Restoration Hardware Project Gets Rave Reviews at Design Meeting; Concerned Residents a No-Show

restoration hardware melrose
A design graphic for the Restoration Hardware set to be constructed at 8564 Melrose Ave.

West Hollywood residents opposed to revised plans for the controversial Restoration Hardware showroom proposed for Melrose Avenue failed to show up Thursday night to air their complaints at the West Hollywood Planning Commission’s design review subcommittee meeting, where the project received glowing reviews from the commissioners.

Residents living in the West Hollywood West neighborhood immediately south of the planned 30,000 square-foot building at 8564 Melrose Ave. at Westmount, demanded the changes have a public hearing before the Planning Commission and its design review subcommittee. City staff members considered the changes minor enough that they could have been OKed at the staff level, but bowed to pressure and sent the project back to the Planning Commission for approval.

West Hollywood West resident Lauren Meister, a former Planning Commissioner, reports that no one from city staff notified the residents of the date for the design review meeting. Meister sent an email of complaint to the City Council and city planning staff on Thursday night.

“Knowing the controversy and serious concerns regarding this project, I think it’s sad that so little effort was made to let WHW residents know about this Design Review committee meeting,” Meister said in her email to the city.

The agenda for the design review meeting has been posted on the city website since July 31. WEHOville included the date of the design review meeting in a July 23 article about the controversy over the Restoration Hardware revised plans.

The only person who did show up for public comment was Tri-West resident Larry Block who sits on the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board. However, Block wasn’t there to protest the plans, merely to make sure the proposed new rooftop terrace be accessible to handicapped people (which it will be, via elevator).

That rooftop terrace is the major change to the designs for the building, which the City Council approved in November 2012. Restoration Hardware plans to display its outdoor furniture on that terrace. The area will be public space, free for anyone to use during business hours.

Under the new plans, the building’s two-story, 35-feet high Melrose-facing façade will be lowered to one 20-foot story, while the back portion of the building will still be 35-feet high. The building’s façade, which still includes a ground-level courtyard area, will be more ornate.

The three-member subcommittee was impressed with the revised plans.

“I didn’t mind the last design, but this is a lot better,” said Commissioner David Aghaei.

“The redesigned façade is magnificent,” said Commissioner John Altschul.

“It’s going to be the nicest thing on the street,” said Commissioner Roy Huebner.

The commissioners’ major concern was whether the rooftop terrace would be used for events, which could disturb the residents living nearby. Restoration Hardware officials assured the commissioners it will not be, saying they routinely turn down requests to hold events in the garden or rooftop area of its stores.

“Restoration Hardware is in the furniture business; we don’t do events,” said San Francisco-based architect Angela Matt who has designed or redesigned many of Restoration Hardware’s locations nationwide.

City Planning Manager John Keho suggested the Planning Commission could add as a condition of approval that events could only be held on the roof with a special-event permit.

The full Planning Commission will consider the Restoration Hardware changes at its Aug. 15 meeting.

The commissioners’ other major concern was the mechanical equipment, including the air conditioning compressors, being moved from the roof to the building’s rear at ground level. To reduce the noise from those compressors, Restoration Hardware plans to buy a top-of-the line Mitsubishi compressor.

Matt said the Mitsubishi compressor operates at 60 decibels (which is about conversation level) vs. 78 decibels for standard compressors. She also said the compressors would be turned off when the store is closed.

“The store closes at 7 or 8 p.m., depending on what night of the week it is,” said Matt. “The compressor will be shut down afterwards. So you won’t be lying in bed hearing it at 10 p.m.”

To further deal with any noise disturbances to the neighborhood, Matt said Restoration Hardware has commissioned an acoustic report from the Charles Salter Associates firm in San Francisco and will make any changes needed per that report.

In Nov. 2012, the City Council approved plans for the two-story, 30,000-square-foot showroom building. At the time, Restoration Hardware intended to occupy two-thirds of the building, approximately 22,000 square feet.

In March 2013, Restoration Hardware decided to make the Melrose location into its California flagship store. Consequently, the company decided to take over the entire building and bring the design up to the standards it has for its other flagship stores.

Restoration Hardware currently has an 18,000 square-foot store at 8722 Beverly Blvd. (adjacent to Cedars Sinai Medical Center), a half mile away from the proposed Melrose Avenue store. The company originally intended to close the Beverly Boulevard store when the Melrose location opened.

However, officials announced at Thursday’s meeting they will keep the Beverly Boulevard location open as one of their specialty stores, such as Restoration Hardware Baby & Child.

  1. @Bernadette Parinello: that story goes way back… “Here’s the deal… [developer] own[s] a lot of property on Melrose. They have invested a lot of capital into their developments and retail stores and intend to invest more capital on this street. They are trying to help us realize the vision for Melrose that we have outlined in our General Plan.” That’s an excerpt from an August 2009 email to City staff from Anne McIntosh, WeHo’s former Director of Community Development and Deputy City Manager. Ms. McIntosh wrote: “We need to have a new strategy about how we approach these projects. They are within code, they are overparked and they do not have the traffic impacts we are reading about in the studies that are coming back… I am willing to take any bows and arrows flung our way by the neighbors, PC or Council. But, we are over processing these projects and need to figure out how to work better with the property owner. Thanks all – keep being creative.”

  2. Should look to see how much $$$ Restoration Hardware and the many people involved in getting this monstrosity built gave to the recent campaigns of Duran and Prang (paging lobbyist Steve Arifart) and how much they have likely given to the Trevor Project (aka “Abbe-Land” tho I’ve heard of “grumbling” about her tenure thus far) and to that outdated ridiculous library. And how much $$$ they have likely committed to the upcoming city council race of new Planning Commissioner Heidi Shink who will be voting on this project NEXT WEEK even though she has ZERO planning experience. Funny how that works huh? Don’t believe for a second that Restoration Hardware won’t be using the rooftop terrace for special events–they likely have a very fluid definition of what a special event is, plus the city allows 12 of these a year, that’s at least one per month, folks. Even their architect says “… they routinely turn down requests to hold events in the garden or rooftop area of its stores..” but this says NOTHING about Restoration Hardware hosting its OWN events. This is misleading. The city has routinely bungled the outreach on this project purposely because they don’t want another “WHW headache.” Keho is the pits. Someone should do a Public Records request to review internal emails of how the decision to cut out all the stakeholders was made.

  3. What about me lol 🙂 ! there was nobody there… 🙂 .. Im 230 pounds, almost 2 people !
    The plan is beautiful. Im not sure what else could be done. We have 2 open courtyards. I wonder what happens to this public area is homeless people start hanging around.
    Our neighborhood is changing. The traffic is a problem. The showroom aspect of new business model means that there will be less traffic than expected. The space is only about half retail.

    Get set people. The paparazzi are coming too. We are in the heart of it all. Oh and Lauren is right.. there needs to be a decision if subcommittee meetings should be public notice and the answer is yes. In this age of high tech communication public notice is merely a quick post. PS I asked about the noise and special events upstairs and its limited to 4 times a year.

  4. The design of this building is incredible! It will be a great addition to the design district and provide some much needed “plaza” space with the roof top terrace. Hopefully RH actually makes the upstairs welcoming and not cluttered with merchandise and filled with over-eager salespersons. It is far improved from the original, bland, giant block looking original proposal. I think the developer did a good job incorporating neighbors concerns. Of course it would be just great to raze the entire thing and have a water garden there instead but at the end of the day this is private property on a major commercial avenue. This is a great compromise effort. I see it flying through planning and council.

    WHW will have a chance to speak out in favor (or not) in the planning commission meeting, if they have real concern how this will impact their property. No need to attack the City for a short notice on the subcommittee meeting imo.

  5. To Lauren’s point above … You can’t be considered a “no-show” if you’re not told there’s a meeting. WeHo residents need lobbyists to represent our interests.

  6. I think a more interesting story would have been, “True to form, the City schedules another meeting without including the stakeholders.”

    As you noted in a previous article, WHWRA sent a letter to the City with its concerns — the LEAST the City could have done is simply reply that they were scheduling a design review meeting. Not everyone looks at the City Calendar everyday — especially when they are unaware that a meeting is going to be scheduled!

    If you don’t know that there’s going to be a design review meeting to know to check for it, and the City arranges the meeting with only 5 business days notice (during the summer), and the City then doesn’t contact the stakeholders, why is it surprising that no one showed up? You’re not a “no show” when you don’t know about what you’re not showing up for!

    Let’s be fair, when the City wants residents to show up for something, staff sends engraved invitations, but when they don’t want you to be there, they don’t even send one email.

    It’s also quite unusual that the City would schedule a design review subcommittee meeting only one week before the actual public hearing. Typically, commissioners’ comments at a design review committee meeting are included in the staff report, which was already released prior to the design review subcommittee meeting. For this project, they have not been included because of this unnecessarily tight timeline. (What’s the rush to Planning Commission?)

    It would have also been interesting to include in your article that Restoration Hardware (RH) hired a “community relations” person, and it appears that person didn’t bother to contact the many residents who attended the RH reception a few weeks back, or WHWRA, to let them know about the design review meeting. If RH thought the changes would be well-received, why not reach out to the community? Isn’t that what a community relations person is supposed to do?

    The bottom line is: (1) design review subcommittee meetings do not require public notice and perhaps they should; (2) City staff used to reach out to its residents about important meetings particularly on controversial projects and we see that happening less and less; and, (3) communications from the City cannot be arbitrary — there needs to be uniformity in how they communicate with the public.

    Oh, and (4) a project can get rave reviews but that doesn’t mean the impacts are any less.

    P.S. The City Calendar and this online paper do not qualify as “public notice”!

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