8899 Beverly Developer Makes Last Minute Offers to Secure City Council Approval

8899-beverly
A rendering of the proposed 8899 Beverly project by Beverly Blvd. Associates

The developers of the controversial 8899 Beverly Blvd. project , which goes before the West Hollywood City Council on Monday, have come forward with a last-minute offer to the city and nearby neighbors.

The city’s Planning Commission and the city Community Development Department have recommended that the Council decline to modify existing zoning regulations and create an exception to its overall city plan to permit the project, which will nearly double the size of the existing building.

However the city’s General Plan specifies that the Council can ignore existing limits on the density of a proposed project if it provides “significant benefits to the City.”

The benefits that Beverly Blvd. Associates is offering, outlined in a document sent to Council members on Friday, include:

1) Construction of a small park on Bonner Drive near the intersection of Robertson and Beverly boulevards that is called for in the city’s Design District plan, which a Community Development staff memo values at $1 million.

2) Contributing an additional $250,000 to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The previous proposal specified a contribution of $1,750,000.

4) Spending $250,000 to improve landscaping along Beverly Boulevard and Rosewood Avenue.

5) Donating $100,000 to the city’s Urban Arts program.

6) Contributing $32,000 in membership dues to the West Hollywood West Neighborhood Association, which opposes the project, for residents of its condos and low-income apartments.

7) Spending $3 million to renovate Madeo, a restaurant now located in the building, with that expense including compensating the owners for lost business while the restaurant is closed and paying Madeo employees during that time.

8) Agreeing to submit plans for a building permit within 12 months of the project’s approval or pay a $1 million penalty.

The building, which now houses offices, a few shops and the Madeo restaurant, 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 General Plan, a overall development plan adopted in 2011 after many public hearings, or the zoning for the area.

The developer, a partnership between Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills and Angelo Gordon & Co. of New York City, wants to expand the building on its north, east and west sides and convert the office space to 55 condominium units. It proposes to convert a third-floor parking garage into offices and ten apartments for low-income tenants.

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. 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.

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 additional benefits offered up Friday are to secure exceptions to building density and height limitations for buildings in commercial areas.

Since getting involved in the project, Townscape and its partners and their family members have been major donors to the election campaigns of Councilmember John Duran. Its principals, John Irwin and Tyler Siegel, and members of their families donated $1,500 to Duran’s re-election campaign last year and Siegel donated $2,000 to Duran’s unsuccessful campaign this year for L.A. County Supervisor. Jeff Haber, a lawyer with Paul Hastings who is representing Townscape in the 8899 Beverly matter, also made the maximum donation of $500 to Duran’s council re-election campaign.

Townscape gave $2,500 to opponents of the successful campaign to establish term limits for West Hollywood City Council members in 2013, which was opposed by the incumbents. Siegel donated $500 to the campaign of Councilmember Jeffrey Prang.

Beverly Blvd. Associates has stumbled several times in its effort to get approval for the project, most notably when critics learned that it intended to bar low-income tenants from access to a swimming pool offered to condo owners The developer eventually backed away from denying access to the swimming pool after critics called it out for engaging in the sort of “poor door” segregation policy that is under attack now in cities such as New York and London. Beverly Blvd. Associates also drew criticism from some observers at the Aug. 7 Planning Commission meeting, who noted that some of those who said they favored the Westside project it were Russian speakers. For the most part, members of the city’s Russian-speaking community live on the Eastside and rarely participate in Planning Commission or City Council meetings. Local politicians have been known to pay residents of the Russian-speaking community to engage in political activity.

Townscape has been criticized by West Hollywood residents who live near a project it will build at 8150 Sunset Blvd. at Crescent Heights in Los Angeles on the border of West Hollywood. Residents have expressed concern about parking, traffic and the 16-story height of an apartment building along Havenhurst that is part of the project.

Townscape managed to get the state give it a special status that would protect it from a prolonged legal battle with residents who oppose it. That status also would bar local agencies from considering the aesthetic or parking impact of the project in deciding whether to approve it. The City Council voted in May to oppose that special status, with Councilmember John Duran abstaining.

The Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.


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Robert Switzer
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Robert Switzer

I live on North Kings Road on a block where another developer wants to raze one of the two remaining single-family homes to put up a five-story, 34-unit apartment building with five low-income units in order to avoid zoning height and density requirements. (The other single-family home is already doomed and will be replaced by a 17-unit condo on the southeast corner of Kings and Willoughby.) This would be the tallest and densest building on a block that already has two buildings that combined offer 106 lower-income rentals, in addition to a national historic landmark, the Schindler House, that attracts… Read more »

Mike Dolan
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Mike Dolan

@Manny: Yes I am hysterically happy and with the Councils suggestions and directions to staff it may be possible to take it up a notch…lol. @Alison, wow you ARE dramatic! A TON??? I take your assessment subjectively, but you seem to be disconnected from the reality a bit on what is happening on the Eastside and why. Thanks for your erroneous analysis of my comments regarding the Eastside but you,re entitled to umm your perceptions. Finally, @Manny I love my city and especially where I live on the Eastside. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I don’t feel as… Read more »

l.g.gust
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l.g.gust

Hard to believe such blatant corruption is even being considered by our joke of a city council. Unbelievable.

duffmansince1982
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duffmansince1982

Thumbs down to this developer. I’m voting for Lauren so I don’t have to worry about every BS project getting a green light.

Very concerned citizen
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Very concerned citizen

@Rudolf…..That’s it! I vote to elect you mayor……really!

Lynn
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Lynn

Quite frankly, these offers are offensive. The developer should scale back the project to acceptable levels of aesthetics and practicality to provide a sympathetic renovation to the developed neighborhood. It would be even more offensive to the constituents for the city council members to facilitate the developer’s changing whims and efforts to insure the profitability of a project. Development is a speculative enterprise at best and nowhere are there any guarantees for the developers. Especially NOT on the backs of the homeowners.

WE R 1B
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WE R 1B

Come and say NO tonight!
WEST HOLLYWOOD PARK PUBLIC MEETING ROOM
625 N. SAN VICENTE BOULEVARD
6:30 P.M.

M.Miller
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M.Miller

All of the comments from the friends of the developers are unbelievable! None of those people live on Rosewood. They should try living with babies and children while the trucks are tumbling down the street. They should also give up the values of their homes to welcome the suggested monstrosity…the dust, dirt and overall destruction to one of West Hollywood’s premier neighborhoods it is unimaginable. Let’s have the developers make $20-30 million while lleaving us with noise all night from the rooftop swimming pool/rec space, drive and park dump trucks with two hundred workers and ruin our aesthetic. Yes, let’s… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
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Rudolf Martin

I find this whole process of open bribery rather comical. How about throwing in some last minute sweeteners? 5 bronze sculptures of current council members in heroic poses? Weekly use of the pool for the city’s elderly russian voters? A custom made pimped out pick-up shuttle with a hot tub?

mikey
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mikey

Alison, How confusing…… they are strangling you on the east side so
the west hollywood west residents should shut up and accept it…….
ridiculous!…..Not a chance…..

Steve Martin
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Steve Martin

This is no different than the City Council’s approval of the ten story Movie Town Plaza project at the old Trader’s Joe’s site on the Eastside. While the City was bragging about getting close to 80 units of affordable housing, our own Transportation Staff was saying the project would bring gridlock to Santa Monica Blvd. The Planning Commission turned to down on a seven to zero vote. But then again, the Planning Commission does not take campaign contributions. You wonder why we bother spending the time and money to adopt a General Plan when the Council constantly over rides it?… Read more »

Michael
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Michael

It is amazing how West Hollywood, with its totally bought off city council, is becoming the third most corrupt city in the USA. Chicago is first, then Los Angeles and now this traffic nightmare called WEHO. Under the leadership of five of the most incompetent and classless political hacks one could find. The all are ready to be bought off by dreary white male lobbyists and sellout their souls. As for this building – this dreadful group – Irwin and Siegel – wanted separate “Jim Crow” entrances. Durand is owned by them.