The West Hollywood City Council last night rejected an appeal of a Planning Commission decision last September to grant the Palihouse hotel the right to serve food and alcohol on the rooftop of its building, which is located at 8465 Holloway Drive between Hacienda Place and La Cienega.
The appeal was brought by neighbors of the hotel, over 100 of whom have signed a petition opposing the decision by the Planning Commission last September. That decision also lets Palihouse play amplified music on the rooftop.
In its approval, the Planning Commission had rejected suggestions by the city’s Community Development Department staff that Palihouse not be allowed to play amplified music on the roof and that its rooftop furniture be limited to the standard height of restaurant tables and chairs rather than those used in bars. The Planning Commission also modified a requirement that Palihouse install a seven-foot glass wall around all sides of the rooftop dining area, arguing that a wall shouldn’t be required on the south side of the roof, which faces commercial property. The rooftop area already is open for hotel guests, but no food or alcohol is served there.
Susana Lagudis, vice president of the association representing homeowners at the nearby 1124 N. La Cienega Blvd. condo building, objected to the fact that Palihouse will be able to serve food and alcohol from noon until 10 p.m. daily and that a live DJ will be allowed to perform in the first floor restaurant until 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The ground floor restaurant has no roof, which makes it possible for sound from that area to be heard above the building.
Lagudis argued that, in failing to reject the Planning Commission’s decision, the City Council would be “rewarding bad behavior on the part of the Palihouse Hotel.”
Lagudis cited various violations of city ordinances since Palihouse opened in 2008. “For example, they constructed and operated an unpermitted freestanding bar and bathroom on the hotel rooftop – we personally witnessed these being built from our bedroom window,” she said. “The illegal bar and bathroom were only decommissioned for daily service to hotel patrons when they were caught.
Palihouse has 20 hotel rooms and 17 units designated as condos. The city granted Palihouse permission to build four floors rather than the stipulated three in exchange for its agreement to add those 17 units to West Hollywood’s housing stock. But, Lagudis said, “the Palihouse also violated their density bonus by making use of residential units as short-term rentals, a fact that staff acknowledge in their report.“
Jeff Aubel, the city’s code compliance manager, acknowledge that the city had warned Palihouse to stop short-term rentals, which the city defines as rentals for fewer than 30 days. Matt Fisher, an executive from Paligroup, which owns the hotel, acknowledged to the Council last night that some of those units had been rented for fewer than 30 days. Now none are being rented out fewer than 30 days he said. Mayor Lauren Meister, however, said she had seen a short-term rental listing of a Pailhouse condo unit posted on the Tripadvisor website in January.
Lagudis said that the 12 special events that Palihouse now conducts on the rooftop each year, which are permitted by the city, “already detrimentally impacts the character and integrity of the neighborhood and generates significant noise impacts that are experienced throughout the surrounding buildings from La CIenega Blvd. on the west through to Hacienda Place on the east. “
She challenged the validity of a sound study submitted by Palihouse as evidence that it wouldn’t produce ambient sound annoying to neighbors.
Meister and City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath supported the residents’ appeal. Meister said she isn’t convinced that Palihouse isn’t still using its condos for short-term rentals. And she noted that Palihouse had put bathrooms and a bar on the roof without permission in the past.
Councilmember John Duran opposed the appeal. He said that any past bad behavior by Palihouse couldn’t be considered in reviewing the appeal. He noted that the Planning Commission approval calls for a six-month and a 12-month review of whether Palihouse is complying with city requirements.
Councilmember John D’Amico also opposed the appeal. He noted that there also are rooftop bars and/or restaurants on other buildings such as the Mondrian hotel, which has the Skybar; the SoHo House and EP & LP and Catch restaurants. Meister argued that EP & LP and Catch, and the roof of the Palihouse, are lower than the SoHo House and more likely to expose nearby residents to noise. She said she gets many complaints about that.
Councilmember John Heilman recused himself because he lives near the Palihouse. The the vote split two to two, the Planning Commission decision remained in place.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story failed to note that Councilmember Lindsey Horvath also supported the appeal against permitting Palihouse to serve food and drinks on its roof. The story has been updated to correct that.