OPINION: Cast a Giant Shadow?

The “Sunset Tower” at 9034 Sunset Blvd. Not Jeff Klein’s Sunset Tower Hotel, a truly historic landmark, but the latest proposal for a hotel on the Sunset Strip.

No one is mentioning this is 19 stories – almost 200 feet tall. Per the city’s Sunset Specific Plan, the maximum height allowed for this site is 60 feet, or roughly six stories. The 9000 Sunset Blvd. building is 16 stories. The Sunset Doheny hotel is 13 stories. This will tower over both, no pun intended.

The hotel on the empty lot at Hilldale and Hammond will be six stories. The Hustler/Arts Club project will be seven or eight stories. The London is 10 stories. The Aahs! gift store site next to it has recently been sold and anything built there can go to 10 stories but the developer will undoubtedly ask for more.

Soon Sunset will be a solid wall of towers. Ever drive along Sunset during the day? The 9000 Sunset building now casts a shadow all the way to Wetherly Drive until mid-afternoon. After these are all built, Sunset will be in the dark for a solid half-mile from 9200 Sunset to past San Vicente Boulevard, then picking up again from the Sunset Millennium to the site of the former House of Blues and whatever else they have in store through to the monstrous Gehry project pending at Sunset and Crescent Heights. So much for enjoying a daytime walk along our famed boulevard.

Do we really need all these hotels on Sunset? What about cool office space to attract actual businesses for a particular cool industry such as tech, creating an actual local need for all these new hotel rooms? More office space also might help generate daytime pedestrian activity along Sunset. Instead, hotel guests will be Uber-ing elsewhere since there is nothing along Sunset but hotels.

They say Sunset is changing. True. It is the developers who are changing it with the city’s shortsighted help. It is not necessarily because of demand. The first developer entitles the property then flips it to the next one who builds it who then flips it to the next one on the promise of big profits based on how “hot” Sunset is getting because of all the new hotels and investment dollars pouring in. None of this has been materializing in actual revenues from the promised shops, restaurants, condo sales, apartment rentals or hotel room tax revenue. Just real estate flipping.

On the ground, Sunset is still struggling. Long-time restaurants and shops are closing rapidly. New ones can’t stay in business a year. New condos can’t get sold. What a surprise with their odd floor plans, windows staring into looming neon-lit billboards (with the pending promise of them becoming digital.) And oops! They forgot to put in the required terraces for each unit. Gee, where was the city’s Code Inspector on that one? Offering them as rentals didn’t help. Now what to do?

The Sunset Millennium is a perfect example of a project that is failing up. The last investor will be left holding the bag. The first one is laughing all the way to the bank, having screwed us over with a gargantuan project it never thought would get approved, given its original pie-in-the-sky/ask-for-everything-but-prepare-to-settle-for-half proposal.

And yet the city thoughtlessly carries on without a plan for anything except how to squeeze more money out of Sunset with billboard revenue and hotel room taxes.

True visionaries.

  1. This is an absolute nightmare for greater traffic and congestion. There is a specific reason for a specific plan. There has to be a compelling reason to deviate from that plan. The City of WEHO has never cared about increased pollution, traffic, safety or congestion as long as it fills its corporate pockets to the chagrin of its residents. Allow this to go through and the City council will have to be voted out. A city has to follow its own laws and care about its residents.

  2. @Ruth Again I have been a loud and frequent opponent, and am on your side, but just factually, Tall Steal Frame Buildings are among the safest place (inside) in a big earthquake. Also, Sunset is up on the hills. I lived through the 1994 quake at the very top of kings road in one of those scary looking hanging over nothing home. I was prepared to go down. Zero damage, checked foundation & learned the millions of tons of rock that make the hills, blocks earthquake shocks unbelievably well. fyi

  3. Sorry, not against your outrage about yet another (and I’ll bet ya not close to the last one in the non-stop adding a new project as the existing ones are 3/4 done.
    BUT – just as to the “casting a shadow” It is on the South Side of Sunset Blvd. It will get 100% all day sun from downtown to the ocean (east to west) from the south coming up north to weho.
    This one will not really cast a big shadow onto either the street, the local businesses and the expensive homes on the lower levels of the hills. (the 9000 Office Tower of the 80’s has problems, but casting bad shadows is not one.)

  4. @Ruth Williams is absolutely correct. There is even an article here on Wehoville about the earthquake fault along Sunset.
    There are other fault line maps online.
    Sadly, shortsightedness is the M.O. in WeHo when it comes to planning. It’s awful to see the Strip turn into Hotel Row. So much is gone already. Tourists will be able to stay here, but there won’t be much left to see.

  5. This proposal ought to be a true test for our City Council. As the Sunset Strip Specific Plan is just that – a “specific plan” which sets forth height and other specifics along the Strip in several defined zones, there is essentially no reason to deviate from its dictates. It in effect was drafted to tell developers exactly what to build where. So for a developer to throw away the Plan’s requirements and propose something so out of whack (even if it is cutting edge architecture), should cause an ethical and disciplined City’s planning staff to reject it out of hand. Sadly, I am not sure WeHo will be so principaled.

  6. Im w Jake. The point of the sky high buildings casting a shadow is lost with the question of what type of use, ‘cool tech offices’ or ‘condos’. I think Elyse was trying to say that the developments were not in the public best interest because of their height or mass. She might be right.. but Sunset is re-inventing itself. Just not the same way as the good old days. Thumbs up on the Gondola to the PDC.

  7. To Jake –

    I should have said – “what about cool office space “within the original height limits as defined by the Sunset Specific Plan” etc.

    The city should not be granting exceptions to every – or any – project. This is how developers have so much influence in our city and sway our elections with their excessive contributions. They know the zoning codes of the properties they are buying are meaningless. They will ask and know they will receive whatever exceptions they want.

  8. Seems logical that when all of those offices and hotels fill up there is a perfect opportunity for small businesses and resteraunts to capitalize. My thought is that the iconic strip needed to be re-invented. It had no wow factor anymore. I think that they are off to a good start using architecture and billboards to lure folks to a place that will be unique. As it develops hopefully something will surprise us all that will make it a must see. Maybe a gondola lift that carries visitors from the sunset strip to the Pacific Design Center/Robertson and Melrose shopping districts? Something big like that. I do like the architecture.

  9. Thanks for bringing attention to this eye sore. People in WEHO and north of Sunset need to be aware of these towers that are going to cause traffic problems and more.

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