WeHo Design Review Subcommittee Seeks Further Changes for Melrose Project

Illustration of proposed 8650 Melrose Ave. building as seen from Norwich Drive (OJMR Architects)
Illustration of proposed 8650 Melrose Ave. building as seen from Norwich Drive (OJMR Architects)

West Hollywood’s Design Review Subcommittee largely praised revisions to the design of a new building proposed for 8650 Melrose Ave. on Thursday, but asked the developer and his architect to make further changes that would reduce its perceived mass and scale.

The building, on a lot at the corner of Melrose and Norwich Drive, a residential street, is being constructed by BMB Investments, which is controlled by Benjamin Soleimani. The city’s Planning Commission initially approved a one-story building with almost 10,000 square feet of commercial space. But now BMB wants to expand the building to two stories with more than 18,000 square feet of shops, offices and a restaurant. Soleimani, who owns Mansour Modern, a rug retailer at 8606 Melrose and recently built the building on the corner of Melrose and Westmount Drive that houses Restoration Hardware, is a major Melrose property owner.

The changes recommended by the subcommittee are from a list of 11 developed by Stephanie Reich, the city’s urban designer. They include such things as tapering down the building’s height along Norwich to reduce its perceived scale from that residential area and adding color of different materials to the building’s east wall which otherwise would look like a 30-foot tall blank space.

Reich’s recommendations were supported by Richard Griesbert, president of the West Hollywood West Residents Association, which represents homeowners in the area. Other nearby residents largely expressed concern about the perceived mass of the building and the impact of traffic that would exit from an underground parking structure onto Norwich. The project plan estimates it will generate an additional 497 car trips a day.

Residents are concerned because Norwich is a one-way street, with traffic directed south from Melrose. The project’s designers propose to direct drivers leaving the parking structure to turn left onto Norwich and then onto Melrose. Several residents have asked that the city build a cul-de-sac at the end of the street to ensure that those leaving the garage wouldn’t be able to turn right and drive through the residential area.

The Subcommittee asked the developer to work with Reich to implement the changes. BMB must get the city’s approval of the design in order to build a building of this size in the area. The revisions to the plan mean the project is not likely to come before the Planning Commission and then the City Council for final approval until late Spring at the earliest.

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Manny
Manny
5 years ago

Chris, you’re making stuff up…..but I’m happy you’re happy with
where you live……so am I.

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

My neighborhood is totally residential. We are surrounded by urban elements, but I’ll thake the quality of residential life here over further south. We just tend to have been here longer, appreciate how the city has worked to keep the balance, and tend to ridicule the ceaseless NIMBYism of the new buyers south who somehow didn’t figure out they were moving into the epicenter of a metropolis.

Manny
Manny
5 years ago

Chris….exactly, your neighborhood is more urban. As you start going south it gets less urban, and many residents want to keep it that way. Retail is good, it should just blend better and not become a detriment to the established residential area it abuts. RESIDENTIAL MATTERS.

You sound like a certain Council Member who must always mention the price of homes when discussing our neighborhood. The truth is that the price of one’s home or whether people are “rich” (by your standards) or not has nothing to do with why residents take responsibility for the wellness of where they live.

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

Manny, there are good “Nimbys” and bad “Nimbys”. The attitude in the Melrose/Doheny area is often bad Nimby, rich folks who want to are not willing to be inconvenienced by the reality of urban life in WeHo. I applaud their stopping the building of oversized houses by even richer folk, but their obtuseness about retail realities on Melrose is often out of place. My neighborhood (b/w Sunset & Santa Monica just to their north) is even more urban, but somehow we do just fine without rampant NIMBYism.

Manny
Manny
5 years ago

The term “NIMBY” is developer speak and they use it with a negetive connotation. But a “NIMBY” is actually a characteristic to be proud of.

We all have an obligation to defend and protect what’s good in our neighborhoods and in our lives. If I don’t protect my backyard, who will?

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

What Snarky said. The Doheny/Melrose/Beverly/Robertson area is filled with recent wealthy buyers who purchased expensive homes and now are shocked that they live in a city. They sometimes have valid complaint,, but based on what I’ve seen over the years from their chief spokesman Lauren Meister they are NIMBYs to the nth degree.

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
5 years ago

That is kind of ridiculous that the city would give the approval without the necessary parking spaces. Call for the resignations of Reich and others. If they want a two story building… reconstruct the garage or add parking on top of the building. And why cant they reconfigure the design so there is an entrance to the underground parking say off Norwich and an exit in the front of the building emptying onto Melrose? And YES! Norwich should become a cul-de-sac. However I would think that would mean Norwich would have to become a two way residential street since cars… Read more »

Richard K
Richard K
5 years ago

Because we care about our neighborhood more than the developers who don’t live here, don’t care, and are here to only to build as big as possible and charge as much as possible in rents. That NIMBY thing is getting old.

mike dunn
mike dunn
5 years ago

If the garage has already been built and can’t accomadate a two story building then it should not be approved plain and simple. It’s design should also include off street space for loading and unloading commercial vehicles.

Snarky
Snarky
5 years ago

West Hollywood West are a bunch of NIMBYs. Every project that comes up in their area has trouble getting approved because this group always has objections. Why should a group of homeowners dictate what gets approved and what doesn’t?

Richard K
Richard K
5 years ago

8650 Melrose was approved over the counter by the city and did not go to the planning commission for approval as the article states because it was under 10,000 sq feet at that time; it’s now 18,624 sq ft. The design has improved from the previous version. The project mostly fronts on Norwich Drive, a residential street, rather than Melrose Ave. Residents are asking that the scale and massing of the building be reduced as it transitions towards the single family one story homes that are adjacent to it. We would also like the building to be pushed back from… Read more »

Leslie K
Leslie K
5 years ago

I agree with all of your comments, Todd. The rendering does misrepresent the commercial portion of Norwich, which is actually quite narrow and unable to accommodate two-way traffic if there are cars parked at the meters. It can barely handle one-way traffic in the afternoons when the UPS and FedEx trucks are parked on both sides. Walter Davis, the city’s traffic management program advisor, informed us that the project is “expected to add 770 weekday daily trips on the commercial street section of Norwich (two-way road section),” not 497 as the article mentions. He doesn’t think it will have any… Read more »