WeHo Planning Commission Approves New Kings Road Project

Proposed condo building at 1028-1030 N. Kings Rd. (Architect Lorcan O'Herlihy)
Proposed condo building at 1028-1030 N. Kings Rd. (Architect Lorcan O’Herlihy)

The West Hollywood Planning Commission last night approved construction of a condominium building at 1028-1030 N. Kings Rd. after a lengthy hearing at which dozens of nearby homeowners objected to the project.

The Commission endorsed the project in a five-to-two vote, with Commissioners Sheila Lightfoot and Heidi Shink voting against it.

The site of the four-story condominium building is right behind the Gelson’s grocery store on Santa Monica Boulevard. It would have 30 units, including two for low-income people and three for moderate-income people, and 58 parking spaces in an underground garage. It would replace two single-family homes on adjacent lots.

In the well-orchestrated campaign against the project, speakers before the Commission raised numerous objections. Among them was that the city’s planning staff had not required a study of its impact on the environment because of the extra traffic it would generate and that it would make parking more difficult to find. Those opposed to the project also repeatedly complained that the city, in assessing such projects, only looked at an individual project’s impact on a neighborhood and not at the cumulative impact of all such projects in the area. Among the other projects in the area are a mixed-used building at 8350 Santa Monica Blvd. on the southwest  corner of Kings that will include 20 condos and retail space and a five-story condominium building at 826 N. Kings Rd. that will include 34 condos and apartments for low- and moderate-income people. The 826 N. Kings Rd. project, which will be re-evaluated by the Planning Commission at the request of the developer, is what galvanized homeowners in the area to form United Neighbors for Responsible Development (UNReD) to fight new development.

William Peris, speaking for the homeowners association of the condominium building at 1015 N. Kings Rd., said the residential street has become a thoroughfare for traffic between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard and that adding more housing would make things worse. Cynthia Blatt, head of UNReD, said the city should demand that the developer of the project, a company headed by Victor Hadad, conduct an evaluation of its impact on the environment under the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA, a law signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970, is frequently used by those opposed to new developments to block them or delay them.

Roy Rogers Oldenkamp, vice president of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, asked the Planning Commission to delay action on the project while his group prepares an application for the state to declare the house at 1030 N. Kings Rd. as historically and culturally significant, which he said could take six to nine months. That house, built in 1957, was designed by Kemper Nomland Jr., part of a father-son team known for their modernist architecture in the 1940s and 1950s. Oldenkamp called it out as a good example of the shift toward modernist design in West Hollywood, which previously had been dominated by Spanish Colonial and other older forms of architecture.

In response to some of the objections, members of the city’s planning staff noted that they had analyzed the total impact of traffic from three of the proposed projects and found that daily car trips generated by them fell well below the level that would require an environmental impact study.

Planning commissioners praised the design of the project, whose architect is Lorcan O’Herlihy. John Altschul said the building’s design was far superior to most of what currently is on North Kings Road. Altschul, who said he has owned property on Kings Road for 35 years, also said he has no problems driving down the street. Marc Yeber, who ended his tenure of about 10 years on the Commission at the Monday meeting, said he didn’t see how the project could be seen as oversized given that it met the requirements for the area, which is zoned for high-density development. His support was echoed by Commissioner Sue Buckner, who said what some residents see as a surge in new development in West Hollywood is a result of the end of the Great Recession, during which a number of projects were put on hold by their developers. The project also was supported by Commissioner Donald DeLuccio, who noted that the developer actually could have added another floor to the four-story building but chose not to. Commission Chair Roy Huebner, addressing concerns about rampant development, said development is cyclical and might ease again in coming years as it did during the recession.

Heidi Shink said that while project appears to meet the city’s zoning requirements, she agrees with residents that it will have a negative impact on their quality of life. “I think that Kings Road represents a microcosm of what is happening in our city,” she said. Shink, who shifted her stand on development on Kings Road during her unsuccessful campaign for a City Council seat in the June election to oppose the 826 N. Kings Rd. project, said she was voting against the project because “I believe it is completely incompatible with the quality of life of the residents there.”

Sheila Lightfoot, a newly appoint commissioner who has developed a reputation for opposing new development projects, also voted against this one. Among her arguments against it were that purchasers of condo units would suffer from shade from an existing adjacent building and might not like that the building’s courtyard fronted on the Gelson’s parking lot. “We need an item in the zoning code that has to do with livability,” she said.

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Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
5 years ago

@RJC I am pretty much in the same place in my life. As I said to woody walking our dogs, yeah it is growing and traffic is even worse in weho. I agreed, and pointed out, it’s not just weho with new construction and growth. Anywhere we might consider moving would be the same … an ever growing traffic congestion, homes being replaced withe apartments/condos all crammed together. Relatively speaking, weho has some reatively protected pocket mini neighborhoods that are and will bear less of the brunt of the entire Southern California Region’s Current and Future similar growth, noise, traffic… Read more »

Disco Dan
Disco Dan
5 years ago

RJC – Difficult for me to relate to your 25 moves as I’ve only lived in four (4) residences in 71 years. I also thought I would die in the apartment I’ve lived in since November of 1978 (yes, almost 37 years ago), but my landlord employed the dreaded Ellis Act and there is virtually no way I will not be evicted. If you live in a rental unit, this could happen to you. If you live in a condo, the government could, I believe, use the process of Eminent Domain to raze your building, but provide you with some… Read more »

RJC
RJC
5 years ago

Jonathan Simmons…you brought up some good points. I think, over a period of 20 years or so that many of us lived at one time or another on the infamous Kings Road south of SMB. I like living where I do, so things come and go. I roll with it. I’ve moved 25 times (starting from my homeland, Michigan) in my lifetime so far, and I’m 62 and tired of moving, thank you. I’m going to stay put and die on Kings Road! So, whatever happens happens, but at least I have the power to stall progress and make the… Read more »

Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
5 years ago

It is a relatively small building project compared to the other HUGE-BOX-MONSTER-MIXED-USE. I suspect the owner living in the house was motivated to move out due to the closing in of her small ranch home with Gelsons Parking Lot and Driveway on one side, and the Enormous Robo Garage Tower Over the back side of a house with a large yard and swimming pool. As for Kings Road (no disrespect) 20 years ago, I was home hunting for myself, at Lunch with a friend, he warned me “Just Don’t Move Into CONDO=HELL” He was rather bitter, but explained that for… Read more »

mikey
mikey
5 years ago

John Altschul is the voice of reason on the planning commission….
May he serve for many years to come……

Guy Privaton (@guyprivaton)

A city grows or it sinks back into West LA

Do you want weho looking like east of La Brea????

Anti-development fascist idiots’ll make it happen

Lynn
Lynn
5 years ago

@Showbiz Lady: Priceless! Truth is way stranger than fiction and Thursday night had so many moments I didn’t know whether I was watching a comedy or a tragedy.

Showbiz Lady
Showbiz Lady
5 years ago

I attended most of the meeting. My favorite thing that happened was watching a man get up and speak out against the project while there with his cute dog. The woman in the row in front of us leans over to her friend while he is speaking and says ” “you know he is crazy.” Then a few minutes later she gets up and says things that sound well, “out there.”

I guess it takes one to know one.

RJC
RJC
5 years ago

I attended the meeting and it was like pulling teeth before the 1028-1030 agenda came up after 9pm and it lasted until after 11pm. I was exhausted. That signage agenda for Sunset Blvd. went on for over two hours and it was agonizing. It should have only lasted a half hour. I wanted to scream, especially after the commission voted it down, which was the right thing to do, but it took so long to come to that vote! Incredible waste of time. However, I have to commend the commissioners for their patience. Even though they get paid for their… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
5 years ago

I live on Kings Road, and have for many years. I NEVER have a problem driving down my street. I don’t know where that lie is coming from. As for Lightfoot…..people may not like the shade? THEN THEY WON’T BUY. This has got to be one of the most “out there” remarks I have heard against development. Dig deeper….. at least SEEM credible.

Larry Block
Larry Block
5 years ago

Altschul may have spoke ‘in jest’ about parking in Gelson’s but generally he has lots of common sense and knowledge. 950 North Kings used to be a single family home too.. the Dodge family from Detroit, Michigan. (Yep Dodge cars).. and the neighbors were up in arms when that was torn down to build all those condo’s. We survived. In fact the 950 Kings condo complex is an important part of the neighborhood today. This project could have been 5 stories, its only 4. We are building an incredible city. The planning commission has been very thoughtful in design reviews… Read more »

JoeBlow90069
JoeBlow90069
5 years ago

John Altschul hurt his own credibility badly and embarrassed the City Council even more when he told residents they should tell their friends, family and guests “to park at Gelson’s” when they can’t find a space on Kings Road. Will the city pay their towing fees when their cars are towed? “Disdain” is the right word for his attitude toward members of the public. “Arrogant” and “condescending” also come to mind.