The M Cube: LA’s Rebuttal

Monday, June 7, 2010

LA’s City Planning and Building and Safety departments, which we could not reach last week, have finally spoken up on the now-imperiled M Cube in Venice. To remind you LA City Council on Thursday rejected designer Mark Baez’s request to allow his floating modular, glass-clad, cube shaped apartment building an exception to remain two feet above the Venice Specific Plan’s requirement of 30 feet. Baez asserted that building inspectors informed him too late that the building was too tall, that his contractor bungled the height, and that the city was nitpicking over a height limit that other buildings are able to surpass. Baez may now resort to tearing down the building instead of going through with the costly changes. City planner Kevin Jones and building and safety investigator John Kelly beg to differ.

Jones says that Baez knew that his building had to be 30 feet tall; the project, he said, was granted that height in 2002 as part of a discretionary action allowing him to raise the height from 25 to 30 feet, and the 30 foot height was specified in his plans submitted to the city. “If you tell us that your building is going to be 30 feet in height then it has to be 30 feet in height,” said Jones. “When you are an architect and you prepare plans it means you are legally responsible for following all the laws that are in place,” he added. His planning report concludes that, “A Specific Plan Exception is not appropriate relief post hoc from a hardship created through negligence or misrepresentation.” Jones added that while some buildings in Venice can have mechanical systems measuring up to 35 feet, the buildings themselves must still measure under 30 feet.

As for the contractor error, Kelly said it wasn’t his department’s fault that Baez built the project higher than planned. ”That’s between him and his builders isn’t it?” he said.  Baez must now come to terms with the city’s criminal proceedings against him. Baez has been living in the building and renting out units for years despite lacking a certificate of occupancy (that was held up due to the height limit battle).

Baez answered:  “Their side of the story suggests that I didn’t have any approvals and I just built it on my own. I got every approval, every sign off to where I was,” said Baez. He acknowledges “Yes, the drawings indicate that the building was to be 30 feet; the result was an oversight by myself, my contractor, and everyone else.” That includes the city, who he still contends sent him mixed signals all along.

7 Responses to “The M Cube: LA’s Rebuttal”

  1. wow says:

    the city is full of bull shit. this is ridiculous! 2 feet! its not harming anyone!! focus on more important matters like reducing crime in venice!!

  2. Kevin says:

    ‘wow’ is an idiot and so is Baez. Architects have to follow the law. This guy Baez further undermines architecture as a professional field.

  3. cm says:

    I agree with ‘Kevin’, Baez admits in a publication that he didn’t follow due diligence with something as basic as a zoning envelope/height limit. That’s exactly what codes are for. That’s what professional practice means.

    The guy may not be a total idiot, but he probably thought he could get away with with an oversight and he got burned. Good for the city. If it had been a developer or some schlocky building there’d be a stream of comments saying the city was right to enforce a code…

  4. JQ says:

    Since there oversight in all parts to this matter, the resolution to tear down the building is absurd. Grant the man a local variance, enforce a fine or penalty – make him pay for a park down the street or something. But tear down a perfectly good building because it is less than 10% taller than it should be is ridiculous. 24 inches!

  5. SL says:

    There was no oversight by the building department. The designer tried to slip one by. Give the building to the City as a community center. The architect should have his license revoked. IN FACT, a quick check online reveals that perhaps Mr. Baez does not have a license to practice architecture in California. OOOOPS!

  6. Bob says:

    I think he is a “building designer” rather than a licensed architect.
    I wonder if the AIA is secretly enjoying this.

  7. Williams Venice says:

    I love this building. I love that Venice support a range of architecture. I agree with JQ. I think it would be tragic to tear it down, as well as just narrow-sighted and verging on nasty. There must be another solution.

    And as far as the negative comments about the architect/designer. Well he took risks to create this and has done no harm to anyone or to the profession. He made a mistake. As did the city and the inspectors. It happens especially when you are trying to do something unique. Perhaps some empathy over this is needed and a bit of a fine if that would satisfy those of you feel strongly.

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