Another passage betrays a similar failure:
There is a reason neighbors have trigger tempers when confronted with new projects on streets like Abbot Kinney, which has become a gridlock-plagued tourist destination, rather than a neighborhood commercial district.
Developers seem characterologically unable to conceive projects that are sensitive from the get-go. It’s always: burst through the door with a ridiculously overambitious plan, then scale back when the inevitable NIMBY explosion occurs. When developers proposed a first-ever hotel on Abbot Kinney, they roared in with a design for a four-story, 92-room monolith that would have taken up an entire block. Neighbors (naturally) objected, and the project, still on the drawing board, has been scaled back. Even so, 14,600 square feet of existing commercial space will more than quadruple to 64,000.
Many of my anti-growth neighbors are upset that Abbot Kinney boutiques are so expensive, and that whole categories of businesses are priced out; yet they regard it as self-evident that quadrupling the supply of commercial space is “ridiculously overambitious.”
As for calling a four-story hotel a “monolith,” there is a historical irony in complaining that Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a tourist destination. Abbot Kinney, the founder of Venice Beach, was an eccentric real estate developer who dug canals here in hopes of creating a pleasure resort for the rich, a Venice, Italy, of the Western United States. The street that bears his name is very much in keeping with the spirit of his plans for this community, which was inevitably going to be a tourist destination––it is, after all, a gorgeous stretch of coast in America’s second biggest city, tucked between a resort at Santa Monica and a boat marina.
Indeed, the Venice Beach boardwalk has long been among the most visited tourist destinations in L.A. And for as long, there’s been a severe shortage of Venice hotel rooms.
Again, reality imposes unavoidable tradeoffs. Absent more hotel rooms in Venice Beach, it’s relatively more expensive to visit, foreclosing a travel destination to some and causing local businesses to cater more to the richer folks who can stay; meanwhile, more visitors drive here, exacerbating heavy beach traffic in the summer; and still others turn to vacation rental sites like AirBnB, which the anti-growth set despises for affecting the local rental market in ways more hotel rooms would mitigate.
Few anti-growth locals acknowledge these tradeoffs, especially when their preferences impose significant costs on folks less wealthy than they are. And when they do mention competing choices, they tend to exaggerate the options before Venice residents.
To the prospect of relaxed zoning restrictions that would allow tall new buildings in most Los Angeles neighborhoods, the column responding to the Wall Street Journal introduces Robin Rudisill, an activist who is okay with growth in some parts of Los Angeles, but not Venice or neighborhoods like it. The column characterizes her views as follows:
Rosenfeld thinks that the suburbs and neighborhoods such as Venice with special character should be treated very gingerly, but that the city core—ringed by the Harbor, Hollywood, Golden State and Santa Monica freeways—could absorb almost limitless growth.
“Single-family neighborhoods to me are sacred,” said Rosenfeld, who would be comfortable with 100-story buildings inside the freeway ring, Tokyo-style. “We all admire the quality of, first, the bungalows, then the ranch houses. Life is too short, for me as a developer, to want to change the character of our pristine single-family neighborhoods.”
Anyone who has visited Venice Beach lately is probably chuckling at the notion that it is “pristine.” The neighborhood has multiple homeless encampments, stretches of people living in RVs and cars, with all the attendant waste disposal challenges, and lots of stretches of boardwalk where walking barefoot would be extremely ill-advised. But the bigger problem with the argument, as presented in the column, is the way it elides the vast middle ground between 100-story skyscrapers and nothing-but-bungalows-and-ranch-houses, structures no one proposes totally eliminating.