WeHo Planners Raise Concerns about Possible Impact of SMB ‘Mega Complex’

A map outlining the proposed Cohen Bros. project on the MTA lot on Santa Monica Boulevard at San Vicente.
A map outlining the proposed Cohen Bros. project on the MTA lot on Santa Monica Boulevard at San Vicente.

West Hollywood planners have raised concerns about a proposed mega-complex on Santa Monica Boulevard at San Vicente.

In a memo on the project that will be presented to the City Council on Monday, the Community Development Department says possible issues with the project include:

  • Its impact on traffic flow,
  • The size of its proposed buildings, which would include more than one million square feet of space for a hotel, apartments, offices, stores, a movie theatre and an open-air amphitheatre.
  • Its lack of any pedestrian walkways,
  • The possibility that it would, by its size, overwhelm the small nearby businesses catering in the gay community in the area known as Boystown, and
  • The possibility that it might inhibit the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) from ever installing a rail station on the property or running a rail line from Santa Monica Boulevard south to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Last year Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. of California signed an agreement with the MTA and with Los Angeles County that gave it the exclusive right for two years (with a possible 12-month extension) to negotiate deals to build the massive complex. Most of land where the project would be built currently is occupied by an MTA bus maintenance and operation facility, with the remainder housing the West Hollywood Station of the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Cohen Bros. owns the Pacific Design Center adjacent to the MTA facility.

As conceived, the project would include two high-rise towers and an 800-seat open air amphitheatre. All in all, the project would have 600,000 square feet of residential/hotel space, 400,000 square feet of office space 120,000 square feet of retail shops, a 2,500-seat movie theater complex, the amphitheatre and parking for 3,000 cars. It would be built on 10.4 acres — equivalent to ten football fields — on the southeast corner Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards.

It also proposes building an underground facility for the MTA buses, an expanded West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and potentially a 50,000- to 70,000-square foot replacement for the current West Hollywood City Hall.

If approved by the MTA board and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the project would go before the West Hollywood Planning Commission and eventually the City Council for approval of various exceptions it would require to current zoning and planning requirements.

The city hasn’t taken a formal position on the proposed development. However the memo notes that the city’s General Plan has identified the property as in need of redevelopment that would include residential and commercial buildings.

It also raises about what Cohen Bros. might have to do to make the project financially feasible, noting that it would cost more than $200 million to move the bus facility to another location while the construction takes place. That facility now provides parking for 250 buses and 275 employee cars and has 18 maintenance bays, storage areas and facilities for tire repair, bus washing, and refueling.

Because of the cost, the memo says, the developer may seek to expand the size of the project, “increasing the height and density beyond either the community’s threshold for height, the roadway’s capacity to accommodate the related additional traffic, or both” to make it financially feasible.

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Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

Did some of you even read what the report said? This project, anything like the form proposed, isn’t going anywhere. The city sometimes rejects projects, usually downscales them. But this one is going nowhere, at least anything like Cohen wants. Stop worrying.

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

I don’t believe this project will ever be built as currently planed. The MTA yard is mostly open space except for the fueling station and bus wash. The maintenance shop is under the MTA parking structure and Transportion offices which extends clear to the Santa Monica Bl. sidewalk. Attempting to construct numerous buildings on top of the bus yard will require many concrete columns to support said structures which in turn will reduce significantly the number of buses that can be stored. Except for the two San Fernando Valley Divisions all other divisions park their buses in long rows If… Read more »

Robert Chandler
Robert Chandler
5 years ago

With the amount of contributions coming in from developers to City Council candidates, I’m not hopeful about our city. I wish I believed the Council had the best interest of the residents, but I don’t. I’d feel so much better if West Hollywood had campaign spending limits. Look at what incumbents spend compared to challengers. Our elections are bought and developers are spending. And term limits aren’t the answer. Newer, cheaper candidates will be run by the same special interests. Get the money out of our elections and we’ll have a Council who will make good decision on development issues… Read more »

Joe
Joe
5 years ago

Oh what can go wrong? Look no harm wa caused by removing two blocks of earth from the Side of a mountain. Unfounded fears from a parnoid society.

Flores St.
Flores St.
5 years ago

I can only see near unanimous opposition to this by the community. This will be the real test of our City Council.

John McCormick
John McCormick
5 years ago

Hotel rooms equate to tax dollars…they have a staircase to pay for!!! I’ll be watching for candidates for city council who come out against the extreme over development currently slated for West Hollywood. We’re a small town, not Disneyland.

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

As a former MTA employee I can attest to the fact there is a different problem gaining access the northern portion of the RED building. During construction the MTA allowed trucks involved in the construction to gain access that portions of the building. It was either poor planning or hope the MTA would allow access on a permanent basis becaThere was talk about relocating Terminal 6 (former Div. 6) in Venice. The proposed site was to small and the neighbors decided they would rather have the bus yard there than a huge condominium project looming over their homes. What’s being… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
5 years ago

This concept should show the proposed heights of each structure. Dont be fooled people a typical developer will show and ask for more, then give up the residential tower or one of the two high rises as a concession. Where are the elevations for the project ? Why is the red building still empty I have heard talk about there being an ingress egress problem with the MTA ? Is that why he is so involved here ? That change should be disclosed here How will sound be contained with an outdoor theater ( universal finally covered its own due… Read more »

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
5 years ago

I’m actually in favor of moving the MTA bus yard and developing this land. But this project isn’t it. The design looks unorganized, out of proportion and not cohesive. I highly doubt the residential areas will want to have the red PDC building looming over them. (Which I find it funny there are no “shadows” cast from the two PDC buildings). This design doesn’t seem to benefit the public or residents of Weho at all. Seems the green area is just for the condo complex. Buildings butt up against the road. I don’t see adequate enter/exits. How about a grander… Read more »

Todd Bianco
5 years ago

F-No. I’d love a small-scale development here (particularly movie theaters) but this proposal is simply Fantasyland. The Cohens still don’t have tenants for the disturbingly empty Red Building and they want to augment things with a million more square feet of commercial and residential space? The only way I’d support any massive development in that location would be if we got a subway or elevated light rail or similar mass transit option along Santa Monica Blvd with a spur down to the Bevely Center and Cedars. Otherwise the Cohen Bros. can pound sand.

Wesley McDowell
Wesley McDowell
5 years ago

So what’s the problem here? We haven’t quite reached complete gridlock so this could help us accomplish this goal. Then we will be an urban village because we won’t be able to go anywhere else!