In 4-2 Vote, WeHo Planning Commission Declines to Endorse 8899 Beverly Project

After a lengthy public hearing that attracted more than 50 speakers, the West Hollywood Planning Commission declined tonight to support a controversial proposal to redevelop 8899 Beverly Blvd.

In a four-to-two vote, the Commission adopted a recommendation by city planners to reject the proposal, which would nearly double the size of the existing ten-story building.

The developer, a partnership of Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills and Angelo Gordon & Co. of New York City, has proposed expanding the building on its north, east and west sides and converting the existing office space to 55 condominium units. It also has proposed converting a third-floor parking garage into offices and ten apartments for low-income tenants. Under state law, developers are able to get waivers for certain restrictions on a building’s size by including housing for low-income people in their plans.

The developer also has proposed building nine single-family houses along Rosewood Avenue to the north of the 8899 Beverly building and constructing a recreation center with a swimming pool and four apartments for low-income people along Rosewood.

The 8899 Beverly building, which now mostly houses offices, was constructed in 1962, 22 years before West Hollywood was incorporated as a city. Because of its size — 90,000 square feet on 1.7 acres — the building doesn’t comply with the city’s General Plan, a overall development plan that was adopted in 2011 after many public hearings or the zoning for the area.

8899 Beverly sits within a commercial zone where buildings are limited to three stories in height. Zoning for the area also limits buildings to no more than 1.5 square feet of floor space for each square foot of property on which the building sits. The existing building has 3.3 square feet of floor space for each square foot of property. With the proposed expansion it would have 6.1 square feet of floor space for each square foot of land.

The developer sought a way around that restriction by asking city to let it combine the 8899 Beverly lot, zoned for commercial use, with the land along Rosewood Avenue, zoned for residential use. By combining the land on which the massive 10-story building sits with land on which it proposed to builder smaller houses, the developer could argue that the overall project had only 2.8 square feet of space per square foot of land.

The proposal discussed by the Planning Commission tonight was significantly different from an earlier proposal that had called for construction of townhouses along Rosewood. Residents of the nearby neighborhood objected that townhouses were out of character with an area of single-family homes. Also, the developer backed away on Wednesday from a controversial plan to deny low-income tenants access to the swimming pool, which some of them would have been able to view from their apartments.

That “poor door” policy has been the subject of heated debate in other cities where low-income tenants living in subsidized housing have been denied access to amenities offered to their wealthier neighbors. The city’s Community Development Department objected to that segregation, arguing that it wasn’t in keeping with the values of West Hollywood. On Wednesday, the developer agreed to let all residents have access to the same amenities

Even though the developer stepped back from that policy, it continued to draw criticism at tonight’s hearing.

“In WeHo, we don’t treat our less fortunate like second class citizens,” said Lauren Meister, a former Planning Commission member who is a candidate in the 2015 election for the West Hollywood City Council. “We don’t like to be bullied, and we don’t want our General Plan to be up for sale.”

Jimmy Palmieri, a member of the city’s Human Services Commission, complained to the Commission that an internet search showed many stories linking West Hollywood with the “poor door” policy.

Major support for the proposed development came from the West Hollywood Design District, which represents design-oriented businesses on Robertson and Beverly boulevards and Melrose Avenue.

Darren Gold, chairman of the Design District, said its 12-member board unanimously supported the redevelopment. He said it would revitalize “what now is a stagnant strip of Beverly…. It will produce a myriad of benefits to our district.”

Elizabeth Solomon of Mayfair House also spoke in support of the project, saying it would add life to that part of Beverly Boulevard. Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, also asked the Planning Commission to endorse the development.

The primary opponents of the project were residents of the neighborhood of single-family homes to the north of the property. They gathered more than 1,000 names on a petition to oppose it. While several said they supported the developer’s goal of rehabilitating the facade of 8899 Beverly, they objected to the overall size of the project.

Commissioner Marc Yeber stressed that he and other commissioners were in favor of the developer’s proposal to adapt the 22-year-old building for new uses and were happy with its decision to grant access to amenities to all residents. But Yeber and Commissioners Heidi Shink, Sue Buckner and Donald DeLuccio objected to the massive size of the project and the fact that it contradicted a development plan adopted by the city only three years ago.

The Commission’s decision will be conveyed to the City Council, which has the final say on the matter. The developer needs the Council’s approval because it is asking the city to amend its general plan and change the zoning of the area to permit the expansion of the building.

The seven-member Planning Commission is appointed by the City Council, with each of the five Council members making an appointment and two Planning Commissioners named by the Council at large. The Planning Commissioners who voted in support of the 8899 Beverly project were John Altschul, appointed by Mayor John D’Amico, and Commission Chairman Roy Huebner, appointed by Councilmember John Duran. Commission member David Aghaei, appointed by Councilmember John Heilman, wasn’t present at tonight’s meeting.


newest oldest
Notify of
Don Jones
Guest
Don Jones

This should have been a 5-0 vote and not a 4-2 vote. The developer is proposing to double the size of what the General Plan allows on Beverly. This means doubling the size of the building that is already there.
Based on Mayor D’Amico’s social media post he agrees with the Planning Commission vote. Too bad his appointee to the Planning Commission didn’t have the same good sense and instead was one of the minority votes.

Richard K.
Guest
Richard K.

If city council approves the 8899 Beverly project as currently designed, with its hugely over scale tower and tract style homes on Rosewood with a rooftop recreation area, it will be a slap in the face to city staff. Staff is uniquely qualified to study, assess and decide issues that relate to urban design and planning. If council approves 8899 Beverly it will be a slap in the face to the planning commission majority who carefully listened to and weighed comments offered by the developer, staff and public. But most importantly, if council approves 8899 Beverly, it will be a… Read more »

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin

Make your donation to our Who Owns WeHo Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/833925004/who-owns-weho. Less than three days to reach our goal!

Manny
Guest
Manny

The term “NIMBY” peddled by the commentator above is used freely and obviously by developers and small minded people to distract from real concerns and intelligent debate. But frankly, if the people that are the most effected by any condition in their “own backyard” don’t speak up, who will? Residents within the radius of any outside force are stakeholders in their community and are expected to contribute to and assure that what happens in their “backyard” is what’s best for their neighborhood. It’s called “caring” and “civic minded” not “NIMBY”. The previous commentator also asks an offensive question about the… Read more »

Wesley McDowell
Guest
Wesley McDowell

Alison, obviously you have not been present and heard the neighbors. This is far from NIMBY. In fact, many have spoken in favor of the inclusion of affordable housing. Of course, there is no definition of this term and many of we Weho residents likely fall into that category. What is very clear is that this project is extremely out of proportion. Making an old building new and usable again is a good thing and all the residents concur. What this project proposes is to essentially build a new building on 3 sides of the existing, making is massively out… Read more »

Martin W.
Guest
Martin W.

Agree with Alison, the neighborhood is filled with a bunch of NIMBYs just like all of SoCal. This particular neighborhood are NAVEs, Neighbors Against Virtually Everything

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Good Morning To Martin And Allison and the many that think those that protest size, scale, and use issues are NIMBY’s or NAVE’s Sometimes your are right and I can see your point. I was a plan review president for 6 years and had my share of people that just wanted nothing at all. But in this case we may have an opportunity to see a small example of what they mean by over building . Please I ask one favor of you…We dont always get the chance to see the outcome of some of our city’s ill fated planning… Read more »

Alison
Guest
Alison

Jonathan, your last paragraph sounds nice – but it is a bit pie in the sky. The neighborhood in question with this Beverly Blvd. building is filled with a bunch of NIMBYs. The developers could cut the project way back and they still wouldn’t be happy.

Could it be they don’t want Affordable or Low Income Housing in their little piece of heaven?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

It is not surprising to see those who supported this project on the planning commission. I only hope these votes did not come from “meeting over coffee” Mr D’Amico or the always perceived favors of Mr Duran in thanks to support given him. This city is not only your visions but the visions and dreams of many. Thank you to those on the commission for their rational thinking and hopefully this is a trend. To those in the Business community that spoke in favor.. of course they have that right but to disagree one Cheesecake factory or a new Palm… Read more »

Todd Bianco
Guest

I watched the public comments last night. Maybe Jeanne Dobrin was on to something when she thought that some of the speakers in favor of the project had been “coaxed” to be there. I think Lauren Meister hit all the notes perfectly in her public comment. It’s not the City’s fault that this developer overpaid for the 8899 building thinking it could squeeze a huge development into the project to make it far more than a mere adaptive reuse of the existing Mid-Century structure. Townscape could do a wonderful project without any special entitlements or requests for spot zoning. Sometimes… Read more »

Manny
Guest
Manny

@Mike Dolan….There is nothing “exceptional” or “positive” about doubling the size of a building that is already non-conforming to what the community wants on Beverly Blvd. The General Plan, although allowed to be amended, it is not required to be amended just because a developer says it should. In this case the building with it’s proposed doubling in size to an out of scale monumental glass box and destruction of the elements that currently make the 1962 building interesting does not reach that level of consideration. It’s baffling to me that the “design is every” experts in the audience actually… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Guest
Mike Dolan

The General Plan is a living document that needs to update to market conditions and demands in real time. 8899 Beverly Blvd. is just one of these exceptional examples. The General Plan should be working document that adjusted and allowed for variances when this type of exceptional project comes before the a developer to the Planning Commission or City Council. All the good, positive aspects of 8899 Beverly Blvd. were denied because 4 commissioners and staff whom don’t get the idea that you adjust the General Plan when market conditions call for this and the economic positive contributions are overwhelming… Read more »