Electric ArtBlock
Venice, CA
Project. This was the first new construction Artist Live/Work Loft project built on the West Coast. A 27,964 square foot, 20 unit artist loft live/work project in Venice, California, it was developed and built between 1988 and 1991 on a 17,500 square foot lot. Located on an abandoned and derilict former electric railroad track bed approximately 350' long by 50' wide, at Electric Avenue between Santa Clara and San Juan Avenues in the Abbot Kinney Arts & Crafts District. The property is commercially zoned with a 30' height limit and an R-3 residential density. It is constructed of wood studs, smooth troweled stucco and galvanized sheet metal over a 10" thick concrete floor slab over the semi-subterrianean parking garage supported by concrete columns with concrete block exterior perimeter walls. Designed in collaberation by Hank Koning of Koning Eizenberg Architecture and Glenn Erikson, Ph.D., AIA. of Erikson Leviton Associates.  The project was developed by Venice ArtBlock, LLC, with Dr. Erikson as Managing General Partner and Neal Leviton as General Partner.

History. Concerned about LA's continuing sprawl and resulting transportation, quality of life and environmental issues Dr. Erikson began looking for a development site appropriate for a live/work project. However, LA's zoning and building codes effectively prohibited this kind of development type, with the one exception of artist live/work housing. Even then, there were substantial and unresolved conflicts between the codes when applied to new construction. Believing these could be resolved, Dr. Erikson purchased a commercially zoned site with an allowable R-3 residential density in Venice within the Venice/Abbot Kinney Arts and Crafts district overlay. Using LA's Planning Permit process, he guided the review and approval process to weld otherwise conflicting language of the Venice Community Plan with the California Coastal Act Plan, the City's Zoning Code and the Artist-InResidence portion of the LA Building Code. Opposition to the Planning Permit came from local developers who had been unable to design to the allowable density due to the 30' height requirement, the high water table, and the tight site which presented design constraints for parking. Dr. Erikson committed to give them funds for street trees for their properties on Electric Avenue facing the ArtBlock in return for their dropping their protests. There was no other neighborhood opposition. Hank Koning of Koning Eizenberg Architects was then hired as Joint Venture architect with Erikson to complete the design. Construction was financed based on commercial rather than residential rental rates thru a commercial bank. Upon completion the property leased to exclusively to artists at market rents. Many of these artists participated in the annual Venice Art Walk in the early years of the complex. The success of this project helped lead to passage of the Mixed-use/Low-Income Housing ordinance in LA.