A plan to put condos on the Fisherman’s Wharf property encountered a virtual lovefest Tuesday, compared to the sort of contentious public hearing that a development proposal often generates.
Venice City Council members unanimously approved a rezoning and a conditional use permit while praising the project for beautifying a part of the northern gateway they referred to as “blighted” and “an eyesore” and lauding developer Mike Miller for having worked with neighbors to get them on board.
“I think that’s why we don’t have 300 people here,” Council Member Mitzie Fiedler said.
Operating as Venice Marine Park LLC, Miller proposed to put 40 condos on the land west of the KMI Bridge in a development called Porto Vista.
The condos would be in four towers in the middle of the upland portion of the property, with five floors of dwellings over a floor of parking.
The existing Commercial, Intensive zoning has a height limit of 35 feet. Venice Marine Park asked to change to Commercial, General zoning, which would allow 35 feet over one story for parking and also open the door to applying for up to 50 feet more.
Its conditional use permit application asked for an additional 20 feet, which Miller said was enough to go forward with the project even though up to 18 units per acre could be sought.
Originally, he said, the thought was to build 51 units in four-story buildings, including a floor of parking, but closer to the bay.
Shorter buildings would have been less expensive, he said, but that location would have presented a wall of condos as the view from the water and put the units closer to complexes just across it.
That meant taller buildings, though, he said.
The residents of Harbor Lights Cooperative Inc., a manufactured home community to the northwest, might have been expected to oppose the project but they didn’t.
Board member Chris Smith said they’ve worked out an agreement with Miller for an easement over their land to provide access for emergency vehicles.
In exchange, he’s granting an easement so they’ll be able to get to the rear of their office and building a sidewalk to connect Harbor Lights with the restaurant onsite.
Smith said the Council needs to be alert to any effort to build over submerged lands — which Miller wasn’t proposing — and urged attention to the intersection that provides access to the property by the Harbor Lights entrance.
But the residents aren’t opposed to the project, he said, adding that the demolition of metal buildings near them would be “welcome.”
Pat McDonald, a resident of Bella Costa across the water from the site, said she would prefer lower buildings that wouldn’t disrupt air and heat circulation so much, but that the site needs to be improved.
The only other person who spoke was Mike Quillen, who owns the restaurant on the property, Dockside Waterfront Grill. He said that his parking lot floods in 2 or 3 inches of rain, as does his tiki hut and sometimes the restaurant itself.
Part of Miller’s plan is to redo the parking lot with a permeable surface and address drainage issues lingering from when the state built the new KMI Bridge.
He’s also going to seek permission to add parking under the bridge on the north side the way the city did on the south side.
The rezoning ordinance will come back to the Council in two weeks for a final vote. The condition use permit, and the site and development plan and special exceptions the Planning Commission already approved, are contingent on the rezoning.
The special exceptions concern a sign; a reduction in the size of parking spaces; and two accessory garages that would have a reduced 1-foot setback.