A slightly redesigned project that was previously rejected by West Hollywood’s Planning Commission received mediocre reviews on Thursday from the Commission’s Design Review Subcommittee.
In April, the Planning Commission unanimously gave thumbs down to a five-story retail-office-residential project on Beverly Boulevard and Sherbourne Drive, adjacent to the old Jerry’s Famous Deli building (now home to the Granville Café), saying it was incompatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
The project would replace a one-story nightclub building, currently housing the Peppermint Club, at 8713 Beverly Blvd. and a parking lot at 321-327 Sherbourne Drive. It would include two buildings connected by catwalks between each of the upper floors, and have 9,700 square feet of retail and office space, plus 30 residential units, including five units for lower income residents.
On Thursday, architect Lorcan O’Herlihy presented a slightly scaled back version of the project with the same amount of retail and office space, but just 26 residential units, four of which would be for lower income residents. Aside from four fewer residential units, the redesigned project moves all the common space for residents from the rooftop to ground level, includes wider bridges between the buildings and also encloses the entrance to the underground parking garage.
The project is still five stories tall (55 feet in total), but does offer deeper setbacks for the upper two floors (which is why it has four fewer units).
According to Todd Elliott, an attorney representing developer Arash Danialifar, residents attending a recent neighborhood meeting said they preferred it remain at five stories and be 25 feet from their property line than be four stories and just 10 feet from the property line.
While the area is only zoned for three stories (35 feet in height), the project is using a “mixed-used” incentive to add another floor (10 feet) and an “affordable housing” bonus to add another floor (10 more feet) for a total of 55 feet.
While the overall design was essentially the same as the one presented in April, where the Planning Commissioners called it “innovative,” this time the three Design Review members were less impressed. Commissioner David Aghaei liked it, noting O’Herlihy satisfactorily incorporated the changes the Planning Commission suggested in April. However, Commissioner Sue Buckner called it merely “adequate,” and felt the two buildings do not work together to create a cohesive project.
Commissioner John Altschul said, “The design is OK, but I don’t think of it as exceptional or sensational.”
Altschul also said, “I don’t think it’s going to cause tour buses to come look at it,” a reference to the last project that renowned architect O’Herlihy presented to the full Planning Commission in August – an L-shaped building with “stepped massing” proposed for 1136 and 1142 La Cienega Boulevard, just south of Fountain Avenue. The Commission unanimously approved and hailed that project for its contemporary design, believing it would become a landmark in the city that tour buses would point out.
During the public comment period, resident Lynn Russell said the Beverly-Sherbourne project lacked “curb appeal” and that it was “trying too hard,” but didn’t fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.
Similarly, resident George Bujarski said it showed “very little creativity” and that whatever it was trying to be, it failed.
938 Genesee Ave.
A three-story, five-unit townhouse condominium project with subterranean parking at 938 Genesee Ave., south of Romaine, received mixed reviews from the three commissioners. Owned by FMB Development, the project would replace a single-family house.
Rather than the standard Design Review critique where the one design is presented, the FMB architects offered three options for how the exterior would appear. The commissioners favored the exterior design that had a rusted metal and grey stucco appearance.
They also suggested fewer windows would be better, an idea Eric Bushard, who lives next door to the project, favored, saying he didn’t want people looking directly into his apartment.
During the public comment period, residents were lukewarm to this project, but were more concerned that FMB Development has multiple projects in the surrounding blocks, all of which seem to have a similar design.
FMB is a Los Angeles-based real estate development company owned by Ilan Kelig that specializes in smaller projects of five to 10 units. Project manager Cary Wong told WEHOville that FMB has 10 projects in various stages of development in the eastern portion of the West Hollywood. Among those projects is a 10-unit townhouse currently under construction on Romaine Street between Ogden Drive and Genesee Avenue.
Resident George Bujarski was concerned about the sameness of all these projects. “It’s not gentrification,” Bujarski said. “Gentrification makes things better.”
Resident Lynn Russell, also disturbed by the similarity of the multiple FMB projects, called it a “collection of widgets”
Resident Jim Schultz, who lives on Genesee, said about eight projects are under development on the Genesee, from FMB and other developers, meaning the street will look completely different a few years from now. He felt this quick evolution of the block and its impact of residents should be considered.
Additionally, Schultz worried about the loss of the many tall shade trees that will be cut down for these new projects.
George Bujarski was also disturbed about the loss of the large trees, especially a large “legacy tree” in the planting strip between the street and the sidewalk that will be cut down to accommodate this project’s driveway leading to the underground parking garage. FMB project manager Cary Wong offered to flip the driveway to the other side of the lot in order to preserve that tree.
Wong said he understood that residents were frustrated by all the impending changes to the neighborhood and invited residents to meet with FMB’s design team to address their concerns.
FMB was also scheduled to present a three-story, five-unit condominium project at 943 Stanley, south of Romaine, but withdrew it, saying it wanted to work on it more.