West Hollywood West residents got a minor win yesterday in their opposition to a five-story building proposed for a WeHo-adjacent site at 431 N. Cienega Blvd.
Residents turned out at a meeting of L.A.’s Mid City West Community Council to review the project, which would replace the existing Mikey’s Car Wash.
The building would contain 72 apartment units with 70 underground parking spaces and would range in height from 47 to 56 feet. Eight of the units would be priced for very-low income renters. Ohio-based Stark Properties is the developer of the project, which it calls the Solstice.
Residents of West Hollywood West, a neighborhood composed primarily of single-family homes, have objected to Stark’s previous proposals to eliminate the five-foot public right away along Westmount Drive that currently is required by the City of Los Angeles. They also have objected to a Stark proposal to eliminate the required 18-foot setback for a portion of the rear of the building.
Even the 18-foot setback, they have argued, would not eliminate the impact of the relatively tall building on the single-family homes behind it. Among the concerns raised at last night’s meeting was the Solstice’s impact on the privacy of its nearby WeHo neighbors, given plans for it to have balconies and open walkways.
Keith Nakata, co-chair of the Mid City West Planning and Land Use Committee, spoke out against the project at last night’s meeting. “This project is a bridge too far,” he said, suggesting that if it abutted a neighborhood in Los Angeles, transitional heights and set-back rules would be required.
Stark, responding to earlier criticisms from residents and the Mid City West PLUC, already has scaled back the project, which initially was proposed to be 81 feet high with 96 residential units above 14,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space with three levels of underground parking. Stark also has agreed to keep the setback. Overall, the size of the project has been reduced by 28,700 square feet.
As Nakata noted, the project as proposed would not meet standards for the City of Los Angeles, which would require that the levels of a tall building in a commercial district adjacent to a single-family residential neighborhood be staged so that single-family home owners don’t find themselves facing an overly tall wall in their backyards. Also, the L.A. zoning code sets a maximum height of 25 feet for a building within 50-feet of a single-family zoning district.
According to a memo from West Hollywood’s Community Development Department, Stark argues that that wouldn’t apply in any case to the adjoining West Hollywood West lots because they are zoned to allow two housing units per lot.
Finally, West Hollywood West residents have raised questions about the possibility that the lot is contaminated, given that there is a car-related business on it now and that it once housed a gas station. Stark has said that the state Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the site for development.
At last night’s meeting, the Mid-City West Community Council voted 13-7 to support the project on the condition that Stark eliminate the open walkways, prohibit short term rentals, relocate the rooftop
swimming pool to the La Cienega side of the building and have it close at 10 p.m.
The West Hollywood City Council will receive a memo about the project at its meeting on Tuesday. Residents of West Hollywood West are likely to show up at that meeting to ask that the City of West Hollywood push the City of Los Angeles to take steps to reduce the impact of the project.