WeHo Strikes a Deal with Townscape and Supports 8150 Sunset Project


The City of West Hollywood has withdrawn its opposition to the controversial 8150 Sunset Blvd. high-rise retail and residential project after reaching an agreement with Townscape Partners, the project’s developers. Located in Los Angeles on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, the 8150 project borders West Hollywood and raised concerns due to its height, massing, traffic and sewer impacts.

The withdrawal of the West Hollywood appeal, considered the strongest of five appeals against the project, helped pave the way for the Los Angeles City Council’s five-member Planning and Land Use Management Committee to deny the other four appeals and approve the project on Tuesday. The project now moves to the full 15-member Los Angeles City Council for final approval, possibly as early as next week. Meanwhile, the Land Use committee delayed consideration of granting historic cultural monument status to the 66-year-old Lytton Savings building on the 8150 Sunset site until late November.

West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister (right) and Community Development Director Stephanie deWolfe (left)
West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister (right) and Community Development Director Stephanie DeWolfe (left)

West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, Community Development Director Stephanie DeWolfe and attorney Beth Collins-Burgard, who represented West Hollywood on this appeal, worked out a handshake agreement with Townscape in the minutes before the Land Use committee heard the 8150 project. Under the terms of the deal, the height of development’s tallest building, once proposed for 234 feet, will be reduced to 178 feet as measured from the lowest point on sloping site. The top floor of that building will have a 10-foot setback on its southern side (which faces West Hollywood) so that the building will appear less tall, and mechanical equipment such as air conditioning compressors will be moved away from the WeHo border.

Additionally, Townscape will give West Hollywood $2 million for traffic improvements. Meister indicated to WEHOville that the city plans to erect bollards at the city’s border along Havenhurst Drive (on the western side of the site) to create a cul-de-sac, similar to the cul-de-sac on Westmount Drive just above the Trader Joes grocery store. That cul-de-sac will prevent traffic leaving the 8150 Sunset project from turning left onto Havenhurst, thus preserving the residential street and thwarting Havenhurst from being used as a cut through street to Fountain Avenue. Townscape will also give the city more than $500,000 for sewer improvements, since the project will connect to West Hollywood’s sewers.

The West Hollywood City Council must still approve this agreement, but Meister reported that the council had discussed what they wanted during a closed session and authorized her and DeWolfe to negotiate it.

“There were certain conditions that we wanted to lock in, that we felt were very important if this project was going to happen, and that was the money for the cul-de-sac and the sewer and reducing the height as much as we thought that would be possible,” Meister told WEHOville.

Meanwhile, staffers for Los Angeles 4th District Councilman David Ryu, who represents the area in which the 8150 Sunset project sits, also negotiated modifications to the project after Ryu wrote a letter demanding changes to the project. When new developments are considered by the L.A. City Council, the council members usually defer to the wishes of their colleague who represents the area, so Townscape, which was initially resistant to changes, was apparently willing to make concessions to get the project approved.

Architect Frank Gehry
Architect Frank Gehry

The number of residential units will be 229, down from 249. Twenty-six of those units will be for very-low income residents and 12 will be “work force” units priced for more moderate income workers. The number of commercial parking spaces was increased per Ryu’s request to 494. The sidewalk along Sunset Boulevard will be widened to 15 feet and Townscape will also give Los Angeles $2 million for traffic improvements.

The project’s 65,000 square feet of commercial use remains unchanged. Plans call for a 25,000 square foot supermarket, a 5,000 square foot bank, 12,000 square feet of retail space and 23,000 square feet of restaurant space. The project, with curved edges and odd angles, is by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, the man who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

Speaking of the modifications, representatives for Ryu told the committee, “We agree with the modifications. We look forward to continued dialogue with our community as well as the appellants as this moves forward.”

In a statement, Townscape partner Tyler Siegel, said, “These modifications will benefit the community, while ensuring that Frank Gehry’s terrific design provides world-class residences as well as new shopping and eating destinations for our city.”

The 87-year-old Gehry testified before the committee that the site would be “a great entry piece to the Sunset Strip.” Gehry said he agreed to design the project because Townscape shared his values of creating something that would be “special,” have “real architecture” and be “a proud part of the community.”

A standing-room-only crowd filled the L.A. City Council chamber. During over two hours of public comment, many people wearing “Yes 8150 Sunset” stickers, which were provided by Townscape, spoke in favor of the project citing the jobs it would provide and the outstanding architecture. An equal number spoke against it, commenting about the increased traffic congestion and the impact to the neighborhood.

By 7:30 p.m. when public comment was completed, only three of the five committee members were still present (councilmembers Mitch Englander and Marqueece Harris-Dawson both left without explanation during the hearing). There was minimal discussion among the three, who unanimously voted to deny the appeals and approve the project.

Hearing on 8150 Sunset project at L.A. City Hall
Hearing on 8150 Sunset project at L.A. City Hall

“It would be nice if we could still live in the neighborhood that we grew up in, but that does not exist anywhere that I know of in the city,” L.A. Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who serves on the Land Use committee, told the audience. “The fact of the matter is we have a housing crisis, an affordability crisis and a homeless crisis. We have to respond to that. Every single elected [official] in each of the 15 [council] districts has a duty and an obligation to respond to that. So, that’s what this is.”

Councilmember Curren Price questioned whether it was appropriate to approve the project before considering whether to give historic cultural monument status to the Lytton Savings and Loan building located on the northwest corner of the 8150 property. However, city staffers reported that “the historic hearing does not have any bearing on the approval of the project.”

In mid-September the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously agreed to grant the landmark status to the Lytton Savings building, designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer. Now a Chase Bank, the building with its zig-zag folded plate roof, glass walls and interior art work offered a radical architectural departure from traditional bank building when it opened in 1960.

The full L.A. City Council must approve the landmark status before it becomes official. If landmark status is granted, the Lytton Savings building can still be demolished, but there would be several extra legal steps involved before the wrecking ball could hit the building.

Members of Friends of Lytton Savings, the group which petitioned for the building’s landmark status, reported that Townscape Partners indicated they were open to the idea of moving the building. However, a spokesperson for Townscape would not confirm that.

Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy for the L.A. Conservancy preservation group, reported that concrete buildings as large as the Lytton building would be especially difficult to move. Similarly, it is not clear where Townscape could move the building to.

“There’s two preservation alternatives on the table that have been deemed viable and meet the project objectives,” Fine told WEHOville. “Why is that not being discussed? Why is the city of Los Angeles ignoring that path forward that allows preservation and new development to happen at the same time? Personal preferences should not override state law or the heritage of Los Angeles.”

Gehry seemed uninterested in adapting his designs to be compatible with the mid-century modern Lytton Savings building. Gehry explained to the committee that the construction crane needed to erect the project’s two towers had to be placed in the location of the Lytton building.

“Unfortunately, the bank building is in a precarious position to enable craning a proper project on the site,” Gehry said.

West Hollywood resident Rory Barish, who spearheaded the Save Sunset Blvd. group to oppose the project, believes the committee was blinded by Gehry’s status as a world-renowned architect.

“They’re viewing Gehry as a god. That’s why he was here today,” said Barish, who lives on Havenhurst adjacent to the project. “That’s why Townscape hired him, to help get this approved.”

After the hearing, Steven Luftman, who helped found the Friends of Lytton Savings group, commented to WEHOville, “This could be an amazing opportunity to have two of the most significant architects of Los Angeles together in one project. I don’t know what it is that’s keeping it from happening. I find it terribly sad that one architect would want to erase another’s work.”

  1. This investigative/LA Times article pretty much explains what goes on with every illegal zone changing obscene, oversized controversial, heatedly opposed project..
    More reason to vote for The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in March and vote garcetti out.
    The project in article is not the only one garcetti’s planning commission rejected that garcetti rejected their decision and made sure projects went through anyway.. campaign contributions and other funding via laundering, as mentioned in article, to city politicos, are business as usual to assure they get approved. garcetti rescinds his own planning commission’s votes, because deals ($$$$) have been cut with developers way before the projects go to any decision making body. People have been trying to get these things investigated forever….Millennium, Palladium, 8150 Sunset, Koreatown Tower, LeFrak Hollywood/LaBrea project..just to name a few.. Usually, by the time projects get to ‘hearings’, its discovered deals were cut by mayor and councilmembers long ago, sometimes even with past mayors (Villaraigosa) and communities opposing huge intrusive, traffic inducing, community killing, zone changing projects, show up at faux ‘hearings’ to speak to a Plum Committee and city council who all have been bribed long ago by these developers.. and many times told the current councilmember had nothing to do with it.. blah blah blah..Project came in before his ‘reign’..They all are getting bribed, paid off very well, deals are cut way before these hearings even occur, ‘hearings’ are a total waste of time and money, since everyone knows how the developer bribed corrupt decision makers will vote. Many of the supporting speakers at these faux hearings also have been paid/hired by the developers to show up from places nowhere near the projects and will not be impacted by them at all. 8150 Sunset had more of these at planning commission and PLUM hearings than any projects so far..attempting to drown out the voices who actually are from the communities impacted by projects. Speakers should be REQUIRED to give their address when speaking. It’s a shame how groups that sell out to the developers who throw tons of money at them and their communtiies, until law suits are withdrawn once enough money is thrown at them, won’t stand with and support the communities impacted the most by these projects. They won’t stand with neighborhood councils representing thousands of stakeholders after years of town halls and community meetings really ‘hearing’ them all out. Gehry threatened to walk if his horrible project was not approved. His unneccesarily snarky comments about Mr. Lytton at PLUM ‘hearing’ may be a clue as to whether he is willing to incorporate Historical Cultural Monument nominated Lytton Savings into his project..Gehry rules..Garcetti’s in love with him and has other dealings, like the LA River, with him. End of story.

  2. & Mike Dolan: Two of the architects that designed buildings in immediate proximity to 8150 Sunset have nearly every building designed recognized as a landmark. Some have multiply designations ….National, State and Local. The Zweibel’s known for their exquisite courtyard buildings and Leland Bryant whose study of the great chateaux of the Loire Valley and a riff on Art Deco inspired by the Paris Exposition resulted in countless elegant buildings in West Hollywood, Hollywood and Los Angeles. This seems of no material consideration to the disrupter team of Townscape & Gehry. One can never project their place in the annals of excellence or the ashcan.

    It is also fair to say that while Townscape/Gehry team sat in the council chamber proceedings at City Hall last Tuesday they were oblivious to the magnificent John Parkinson/ A.C. Martin building whose every nik and cranny contribute to an enduring masterpiece in a location befitting its grandeur.

  3. @ Steve Martin: Being a vocal critic about Townscape’s Beverly Blvd. project and collapsing in the home stretch proved that one has no real heart and substance. When an individual’s “prized commitments” were represented as development and transportation issues this indicates a major fail. Euphemistic campaign wishes and dreams do not automatically translate into action especially when negotiation is clearly beyond one’s scope. Blind Sided in the home stretch with no concept of all the moving parts.

  4. @Development Woes, your statement, “An architect sensitive to the surrounding area both LA and WH would easily have been able to act upon inspiration from the Lytton Savings Bank and design an interesting and respectful project.” Is representative of the time.

    I would not ever compare personally Lytton Savings Band and Kurt Meyer’s to Frank Gehry. Both highly respected for their contributions; Meyer’s, in my opinion, does not stand the test of time. Like Frank Lloyd Wright and Gehry possess that quality. However, I’m sure Meyer’s designs were a welcome, new and creative architectural direction that was quite different at its time and style of architecture to our area.

    My personal excitement for the Gehry proposal is that it is a creative, new and fascinating direction for the border of West Hollywood, Los Angeles and our own Sunset strip. In fact, I was at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Thursday and every time I see the L.A. Philharmonic Disney Concert Hall, I always wished and wondered why on Sunset Strip something like, what now is designed by Gehry, could not be and become for future generations to admire as a landmark on this important intersection to our area.

    Last, I am not commenting on behalf of Townscape. It could be ABC Developer for all I care. It is the benefit of the Gehry design, the economic positive impact to Los Angeles, West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. I believe that there are some kinks to be worked out and in the end compromise will prevail for benefit of the current and future residents and users of our Sunset Strip.

    Gehry has designed the next iconic landmark. Not for yesteryear but for tomorrow-land.

  5. Actually, now that I commented on bloated sensibilities, I recall that is the unfortunate affliction of Townscape’s Beverly Blvd project.

    Time to build interesting projects in a straightforward manner. Too simple? Some folks seem to love drama and posturing. That burns up too much time and $$$$$.

  6. This was not a project that required Frank Grhry or any architect in the so called “upper echelons”. An architect sensitive to the surrounding area both LA and WH would easily have been able to act upon inspiration from the Lytton Savings Bank and design an interesting and respectful project . Although Kurt Meyers design might not be my personal fave I recognize his excellence and representation of an important era and rightful place in the architectural language and fabric of LA.

    The problem here was a development team with a bloated sense of reality in both their behavior and in their choice of architects. In a blind tasting of project designs from worthy architects I don’t believe they could make a qualified choice. Their goal was getting to the. Iggest chunk of revenue asap. Their foxy ways determined that acquiring Gehry would allow them to exceed the speed limit and bypass all the normal sensible constraints, the purpose of a planning process to begin with. In some respects. Gehry being the obstructionist that he is, be it projects or disruption in his own home neighborhood was the perfect choice for Townscape.

    West Hollywood didn’t put out an RFP for a Gateway Project to compromise their valued landmark buildings or historic neighborhood. Could this have been a collaborative project given the adjacent municipal disposition? Perhaps, that would have been a true indication of progress and awareness. Next time you drive past Disney Hall remember that 8150 Sunset will be bigger with less logistical consideration.

  7. Development happens because the economy is good and that always benefits the people.

    Yes, I agree, the construction during the improvement is a nuisance. All developments’ have a beginning and end. Always the people are directly or indirectly the beneficiary and impacted during development. This has always been the reality in a high density area.

    The people must spotlight deficiencies or additions that improve the development before construction to make the development optimum. The organic nature of a healthy economy and market forces will always prevail even if an individual would like to see no growth, low growth or influence the design of the development to their personal taste.

    Recommendations can be good, yet if based in nostalgia or personal remembrances’ and romanticizing times gone by, we neglect duty to plan for the future residents. In a small way we leave a legacy that will be created for the future constituents of West Hollywood.

    There is no one person or group that conspires or colludes to annoy the ‘people’. The reality is unseen forces of a healthy economy filling the needs of our area and the desirability to do business, live, work and play in West Hollywood.

  8. Yes…there were some missed opportunities here. I agree with Todd. Gehry isn’t the only starchitect. I’m also EXTREMELY disappointed in the number of low income units. It should be at minimum 20-30%. But there is something else important with the low-income units. I’m discovering many dont include parking for those designated units. They assume the low income folks are too poor to own vehicles and will us public transportation. We also need to mandate that parking is required for EACH unit regardless of classification.

    I get so disgusted with whoever is running the show. They make backhanded deals to cut this and that without truly thinking about the people and that these are their homes.

  9. A couple of things. First, Frank Gehry isn’t the only talented architect in Los Angeles. How about Zoltan Pali? There are many others who would kill for a chance to make a landmark project. I think Townscape is simply using Gehry’s name to get an approval for a project that he may not end up designing. No one wants just another “modern” box with little visual interest. I’d rather have another PDC Red Building than another Avalon (Movietown Plaza) rabbit warren.

    Second, there is always inconvenience, noise and other negative factors that go along with a major construction project. That’s a given. Sure, we all are hoping for a good final result and a positive impact on the community. But the Sunset Strip has been a major construction zone for many, many years and there is a certain level of fatigue that goes with it. This project, if it’s every built, will take years and years to finish. At least the hideous condos and decent-looking hotels on the south side of Sunset at La Cienega are nearing completion (finally). But how many other projects are either in construction, nearing construction or in planning that will annoy residents for the foreseeable future? None of those are going to be a subway, light rain or anything else to relieve traffic congestion.

  10. Thank you Andrew Macpherson. I too am excited to see the final masterpiece, by Gehry, at 8150 Sunset Blvd.

    I too, agree with Josh Kurpies, on the relative size of this project and the lack to achieve a higher % of affordable units. What happened to this element in “Weho Strikes a Deal…”

    I’m puzzled with Councilmember Ryu strong recommendation to save the bank building but not to increase affordable units to at least 30%. I don’t understand the priorities of this deal either from the City of Los Angeles nor the City of West Hollywood and its-DEAL??? I ask Councilmember Ryu to press further for real meaningful changes and demand more affordable units throughout this project.

    The comment from Todd Bianco: “It’s the neighbors who will have to suffer for years as the infrastructure improvements and construction goes forward,” is like saying you must have this surgery to save your life. There will be a long recuperation but you will be better than before. Without this surgery (development), it’s just a matter suffering and time.

  11. I would vigorously disagree with Todd. Having devoted years to fighting the original hideous cookie-cutter design as one of the founders of the neighborhood group Save Sunset Boulevard, I think a ‘starchitect’ is exactly what was needed.

    Los Angeles is putting up so many hideous oversized steel framed boxes with no imagination that it is loosing it soul. As the entertainment capital of the world our city should and could rival Hong Kong, Dubai and Shanghai in its expressions of architectural imagination and excellence.

    I live by, and directly overlook the site, which is why I supported the community fight against the original proposal. Townscape took on board our desire for something better, and came back with this vision project. Something big was going to bed built there, either by Townscape or someone else, I can say from my personal experience that that have done a great deal to work with us, and also I’m genuinely excited at the idea of revolutionary Gehry masterpiece rising in my view, and within easy walking distance.

  12. Todd Bianco’s instincts are pretty accurate. While I appreciate that the site is currently under utilized and is in need of revitalization, this mega project is simply completely over the top, even after these concessions. The “concessions” are not likely to represent meaningful mitigations to the traffic issues that will impact the Sunset Strip and Laurel Canyon, not to mention the West Hollywood residents of Havenhurst. Still I believe that Mayor Lauren Meister should be commended for her efforts. Fortunately both the Mayor and West Hollywood Community Development Director Stephanie De Wolf were vocal critics of Townscape’s other project, 8899 Beverly Blvd. in West Hollywood. Given that three of our Council members have been the beneficiaries of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Townscape, it is unlikely that the entire City Council would have taken a hard line to oppose this project in closed session; so I believe we got the best deal possible under the convoluted political circumstances. It is funny how simple issues always get complicated once campaign contributions are part of the mix.

  13. I am disappointed to see a project of this magnitude result in only 16% of the units being affordable. (26 very-low, 12 moderate) In a project this size that has the capability of absorbing the costs to build the units by spreading it out over the entire project, we should expect, and demand, the developers meet at least 20% (I believe WeHo requires 20%) or even 30% (I believe LA Metro requires 30%)

    I guess we can check this one off as another missed opportunity for the City of Los Angeles.

  14. My guess is this “concession” from Townscape was probably what they wanted in the first place. Propose something totally out of scale with no mitigation and then look like you’re the “good guy developer” when they reduce the size and pay for some upgrades to the sewer and a cul-de-sac on Havenhurst – something that probably should or would have been required in the first place. $2.5 million to West Hollywood is nothing to Townscape and is a normal cost of doing business (remember, almost all of it is being spent to benefit their project).

    It’s the neighbors who will have to suffer for years as the infrastructure improvements and construction goes forward, then the decades of increasingly-bad traffic on Sunset and the surrounding streets.

    I find it hard to believe that the designation of the Lytton Savings building as historic and worthy of saving, potentially incorporating it into the project, wouldn’t be an important part of approving the project. I also don’t buy Gehry’s statement about the placement of the construction crane. And while he may not be interested in incorporating the bank building into the project, maybe an architect with an imaginative, more compatible vision for the site could do the job as well or better for less money. They don’t need a starchitect for this project. What we are being shown is still just a sketch of “what could be.”

  15. Staring the future full in the face, this large project should spur West Hollywood and other cities bordering Los Angeles to start talking with the boys and girls in LA City Hall. Infrastructure must keep apace with such developments – actually, run ahead of them, and there has to be great mutual assistance for upgrades and extensions. Density is on the way and not being prepared is the worst kind of omission.

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