West Hollywood’s Planning Commission on Thursday night unanimously approved a slightly scaled back retail-residential project on Beverly Boulevard that it had previously rejected.
The five-story project on Beverly Boulevard and Sherbourne Drive, adjacent to the old Jerry’s Famous Deli building (now home to the Granville Café), proved controversial in April when the Commission unanimously gave thumbs down because of issues with massing and compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood.
The scaled back version has 26 residential units (down from 30 in the previous version), four of which are set aside for lower-income tenants. It also moves the required common space for residents from the roof to the ground level and encloses the entrance to the subterranean parking garage to reduce noise.
The most significant change, however, is on the northern side of the building, facing the residential area. The lower three floors are set back 25 feet from property line, but the upper two floors are set back another 25 feet from the edge of the building. In the previous version, the upper two floors were set back just 18 inches from the edge of the building, a violation of regulations regarding the city’s “mixed-use” incentive.
The area is zoned for a maximum of three stories (35 feet in height), but because the city wants to encourage “mixed-used” buildings that include retail and residential in the same project, the Mixed-Use Incentive Overlay Zone allows projects to add another floor (10 feet). Because the project includes units for low-income residents, it can add another floor (10 more feet), for a total of 55 feet in height.
The commission liked architect Lorcan O’Herlihy’s revised design, Commissioner David Aghaei saying he did a good job of making the needed adjustments. Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro called it a “carefully sculpted building,” but Commissioner Adam Bass had mixed feelings, saying, “I don’t love this project, but as I look at it, I think that it checks all the boxes that we have discretion over.”
Of the 18 people who spoke during public comment, 12 spoke in favor. Of those who spoke against it, the main concerns were the traffic and parking congestion it will add to the area and the building’s large size overwhelming the residential area.
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.
The project will replace a one-story nightclub building, currently housing the Peppermint Club, at 8713 Beverly Blvd. and a parking lot at 321-327 Sherbourne Drive. That project will include two buildings that are connected by catwalks between each of the upper floors.
1150 Orange Grove Ave.
The Planning Commission also unanimously approved revised plans for a four-story, seven-unit apartment building at 1150 N. Orange Grove Ave. (north of Santa Monica Boulevard) that it had previously rejected.
In September, the commission sent the project by Amit Apel Design Inc. back to the drawing board for reconfiguration of the residential outdoor space. In the earlier version, several units had the zoning code-required 120 square feet of outdoor private space (i.e., a balcony or patio) located on the roof, rather than directly connected to the units. The revised plans have that outdoor space with all the individual units and puts common outdoor space on the roof.
The revised plans also enclose all the stairwells, as is required by fire codes, something the earlier version failed to do.
The Commission called the revised plans “much improved.”
The project will replace two single-family homes currently on the lot. One of the units in the project would be set aside for low-income residents. The property is owned by Fred Houriani.
7326 Santa Monica Blvd.
The Commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a dog daycare kennel with overnight boarding at 7326 Santa Monica Blvd. at Fuller Avenue, in the new Avalon retail-residential complex, which replaced the old Movietown Plaza shopping center.
Citidog! Club will have space for up to 60 dogs during the day and space for boarding up to 20 dogs each night. The upscale kennel also has locations in Culver City and West Los Angeles, as well as San Diego, Seattle, Dallas and Washington, D.C.
The facility will feature cage-free daycare and will include four separate indoor play areas, as well as dog grooming services. It will employ ten people during the day and two overnight.
The Commission liked the plans, but insisted that Citidog! install the highest quality acoustical absorbing panels so barking dogs do not disturb residents living in units directly above the facility. It also will construct a “double wall” along the shared wall with the Wells Fargo bank next door.
Public Benefits Policy
Finally, the Commission was briefed on a plan to open up the process whereby new construction projects provide “public benefits” as part of the approval process.
“Public benefits” are tangible things which benefit all the city’s residents. Things like sidewalk and/or road improvements in the area near a project or funding upgrades for city parks or donating to the city’s General Fund, are among the many items which could be considered a public benefit.
Previously, the way a project’s public benefits were determined was murky, negotiated by high-ranking city staff and announced late in the approval process. This new proposal seeks to make that process more transparent and happen earlier in the approval process.
The primary component for determining public benefits would be a standardized “economic evaluation tool” that would use mathematical formulas to determine the monetary value of a project and a percentage of that value that should be paid to the public in the form of a public benefit.
The Commission liked the idea of opening the process and creating a menu of options for developers to consider. The City Council is scheduled to consider the public benefits plan early in 2018.