8899 Beverly Developer Would Segregate Low-Income Tenants from Amenities for Condo Owners

8899 Beverly Blvd., townscape partners
Rendering of proposed redesign of 8899 Beverly Blvd.

Last minute alterations to the controversial 8899 Beverly Blvd. project would leave low-income tenants looking at but segregated from amenities offered to the more affluent, a practice that has been dubbed a “poor door” policy by opponents of it in other cities. That is one of the issues that has led West Hollywood city planners to recommend again that the Planning Commission reject on Thursday a request from the developers for a major exception to current zoning standards.

A public hearing last month frustrated and confused local residents who learned at the last minute that the developer was making unpublicized changes to the project to try to address the concerns of city planners. The Planning Commission continued that hearing until this coming Thursday.

The developer, a partnership of Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills and Angelo Gordon & Co., a New York City investment firm, wants to nearly double the existing 90,000-square-foot building, which is ten stories high and formerly housed the ICM talent agency. It now is primarily an office building that also houses some shops and the Madeo restaurant. The developer proposes to add wings on the north, east and west sides of the, convert the existing office space to 55 condominiums and convert a third-floor parking garage to offices and 10 apartments for low-income people.

The developer also had proposed building an underground parking garage beneath the current surface parking lot behind the building on Rosewood Avenue. On top of that underground parking garage would be 13 townhouses opening onto Rosewood, a recreation center with an indoor pool and a building containing four apartments for low-income renters.

The revised plan that the Planning Commission will consider Thursday calls for construction on Rosewood of nine single-family houses rather than the townhouses proposed earlier, a building containing seven apartments for low-income renters and an outdoor pool atop the recreation building. Replacing the townhouses with single-family homes addresses concerns raised by some residents of the neighborhood on the other side of Rosewood, which is largely composed of single family homes. They had objected that the townhouses were out of character with their neighborhood.

The developer also is now proposing to make the apartments for low-income renters smaller in size. That addresses an earlier concern by city planners that the relatively large size of the units proposed earlier would make it unfeasible economically to continue to rent them for less than the market rate. And the developer has agreed to pay $1 million into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust fund in lieu of building another three apartments for very-low-income renters.

Even with the changes, the city’s Community Development Department objects to the massive size of the project. Also, in its assessment of the proposed single-family houses, the department says they ” appear to have a generic design with what appears to be two or three different models among the nine single units. The ground floor appears to have large glazed openings that give it a bit of a commercial feel. The repetition of individual building design makes it look like a single development. Each design should be a different and unique design to properly blend into the neighborhood.”

The Community Development report also notes that “the current configuration has the affordable units looking down on a pool they are prohibited from using. This very obvious delineation of amenities runs contrary to West Hollywood’s policies of inclusiveness and equal access for all … Housing staff remains unable to support the proposed project because there would be separate amenity areas for the affordable housing tenants and the market-rate homeowners.”

Such “poor door” practices have sparked outrage in recent months in New York City and London, prompting local elected officials in those cities to say they will take action to ban them.

Because 8899 Beverly was constructed 31 years before West Hollywood was incorporated as a city, the building as it is does not have to meet current zoning requirements. The zone in which it is located limits a building’s height to three stories, and the 8899 Beverly Building is ten stories high. Also, the floor area of the building is 3.3 times the size of the lot on which it sits. The zoning code requires that new buildings in the area have no more than 1.3 times the square footage of the lot on which they sit. The Townscape proposal would increase the 8899 Beverly building to 6.1 times the square footage of the lot. The addition of housing for low-income people is a way developers are able to get waivers under state law from meeting certain local zoning requirements.

The developer has said the city cannot deny it the exception it is seeking to the zoning code applicable to the area because the project as proposed meets requirements for such an exception by including low-income housing and other measures.

“Under applicable state law and the city’s municipal code, the city may not deny the project, since it qualifies for a density bonus and provides affordable housing,” it said in a letter to the city.

Townscape was a major donor to opponents of the successful campaign to establish term limits for West Hollywood City Council members in 2013, giving $2,500 to that effort. Its principals, John Irwin and Tyler Siegel, and members of their families donated $1,500 to Councilmember John Duran’s re-election campaign last year and $500 to the campaign of Councilmember Jeffrey Prang.

In May, Townscape managed to get a state “environmental leadership development project” (ELDP) designation for a controversial project at the intersection of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards. Nearby residents raised concerns over parking, rooftop sound, traffic, demolition of the Chase Bank building on the site, which some see as historic, and the 16-story height of a proposed apartment building along Havenhurst. With the ELDP designation, opponents of the project will have no more than 270 days to take legal action to stop it. That is an exceptionally short period in the California legal system.

Four members of the West Hollywood City Council voted to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown opposing the ELDP designation. Councilmember Duran abstained, saying the complex proposal had arrived before the Council too late for him to adequately study it.

The Planning Department will hear comments from the public and consider the Community Development Department’s recommendation at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.


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Don Azars
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Don Azars

It’s not as if the developers are being forced to provide housing for homeless people. Only a small portion of their units would be available to moderate income people…so “Poor door” or lack of amenties is indeed some offshoot of “CLASS WARFARE” that seems to be happening in various cities of our country. We give developers too many wavers on set back, parking and so on in our city…..City Council members take note that our city is not to be held ransom this way by the rich and property developers. Maybe it’s too late since we’ve already given away such… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
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Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

If it’s elitist to point out that developers are creating opportunities for poor people to not be forced to live in the ghetto, then yes, I’m elitist. If the developers didn’t build the units, there would be nothing available for them in the area at all. And maybe by not being stuck in a high-crime, hopeless, depressed area, they will be able to find new opportunities that will offer them more money and a way out of the need for affordable housing. Take off the bleeding heart blinders everyone.

BlueEyedBoy
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BlueEyedBoy

It appears to me there might be some “class warfare” going on here for the purpose of social engineering. Who came up with the term “poor-door” tenants? Might it be some busy-body with too much time on his hands who wants to create a ruckus where none would otherwise exist? I would think most of the low-income people who won the lottery by getting one of these apartments would never think to also demand that they also get everything else that the people who pay for it enjoy. I refuse to feel guilty because I can afford to have a… Read more »

BlueEyedBoy
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BlueEyedBoy

Riley, your comment doesn’t take into account what my previous post suggested; that homeowners would not be ALLOWED (by law) to make any changes later on if the lower rent people had ever been permitted to use the amenities. Of course it’s ridiculous that a homeowner could not make any changes in his own property if his poor neighbors had been given access to his pool or BBQ. But that’s my point. It would also be ridiculous that condo owners in this building could not decide at some later time to make some changes in the services and amenities that… Read more »

90069
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90069

The “poor door” sounds awful but in reality it isn’t so bad. Considering, the developer is putting money into a trust to build affordable housing “elsewhere” in the City this seems appropriate that affordable housing on-site wouldn’t necessarily need to be attached to the same common area amenities that the high paying tenants use. The fact that the developers are contributing to affordable housing is the POINT the amenities is a sideshow. However, this developer seems to be completely incompetent when it comes to community relations. I think it needs to try much harder to appeal to the neighbors by… Read more »

Riley
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Riley

@BlueEyedBoy…you are not actually comparing a neighbor in a single family dwelling allowing his friends nextdoor to use his pool to a multi-million dollar corporation who received waivers and allowances in exchange for housing units…or are you? If the rich folk don’t want to co-habitat with people on a lower economic scale then they should not live in a mixed use, mixed status building. And if you have that kind of money, you can live anywhere. Do we think they would choose to live there only if they do not have to mingle with the have-nots? @WFUWTN – you seemed… Read more »

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
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Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

@Riley: My building doesn’t give me a parking space OR a bus pass. Since when are those things freebies?

BlueEyedBoy
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BlueEyedBoy

But Riley, Jimmy Palmieri and others, what if what I suggested in my previous post is true? There may be a darned good reason for this action. It may not be elitism at all. What if you couldn’t sell your house unless the buyer agreed to continue allowing the neighbors to use your pool? Or you couldn’t fill in your pool and plant a garden because the neighbors had grown accustomed to using it?

Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs
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Wehoan Fed Up with the NIMBYs

Oh please, CB, people at Starbucks and Coffee Bean PAY THE SAME PRICE for the services and products they consume. These people are asking to be given luxury services they don’t pay for. West Hollywood and the developer are making a roof over their heads in a safe neighborhood available at a price they can afford to maybe help them improve their lot in life. The developer should have every right to offer separate amenities to the people paying market rate, since they’re the ones footing the bill to make the affordable housing viable. Everyone these days wants something for… Read more »

Riley
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Riley

It’s elitism…which is the direction the city has been heading in for awhile. Wasn’t a plan approved on SMB and Kings Rd. that is not going to give the low income housing units parking spaces, but giving them a bus pass instead? I wonder if they will have to sit in the back of the bus? They should be thanking the poor for helping them get the waivers in the first place. Perhaps the developer of 8899 could put in two pools; one for the rich and one for the poor. Maybe separate drinking fountains, too. It’s interesting to think… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
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I will be watching for Commissioner votes, particularly those who may be running for city council. Their vote on this will certainly demonstrate their concern for non discrimination of the less fortunate.

cb
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cb

@nimby & luca d….maybe you are on to something. Perhaps the low income residents should have to use separate doors at the local starbucks or coffee bean, and all of the local stores. Better yet, maybe they should just have their own stores….yes, the idea of this appears to be setting a very interesting precedent.

Jimmy Palmieri
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Perhaps seperate toilets and water fountains……OH WAIT…THAT STAIN ON HISTORY HAS BEEN DISPENSED WITH.

cb
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cb

NIMBY! Oh my G-d….are you for real? i never realized that those in low income circumstances were ASKING for luxury buildings….my mistake.