WeHo Council Denies Restoration Hardware Appeal

Restoration hardware

A West Hollywood neighborhood’s long fight against a controversial development came to an end Monday night as the City Council denied an appeal for changes to the proposed Restoration Hardware building currently under construction at 8564 Melrose Ave. at Westmount.

Lauren Meister, a resident of the West Hollywood West neighborhood just south of the building and former president of the residents’ association, was appealing the Planning Commission’s 4-1 vote in August approving changes that include lowering the Melrose-facing façade to one story, making the entire façade more ornate and adding a rooftop deck for display of the company’s outdoor furniture line.

“Even though I didn’t win the appeal, at least we — not only me, but the community — got our points across,” Meister said. “We succeeded by shedding light on the issues. As far as I’m concerned, we won in that we were able to effectively communicate what’s wrong with the planning process and let’s hope it will help to improve the process in the future.”

The council voted 3-2, with council members John D’Amico and Jeffrey Prang opposing approval of the project changes and supporting the appeal.

“We’re thrilled that it’s over. We’re going to be very good neighbors. I think everybody in West Hollywood will be proud of this new store,” said Restoration Hardware spokesperson Sandy Hutchins.

The council first approved the 30,000-square-foot building in November 2012 for one wholesale and one retail tenant. Restoration Hardware, which sells high-end furniture and accessories, was always intended to be one of those tenants. However in March 2013, it opted to take over the entire building, alter the designs and make it into its California flagship store.

Much of the controversy concerned the process of getting the building approved and changes to the original plans. Meister and other West Hollywood West residents felt their concerns weren’t being heard and that they were not getting adequate notice about meetings concerning the project. In fact, Meister and some WeHo West residents protested the city changing the appeal hearing date from Oct. 21 to Nov. 4.

“It’s clear that all processes are messy and this one is exceedingly so,” D’Amico said.

The conflict was largely over whether Restoration Hardware is in fact a “wholesale” business, where products are not sold to the average customer and little traffic is generated. The city considers Restoration Hardware a wholesale business since designers who have items shipped are its primary customers; only three percent of Restoration’s sales are “cash and carry.” However, Meister, who served on the city’s Planning Commission from 2011-2012, points out that Restoration has a retail business license, charges sales tax and is listed on the stock exchange as a retail business. When questioned by the Planning Commission in August, DeMonty Price, Restoration’s vice president of retail stores, avoided the question by calling it a “hybrid” of retail and wholesale.

“It’s wholesale with incidental retail,” Councilmember John Heilman said.

Since Meister contends Restoration is a 100 percent retail business, she says an environmental review is needed to study traffic, noise and other potential impacts. The city maintains its initial study for the building, which showed no significant environmental impacts, is still valid since it considers Restoration a wholesale business.

Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who voted against the project when it was first proposed, agreed the impacts had not been sufficiently studied.

The other point of contention was the proposed 7,980-square-foot rooftop deck. Restoration says the deck will be a public space where people can eat lunch or drink coffee. Meister contends that the deck will be used as an event space and the noise will potentially disrupt the neighborhood. As a condition of approval, the Planning Commission limited the rooftop deck to four events per year, none of which can go after business hours.

Meister also worries that in the future Restoration or some other business occupying the building will try to open a restaurant or bar on the roof. Restoration currently does not have a conditional use permit to operate a restaurant on the roof, but Meister contends that could easily be changed in the future.

To address Meister’s concern, the council did add a condition that if the building is ever sold, the rooftop terrace must be further reviewed by the city.

The property is owned by BMB Investments Corp., which owns several other properties along that stretch of Melrose Avenue. BMB Investments, which is headed by Ben Soleimani, was initially developing the building, but Restoration took control of the construction when it opted to lease the entire building. Restoration has a 15-year-lease on the building with options for two five-year renewals.

Resident Larry Block, owner of Block Party and member of the Disabilities Advisory Board, said that Councilmember John Duran should recuse himself from voting because BMB Investments contributed $5,000 to the Friends of John Duran campaign fund during Duran’s council re-election campaign in March. Calling it a “world-class building,” Duran voted to deny the appeal.


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ali
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ali

RH is not very high end. It sends out a catalogue as thick as a phone book. At this point they are busy copying Belgian (flamant.com) designers. Minotti, Cassina, B&B on Beverly Blvd are very high end. All these stores including RH are retailers. That means a member of the public can walk in and purchase something. The very high end guys do not sell small stuff such as Christmas ornaments for a few bucks. Therefore, since RH carries much lower ticket items in addition to a larger variety of merchandise and considering the popularity of the Belgian style they… Read more »

N. Bullard
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N. Bullard

“Since Meister contends Restoration is a 100 percent retail business, she says an environmental review is needed to study traffic, noise and other potential impacts. The city maintains its initial study for the building, which showed no significant environmental impacts, is still valid since it considers Restoration a wholesale business. SO! This project was approved by the city ignoring the fact that this business is registered as a “RETAIL” business. They accepted the ridiculous description of it being a “Hybrid”, which means once erected they are free under their retail registration to do all that registration allows. AND the city… Read more »

Marco Colantonio
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Marco Colantonio

Just for the record, Brian, I do live in West Hollywood, (West) just a few blocks from 8564 Melrose. As for a clue, I am in Realtor and oversee a number of family owned, small apartment complexes in Weho and one of these is on Westbourne Drive, south of Rugby.

Roslyn Lothridge
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Roslyn Lothridge

Many thanks to the planning commissioners and city council for their vote enabling more congestion and more traffic on Melrose.

Monty Ward
Guest
Monty Ward

Wrong, get off your high horse Brian,
It will Enhance, the neighborhood.
Kings Rd, btw SM blvd and Boring Melrose.
Too bad.

Monty Ward
Guest
Monty Ward

Foolish Decision, We need Restoration Hardware. Maybe you were paid off.
Makes you look very Suspicious, Dishonest.
Weho needs to be more friendly anyway.

Brian Mazurkiewicz
Guest
Brian Mazurkiewicz

Thanks for your comments Larry, Rocky & Nic. I agree with them!
Its seems clear that Marco does not live in West Hollywood West & has no clue of the real money behind this project. The intend of the owner is to blanket the once charming area of Melrose that had ties to our community with these over-scale projects that will altimately ruin the character of the area.

Nic Valle
Guest

Further proof that residents are the bottom of the pile when it ones to the I me sly corrupt, for sale, weho government t.

Rocky
Guest
Rocky

Sad day really. RH base is retail and Ben and the boys will clog Melrose and choke the small entrepreneurial engine of once was “the creative city” of soon to be a retail street mall. Creativity will be lost and move elsewhere. Alas!

Marco Colantonio
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Marco Colantonio

Restoration Hardware has bent over backwards evidencing their commitment to accommodate the community’s concerns and to comply with Council stipulations. In their sincere desire to invest tens of millions of dollars in our city, RH has unequivocally acquiesced to countless restrictions imposed by the Planning Commission as well. The company and its representatives have shown great respect for our community’s vision and I applaud their efforts. The proposed edifice is stately and will be a grand addition to the district and a perfect complement to the PDC. Councilmembers Heilman and Duran made the valid point of noting RH is very… Read more »

Larry Block
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Larry Block

Perfect example of buying a vote on the council.. its was 2-2 and came down to the guy who got a $5000 donation to the friends of Duran committee for city council.. Now he’s thinking of running for county supervisor… protect those big donors!! Now John sees the benefit of term limits. Zev is termed out. It gives new opportunities for new voices to rise. Run John Run, you got my vote! Dont chicken out buddy.. we can disagree on a lot but for county supervisor you can help West Hollywood. We need city council members who do not use… Read more »