In what is likely to be one of its more contentious meetings in months, the West Hollywood City Council tonight will consider whether to approve the Melrose Triangle, a major redevelopment of the city’s western gateway that is strongly opposed by historic preservationists.
The Melrose Triangle project, which will be bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and Almont Drive at the city’s border with Beverly Hills, has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. The city’s Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the latest version of it in June.
One of the elements of the project that has garnered the most praise is its Gateway building, which would face Beverly Hills with glass panels that would glow at night. Alan Pullman, founder of Studio One Eleven, the project designer, has described it as “a beacon of entry into the city.”
But construction of that building will require demolition of a building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. that was built in 1928 in the Streamline Moderne style. That building, now empty, originally housed the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital, whose clients included celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin. In 1938 it was renovated by Wurdeman & Becket, one of whose principals, Welton Becket, designed the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome.
Local groups such as the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles are opposed to the demolition, as are groups as far away as the Art Deco Society of Western Australia. Preservationists have created the Save the SMB Streamline Moderne page on Facebook to rally supporters and make the case for preserving the building. They have asked that the building be preserved and incorporated into the design of the new project.
The developer, the Charles Company, has said that isn’t possible. However it recently agreed to incorporate the entrance to the Streamline Moderne building into its project, using it as the entry to the Gateway building’s office on a pedestrian path within the three-building project.
As proposed, the 300,000-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.
Charles Company is a West Hollywood 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.
Arman Gabay and his family members and his businesses have been major donors to several West Hollywood City Council members. In 2011 they donated $2,000 to Mayor John D’Amico and $500 each to councilmembers Abbe Land John Heilman. Arman Gabay and relatives donated $14,000 to Councilmember John Duran’s unsuccessful campaign this year for a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Excel Property Management donated $5,000 to a committee supporting the re-election of Duran in 2013.
The Council will meet at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica at 6:30 p.m. tonight. Parking is available in the five-story structure there, with validation provided outside the Council Chambers.