WeHo Planning Commission Delays Horn Avenue Condo Conversion

Fri, Jun 07, 2013   By James F. Mills   
horn avenue

Screenshot of the apartment building at 1211 Horn Avenue.

West Hollywood’s Planning Commission delayed approving a condominium conversion of a Horn Avenue apartment building built in 1964 at its Thursday night meeting, saying the building owner needs to provide more information.

A few years ago, The Robin Group purchased the four-story, 16-unit building at 1211 Horn Ave. and now wants to covert it to condos, according to Adrian Gallo, the planner in charge of the Horn Avenue case. State law says the city cannot prevent a building owner from going out of the rental business, but does allow the city to regulate conversion to condos.

Since the building predates cityhood, it is exempt from many of the current city regulations as an apartment building. However, to convert to condominiums, the owner must bring the building up to the city’s current zoning codes.

“This application is fatally flawed,” said Sibyl Zaden, a 35-year resident of the building, one of six tenants who spoke against the item. The existing tenants would have the right to buy their units at a reduced rate, but many believe the building can’t be brought up to current standards.

Under the city’s code, each unit must have at least 120 square feet of balcony or patio area. The building has balconies on the front, but they are much smaller than the code requires. The balconies on the rear of the building were enclosed decades ago. To accommodate the 120-square-foot requirement, the owner proposed expanding the existing balconies into the units and reopening the rear balconies, thereby reducing the size of the living rooms.

“I’m not comfortable cutting into the building to create balconies,” said Commissioner David Aghaei, a sentiment Commissioner Donald DeLuccio echoed.

City code also requires condo buildings have at least 1,000 square feet of open air common space for residents to share. At 55-feet in height, this building is already 20 feet higher than the current maximum height allowed. To add a rooftop deck would require elevator access, which would add 10 more feet to the height of the building. Instead, the owners proposed converting one of the first-floor apartments into a recreation room for residents.

The commissioners weren’t satisfied with that, suggesting the recreation room should be on the fourth floor with the roof removed. The owner said removing the roof would create drainage problems.

Commissioner Marc Yeber said there were ways to address the drainage issue while Aghaei said theowner hadn’t explored all options yet.

“[The first floor rec room] is just a convenient solution,” said Aghaei.

“I want to accommodate the needs of the property owner, but I’m not willing to throw out the city regulations,” said Yeber.

The commission told the owner to return at an unspecified date in the future with more detailed analysis of the balcony and common area situation. They also instructed him to provide drawing of what the various options would look like.

The Robin Group, a Century City based real estate investment company founded by Reuben Robin, a 32-year-old real estate wiz kid (named one of the “30 Under 30” by Realtor Magazine in 2010), also owns the mixed-use building at 935 Fairfax Ave. just north of Willoughby.

The group also has apartment listings for units in the following buildings in WeHo: 1212 N. Formosa Ave. at Fountain, 1111 Larabee St. at Sunset and 622 Westmount Drive at Melrose.

The Robin Group also is affiliated with Cresta Properties, another real estate investment company co-founded by Robin.

Cresta Properties has been on a buying spree in WeHo in the past two years. Their website lists the following properties in or near WeHo: 1210 N Formosa Ave. at Lexington, 1315 N Hayworth Ave. at Fountain, 1343 N Martel Ave. at Fountain, 1627 N. Poinsettia Place at Hollywood.

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