I have been a resident of West Hollywood for the past 30 years. I live just south of Sunset Boulevard across the street from the Chateau Marmont, a historic and cultural landmark. Over the years our city has changed dramatically with the granting of too many development projects along our famed Sunset Boulevard (and elsewhere in the city). Now, the City of Los Angeles wants to make matters worse with another massive, out-of-scale project at one of the worst intersections in the city. At the base of Laurel Canyon, and at the “F-Rated” intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, the proposed 8150 Sunset Boulevard project will jeopardize our quality of life.
I have been fighting the 8150 Sunset project since it was first announced in 2013. I am spearheading a group, Save Sunset Boulevard, opposed to the project because it is far too large for the neighborhood, it will impede access for first responders to answer 911 calls for life threatening emergencies and it will have severe traffic and safety impacts on an already perpetually congested area. This is a major concern.
Save Sunset Blvd. is not against development, or against development on the 8150 Sunset site. Our mission is to ensure and to fight for responsible development. We’re not against development or growth, but it has to be responsible, and this project is not.
The 8150 Sunset project is a controversial, 334,000-square-foot retail and residential project located on the site that once housed the famed Garden of Allah hotel. In 2013, Townscape Partners purchased the strip mall and announced plans for a massive development that included a 216-foot tall tower (equivalent to a 19-story building) of residential units. The project met with stiff neighborhood opposition because it would triple the square footage currently permitted, increase traffic, close a city street (the southbound right-turn lane), use city property for free, slow L.A. Fire Department and first responders response time and destroy the historic Lytton Savings building.
Townscape, in claiming to have listened to the neighborhood’s concerns, hired acclaimed architect Frank Gehry and presented another alternative. Oh yes, they listened alright, and came back to the table adding another structure to the site and making the tallest building 18 feet higher! I am unswayed by the Gehry designs, and I am concerned with the project’s severe impacts on the neighborhood.
They used Frank Gehry to get approval on a project that is significantly out of scale for the proposed site and infrastructure and otherwise violates CEQA, the General Plan, and earthquake and street closure (vacation) laws. Gehry is working on so many other projects with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti that he’s a golden boy now, and they used him to get it passed.
Project plans call for removal of a much needed right hand turn lane at the southwest corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset at the base of Laurel Canyon and three driveways for ingress and egress, plus deliveries, to be on Havenhurst Drive. Havenhurst is a narrow residential street with historical buildings that already is a cut-through street. Now they want to add more cars and delivery trucks to the mix? What are they thinking? This is a bad idea and very bad planning. This is a public safety nightmare.
I am particularly distressed by the massing of the multi-building project, which will have 65,000 square feet of commercial space, including a 25,000 square feet grocery store and 249 residential units, including 28 units for low- and moderate-income families. The buildings on the southern part of the property tower over residential neighborhoods with historic properties that are much smaller. Along Crescent Heights, you will have a structure approximately 174 feet tall, (equivalent to a 16-story building) and along Havenhurst Drive, another structure will be 234 feet tall (equivalent to a 22-story bldg).
I live adjacent to the project on Havenhurst in the Colonial House, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the Colonial House, which is six stories high, the tallest nearby buildings are Granville Towers on Crescent Heights, which is seven stories; the DGA which is 79 feet high and approximately seven stories, and the Chateau Marmont, which is eight. Townscape is wanting to build a structure that is 234 feet tall, which is equivalent to 22 stories. Just think, this is almost three times the height of any of these buildings and almost seven to 10 times higher than the two- and three-story residential properties surrounding the site. Crazy! These structures will overshadow surrounding properties, rob them of their views and overburden their streets and sewers. The infrastructure is just not there.
I was born and raised in Manhattan and grew up surrounded by skyscrapers. I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s and I loved it — all the great signature architecture and mid-century buildings and all the light. I am really sad that developers want to Manhattan-ize L.A., and in the process, demolish signature architectural treasures. I moved here because I wanted to be in L.A., not Manhattan. What would people say if they tried to Barcelona-ize London or London-ize Paris? Each city is unique. Let’s honor each city for its uniqueness and not try to make it like each other or generic.
Let these developers take the lead from Wallis Annenberg, who preserved the Italian Renaissance style post office and artfully juxtaposed it with the low beautiful Zoltan Pali structure. Annenberg also preserved the Marion Davies home in Santa Monica while adding new structures to the property. Old and new can co-exist together, and she did it brilliantly.
I am thrilled by the victory on Sept. 15 when the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted unanimously for a historic-cultural monument designation to the Lytton Savings building on the 8150 property. The wonderful mid-century modern building,, with its zig-zag roof and glass walls, offered a radical architectural departure from the traditional bank building when it opened in 1960. It is possible to have growth and modernization and to blend the two seamlessly, like Wallis did. Why must they tear it down?
Save Sunset Blvd. has been working with other area groups to fight the project, including the groups Fix the City, the Coalition to Preserve L. A., and the Laurel Canyon Association. I am also working with the City of West Hollywood because the West Hollywood will be overburdened by the enormity of this project in so many ways ( it will impact WeHo’s streets and sewers.) There’s power in numbers. We’re banding together to say “no more.” We’re tired of this. Los Angeles is being destroyed by certain developers, and we cannot allow this to happen.
Despite five separate appeals, including one from the City of West Hollywood (although in Los Angeles, the West Hollywood border is immediately behind the property), the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously approved the project in late July. The Laurel Canyon Association, Fix The City, adjacent property owners and the City of West Hollywood are opposed because of the above concerns. It now moves to the L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee for a hearing on Oct. 25. If that body approves it, the project goes before the full Los Angeles City Council for final approval. Councilmember David Ryu, who represents the district where the project lies, has expressed his concerns about the project.
However, the L.A. City Council must give final approval to the landmark designation. The council will likely consider the designation at the same time it considers approving the project.
As the project heads to the L.A. City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee, I will be relentless in my fight. I will be attending with an army of opponents (over 1,000 letters and petitions were sent to the city in opposition), but in the meanwhile we are busy posting lawn signs and getting the word out. We are hoping that Councilmember Ryu will vote against the project and keep his pledge to support the community regarding out-of-scale projects.
I know that fighting the 8150 Sunset project is an uphill battle. Townscape Partners spent $166,715 in the first quarter of 2016 lobbying for the project, according to a report by the city’s Ethics Commission. They are trying to buy everyone.
However, if I backed off of everything I did in life because I didn’t think I could win, what would that mean, what kind of person would I be? I am a competitive swimmer, which gives me the drive and perseverance to fight this project. I am a real estate agent in a city with stiff competition. I look at the finish line and do not get intimidated by my competitors. I have integrity, and I have to fight for what I believe in and what I think is wrong and unfair.
Selling properties in Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills and the Westside, plus the South Bay beach communities, I have a large and loyal celebrity clientele. I am not worried that opposing this project will hurt my business.
I work with responsible developers and not with developers who disregard the community and the context of their buildings. Along with the above concerns, the developers of the 8150 project have not taken into account that the Buddhist Temple sits within 100 feet of their site, a site that will be selling alcohol and having entertainment venues. I couldn’t work with a developer that was doing something like this. If they said, “Rory, we’re selling $3 million to $13 million condos , what’s your problem? We’re going to put you as the realtor in this complex if you let us build it. You can make a lot of money,” I’d say “No. I just can’t do that. I need to sleep at night.”
Upcoming meeting information
Any local residents in Los Angeles and West Hollywood can come to speak on this project. There is a meeting for the City of Los Angeles Planning, Land Use, Management Committee for Oct. 25th at 2:30 p.m. at L.A. City Hall, 200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles.
The committee will hear the case for 8150 Sunset Boulevard and all five appeals against it at the same time and may even hear the Lytton Savings Bank Cultural Historic Monument status. Check for any changes to this date, time and location with firstname.lastname@example.org a week before planned meeting.