WeHo Planning Commission Approves Melrose Triangle Project

Melrose Triangle project site plan
Melrose Triangle project site plan

The West Hollywood Planning Commission unanimously approved the proposed Melrose Triangle project Thursday night at a meeting at which some residents objected to the demolition of the “Streamline Moderne” building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. that currently sits on the site.

The project site is bounded on the west by North Almont Drive and on the north and south by Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, which intersect at Doheny Drive facing Beverly Hills. Alan Pullman, founder of Studio One Eleven, the project’s architect, describes the westernmost of its three buildings as “a beacon of entry into the city.”

Members of the West Hollywood Preservation Association (WHPA) said the project should incorporate the 9080 Santa Monica building, built in 1928 and now empty, into its modern design.

“If this building was in South Beach, there would be a giant, gay riot to save this building,” said Roy Oldenkamp, WHPA’s vice president. “There is not going to be any such riot because of a lethargic community.”

A report commissioned by the city from LSA Associates, an environmental impact consultant, has recommended that the 9080 Santa Monica building be moved if it cannot be kept at the existing location.

Other objections raised by speakers included the likelihood of increased traffic in the area, parking problems and the possibility that the building’s four levels of underground parking would intrude on the water table under the site, which was raised by Jeanne Dobrin.

Commissioner Marc Yeber said that wouldn’t be an issue. “Hydrology is dealt with. They de-water, seal it up, and it’s fine,” he said.

Several residents praised the project. “If Beverly Hills can deal with their traffic, why can’t we?” said Bobbie Edrick, addressing complaints that the project would cause more traffic. “I would hope that I see this project completed in my lifetime.”

Another supporter was Jim Banks. “I’m here to show my support for the project,” he said. “Our western gateway has been an eyesore along a dead stretch of Santa Monica for as far back as I can remember.”

The project has been under development since 2004. The latest iteration of it, presented to the commission’s Design Review Subcommittee in February, drew praise from committee members, who had expressed concerns about the mass of the building previously proposed and about plans at that time to build six levels of underground parking.

As approved, the 303,000 square foot project will consist of three buildings with a wide public passageway connecting Santa Monica Boulevard with Melrose Avenue. It will house offices, restaurants and shops and 76 residential units, 15 of which would be reserved for low- and moderate-income renters. It will include 884 parking spaces, 94 more than are required by city codes.

Melrose Triangle is a project of the Charles Company, a real estate development and leasing firm owned by Arman and Mark Gabay of Beverly Hills. Charles Company also owns Excel Property Management and has other wholly or partially owned affiliates such as Broadway Square LLC, System LLC, Sancam, Oppidan LLC.

  1. my comment wasn’t “approved” yet now full it had profanity or anything against people. So in the hence of time will just put a brief version back and if deleted again well ? The traffic is a nightmare starting at 3 ish to 7pm, I do both the city line and drive but because leaving west Hollywood at times.

    I LOVE west Hollywood been here 20 years but now being disabled it has been a challenge. I can drive. but sick alot.

    What I love is the subzided bus via city hall and housing, via mostly public housing through west hollywood and lots of paperwork but assistant through senior (also disabled( in plummer park. There a lot of resources here

  2. There is a fight to save the, built in 1928 but redesigned and expanded in 1938, Wurdeman and Becket Streamline Moderne building. WE ARE FIGHTING! — It is not too late! This building is a rare and important building from the early career of two of the most important and famous architects in the world. And there is no other Streamline Moderne building in West Hollywood. Destroying this building will be a global embarrassment if we let it happen. When this building is restored it would make a great Visitor Center or Museum for the Design district. And what better representative for the design district than a building by two major designers. TALK ABOUT a REAL, AUTHENTIC ICON! The historic buildling doesn’t have to ‘match’ or ‘fit in’ with the new development — LA is famous for its mix and match architecture, people come from all over the world to see it.

    Please help save the historic, rare and important 1938 Wurdeman and Becket Streamline Moderne building at 9080 SMB — write the City Council members and tell them you want it saved and to be a gateway icon of the Design District. You can find their email address on-line. Also, please try to attend the meeting next month.

    1. @ K. K. Please. The building in question is not “original.” It was renovated some time after it was built to what it is now. The building is not historic – it was a pet hospital. This development plan has been bounced around for 10+ years and no one has ever thought or tried to “save” this building prior to now. As the Planning Commission stated at the meeting – there actually are rules on the books that prevent people from trying to stop a project from going forth after plans have been submitted for approval. This building (that whole far west end of our City – our West Gateway) has been an eyesore and a dead stretch of Santa Monica for over a decade (actually closer to 20+ years!) This project will bring new life, new vitality, new shops and restaurants, new tax revenue and 400+ parking spaces for the public – something desperately needed at this end of town. This project needs to move forward and will. Those in favor are writing their own letters – to encourage smart development where it’s needed and will benefit the City!

  3. @ Leslie again…and yes, there are a lot of new and exciting projects happening at relatively the same time. We should be thankful that the economy has picked up and these new projects are bringing new life and benefit to areas of our City that have had empty buildings or lots on them for years, building that have been eyesores or areas that have been underutilized for some time.

  4. @ Leslie. The residents north of the project did not dismiss the issues of traffic and parking – we just realize that without any pain there is no gain. Once the project is completed, there will be 400+ new parking spaces available to the public in the evenings and on weekends – a tremendous gain for this end of town. The Commission discussed ways in which to ensure that construction vehicles do not greatly impact the neighborhood during construction (there will of course be some inconveniences like with any project but in the end the memory of those difficult days will fade as the years of benefit the project will bring will last). Traffic is a given in any city. It comes with city life. The way in which the project is designed will help mitigate the traffic issues around the project in just about the best way any project could be designed on such a difficult triangular piece of land. The need for a car should grow less in less in West Hollywood as more and more becomes available within walking distance. The vast majority that spoke at the meeting last week, praised the design – even the ones that did not support the project for other various reasons. This a nicely designed building that brings new life and revenue of the City on our end of town. Your neighbors to the north hope that some day the northeast corner of Doheny and SM Blvd will be redeveloped and then it will be our turn to live through some pain…put OH! what gain that would be! (dreaming and hoping for the day).

  5. @Shawn. I am a resident of West Hollywood and was at the Planning Commission Meeting the other night. I support this project. So when you say that the Commission doesn’t listen to the residents….you’re wrong. They listened pretty good to me and the others that are in favor of this project (I guess you feel they don’t listen because they didn’t listen to you). This western end of our City has been a mess for 20+years. This project alone has been bounced around for 10+years. I, along with other residents, are very, very happy that this project is finally moving forward. The majority of the people that spoke at the meeting praised the design of the project. The concerns were traffic (a given in any City) and the current Streamline Moderne building (an eyesore) that is not even an “original” as the building was renovated years after it was first built into the current design. This project is carefully thought out, well designed and the benefits far exceed any negatives. The nay sayers are the same bunch that time after time try and kill any new projects in this City and thank goodness we have level headed people that serve on the Design Review, and Planning Commission (both panels voted in favor of this project). Now we hope the City Council will approve it and we can get this corner redeveloped before the decade is over! Once this gets built, hopefully the north corner of Doheny and SM Blvd will be so desirable that it will finally sell and we can get that turned around too.

  6. The planning commision doesn’t listen to the residents. Its been shown time and time again. They are just puppets of the council members that appointed them and have rubber stamped all the forced density into the city for years, The only plan they have for the city is to allow out of town money to make money grabs in height an density on every new project they can. All the money these developers donated to the 4 long term council members is why this was approved. The urban village is being disassembled project by project as we continue to see weho reduced to a greedy developers gold mind with a weho democracy bought and paid for by their money. In the end if the zoning laws in the master plan aren’t challenged by the residents after the 4 long term council members cleverly modified them a while back to allow so much density along santa monica blvd the money grabs will go on unstopped, And the planning commision will just keep approving it all

  7. @Lynn The 8150 Sunset project is by far a bigger problem and monstrosity than this Melrose Triangle gateway project. And the Chase Bank building with the folded roof, floating stairs and mosaic is in far better state of preservation than the Streamline Moderne building on Melrose. I’m very much in favor of incorporating the Chase Bank building into the project as there is much more land to work with and it’s in a good corner. As you pointed out, it has fast-track status from the Governor’s office so it may go faster than anyone thought and we will have little to say about it.

    Everything is subjective when it comes to architecture. I love the PDC – Red, Green and Blue. The center courtyard fountain is really beautiful – IMO. But many people don’t like it. I just wish it had tenants so there would be more daytime business for our local restaurants, shops, etc. I like what I see on the Melrose Triangle building and I hope it gets the green light from the City Council too (assuming it goes there on appeal or it needs additional approvals from the Council).

    A Starbucks would be fine in this project. Assuming the offices and shops are filled, Starbucks would be a natural fit. And I don’t drink coffee.

  8. @Richard K…..Accolades for good architecture are not only deserved when referring to Paris. This thoughtful design and function is good for this American city.

    My reference is West Hollywood because I live here, not Paris…….and the Starbucks would fit nicely on the corner of Almont and Melrose.

  9. @Richard K:
    In the not too distant future, we will be dealing with another “Gateway Proposal” in the form of 8150 SUNSET, also lauded as iconic. The EIR has not yet been distributed but the owners, Townscape Partners have wrangled some special considerations based on SB743 potentially limiting criticism and positive input regarding aesthetic elements. Although 8150 SUNSET is technically in LA, the adjacent neighborhood in West Hollywood will be seriously affected on multiple levels: traffic, transportation etc. as will be the hills above the Chateau Marmont and Lauren Canyon.

    There seem to be forward thinkers with goals when it comes to financial benefits for the developers and cities but the proper aesthetic input and considerations of the residents and general neighborhood are left in the starting gate. We need qualified folks with vision in the community possessing sharp antennae and a compelling interest to be involved at every interval.

    BTW 8150 SUNSET also contains a potential landmark building in the current iteration of Chase Bank which heretofore has not sought landmark status. Incorporation of buildings we may deem worthy of previous eras need to be introduced before the developers move to the drawing board in order to have a fighting chance. Everyone admired the Streamline Moderne Building on SM Boulevard for the last ten or eleven years knowing full well something was about to hatch. While the last minute efforts at research were informative and admirable, these folks also need to sharpen their antennae and be pro active at every moment. If anyone loves a building that is potentially worthy, they should nominate it. The work won’t kill anyone and it may be rewarding. Being left in the starting gate is a bad place to be.

  10. Addendum:
    Perhaps our city council will have a more far reaching and meaningful vision for what West Hollywood is now and should be in the years to come. Look to the great cities of the world, would they have a shopping center as their “gateway”?
    Don’t minimize what West Hollywood represents to the world and don’t celebrate that we may be all about the shopping. If this is indeed the “gateway” then this is an important opportunity and challenge to create something that is everlasting, not just another hip, mixed use mall without a nod or monument to the residents who made the city.

  11. As I watched last night’s meeting I was more than mildly amused that some of the commissioners actually tried to compare the Eastside Gateway to this Westside Gateway Plan, going as far as to say, the “beautiful” gateway on the eastside. Are they kidding? What in heaven’s name is beautiful about the new, ugly, square, over-sized, over priced mixed use structures or the really ugly, crime-ridden Target/Best Buy/Fast food gateway with the giant, garish, flashing billboard? If the developers had proposed a giant, flashing billboard for this at the Melrose Triangle project, all hell would have broken loose. The city leaders have delusions of grandeur saying that now people in Beverly Hills will look longingly at WeHo. If it wasn’t so pathetic it would be laughable.

  12. I was at the meeting last night and found it very curious that ALL of the residents north of Santa Monica gushed over the project, dismissing traffic and neighborhood parking issues. Only the residents south of SM raised these very real concerns. As Sheila Higgins so passionately and eloquently noted, neither the planning commission nor the city council are taking into consideration the cumulative effect of all the projects slated for approval and/or construction including those at SM and San Vicente, the two on SM near La Cienega, San Vicente at Melrose, Melrose at Norwich and Melrose at La Cienega.

  13. I continue to like this project – it’s far better than anything we’ve seen before and it addresses different uses, on different sides. Our gateway has been an embarrassment for as long as I can remember. The building on the northeast corner exists merely to support a billboard. The traffic flow and lack of parking make it impossible for any actual business to exist there. At least it’s not the boarded up mess it was for a very long time.

    This project has plenty of parking and as long as the groundwater issues have been addressed, I think it should go forward. Now let’s see if the City works with the developer to make sure that traffic flows as well as possible around this project.

    I am sad to see the 1928 Streamline Moderne building sacrificed. And I really like the decorative brick used in the more “modern” building immediately to the east. It’s very similar to that used at the iconic Parker Inn in Palm Springs. Unfortunately, like many historic or potentially historic properties, the owners deliberately allow them to deteriorate in order to make the property attractive to developers and residents happy to see a mess cleaned up. The push to recognize the historic value or incorporate it into the project was probably too little too late.

  14. It was an unanimous vote for those that showed up. Commissioner Heidi was “absent’ from the planning commission meeting again last night.

    Could it be she didn’t want to have to vote on the controversial Melrose Triangle project, where 3 lobbyists — Seymore, Afriat and Elliott were representing the project? Could affect her future fundraising or conversely, her neighborhood support.

  15. You would have thought city staff and the planning commission had approved an opera house or the beautiful Tuileries Gardens that lead up to the Louvre in Paris. Some commissioners were tearing up during their effusive praise of this altruistic project. That they would live to it see it completed! What they approved, what their vision for the ‘gateway’ to West Hollywood is another mall, albeit, a nice looking mall.
    That the developer and staff persevered for years to get this approved isn’t the criteria to make this a landmark project that residents and visitors will reflect upon. The triangle needed something but the city could have done much much better.
    They could have created a green space with the structure they’re calling the ‘gateway’ building. Creating a park with a fountain, benches and trees that would benefit the whole public; that those driving and walking by could appreciate. Then develop the ‘boulevard’ and ‘avenue’ buildings as planned. By decreasing the density of this project they would not worsen the horrendous traffic congestion that exists on Santa Monica Blvd and Melrose Ave as much as they will.
    The real question is where will the Starbucks go in this beautiful gateway to our city?

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