On Thursday evening, about 25 people attended a West Hollywood Planning Commission Design Review Subcommittee meeting about the revised design for a proposed mixed-use development project at 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. at West Knoll.
Several residents—primarily people who live near the site—spoke during the designated public comments period to raise concerns about the project. As a result, it was decided to hold an additional review meeting to address some of the issues raised, particularly with regard to green credits and parking.
A previous design of the project went to the Design Review Subcommittee in September 2012, when it was not advanced to the Planning Commission. Stephanie Reich, West Hollywood’s urban designer, and representatives from developer Soto Capital LP noted several changes that had been made to the design as a result of feedback given at the 2012 meeting.
Changes from the initial plans included reducing the amount of commercial space from 41,168 square feet to 34,116 square feet; reducing the number of residential units from 102 to 95; increasing the amount of “private open space” from 17, 853 square feet to 19,033 square feet; and reducing the number of parking spaces from 318 to 264. Additionally, city’s design review memo notes that the building has been pulled back from the property line to add “breathing room” between it and the adjacent Ramada. A courtyard has also been added.
“From a design review standpoint … This is an excellent project for this site,” Reich said. “The design is very well-done.”
Although many of the people who spoke during the public comments period said they felt that the new design was an improvement over the previous version, each raised objections or concerns. Several objected to the project’s size and appearance; many said it felt too large for the neighborhood and/or incompatible with the area’s character. Concerns were also raised about the parking configuration and green credits. Reich said that the city would thoroughly review the green credits allocated to ensure they were calculated correctly.
Irene Oppenheimer said the design wouldn’t fit in the neighborhood.
“The whole street has a kind of Spanish feel,” she said. “This design is clunky, it’s boxy … and it’s far too large.”
Two representatives of the Ramada made comments, which included raising concerns about the size of the project and its effect on views from Ramada rooms. Committee member John Altschul grew annoyed, particularly when he felt comments veered outside of the scope of the meeting, and had a tense exchange with one of the Ramada representatives.
Without addressing anyone specific, Altschul also pushed back more generally to concerns about development.
“I don’t know what people expect,” he said, noting the high population of the L.A. area. “You can’t just move here and say now that I live here other people can’t … You can’t say, ‘I got mine, other people can’t get theirs.’ ”
He said that there will be more density and more residential developments on WeHo’s major streets, and that the city will look different in five years.
Before the meeting adjourned, Reich noted that the proposed Melrose Triangle project, already approved by the design subcommittee, is on the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting next Thursday.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story included a quote from Deane Kenworthy, whose comments were inadvertantly misrepresented. WEHOville.com regrets the error.