New Owner Proposes Transforming San Vicente “Sin Bin” Into a Posh 33 Room Inn

Wed, Dec 18, 2013   By Contributor    22 Comments
San Vicente Inn today

San Vicente Inn today

Jeff Klein, owner of the Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip and new owner of the San Vicente Inn wants to create a quiet, luxurious urban inn from the tired old bones of the four, long-neglected Old Sherman historic bungalows that make up the San Vicente.

Klein is known for sensitive rehabilitation of historic, landmark properties. His first property, purchased in 1999, was the City Club Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Built in 1904, the City Club Hotel was originally a non-partisan private club for New York politicians to meet and discuss politics of the day. It was renovated into a high-end, 65-room boutique hotel with a highly acclaimed restaurant, the DB Bistro Moderne.

In 2004, Klein purchased the Leland A. Bryant-designed Sunset Tower. Opened in 1931, the Sunset Tower is considered one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in Los Angeles. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Sunset Tower and Tower Bar were restored in 2006 to universal acclaim and remain highly popular.

Right about the time Klein was working on his first project in New York, the City of West Hollywood designated the bungalows that make up the San Vicente Inn (three contiguous properties on the west side of San Vicente north of Santa Monica Boulevard and the stand-alone Victorian structure that was moved to the vacant lot across the street) as local cultural historical resources, part of the Old Sherman Thematic Group. That group takes its name from the period in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Moses Sherman, a railroad developer, created the community of Sherman where West Hollywood now lies. The designation makes the properties eligible for Mills Act property tax reductions provided the façade is restored and maintained in accordance with specific historic preservation standards and conditions.

On Monday night, Klein met with a group of local residents at the Sunset Tower to discuss his $15 million plan for the complete renovation and imagination of the San Vicente Inn. The inn long has operated as a “clothing-optional” gay resort and developed a reputation as a place for drug abuse and prostitution.

Architectural rendering of renovated San Vicente Inn

Architectural rendering of renovated San Vicente Inn

Klein has hired architect Marc Appleton of Santa Monica’s Appleton & Associates, Inc. to lead the project and Robert Chattle of Chattle, Inc. as the project’s historic preservation consultant. Klein said he chose Appleton because he loved the work Appleton did at the San Ysidro Ranch, a luxury hotel in Montecito, and he wants the yet-to-be-renamed San Vicente Inn to reflect that tranquil, high-end aesthetic.

Currently, there are 29 rooms at the San Vicente Inn. The new project proposes 33 rooms. However, a radical rethinking of how the properties flow together and operate was proposed at the meeting.

Most of the guest rooms are currently in the three contiguous lots on western San Vicente Boulevard. The proposed project eliminates almost all of the current guest rooms. The plans call for a new 23-room structure on the land behind the old Victorian house (the original Sherman post office) at 850 N. San Vicente Blvd. The structure will be up to 45 feet tall at the rear and wrap around the north side of the property. The old post office building will become a quiet lounge area where guests can eat breakfast, read, and work. None of these areas will be open to the public.

Average room size will be slightly less than 300 square feet and room rates are estimated in the range of $250 – $300.

The three contiguous properties (845 – 849 N. San Vicente Blvd) will be the more public face of the new urban inn. The southern bungalow will become a new high-end restaurant, approximately 2,500 square feet, open to the public. Capacity would be around 70 persons. A restaurant liquor license will be requested as part of the package. Outdoor dining will be featured in a courtyard to the east of the bungalow, with pool views.

All rooms behind the original bungalow will be removed and a small two-story multipurpose structure will take its place. The space can be used for small private gatherings, reading/office space, yoga classes, etc.

The center bungalow will house a small bar and lounge area, restrooms and a cabana. A new reception area will be built where the driveway currently is fenced off. The existing pool will be slightly enlarged and the two rooms currently west of the pool will be turned into a cabana-style lounge area.

The northern bungalow will be reconfigured into three suites. A new two-story structure will be built along the rear and northern property lines to provide six to seven new suites. This is the only portion of three western properties that will have hotel rooms.

One of the major issues that concerned those at the meeting was parking and the flow of guests between either side of San Vicente. Klein said he had secured a lease on the Video West parking lot on Palm Avenue across from Santa Palm Car Wash. All parking will be done by valet. However, given the discrete location of the lot, most agreed that it would be a challenge.

Some residents thought that a lighted crosswalk would be a good idea. There has always been a lot of jaywalking between the properties. However, a representative from the Sheriff’s Department and one of the project consultants said they didn’t think that the city could approve a crosswalk between the properties. Klein floated the idea that they could use golf carts driven by hotel employees to shuttle guests from side to side.

It was clear from the discussion that there was no simple answer to either parking or egress. It will take some time to get this project through the planning process, which will include approvals by the Historic Preservation Commission the city’s Planning Commission and the City Council. Klein has an optimistic and ambitious timeline for the project and hopes to have approval sometime by mid-2014 with project completion in 16 to 18 months.

Comments from the guests were nearly universally positive. Most people were concerned about the long history of drug use, prostitution and violence that are part of the Inn’s checkered past. The proposed project will close that chapter of the Inn’s history and open a new one as another first-class boutique hotel and restaurant in West Hollywood.

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22 Comments

  1. BlueEyedBoyWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 9:43 am

    So room rates are going up dramatically. Where else in WeHo can you find rates as affordable as they currently are at San Vicente Inn?

    And can it be male-only again? Please?

  2. danaWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

    You mean the ole Phallus Palace? The Nut House? Turning that randy ole joint into a fancy spread? May not be enough 409 on earth to get that job done! It would be like turning Sheldon’s ole 8709 bath house into a medical office! Oh wait. They did that.

  3. Roslyn LothridgeWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Evidently our city council knew about plans for our post office. It will be interesting to see how much they receive at next election by Jeff Klein.

  4. Alfredo DiazWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Jeff Klein is a very nice man and a fantastic hotelier. I have no doubt he will transform that property into a showplace. I wish him the best of luck.

  5. chloe rossWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Ah, the stories the DNA swabs could tell.

  6. Todd BiancoWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I was at the meeting. The plans are sensational and it would be gratifying to see the Old Sherman bungalows restored professionally and with sensitivity. If anyone can make this work, Jeff Klein can do it.

    The buildings have to be gutted to get rid of the dry rot, termites, mold and whatever lurks there. And all new plumbing, electrical and mechanicals. It’s the best project I’ve seen proposed in this town for years. Yes, the parking is a problem, but I’m willing to work with the plans presented. It will do a lot to clean up the mess left by the former owners. And it’s not just another overdeveloped craptastic stucco box.

    If it happens, it will be a model for adaptive reuse of historic properties.

    I live around the corner from the San Vicente Inn and (full disclosure) I own an Old Sherman bungalow.

  7. BobcatWed, Dec 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    This is exactly the kind of projects that can work in this city some one with taste a unposed to the Cohen brothers

  8. Randy MatthewsThu, Dec 19, 2013 at 12:18 am

    This article might not be the best place to post this, but I’ll tell you what West Hollywood needs: a fun gay pool party atmosphere. For lack of a better description, a “gay version of The Standard.”

    I’m not saying the San Vicente Inn currently fills this void. But it could. Its location and classification as a hotel qualify it as such, if it was done up correctly and marketed in the right way.

    During the summer months, a lot of people long for a place where they can be in and around a pool, and also order cocktails and food, and be social. Ginger Rogers Beach is not a viable option (too far away). Neither is The Standard (its a totally different demographic). There is nothing like this anywhere in WeHo, it seems obvious that this could work here somewhere, as it has at both Standard hotels, as well as the Roosevelt, etc.. But nothing in “boys town” so far. And gays like to be in their swimsuits, by a pool. We are pretty much able to do that, from about April/May to October/November.

    It would be great if this developer could recognize this. Or someone else along SMB (even including the Ramada, which could re-purpose and re-market their pool to be a fun atmosphere).

  9. BlueEyedBoyThu, Dec 19, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Randy, you mentioned that “gays like to be in their swimsuits, by a pool”. Isn’t nudity the point at San Vicente Inn? Are you discounting that? The Inn needs to be male only, and it should continue to encourage nudity. I fear that these things are going to be lost in the remodel so it can be more inclusive and make more money.

  10. Randy MatthewsThu, Dec 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Oh, trust me, I have no problem with nudity. I prefer it, and just spent a week on a nude beach on vacation. I recognize that changing this place will eliminate the only clothing-optional place for gay men in LA.

    But the SV Inn isn’t making enough money in its current state. I’m not sure the new owner can find a way to have it be clothing-optional, while also being financial successful. Or that they are even interested in trying (doesn’t sound like it). It would be great if they could.

    My point is, there is still a market for what I’m referring to. A fun, gay-friendly pool party atmosphere that serves drinks and food. The first person to tap into this and do it right would probably be very successful. It doesn’t have to be at a remodeled SV Inn.

  11. JESS KalinowskyThu, Dec 19, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    We only hope that the new owed is more HONEST and HONORABLE when doing business with travel agents!

  12. 90069Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Randy, it would be nice to see an “OUT” hotel built here in West Hollywood. Have you heard about this “gay” hotel that opened in New York City? Seems like a fun concept.

  13. Randy MatthewsFri, Dec 20, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    I think you are speaking my language.

  14. SteveMon, Dec 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    OUT hotel is actively looking in LA…it’s not so easy to find a place. Axel Hotel is also actively looking for a space. Both would be fantastic additions to the other hotels we have in the city.

  15. BlueEyedBoyMon, Dec 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I’d like for someone in management at San Vicente Inn to respond to the issue of maintaining it as clothing optional and making it exclusively for males.

  16. Todd BiancoMon, Dec 23, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I don’t speak for Jeff Klein or have any connection with the project, but I was at the meeting and it was clear to me that the new hotel would eliminate the clothing optional and all male elements that were part of the old San Vicente Inn.

  17. BlueEyedBoyMon, Dec 23, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    If true, that’s a shame. A while back when this sale was first announced they made a point of saying it would continue to be clothing optional. But because that hasn’t been mentioned in the more recent news about the remodel, its omission made me suspicious they were not going to keep it that way after all. I hope we’re wrong and they do!

  18. erik hendersonTue, Feb 04, 2014 at 6:34 am

    its all part of the bigger picture involving the post office being torn down for a new hotel, 15 stores tall……I live near it and they have already tried to buy me out. they are trying to buy everyone out in the area. the new san Vicente also approached us about buying our property for parking

  19. Todd BiancoTue, Feb 04, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I haven’t heard anything about the post office being torn down to be replaced by a hotel. The USPO wants to close the retail portion of the PO and use the entire structure for sorting, distribution and delivery. I hope the plan to close the retail/box portion of the 90069 branch gets derailed. It’s a vital service for the area and the proposed new location on Doheny is far less convenient and would be a disservice to the community.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the new owners of the San Vicente Inn were interested in acquiring one of the surrounding properties for parking.

  20. erikTue, Feb 04, 2014 at 7:58 am

    todd, sounds like youre out of the info loop…..we have been approached by lawyers from both the developers for the post office project and the san Vicente inn project. our property backs right up to the san Vicente new hotel property. they already bought the old run down houses behind us. they want the parking to enter on san Vicente and exit on larrabee. I don’t care who we sell it to as long as its a very, very good price. our lawyer is negotiating with both

    the current post office is an eyesore and should be torn down…..the developer for that project has deeper pockets so I hope they are the one our lawyer accepts

    the new post office will be on Robertson, not doheney….most people have no clue whats going on

  21. Todd BiancoTue, Feb 04, 2014 at 9:15 am

    @Erik Enlighten me.

    All the articles I’ve seen on moving the retail post office operations pointed to leased space on Doheny, just south of Petco. And there was never a mention of ditching the 90069 location in favor of some larger, unassumingly more remote facility. If there is going to be a 15 story hotel on the site of the old post office, I must have missed it. I’d think there would need to be some zoning changes – possibly hard to get – for that to happen. Is this an extension of what the Cohen Brothers are planning for the MTA/Sheriffs’ Station site?

    There is a neighborhood meeting on Feb 12 @ the Ramada at 5 pm to discuss the San Vicente Inn project. I’ll be interested in the latest plans. I hope that the two run-down buildings south of the 850 San Vicente property can be torn down & be made into a parking lot for the Inn — Or possibly that old apartment building, The Cardinal, just south of 837 San Vicente could be purchased and razed to complete the redevelopment of the west side of San Vicente Blvd.

  22. erikTue, Feb 04, 2014 at 9:52 am

    well like I said we have had two offers for our property. one from the developer building on the post office property and one for the san Vicente in property. there is an old house on larrabee at the alley that has been vacant for years. the developer for the post office project already bought it and it will be torn down at the same time they tear down the post office. apparently, according to our lawyer all the need to buy now is the senior care house and the grey house to the north and our building and that’s all the space they need on larrabee. they also want the two buildings north of 850 san Vicente that youre talking about, but so too does the san Vicente inn and our property. I don’t care which one buys it…so far the offers are very nice. I know about the meeting on Tuesday but ill be out of town and its just an opportunity for residents to complain but it wont affect the plans. both Klein and the developer of the post office project are very influential and so too is todd Elliot the lawyer.

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