihood among business owners, committee members and the community.
The first case to come before the committee during their 3-hour meeting was a restaurant called Café Gratitude. They applied to sell beer and wine at their new location on the bottom floor of the large, mixed-use development at 5th and Rose avenues.
The café, which serves locally sourced, all-organic food, presented a plan to have indoor and outdoor seating, as well as plans to periodically showcase local acoustic musicians. They also said they intend to hire local employees and install bike racks on the property and in the parking garage.
Café Gratitude's general manager, Ryland Eugelhant, said they've been looking to establish a home in Venice for a long time.
"If there's any place Café Gratitude belongs, it's Venice," Eugelhant said.
Café Gratitude's team presented a building and parking plan that detailed a service floor of 2,050-square-feet, 148-person occupancy level and 45 on-site parking spaces.
Two residents who live near the development at 5th and Rose Avenue voiced their approval of the project, but also noted that traffic and parking were always concerns for the area. One woman added she'd like to see a stop sign at 5th and Rose to help administer the left-hand turning traffic once the development opens.
The board then questioned the applicants about hours, parking lot charges, employee parking, loading zones and loading times. The restaurant representatives didn't have complete answers for all of their questions.
Committee member, James Murez, after admittedly having looked at the plans for the first time Wednesday evening, said he was not satisfied with their clarity. Murez, former chair of the Land Use and Planning Committee and longtime Venice resident and activist, asked if they considered the Beach Impact Zone when determining their parking numbers.
"What I see is a bunch of errors," Murez said, waving his finger at the applicants.
The Beach Impact Zones were later said by committee members to have nothing to do with the area in which the café will be located.
Murez, however, said loudly, "They're playing hardball with us."
Eugelhant lifted his hands up and shook his head.
"We're not playing hardball with you," he said.
Jake Kaufman, chair of the committee, made repeated attempts to wrangle the focus of the meeting back to the application to sell beer and wine. Kaufman said he knew it was getting emotional for everyone, but wanted to continue the meeting on time and in an orderly fashion.
An hour and a half into the meeting, the majority of committee members agreed to set conditions for the beer and wine permit to be voted on at the next Venice Neighborhood Council meeting on Jan. 17.
Some conditions for Café Gratitude included:
-Validated parking in lot for a minimum of 90 minutes
-Loading hours between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. only
-Hours of operations limited from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 days a week
-The sale of beer and wine only
-Music and noise not audible beyond the property line
-Encourage employees to walk, bike and take public transportation to work
Strong Opposition to Gjelina Plans for "Gjelinas"
The popular eatery Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard was next on the agenda. They applied to combine both the sit-down Gjelina restaurant and the pizza take-out Gjelina Take-Away, called GTA, into one establishment.
This project also would have the space where GTA currently resides used as an additional seating and alcohol serving area. Their application requested to expand the indoor and outdoor seating occupancy from 60 to 110.
Gjelina representative said they had procured 26 parking spaces for their establishment and planned to purchase one additional space to satisfy the current permit requirements.
Public comment was fervently against the application, accusing Gjelina of misrepresenting their total service volume, and not sticking to their original permitted plan.
"My neighborhood has been ruined by this restaurant," said one public commenter.
"You should turn this application down cold," said Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association.
Committee member Susan Papadakis suggested a motion to deny the application outright, in lieu of the public disapproval of the project.
The committee decided to set conditions for their application and for the application to be considered at the next Venice Neighborhood Council meeting.
Some of the conditions for Gjelina included:
-Present plans of their original permitted seating plan against the proposed seating plan
-Present plan of the use for two kitchens
-Address the community's concerns about parking.
The motion had seven approvals and two abstentions.
La Fortuna Wants to Extend Business Hours
La Fortuna Market, a small convenient store located at 824 So. Lincoln Ave. applied to drop the requirement to have a security guard, which they said they could not afford, and they also wanted to extend their business hours.
The two conditions had been part of a long list of requirements made by the Venice Neighborhood Council in a prior matter involving La Fortuna Market.
The conditions included: prohibiting the owner from selling single consumption containers of alcohol; requiring him to install a security camera and placing all alcohol sales in orange bags.
People speaking during public comment said La Fortuna had not complied with several conditions and complained that it has resulted in more homeless and vagrant loitering and public intoxication around the market.
One home owner who shares an alley with La Fortuna said she cleaned up "vomit, diarrhea, feces and urine" on a regular basis due to La Fortuna's incompliance with its permit conditions.
Another woman said she was repeatedly forced to call the paramedics for passed out and intoxicated vagrants around her home, which also sits by the market.
The committee concluded that La Fortuna needed to show evidence of compliance before they could consider their request to expand hours and remove the security guard.
La Fortuna representatives said they had received the proper inspection from the Los Angeles Police Department to prove they had actually complied with the conditions. They also said they would be able to present that evidence at the next Venice Neighborhood Council meeting.
If it is shown that La Fortuna Market has not met its conditions set forth by the Venice Neighborhood Coucil, the market could lose its liquor license.