By Roxanne Brown
COASTAL COMMISSION HEARING – JULY 9, 2015
Restaurateur Fran Camaj and architect Stephen Vitalich appeared at a Coastal Commission hearing regarding parking at Gjelina’s newest restaurant, referred to by neighbors as ‘The Black Beast,’ at 1305 Abbot Kinney.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC) required 13 parking spaces at 1305. Camaj agreed to park 9 cars 3 x 3 tandem with 3 single car lifts on the rooftop parking lot, plus one handicapped space on ground level. Construction was completed without car lifts.
Late last year, Greg Shoop at City Planning granted Camaj a permit allowing “removal” of all three lifts to be replaced with bike racks. But the City is not allowed to override the CCC.
Residents brought this to the attention of the CCC, Building and Safety, and Councilman Bonin’s office. Camaj agreed to rescind the permit and told Bonin’s office that he would build the lifts. But, he then applied for an amendment with CCC to not include the lifts.
At the hearing, CCC Commissioners voted 6 to 5 that Camaj is required to provide parking with lifts. Stay tuned …
MINIMIZE PARKING – MAXIMIZE PROFIT
It appears the same strategy is used time and again by Camaj and Vitalich: Provide minimal parking in an area that already faces parking shortages.
Additionally, by using parking lots and alleys as eating areas, more customers can be served and the owners more than likely see more profit. Costs are slashed, there’s apparently no permit involved and apparently no need to adhere to building and safety or health department regulations.
Consider these examples …
The Black Beast’s rooftop “parking lot” is paved with beautiful stone work, landscaped with plants and has a gorgeous winding staircase leading from the small interior restaurant with limited seating to the ample rooftop “parking lot.” Could the Black Beast be thinking this might be used for rooftop dining?
Gjelina/GTA uses an adjacent parking spot/alley/rear yard for (unpermitted) food prep and (unpermitted) dining on tables, chairs and milk crates.
Gjusta has a small interior restaurant and used the (unpermitted) adjacent parking lot for (unpermitted) milk-crate dining. Now, Gjusta is seating people (unpermitted) inside and on the (unpermitted) patio.
259 Hampton’s Sauce (Camaj and owner Richard Gottlieb) provides no parking on site, not even one federally mandated handicapped spot.
GJUSTA’s TRAFFIC APPEAL – JULY 15, 2015
On July 14, a day before a traffic appeal from Concerned Neighbors of 320 Sunset (CNS) to the West LA Planning Commission re: Gjusta’s “change of use” application to restaurant/bar, CNS discovered a complete change of plans had been submitted to the City. Gjusta would now morph from a 5,000 square foot project to a 10,000 square foot project (encompassing three lots) according to newly discovered applications in the Zoning file.
Based on this major revision, CNS withdrew from this appeal. But Bonin’s office informed CNS that the hearing would go on. Appellants Ilana Marosi and CNS members attended the hearing.
Gjusta’s employees and a few patrons attended the hearing. Melissa Diner, from the Venice Neighborhood Council and Chair of Ocean Front Walk group, also appeared in support of Gjusta.
Attorney RJ Comer appeared at the hearing on behalf of Gjusta’s landlords Jean Marie and Roger Webster. He stated that the Websters’ three lots, 318, 320 and 322 Sunset, (which Gjusta will now expand into) have always been tied together. It seems this is not the case as 322 Sunset has had a chiropractic office as a tenant for 12 years on a separate lease.
West LA Planning Commissioners denied CNS’s traffic appeal based on a traffic-impact study, which CNS believes was deeply flawed. Another traffic study likely will be needed since Gjusta has now morphed into a very different project. (Gjusta has built a restaurant and patio without permits and has been in non-compliance since opening 10 months ago.)
GJUSTA’S LANDLORDS – JEAN MARIE AND ROGER WEBSTER
It seems the Websters have terminated the tenancy of the chiropractor at 322 Sunset in order to help make Camaj’s parking calculations work. Does that mean other small business tenants at 322 will face the same fate?
Those businesses include architects, artists, a small tech firm and a fitness/boxing studio. Ironically at all city hearings, Laurette Healey, a consultant for Camaj, claims to advocate for small businesses.
Do the Websters not care that the surrounding residents are opposed to Gjusta and are experiencing the loss of the right to peace and quiet enjoyment in their homes?
Do the Websters not care that Gjusta has been out of compliance for 10 months, and cited by LA Department of Building and Safety several times, and that the City Attorney appears to have a criminal case going against Gjusta? Gjusta was having patrons back their vehicles out of the adjacent parking lot onto Sunset. That was dangerous and disruptive to traffic flow. Now Gjusta is having patrons exit through the rear alley.
On July 24, a local 14-year-old on roller blades was almost hit by just such a patron exiting the alley. She was quite shaken.
A high-turnover restaurant with excessive vehicular traffic exiting through a one-car only alley (next to residents’ homes) does not belong in Oakwood’s family-friendly neighborhood. And they want to add alcohol into this mix?
By Roxanne Brown