Design Review Subcommittee, and Project Opponents, Praise Blue Hibiscus Design

Architect's rendering of the proposed Blue Hibiscus project on Detroit Avenue.
Architect’s rendering of the proposed Blue Hibiscus project on Detroit Avenue.

The design of Blue Hibiscus, a 22-unit affordable housing project proposed for Detroit Avenue, was praised tonight by the WeHo Planning Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee and even some of the projects prominent opponents.

The building, designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, is intended to replace the Detroit Bungalows, two 1920s era buildings with a total of eight units that have been in relatively poor condition.

Members of the subcommittee said the design of the Blue Hibiscus building provided a nice transition from the stark Domain apartment complex under construction just south of it on Santa Monica Boulevard at Detroit and the houses north of it along Detroit. The building transitions from four stories on its southern end to three stories on the northern end. The architect for the project is Killefer Flammang Architects.

Among those praising the project design was Stephanie Harker, a member of the city’s Rent Stabilization  Commission, who has objected to the demolition of the Detroit Bungalows. The design also was praised by Cathy Blaivas, like Harker an anti-development activist, who is a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. Michael Wojtkielewicz, a member of the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board, suggested only that the exercise room and laundry room on the building’s fourth floor by relocated so as not to disturb those in the apartments beneath them. Harker, Blaivas and Wojtkielewicz were appointed to the advisory boards and commissions by City Councilmember Lauren Meister, who has objected to demolishing the Detroit Bungalows.

John Altschul, chair of the Design Review Subcommittee, opened the meeting by reminding those in the audience that the only subject open for discussion was the design of the project. Several of its supporters said they expect opponents will raise other objections when it goes before the full Planning Commission on Dec. 3.

The Blue Hibiscus is a project of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp., a non-profit organization whose mission is to build affordable housing for those with low incomes and special needs. It currently manages 17 projects in and around West Hollywood, including the Detroit Bungalows. Dr. Pamela Love, a resident of the bungalows, launched the campaign against their demolition. WHCHC has said that isn’t feasible because of the high cost of brining the property up to code.

  1. As a designer involved heavily in WEHO,..such facts and one’s opinion can be twisted to convey negativity and half cup empty projections. I understand that in order to continue improving city’s growth and living conditions we must cross lines that may leave some residents of any city/town to their dissatisfaction. Though i am not saying that they should be ignored either. we can constantly rebuttal one another with facts and labels, however real concerns get lost in passionate discussions…

  2. Well here we have it folks, the glass half empty and its inhabitants drowning due to their excessive baggage vs. the glass half full where folks consider change to be an opportunity. Flexibility is a virtue, without it, stiff necked, permanently put upon people become frozen in time embroiled in their own disagreeable oeuvre, a virus that easily spreads.

    Time to exemplify the positive change you want to see, cut the cord ……and move on.

  3. Thank You Oy Vay, reading Harker’s comments above show her bias and contempt for others views. Imagine her calling anyone a community agitator when she has cost the city over 25 million in redevelopment dollars and speaks 5x a night on every given subject. Add her partner and the guy with the dog and a commercial and thats 30 minutes of public time used up on a regular basis.

  4. Stephanie – it’s a shame that while you deride those who “malign” you and your views, you negatively exacerbate the tone of dialogue with your equally disrespectful statements. Meaningful civic discourse comes from mutual respect, listening and seeking common ground in reaching solutions. It would be nice to consider you such a practitioner.

    And – in following your own counsel about folks being educated on the facts and not speaking from statements made of whole cloth, it’s another shame you turn around and do the same. Why must you take an unnecessary dig at the Housing Corporation by the assertion they run their communities into the ground from poor maintenance? If you took the time to know the facts, it has been stated that the sheer near century age of the Detroit Bungalows, small size of units, inability to meet modern code standards for disabilities is what makes the site suitable for redevelopment. What the housing corporation has stated is that at the couple hundred dollars a month rent the tenants pay, the building does not have the cash to maintain itself. The housing corporation has further stated that it pays for the losses from its own operating budget – which takes away dollars for creating more affordable housing.

    As a community, we should be celebrating the sensitive redevelopment of this site into a contextually relevant all affordable project which more than doubles (almost triples) the units available to those with disabilities, low incomes and other issues for which the Housing Corporation builds homes.

    I would hope and would sincerely work towards an active dialogue based on mutual respect and focusing on the merits and facts of the issues and positions of all concerned. That higher road is before us all … And it is a path worth taking.

  5. I can only speak for myself, but the portrayal of me as an “anti-development activist” is erroneous and simply untrue. I am now, and always have been for responsible deveIopment. Keep in mind this project in an early incarnation, was called The Hessler and was up to 66 units in a 5-6 story building. I do not object to this project in its new design and if anyone cares to go back and listen to the recordings of my public comments they would be hard put to find me objecting to the idea of the project itself. I DO have serious concerns regarding the well being of some of the current residents, particularly their mental health and well being. It is difficult for ANYONE to be forced to re-locate, (and make no mistake, they ARE being forced to move. They have no choice.) regardless of the amount of money being thrown at them, and then after the first re-location, when they have just gotten settled in to their “new” homes they will be REQUIRED to move back in order to keep their status and their rent level. You can romanticize this as much as you want and pat yourself on the back for doing a good job and there are those insensitive, bombastic, individuals who have bellowed how “lucky” the people are to ” be able” to go back to a new apartment, and what a great deal “those people” are getting, which only shows the lack of understanding and compassion the loud mouths have for the human condition. This is the first time that the non-profit real estate developer is relocating the very people to whom they promised stability. One of my objections to the way the current residents were treated in the early days, was the lack of providing a third-party advocate to help them navigate these rough waters. The re-location expert sent them what was basically form letters with three phone numbers of market rate apartments and told them to check them out. The original letter also stated ” all who were eligible” could return. Meaning there would be some who could not. That, fortunately, has been corrected and all have been guaranteed return. The current residents should not be “expected” to be grateful. Most of them will get through this, because that’s really the only choice they have. But when you think of them, remember that they are, fragile, seniors, low income, ill and disabled folks who are being asked to sacrifice their homes for the sake of others they don’t even know. Would YOU be happy about it? I tend to think if you were honest with yourself you might feel the way some of them do.

    Corrections: 1) Correct title of the commission upon which I sit is Rent Stabilization Commission. I speak here and in public, as a private citizen and not as an RS commissioner. 2) Mr. Wojtkielewicz said much more than what is stated above. He praised the design in detail, among other things and only made thoughtful suggestions regarding the laundry room being moved to the first floor to avoid any possible problems with water damage from any unexpected overflow from the machines. Commission Huebner agreed with the suggestion. Mr. Wojtkielewicz has an architectural background and made astute comments about the project to a receptive Design Review Board. For hose interested they can request a CD of the meeting and listen to EXACTLY what was stated. 3) the Detroit Bungalows are two buildings with 8 units, not 10 and the new project will also demolish the craftsman bungalow and two units in the rear that are on the adjoining lot for a total of 11 units.

    All of that said, I am sure some of the brash, loud-mouthed, arrogant, community agitators will chime in here and tell you they know what they are talking about and that they are right and I am wrong, and THEY know the facts etc. ..but before you jump to agree with them and call me names and attempt to malign me, if you want to know what I think, ask ME! I promise I will tell you. PS: none of the loud-mouths bothered to actually attend the meeting, so whatever they say here, remember they weren’t there.

    It is a sad state of affairs when one hears that the buildings were in such poor condition that it would be too expensive to bring them up to code. That does beg the question, “Why has Code Compliance allowed the corporation to let the buildings deteriorate?” Let’s hope they take better care of the new buildings for all concerned.

  6. I think architects and developers should take note of the overwhelming praise for this project. Design something with character (ie not modernist block cubes)…and the community just might embrace and welcome your development.

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