The Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission has voted to declare the Lytton Savings Building, located on the site of a controversial proposed project at 8150 Sunset Blvd., as a historic-cultural monument.
The decision, which the commission made Thursday, means the developer of the project can be forced to wait 180 days for the city permit required to demolish the building. That period can be extended another 180 days with the approval of the L.A. City Council while preservation alternatives are explored. 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 developer, Townscape Partners, faces another potential obstacle. The West Hollywood City Council last night agreed to ask a lawyer to appeal the L.A. Planning Commission’s approval of the project.
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 L.A. Planning Commission 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.
Friends of Lytton Savings, a group organized to lobby for preserving the building, characterized the fight with Townscape Partners as a “true David vs. Goliath match.”
As evidence of that, the group cited Townscape’s expenditure of $166,715 in the first quarter of this year on lobbying the L.A. City Council, the L.A. Planning Commission and Mayor Eric Garcetti. Councilmember David Ryu, whose district includes the project site, has supported the historic designation. Townscape also has made major donations to City Council members up for re-election in West Hollywood, site of its 8899 Beverly project.
Townscape also has been embroiled in controversy over that project. It intends to convert the office building on that site into 52 condominiums with an additional 15 units for low- and moderate-income people. It also plans to build nine single-family houses on Rosewood Drive behind the 8899 Beverly building. The West Hollywood City Council granted the developer an exception to the city’s zoning rules that allows it almost double the size of the existing 90,000-square-foot building, which already is twice the size of what is permitted for that area under the city’s general plan. The 10-story building was constructed in 1962, 22 years before West Hollywood was incorporated as a city and thus was “grandfathered” into the general plan.
The City Council last night decided to delay a previously scheduled public hearing on relinquishing the city’s rights to the 10-foot-wide strip of land running along 480 feet of Rosewood Avenue, behind the 8899 Beverly Blvd. project site. Councilmember John D’Amico said it didn’t make sense to take up that matter while a lawsuit is pending against the city over its approval of the project. That suit was filed by last year by the West Hollywood West Residents Association.
The easement originally was intended to accommodate a widening of Rosewood Avenue. City staffers have said WeHo has no plans to ever widen Rosewood Avenue, so it is in keeping with the city’s general plan to give the land back to the owner, Beverly Boulevard Associates.
Residents of West Hollywood West, have argued that giving the land back would deprive the city of the open space which has become a de facto park for the neighborhood in the past 50 years.