The West Hollywood City Council endorsed the Melrose Triangle development tonight, in effect rejecting the arguments of those who objected that it would require the demolition of an architecturally significant building.
The Council did not give the project its final approval. Instead, acting on a motion by Mayor John D’Amico, it asked that city staffers first investigate ways to reduce the impact of various problems such as traffic congestion that the new development is likely to cause. The Council will consider recommendations for reducing those problems at its first meeting in October.
The development will sit on a plot of land bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and Almont Drive at the city’s border with Beverly Hills. It will consist of three buildings with a total of 300,000 square feet 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.
The project has been in the planning stages for more than a decade. The latest iteration of its design, by the Studio One Eleven architectural design firm, positions it as a dramatic gateway into West Hollywood for those traveling east from Beverly Hills.
Several dozen people spoke about the project at tonight’s Council meeting, with most of the opponents objecting to the demolition of a 1928 building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. That building, a dog and cat hospital, was renovated in the Streamline Moderne style in 1938 by Wurdeman & Becket, one of whose principals, Welton Becket, designed the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome. Becket’s son, Bruce, himself an architect, spoke in favor of preserving the building, which he described as the home of the country’s first animal hospital.
Others opposing the demolition of the Streamline Moderne building included Jen Dunbar of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, Jeffrey Bissiri of the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and Adrian Scott Fine of the L.A. Conservancy.
Many of those who objected to the demolition said they weren’t opposed to the idea of a new development in the Melrose Triangle area if the 9080 Santa Monica building could be integrated into the design. Representatives of Charles Company, the developer, said that it wouldn’t be possible to include the entire building in the project’s design. Charles Company had proposed to preserve the door to the 9080 building and use it as an entry to one of its buildings. Jeff Seymour, a lobbyist for Charles Company, responded to requests tonight for further preservation by saying Charles Company would try to integrate more elements of the building into the project.
Some residents objected to the impact the project would have on traffic in the area. Lauren Meister, a resident of West Hollywood West and a candidate in the 2015 election for a seat on the City Council, raised some of those concerns.
“For years, the neighborhood was promised by the developer that the Almont cul-de-sac would be beautified, they were told that significant money would go towards traffic mitigation and traffic calming in the neighborhood, and they were told extending the Melrose streetscape to Doheny would be considered,” Meister said. “It’s nice that the applicant says they plan to work with West Hollywood West. However, a real dollar amount needs to be identified and included in the conditions tonight.”
“We need to study removing two-hour parking in the surrounding residential neighborhoods,” she said. “Between the Melrose Triangle, the city garage, the PDC (Pacific Design Center) and Restoration Hardware, there should be plenty of parking spaces for visitors to the commercial area. Let’s encourage their use and discourage commercial parking in the residential neighborhood. ”
Those were issues that appeared to most concern Council members. D’Amico supported the project, but said he wanted city staffers to study ways to deal with the possible impact of increased traffic on the Almont Drive cul-de-sac and on an alley that connects Melrose and Rangely avenues. He also asked that options be presented for reducing the likelihood of increased traffic congestion on Santa Monica Boulevard and the impact of a proposal by the City of Beverly Hills to bar left-hand turns from Doheny onto Santa Monica Boulevard. D’Amico and other Council members asked also asked city staffers to consider the feasibility of eliminating the use of commercial parking passes in the adjacent West Hollywood West residential area and eliminating the existing two-hour parking limit in the area.
Councilmember Abbe Land said she didn’t believe the 9080 Santa Monica building as that impressive as an example of Streamline Moderne design. Speaking of the new project, she said, “This iconic design will become the next wave of preservation in a hundred years.”