West Hollywood’s Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for a six-story residential and retail building to be built on the site of the Faith Plating plant on Santa Monica Boulevard at North Formosa Avenue, despite worries from residents about the clean-up of toxic chemicals on the site.
“We have to trust the experts,” Commissioner John Altschul said about the clean-up concerns.
Of the 22 residents who spoke during the two-hour hearing, most favored the project but worried about the removal of soil contaminated by heavy metals used by Faith Plating, which since 1935 had been one of the world’s largest replaters of chrome automobile bumpers.
“The level of contamination is not as extensive as once thought,” testified Joe Frey, founder of the Newport Beach-based Frey Environmental, Inc., which will be in charge of removing the contaminated soil. He said there will be no chance of spillage as they remove and transport the hazardous waste.
Frey explained the soil on the site was mostly clay, which is far less porous than sand. That means that very little of the toxic chemicals had seeped into the ground water. Tests indicate the contamination stops about 10 feet beneath the surface, he said.
Commissioner Roy Huebner assured the concerned residents that the state Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has stringent guidelines for the clean-up process.
Commissioner David Aghaei suggested that leaving the site dormant would likely be more dangerous than attempting to clean it up.
Once the Faith Plating building has been demolished and the soil cleaned up, the new building, which will go by the name “Domain,” will have 166 residential units (33 of which will be affordable housing) and 9,300 square feet of retail space at street level. The building will be six stories high (72 feet) on the Santa Monica Boulevard side, but only three stories (36 feet) at the back of the lot, which is next to low-rise residential buildings.
Several residents expressed concern about the number of projects simultaneously going up on the city’s eastside, and wished the Domain project could be slowed down. A six-story mixed-use project is going up at the old Carl’s Jr. site (on the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue) and another six-story mixed-use project is being built on the old Jon’s supermarket site (southeast corner of La Brea and Fountain Avenues). Additionally, a mixed-used project that includes two seven-story towers and 26,000 square feet of commercial space is proposed for the Movietown Plaza site (on Santa Monica Boulevard at Poinsettia Place).
However, the Domain project won’t be “shovel ready” for several more years, according Altschul. The two buildings on La Brea are supposed to be completed by then.
Other residents said all the new construction was a positive for the neighborhood.
“It’s an exciting time to live on the eastside,” said resident Steve Levin.
Luke Daniels, the managing director of Trammel Crow Residential, which will assume ownership of Domain once it is complete, said “We are trying to blend an A-plus project with an A-plus location.”
The centerpiece of the project, which was designed by Alan Pullman of the Long Beach-based Studio One Eleven architectural firm, will be a three-story portal allowing views of the Hollywood sign in the background. That portal will have a bright red metal covering designed to tie into the red-painted Formosa Cafe, the Chinese restaurant directly across the street.
City planner Stephanie Reich joked that the area would soon be known as the “red district.”