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.

  1. 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 wavers like candy to children.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 nice place to live (I’ve worked very hard for it) when other people cannot.

  4. 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 they are paying for because they want to save money, or to use the space in a different way. A real life example of this in NYC is a building that wanted to have doormen only part-time rather than full-time, but they were not allowed to do that (by law) because you can never take away a service or privilege that the low-rent people had ever been provided, even though they had never payed for it. So there are only two solutions to this problem, as I see it; either change that law, or don’t allow the lower income people to have access to those privileges. In that way the homeowners can, as a group, have some control over any changes in the use of their property and their expenses.

  5. 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 creating some really unique spaces or showing it is much more generous in terms of providing affordable housing.

  6. @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 to have missed cb’s sarcasm. And your take on a benevolent West Hollywood and a kindly developer “making a roof over their heads” to “help them improve their lot in life” is in and of it self elitist. The builders take advantage of the laws to add mass and size to their developments and the city reaps more money from the developers. If the housing were free to the occupants it might be a different story, but it is not. The kindly developers are not “footing the bill”. And, please, every dinky little motel has a pool. This is So. Calif. a pool is not a luxury. You say “These people are asking to be given luxury services they don’t pay for.” I do not believe that “these people” on the housing lists are ASKING for anything. Perhaps the developers will provide cake for “these people”, too.

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

  8. 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?

  9. 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 nothing.

  10. 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 that all of this intimates that people with a lower income are all lower class on the social scale and would somehow offend the wealthy by swimming in their pool.

  11. 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.

  12. @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.

      1. 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.

  13. It is ridiculous to expect that affordable units and amenities be equal to luxury units, but on the other hand, this developer’s proposal is going too far. Certain inequalities are more in-your-face than others, such as having a view of a pool on the premises that you can’t use. Those should be avoided. And it sounds like this developer is asking for the world as far as density enhancements and other benefits so they should not be pushing the limits on limiting access to amenities for the affordable units.

    But people do need to get over this gut reaction that “separate is not equal” with regards to affordable housing. AFFORDABLE does NOT EQUAL prime corner penthouse apartment with gold plated fixtures! For gods sake, none of the units in any building are really equal, affordable or not. You can’t expect a developer to divvy up the best view equally, can you? Someone gets it and most other people do not… and the affordable units are going to be in the camp that does not.

    I’m generally not opposed to having separate entrances either like the building in NYC in the news. Luxury units are generally going to have a higher level of finishes in common areas an more meticulous cleaning and maintenance. Maybe even a front desk staff, who knows. In many cases, the developer can pay an in-lieu fee to the city’s affordable housing program instead of building affordable units on site, and the city is certainly not going to build high end units with that money. Why not let the developer create the same level of units on site, including dedicated common areas?

  14. I just talked with a friend in New York City who confirmed that in NY the low-income residents of luxury buildings can be in a position to require the homeowners, who pay for the amenities, to not be allowed to ever make any changes if the low-income residents had ever had access to any of those privileges. So if they wanted to reduce full-time doormen to part-time in order to save money, and if the “poor-door” people had ever had the service of the doormen, the HOA payers would not be allowed to do it.

    I think that’s completely fair.

  15. This is the straw that broke this camel’s back. This “poor door” is an absolute affront to what West Hollywood stands for. I hope the Planning Commission denies this project and let another developer come.

    There is no good in this project. It has been horribly tainted and I have lost all trust in any attempt to fix this.

    Shame on you and I hope good riddance. Up until this development my husband and I, residents of West Hollywood fully supported this project. Let another developer that is not biased, and disgusting and will allow full integration of the future redevelopment in the future. I don’t trust them, no, no, no!!!

  16. “The developer has said the city cannot deny it the exception it is seeking to the zoning code”. seems like this well-connected developer intends to do whatever they want to do. hopefully, west hollywood will let them know who is in charge and then do what’s right and best for the city not the developer.

  17. I think there is a law that states that privileges and amenities that exist for the low income people can never be taken away. If, at some time in the future for these homeowners, they decide they want to decrease the amenities being offered for all residents in order to save money, and the “poor-door” residents have an equal vote, or if they enjoy all the amenities of the building simply because of the law, they can over-ride the votes of the people who are paying for it. So, if they never had the use of these privileges in the first place, they can have no control on any future changes that may need to be made by the people who pay for it.

  18. This really is quite simple: everyone in the building has the exact same access to everything or the building does not get City Permits. AND they must guarantee, IN WRITING, this will be the policy of the building, FOREVER! We do not live in a segregated society in California, much less in West Hollywood. If the folks who own the project do not agree, then they are not allowed to build or own any public housing!!!!

  19. people pay for privilege, we all do it. if there are ‘owners’ who pay association dues to the hoa, for the amenitie, a pool, spa, and gym, so be it.
    ‘affordable housing is social engineering and a gesture and those individuals should not have access to services they are not paying for.

    go tap on a a door in beverly hills and demand they let you use their pool. see how that works for you.

    1. it is not a gesture is a state mandate. maybe even federal. as for the elitest seperatism, it makes me wonder if bev hills might be a better match for some buyers, although i know many many generous people in bev hills.

  20. Who cares if there is a separate door? They’re being offered affordable housing in a desirable neighborhood. Something tells me they have bigger issues to focus on than where their door is.

  21. Approvig this poor door, alienation of low income residents, is in one word appaling. I would hate to be the council person that doesn’t fight this to make sure it doesn’t happen. West Hollywood is a place where people are welcome, not ostracized or “left out” because of financial status. This POOR DOOR concept, is simply NOT ok, and I suspect will be met with EXTREME backlash from the community.

  22. While I really like the old ICM building and I support its adaptive reuse, there is something about this developer and its tactics that creeps me out. They want to force some version of this on the community and use the meager excuse for low income housing as its “trump card” against the City.

    As far as low-income units, I think we should allow them to be smaller, so we can get more in our scarce real estate resources. These days, there are plenty of smaller units being built around the country and it’s time to see more of it in LA. Let me be clear – a small space doesn’t mean crappy construction or poor finishes. It can be done right and still be a comfortable, quality, personal space.

  23. That’s just cruel to have people with low income segregated from using the pool or other amenities. What do they think the will bringing floats and God forbid children to the pool and boom boxes?

  24. Housing and planning are more than likely only concerned about this because they hope to put more staff and or family members of their departments in these Beverly Hills units as they have done in two of the 7 low-cost units at Hancock lofts “those staff and family members meet the criteria for the low cost program at Hancock lofts” was the answer given at a city meeting.

    It stinks its just morally wrong!!!

    Help them find housing elsewhere in one of the many beautiful older buildings in the city but do not pick them over the many hundreds if not thousands of others that need it most for the newest of projects.

    This just shows another level of corruption in our city today. How can any of them objectively make decisions on behalf of the city as a whole if these are their morals ?

    For the many of the hardworking and honest that are at the city they do not deserve the negative criticism from me or the stigma from the many this brings to them personally or to their future as city employees. I can only hope one day someone on the inside or an outside government agency will expose all that has happened and put an end to it.

    Secondly I would have to think that for the money spent to build the 10 here the developer could build a stand alone building elsewhere and house double or triple the amount for the same cost. Or use the money to incentivize developers to build even more low cost studios that are 300-500sf that would more than meet the needs of a roof, kitchen, and bathroom that so many are in need of here in the city and work the list of the thousands in need of low cost housing down. This could easily happen over one of the many city parking lots and even include additional parking that could fund additional programs for those in need.

    Where is our citys outside the box thinking.

    Presently There are 5 large hotels on the west end and thousands of new high cost rental units at the east coming on line or in the works in the near future.
    And we are putting this much energy towards only 10 low cost units and weather or not they can use the pool ? This will not come close to the needs for low cost housing as this city is becoming less and less affordable.

    And really ?? John Duran is an attorney Is he not capable of a quick read or decision for something that he should already be well aware of. Thats a lame excuse.

  25. The newly proposed Rosewood residences are not “Single Family Homes”. The Rosewood units are actually DE-tached condominiums/townhouses that are part of the entire 8899 Beverly condominium development.

    Although de-tached townhouses do fit in better with the north side of Rosewood and is a good change to the plan, using the term “SFH” avoids very important details of ownership, association and use.

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