One of Townscape Partners’ two controversial West Hollywood-area projects may face a slight delay. The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission (LACHC) yesterday voted to consider the Lytton Savings and Loan building at 8150 Sunset Blvd. for designation as a historic cultural monument.
The building, now a Chase bank, was designed by Kurt Meyer in 1960. It is located on the site of the Garden of Allah, the estate of legendary actress Alla Nazimova, who turned the 2.5 acre estate into a hotel in 1926. Townscape plans to demolish the building, which is on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, as part of a Frank Gehry-designed project with five buildings with a total of 249 housing units and retail and other commercial space. Townscape has offered to make 28 of the housing units available to lower-income people in exchange for permission to triple the allowed building size. The Los Angeles City Planning Commission recently approved Townscape’s plans in exchange for its agreeing to add ten more “workforce” housing units, which are defined as housing for families of four whose income is roughly between $56,000 and $67,000 a year.
If the LACHC decides to designate the bank building as a historic cultural monument, it can delay issuance of a demolition permit to Townscape for 180 days. That period can be extended another 180 days with the approval of the L.A. City Council while preservation alternatives are explored. In any case, the project now will go before the L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee and, if approved by it, to a vote of the L.A. City Council.
The 8150 Sunset project has drawn opposition from residents of West Hollywood, on whose northern border the project sits, and from the City of West Hollywood. The city’s concerns have centered around the impact of traffic from the development on nearby residential areas.
Townscape’s other controversial project, at 8899 Beverly Blvd. in West Hollywood, is proceeding, with the West Hollywood Planning Commission last night agreeing to cede a 10-foot wide strip of land behind the existing building to the developer. The land, bordering Rosewood Avenue, had been set aside for a possible expansion of the road, which no longer is under consideration.
However it appears that Townscape, which plans to nearly double the size of the 8899 Beverly building (which already is twice the size of what’s currently permitted under zoning for the area), may be cashing in on its investment in the property. In April 2015 the West Hollywood City Council, in a 3-2 vote, approved Townscape’s expansion request. That approval came after a long battle with homeowners in the neighborhood to the south of the project, a battle that included Townscape spending thousands of dollars to support the candidacies of City Council members who voted for the expansion — John Duran, John Heilman and Lindsey Horvath.
WEHOville recently learned that CBRE, the commercial real estate firm, this past Spring was soliciting money from investors, with rumors that Townscape, which is headquartered in Beverly Hills, and its investment partner, Angelo, Gordon & Co. of New York, were trying to sell as much as a 90% stake in the 8899 Beverly project. Townscape’s publicist did not response to WEHOville’s request for a confirmation of that percentage. The brochure pitching the investment can be downloaded online. The CBRE brochure says the 8899 Beverly project will include 48 condominiums and nine single-family homes. It also will include 10 apartments for low- and moderate-income people, which will be segregated on a single floor. Those apartments were required by the city in exchange for approving the expansion.
It has not been uncommon in West Hollywood for developers to lobby the City Council for exceptions to existing zoning and planning ordinances and, once the exception is granted, to sell the property, whose value has increased substantially with the zoning change.