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.