By Roxanne Brown, Member Neighborhoods’ Groups’ Coalition
GJELINA’S GJUSTA at 320 SUNSET – Owner Fran Camaj, Architect Stephen Vitalich: Still operating (since opening in October 2014) as a “fakery” with commercial kitchen equipment serving fish, beef and fowl, when they have a permit for bakery/bakery equipment/retail/take out/no seating or eating on premises.
Gjusta was cited in December, but hasn’t changed a thing. Gjusta had a hearing with City Attorney on March 26, 2015. Details were not disclosed to residents. Another hearing with City Attorney is scheduled for May 14.
On November 13, 2014, Gjusta’s change of use hearing from “bakery” to late night restaurant/bar with full alcohol license went before Maya Zaitzevsky at City Planning/Zoning. Still no decision from the City.
THE BAKERY WITHOUT A BAKER
According to LA Eater this March:
“…chef Nicole Rucker is no longer involved at Gjusta, … a huge loss …and a major shakeup to the Gjelina group as a whole. A blue-ribbon pie winner at the National Pie Championship and a pastry chef of the highest order.”
Residents reported that the weekend of April 25, Fran Camaj, Gjelina’s/GTA’s/Gjusta’s owner, was talking to customers at Gjusta and handing out postcards for patrons to fill out supporting its “expansion.”
The hearing for “expansion” was already held November 13. Isn’t the decision made on evidence presented prior to and during the hearing on November 13?
CURRENT STATUS – PATIO and PARKING LOT WITH TABLES and CHAIRS – PEOPLE EATING AND SITTING
At Gjusta’s November 13th hearing, Building and Safety stated that Gjusta was to be a bakery only, serving baked goods only, take away only – no sitting or eating. No patio was approved or allowed.
Building and Safety also said the “parking lot” was designated as a “vacant lot” and was not supposed to have cars parked, nor people eating and sitting. Even the parking lot is a fakery.
SAUCE at 259 HAMPTON – Owner, Richard Gottlieb, Architect, Stephen Vitalich, Consultant, Laurette Healey, Lawyer, Ben Reznik (Fran Camaj – Restaurateur?)
In September 2014 the city approved 259’s proposed change of use from retail/take out to late night restaurant/bar with full alcohol license, providing no parking, as close as 15 feet to residents’ homes. It did not go through VNC or LUPC. This was appealed.
During the January 7 Appeal Hearing five LA Planning Commissioners voted unanimously to uphold the appeal and deny the project.
The developer requested a re-appeal due to a missing 12-page audio report from an unnamed expert and contradictory site plans.
During the April 1 re-appeal hearing Laurette Healey, consultant for the applicant, claimed that the restaurant/bar would be a less intense use than retail/take out; and that more alcohol licenses do not affect the crime rate.
Richard Gottlieb, owner, said that with this expansion, there would be less [car] trips than there are now.
Stephen Vitalich, architect, said they would provide valet parking in structures. He did not state where or how many cars that would hold.
Residents in favor of 259 were mostly restaurant workers and employees of Full Circle Church across the street from 259 Hampton at the corner of Rose. Full Circle is a “church” founded by an actor and has many members. Neighbors have complained to police about drinking on premises and late night partying at Full Circle.
Local residents say they saw Healey standing in front of Sauce at 259 allegedly telling residents if they liked Gjelina’s and Gjusta, that same group would be running 259 Hampton. Perhaps this explains why Fran Camaj has been at all of 259’s hearings.
Ben Reznik, 259’s lawyer, pretty much summed things up after Commissioners were presented with a new third site plan, saying: “What you have here is a completely changed project.”
GENERAL COMMENT WRAP UP
Sarah Blanch, a representative for the Institute of Public Safety said that research shows unequivocally, time and again, that there is absolutely a correlation between the number of bars, restaurants and stores selling alcohol and a whole range of community harms, including crime, drinking and driving, littering, loitering, excessive noise.
ABC’s current recommendation is 5 alcohol outlets in 259 Hampton’s tract. There are already 15. There is critical mass when it comes to what a community can bear. ABC is there to protect the livability of our communities and their recommendations should not be overlooked.
Santa Monica, with a similar high density of alcohol licenses to Venice, is ranked in the highest quartile in LA County’s alcohol related crashes.
COUNCIL OFFICE AND COMMISSIONER’S DECISION
Chris Robertson stated that Councilman Mike Bonin was opposed to the second floor and alcohol permit with 259’s track record of illegal operations (operating as a sit-down restaurant with permit for retail/take out only) for the past five years.
The Commissioners began a discussion. One main point was that this seemed like a completely different project (a totally different site plan was submitted) than what was initially approved and then appealed. Shouldn’t the process start all over and go through VNC and LUPC?
City Attorney, Kathy Phelan, said changing things at the last moment and putting conditions on 259 was OK. She encouraged the commissioners to approve 259 in its new form.
Commissioner Joe Halper wanted to uphold the appeal, Commission President Thomas Donovan said he could go either way – uphold or add conditions, Commissioner Esther Margulies wanted to approve with conditions. So all three agreed to approve with conditions. Despite Bonin’s office being anti-second floor, the commissioners allowed it.
CONDITIONS and ENFORCEMENT
Conditions will be made on hours, no alcohol permit at this time (they can reapply), valet parking in structures, and enclosing restaurant structure – no outdoor dining.
What’s the incentive to adhere to any of this when there seem to be no penalties and no enforcement? Who can trust what will be built?
SIMMZY’S PUB/RESTAURANT at 37 WASHINGTON
37 Washington Blvd. was approved by the City to transform from a retail store into a Simmzy’s Pub restaurant, offering 30 kinds of beer. Owner, Mike Simms, tore down the retail store. NO parking and NO change of use were required.
37 Washington is steps to the beach. NO coastal development permit was required. Remember the lightning strike? Ka-Pow!
Above: Rendering of third site plan for 259 Hampton
Below: Gjusta customers illegally eating in the parking lot illegal make-shift patio
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