Jay Penske isn’t backing down from plans to transform Venice church into mansion

The media entrepreneur says he won’t demolish the century-old structure

The church at 685 Westminster Avenue, Elaine Irwin and Jay Penske (Credit: Getty Images, Pixabay)
The church at 685 Westminster Avenue, Elaine Irwin and Jay Penske (Credit: Getty Images, Pixabay)

A few short months ago, Venice residents assembled outside the century-old First Baptists Church to protest the sale of their beloved sanctuary. Media mogul Jay Penske, the new owner, had a vision for the property that the residents also were not too happy about.

New details have emerged about Penske’s plans, which include building an 11,000-square-foot mansion on the property at 685 Westminster Avenue. The project includes a partial demolition of the second floor. Spanning two stories, the home will also feature a rooftop deck and attached four-car garage. The plans were filed this week with the Department of City Planning.

Penske is also pursuing a coastal development permit to change the land’s use from church to single-family residential. He and his wife, former Victoria’s Secret model Elaine Irwin, paid $6.3 million for the property in February 2017, property records show.

Venice-based DU Architects is designing the home. In an interview with Curbed, architect Robert Thibodeau said the couple had no plans of demolishing the church, and will build a garden on the existing parking lot.

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The church is still part of a legal dispute dating back to December 2015, when the former pastor, Horace Allen, decided to sell the structure and land. Plaintiffs Herman Clay, a trustee and deacon, and Sharon Moore-Chappell, staff minister, are disputing whether Allen had a legal right to sell, among other complaints.

Penske, son of auto racing billionaire Roger Penske, is the chief executive at his eponymous media publishing company, which publishes Rolling Stone, Deadline, Variety and IndieWire, among others.

His latest project in Venice, along with others in the neighborhood that residents oppose, have fueled groups like Save Venice and Alliance for the Preservation of Venice. Protesters rallied against the social media platform Snap Inc., whose 163,000-square-foot presence had contributed to increasingly expensive rents and business displacement. Snap recently said it was exiting the neighborhood.