Appellate Court Decision Leaves Developer Free to Demolish the Lytton Savings Building

The former Lytton Savings building, now housing Chase bank

Townscape Partners is free to move ahead with the demolition of the Lytton Savings building at 8150 Sunset Blvd.

Acting Justice Anthony Mohr, an L.A. Superior Court judge assigned to the Court of Appeal, rendered that decision on Friday. It was first reported in the Metropolitan News Enterprise, an online court news site.

The decision removes a major obstacle from Townscape’s plans for a five-building development on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, which would include buildings with 229 residential units and 65,000 square feet of commercial space, including a grocery store, restaurants and retail shops. The project is being designed by the firm of architect Frank Gehry.

The 20,000-square-foot Lytton Bank building, which now houses a Chase bank branch, sits facing Sunset Boulevard at the corner of Crescent Heights. It was built in 1960 on the site of the former Garden of Allah and was designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer.

Mohr’s decision vacates one in April 2017 by Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue that barred the City of Los Angeles from issuing permits to Townscape that would allow it to demolish the bank building, which has been designated a historic resource.

Hogue ruled in a case brought by the Los Angeles Conservancy that Los Angeles’s approval of the building’s demolition violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law that protects California’s built environment as it does the natural environment, and for that reason the project approval had to be set aside.

Hogue ruled that Townscape could not demolish the building unless it “can prove the benefits of the … project outweigh the significant environmental effect of demolition.”

The environmental impact report (EIR) for the 8150 Sunset Boulevard project studied alternatives that included the historic building and determined that they would feasibly be included in the project. However, the Los Angeles City Council later claimed that the preservation alternatives were not feasible and approved the Lytton Savings building’s demolition.

8150 Sunset Blvd. (Design by Gehry Partners. Rendering by Visualhouse)

“The City Council abused its discretion and violated state law by approving this demolition of a historic resource,” Conservancy attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley said at the time. “The loss of Lytton Savings would be a significant environmental impact, and it is feasible to instead avoid demolition and move ahead with the project.”

In his opinion, Judge Mohr said “the record contains a number of facts that constitute substantial evidence that the preservation alternatives would not fulfill the objectives of the project, among which was a call for vibrant buildings that draw people in, create new economic opportunities, and preserve view corridors.”

Mohr noted that the City of Los Angeles has called out several issues with keeping the Lytton Savings buildings and constructing the project around it that mean it “would not be as visually appealing or pedestrian friendly compared to the proposed project.”

The City of Los Angeles will have to hold a public hearing on Townscape’s plan to block vehicles from using a lane on the eastbound side of Sunset Boulevard to turn right onto Crescent Heights.

The 8150 Sunset project has been a major issue in West Hollywood, where residents south of it have raised concerns about the height massing and massing of its buildings and its impact traffic and the sewer system.

West Hollywood had opposed the project, but withdrew its opposition after Townscape made several concessions. They included reducing the height of the project’s tallest building, once proposed for 234 feet, to 178 feet as measured from the lowest point on sloping site. Townscape agreed that the top floor of that building will have a 10-foot setback on its southern side (which faces West Hollywood) so that the building will appear less tall, and mechanical equipment such as air conditioning compressors will be moved away from the WeHo border.

Also, Townscape agreed to give West Hollywood $2 million for traffic improvements. West Hollywood plans to erect bollards at the city’s border along Havenhurst Drive (on the western side of the site) to create a cul-de-sac that would prevent traffic leaving the 8150 Sunset project from turning left onto Havenhurst. The goal of the cul-de-sac is to preserve the residential nature of the street and prevent drivers from Havenhurst from being used as a cut through street to Fountain Avenue. Townscape also agreed to give the city more than $500,000 for sewer improvements, since the project will connect to West Hollywood’s sewers.

  1. It isn’t the bank that I mind. Sunset Boulevard used to be the place to bring out of town guests to impress, and residents to enjoy. The mix of nightlife and amazing views of the basin were always worth a trip down the strip.

    Now it has become a concrete and glass canyon that has walled off what was in the public domain for the select few who can afford the astronomical rents these buildings command.

    Of what use is a government if they can not protect what is in the public domain for the use of the public??

    Our city council and government has failed us dramatically. They speak nice, and then do horrible damage behind our backs.

  2. I think the the new building looks super cool. The bank is ugly and we can’t make every building a historical landmark because they are old. There is a massive shortage of housing in LA so unless we build more the prices are just going to get worst and the only way to make that happen is through increasing the density.

    1. Oh please, residential buildings are going up everywhere and rent prices continue to skyrocket.

      Not all of us swallow the developers greedy lemonade.

      1. @skywatcher888 Not all of us can afford to own homes either, so let’s leave the city planning to the people who are helping to get housing built. Thanks…

  3. I’m really excited about more apt building with $2800+ 1 bedrooms. There’s just not enough luxury apartments in this town. Thank goodness! Assuming some units will be set aside for very low-income residents, which is wonderful. I’m beginning to think you have to be either wealthy or poor to live in WeHo – and yes I consider the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights WeHo.

  4. First, If I was on the side of preserving the building, I would Appeal that Judge’s Ruling based upon the basis of his decision and the fact that he is an “Acting” Judge and not a sitting Judge. I would also Make a Motion for an Elected Judge to hear the case rather than an Appointed Judge. There are many ways and Motions to slow down or stop the decision by the Judge if you are of that opinion.

    Second, Not everything that Gehry designs is attractive. An Accomplished Architect like him should have ben able to work the roof of the bank into the designed since it seems that at least half of the Community likes it.

    Third and most important, at the next City Council Meeting I will ask the Council Members Directly to tell the people of West Hollywood why they took Campaign Donations from a from a Firm in New York, for a building in Los Angeles. And I will remind them that the election is only eleven months away. I will ask also Lindsey Horvath why she didn’t get back to the Residents on Havenhurst Drive regarding their concerns mentioned by Michal Grace as she said she would.

    Eric Jon Schmidt

      1. Yes, I am very well aware of that. But, WEHO City Council members took campaign money for the project. Why would they do that?

        1. What do you mean that “they took campaign money for the project?” – Someone wrote a check, put a note on it “for Sunset/Crescent Hts in LA project” on it? You need to prove an assertion like that. The council had zero ability to block this, then made a concerted effort to modify it, with some success. This sort of blanket attack with zero proof undercuts whatever point you are trying to make IMO.

          1. Taking money from a NYC Developer who is building in LA does not make sense for the People of West Hollywood. How does that benefit West Hollywood? I will as Council about it Monday night. Please come to the meeting or watch it on the website to see what their answer is.

          2. Eric – you haven’t explained why the council actively and successfully engaged with the process to make it less onerous for WeHo. You also don’t admit that WeHo had little to no say in the process. You have your anti-council hobbyhorse to ride, and facts aren’t going to get in the way. The reason companies contribute to local races is they want to get members’ attention. That’s the extent of the quid pro quo in most of these situations. You have zero proof that the contributions made any difference, and the evidence is that they didn’t. You’d have more credibility if you backed your assertions with facts and evidence.

          3. Riding an anti-council hobby horse too hard gets one nobbies on the noggin. They especially hurt when driving over speed humps. Watch this horse buck!

  5. Just because a structure is mid-century doesn’t automatically mean it is appealing and worth preserving. Most of the ugliest apartment buildings in L.A. are mid-century. Woody McBreairty is right: The great loss at that corner was the Garden of Allah. Losing that was indeed a shame.

  6. Kudos to the City and Advocate that now are recipients to the concessions from the developer. This project is in L.A. and West Hollywood has capitalized in area’s that the Gehry project will impact at the border.

    The Lytton Savings building is an eye-sore. Nearly 60 years old, I for one have seen this ugly big-box for 32 years and never thought it had any aesthetic appeal nor historic quality. Just sayin!

  7. Great. This building was a bank, big deal. Unless you approach it looking up at the zig zag canopied roof, the building from the ground has no visual appeal whatsoever. It is very linear, square & nondescript. The relevant history of this site isn’t this bank, it’s the Hollywood legend, The Garden of Allah, which was demolished & replaced by a bank & a strip mall with a McDonalds. The historic designation & preservation came about 60 years too late.

  8. They say that LA is a City without history because we keep tearing it down and building something new in it’s place. Seems like that’s what is going on here. I’m concerned that after closing off Havenhurst to traffic from Sunset and keeping traffic from turning right onto Crescent Heights that there will be a significant problem created on Laurel for traffic seeking to get south of Crescent Heights and into that neighborhood. Seems to me that this idea should be rethought through…

    1. It’s a city without history because we are choke-held by those with money who refuse to allow the city to grow. Imagine the Crossroads of the World in Hollywood with a beautiful fresh coat of paint. 😉

      dont fear traffic if you are the traffic.

  9. Judge Morh appears to have made his decision based on aesthetics rather than law. Less “visually appealing and pedestrian friendly” seem not within the court’s purview but have not read the entire opinion.

  10. The Townscape 8150 Sunset development needed West Hollywood’s cooperation. The projects shipping and delivery entrance faces Havenhurst Drive. This is the portion of the street in West Hollywood. This would be below the cul-de-sac that was proposed. Which would mean the entrance would have to be moved north.

    Two years ago Lindsay Horvath met with the concerned citizens on Havenhurst Drive, all residents from West Hollywood. She was very vague about the cul-de-sac and actually stated that there could be people that would protest the delivery entrance being moved. We questioned Horvath if the city of West Hollywood had done a traffic study on the effect of the Townscape project on Hayvenhurst Drive and Crescent Heights? She didn’t know but said she would get back to us. That never happened.

    We also asked Horvath about 8150 Sunset dumping all their sewage into West Hollywood by Havenhurst Drive? She said she would get back to us on that, it never happened!

    Horvath is part of what is called the Townscape Three. The others are John Heilman and John Durand. They took thousands of dollars from these New York developers and obviously it was all about pay to play. When townscape bought the 8150 area, they forced six businesses out. By increasing rent and charging high parking rates. This included minority and gave businesses. But Duran, Heilman and Horvath weren’t concerned about that..They were only concerned about these New York type developers giving them campaign donations.

    What was worse is that Lauren Meister was Mayor. She made a deal with Townscape. Without consulting the WEHO city attorney but did it on the spot with some unqualified lawyer.

    The one positive thing about Trump, is that the FBI is no longer owned by what we could call pro 8150 people. A complaint can be filed against West Hollywood with the FBI considering all of the above obvious pay for play actions. It is time to go for it. As for Meister and Horvath. Vote them out next year.

    1. Unfortunately your “facts” are very twisted. Please do more research and post less fake news. The community would be better for it. Integrity starts at home.

    2. Please come back and keep us posted after you file the complaint with the FBI. Would be very interested to know how these things work!

  11. This was the right move. This new development by Ghery is stunningly beautiful and will be what Sunset Blvd. needs to really get its energy back.

    I liked that old bank too, especially the inside. The outside of it is rather boring.
    But you have to admit this project will be a nice change. That entire shopping plaza is a dump and eyesore. I think this is great news and I’m a huge supporter of preserving old architecture. But sometimes you just have to let something go for a greater overall development.

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