In Venice Harlan Lee & Associates built a path-breaking project, Venice Renaissance, in 1990.
The 4-story project contains 66 condominium units, 23 low-income rental apartments for the elderly and, at street level, 25,000 square feet of commercial space.
Unlike Santa Monica, where zoning encourages the combination of commercial space and housing in a particular area of the city, zoning in Los Angeles presented a barrier to the construction of Venice Renaissance. City officials required 15 public hearings and an amendment to the city's general plan before granting the developer a building permit. In 1991, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that made it easier for developers to gain approval for such projects.
Many of the Venice Renaissance's tenants are from the East, according to Jeff Lee, vice president of Harlan Lee. But enthusiasm for living above the store is not limited to nostalgic New Yorkers.
Marlene Morris left a large house in a mountainous area of Beverly Hills to live in a loft-like condominium in the building that has a florist, a hair salon, a dry cleaner, two restaurants and a health club on the ground floor.
Ms. Morris, a restaurateur and Los Angeles native who had always lived in a suburban context, said she enjoyed walking. "Up in the hills, nobody walks," she said. "If I wanted to walk, I would get in my car and drive to downtown Beverly Hills."
She prefers life on crowded Main Street, close to Santa Monica. "I usually stay down here for the weekend," Ms. Morris said. "I don't feel a need to go into town."
"YOU get the best of diverse city living here," said Gary Kessler, a film maker who also owns a condominium in Venice Renaissance. Because of the pedestrian orientation of the beachfront community, he said,"there is a sense of community here that does not exist in the rest of Los Angeles."
Keeping homes and businesses separate within the building is one of the design problems of mixed-use housing, according to Johannes Van Tilburg of the Santa Monica firm of Johannes Van Tilburg & Partners, the architect who designed both Janss Court and Venice Renaissance. In both buildings, Mr. Van Tilburg provided separate elevator lobbies and separate parking for apartments and businesses. In the Venice Renaissance, residents must first enter a corridor that leads to the center of the building, where an elevator lobby can be entered with a key card.