The developer of a controversial project at 8150 Sunset Blvd. is seeking to have the state give it a special status that would protect it from a prolonged legal battle with residents who oppose it. That status also would bar local agencies from considering the aesthetic or parking impact of the project in deciding whether to approve it.
Townscape Partners has asked that the project be designated as an “environmental leadership development project” (ELDP). That designation means the local agency evaluating the project can’t consider its impact on parking or aesthetic issues such as whether it creates increased glare or blocks the view of public spaces. It also stipulates that any lawsuits regarding the project must be resolved within 270 days.
The project, at the intersection of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, is within the City of Los Angeles and adjacent to West Hollywood, some of whose residents have opposed it. At a public meeting last September more than 100 residents turned out to air a wide range of grievances with the project, including concerns over parking, rooftop sound, traffic, demolition of the Chase Bank building, which some see as having historical qualities and the 16-story height of the apartment building along Havenhurst. The property is the site of the former Garden of Allah, the historic home in the 1920s through 1950s of actress Alla Nazimova and her friends.
The proposed project would span 2.56 acres and include 249 apartment units in two buildings. One would be a 108-foot-high, nine-story apartment building along Crescent Heights. The second would be a 191-foot-high, 16-story apartment building along Havenhurst Drive. Also included are 111,000 square feet of commercial space, which would include restaurants, a grocery store, retail shops, fitness center and a bank.
The ELDP provision was adopted by the legislature last year at the request of state Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to expedite approval of the Sacramento Kings arena project. When Steinberg introduced the law observers noted that savvy developers of other projects might use it to expedite their approval.
To qualify as an environmental leadership development project, a project must be either residential, a combination of residential and commercial or an employment center. It also must be located on an infill site, which is defined as underdeveloped property surrounded on three sides by urban development, and within a half mile of an existing or planned major transit stop. Finally, the developer must spend at least $100 million on the project, it must result in creation of high-wage, high-skill jobs at prevailing wages during construction and not result in any net additional greenhouse gas emissions.
Townscape’s 8150 Sunset project already has received ELDP approval by the governor’s office. On Thursday it will be consider by a state Assembly joint committee whose approval also is required.
West Hollywood City Councilmember John Heilman asked the Council last night to send a letter to the committee urging it not to grant approval. Heilman noted that the required environmental review process for the project has not been completed.
“It seems inappropriate for the normal processes of the city and the normal process of review to be bypassed,” he said.
The City Council agreed to issue the letter, with Councilmember John Duran abstaining. Duran said he didn’t have sufficient information to decide how to vote on the matter given that it had come before the Council with only two hours notice. Townscape is a major supporter of Duran’s, with one of its partners, Tyler Siegel, and members of his family having made maximum donations of $500 each to his 2013 re-election campaign and Townscape having donated $2,500 to opponents of a successful city ballot measure that year that bans council members from serving for more than three terms. Siegel, a resident of Beverly Hills, also has donated $2,000 to Duran’s current campaign for election to the 3rd District LA County Supervisor seat. Jeff Haber, a lawyer with Paul Hastings who represented Townscape at last night’s Council meeting, also made the maximum donation of $500 to Duran’s council re-election campaign.
Among its other controversial projects in West Hollywood is a proposal to redevelop 8899 Beverly Blvd., known as the ICM building.