Faring Hits the Streets for Signatures to Counter Union Petition Against the Robertson Lane Project

The developer of the proposed Robertson Lane hotel, restaurant and retail project has launched a street campaign to counter an effort by the hotel and restaurant workers union to block the project.

The union, United Here Local 11, announced in April that it would attempt to put on the Nov. 8 ballot an item that would force the West Hollywood City Council to rescind its approval of Robertson Lane, if the Council actually agreed to let the project move forward. The City Council did approve the Robertson Lane project on June 4 in a four-to-one vote. City Councilmember Lauren Meister was the only one who opposed it.

robertson lane, united here local 11, the factory
“Save the Factory” campaign soliciting signatures on the sidewalk. (Photo courtesy of Marco Colantonio)

To get a measure rescinding the decision on the general election ballot, United Here will have to obtain signatures of 10% of the city’s 26,000 registered voters, and a majority of the voters on Nov. 8 would have to approve it.

Faring, the developer of Robertson Lane, has engaged Scott Schmidt, a local political consultant, to organize the counter campaign. As of yesterday, people have begun appearing on the sidewalks in West Hollywood asking people not to sign the union petition or if they have to  sign  a document rescinding their support for that petition.  The campaign also has purchased ads on WEHOville.

The Faring campaign is called “Save the Factory.” That is a reference to The Factory building, an historical and cultural landmark that sits on the site of the Robertson Lane project, which extends from Robertson Boulevard west to LaPeer Drive just south of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Faring, whose CEO is local developer Jason Illoulian, faced opposition to its initial plan for Robertson Lane when it proposed to demolish the building. Erected in 1929, The Factory building has connections to both motion picture history and LGBT history. Between 1929 and 1946, the building was the home of the Mitchell Motion Picture Camera factory, one of the early makers of motion picture cameras. Between 1974 and 1992, the building was the site of the large Studio One nightclub, a famous dance club which catered primarily to gay patrons.

Faring responded to the complaints by agreeing to repurpose The Factory. Its revised plans will include most of The Factory building, which will be turned at an angle so that it parallels Robertson Boulevard. Faring also has agreed to commemorate the gay history of Studio One. While that garnered support for the project from the L.A. Conservancy and the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, Faring’s plans were still opposed by Kate Eggert and Krisey Gosney, who formed the Dead History Project.

An illustration of the Robertson Lane project with the Factory building in the foreground (Hodgetts + Fung Architects)

United Here’s opposition to the project emerged relatively late in the several year period in which Faring pushed it through the city’s approval process. In an announcement of its petition drive in April, the union said it opposes the recognition of Studio One because the gay club discriminated against women and African-American men. The union noted that Don Kilhefner, an LGBT historian, has been critical of the project and how it portrays the history of Studio One.

“Kilhefner and other activists have criticized the project for ‘whitewashing’ the nightclub’s more controversial history and failing to take a proactive role in combating ongoing racism and sexism in the hospitality industry,” said the announcement.

However, Faring has said that it actually does plan to call out both the positive and negative aspects of the Factory’s history. In an environmental impact report submitted to the city as part of its application for approval of Robertson Lane, Faring states its intention to put together an oral history project “addressing the history and varied experiences of visiting the nightclub.” It also plans an “on-site interpretation and commemoration of the building’s significant association with LGBTQ history, culture and equality in West Hollywood.”

Faring has gotten support for its plans from Charles Stewart, the first co-chair of the National Association of Black & White Men Together (BWMT), which was founded in 1980, and Wes Joe, a gay activist with the Asian-American Pacific Islanders group. “I’m thankful Studio One’s complicated history, including its discriminatory admissions policies, have been explicitly addressed in the [Robertson Lane] mitigations,” Joe said in a document submitted to the city Historical Preservation Commission.

Supporters of Robertson Lane view United Here’s petition drive as an effort to force Faring to require the developer of the hotel on the property to accept an employee union. United Here also has come under criticism for lobbying to exempt hotels with a unionized staff from having to pay the minimum wages for hotel workers established in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Santa Monica. Such union exemptions do not have to meet state and federal pay standards and are alleged to make hotel owners more receptive to unionization of their employees.

  1. Now faring is mailing out spin flyers to say they are saving the factory. They are not saving it they are putting its shell into a 9 story hotel. And on top of that their efforts to stop the democratic process of a petition arrived in the mail as well with their counter petition? That’s some big money being spent to shove this massive development into weho. If its so great why is faring spending the type of money and techniques used to get council members elected with glossy mailers? Is this the best the weho democracy can do? Squash unions and petitions with developer driven mailers?

  2. Just to be clear, I believe this is (mostly) a reconstruction of The Factory not a renovation. The Factory will still be recognizable but substantially altered and repositioned. It seems to be a clever re-purposing of this area and yes, it will lead to increased density and traffic. But as a reminder, most of this area was all fields just over 100 years ago.

  3. Sure, go ahead and build it and then watch the traffic come to a stand-still during rush-hour and at night. Robertson and SMB is a cluster#@$% during evening rush-hour and at night when people come out to party.

    1. The Irony is that all the traffic that everyone complains about will have a better chance of being mitigated by having a hotel property and 750+ parking spaces with entrances on both Lapeer and Robertson. Currently traffic gets gridlocked because of the nature of the nightlife and the parking is inefficient. I highly doubt that every Weekend the new development is going to have hundreds of people lining up down Robertson and traffic jammed up trying to get into a small parking lot that you can’t make a left hand turn into…which causes people to argue and stop and try to turn around. I see it all the time. I know that the city doesn’t want this to become exacerbated…so i feel confident that the opposite is going to happen and the area is going to benefit in more ways than we discuss on here.

      1. So the Robertson Lane project is committing to providing FREE PUBLIC PARKING, can I get Faring Capital as oppose to someone they hired to post their PR on the internet to stand by that? 😁

  4. Oh how cute, they hired some kids to look like activist to cover for corporate elites in their union busting! Looks like it’s going about as well as the time they had the reality TV star posing as a protester handing a can of soda to a cop. 🤣

      1. Yes, and there are other sources as well! If you go the the developer’s web site, you can see how they brag “Faring is a progressive real estate firm specializing in pedestrian driven commercial and residential projects.” Hey if they are so “progressive,” how about becoming an employee owned co-op? Now if you are totally into “pedestrian driven commercial and residential projects,” why don’t we just ban private automobiles from West Hollywood like the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica? Or better yet, why don’t we just make it a publicly owned project? No, that’s NOT what the developers are all about, they front astroturf groups to push their true agenda in a stealth manner!

        Astroturf in this context refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations, political interests or public relations firms.

        1. Another point. The commissioners and council members that appear terminally against various projects very often have failed to articulate positive concepts of design, solutions or an aptitude for the art form consistent with outstanding development projects. Failing to grasp the principles of design dialogue and recognize art of negotiation they only know NO, NO and NO!

          1. It’s the same councilmember time and time again. She has never met a development that she liked. Same goes for her appointed member on the Planning Commission.

  5. None of the people from that group even live in West Hollywood. This project is amazing, and needs to go forward.

  6. In support for the Robertsons Lane project, please make sure to sign these petitions with one of our lovely team members of “Save The Factory” posted around Weho!! ✨

    1. If you support the Robertson Lane Project. DO NOT SIGN THE PETITION. They are trying to overturn the will of the people. We’ve had numerous meetings on this project and the vast majority of residents wants this project built.

  7. Union Here this is OUR city and the vast majority of residents that showed up to every meeting WANT THIS PROJECT!!! It’s a great project and will revitalize that entire area of Robertson. THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN and the city council listened!

  8. United Here came to my gate asking me to sign their petition. I didn’t sign it. It seemed like an outside group coming in at the last minute to hold up or derail a project that had been proposed, revised, approved, appealed and approved again by the City Council. It’s a big project that has gone through the planning process, complete with public hearings, meetings with developers and discussions at all levels of City government. It deserves to go forward.

    I remember the interloper that came in and tried to block the San Vicente Inn project that had the support of the entire neighborhood, planning commission and City Council. I’m thrilled with its progress now and I’m pissed at the group that tried to block it through the courts and delayed the start by more than a year.

    To put the Robertson Lane project on the ballot is an attempt to circumvent the very long, expensive planning process that included much input from the public. If it goes to the ballot, only about 5000 people vote in any municipal election in West Hollywood, so any ballot measure would only need half of those people to block this project. What’s the purpose of a Planning Commission, Design Review subcommittee, Historic Preservation Commission, our elected City Council and numerous public hearings if we can’t rely on them to get the best project possible. In the end, I think the project is far better than when it started.

    I asked the union rep what they hoped to get from blocking this project? There wouldn’t be any union jobs gained by blocking the construction or the operation of a hotel. She admitted that they weren’t trying to organize the workforce of the hotel and as far as construction jobs, neither of us knew if the contractor employed union.

    If someone wants to write a more nuanced history of Studio One, I would support that, but it wouldn’t change the project. Let’s just get on with this and stop wasting time and energy to block it.

    1. The point is its spot zoning. Its not zenned for that height or density or use. None of the weho government check and balances stop anything? What project has been denied? Do you know how much faring and other developers have given to the council members election campaigns? To side step the law on the books that says you cant put a nine story hotel smack in the middle of an already dense area the council did a “zone text amendment” meaning they just said oh well. So much for the zoning laws. If its such a great project what to lose if the residents vote for it? Traffic? Seriously this project is not to scale at all and sets a precedent in height.

      1. Actually I’ve talked to the city about this and the height of the building is something that’s been on the books for many years and nobody has taken advantage of it. The city is attempting to make more height restrictions in residential areas but this is not a residential area. Also, I received a visit for someone against this project and he wouldn’t clearly tell me who apposed it. I still don’t understand why anyone would not want to put an upscale hotel in that area–I work in a West Hollywood hotel and I can tell you that hotels are the best neighbors. They have a lot of money, keep the place clean and bringing in a lot of business. It will create jobs and revitalize a lot of dead space. Also, The Factory as a piece of gay history is a joke! Yeah, I said it! When was the last time there was an actual gay club there? Last time I checked it brought in a ton of straight people doing anything it could to get money. Point is the current owners of the facility don’t give a sh-t about the gay community and this new job creating hotel will honor it? Still looking for a negative.

  9. You’ve got to be kidding. This is by far one of the best projects West Hollywood has ever approved. A huge asset to the area. There are much more important problems in the world. This is not one of them. Build Robertson Lane (and I’m not a fan of big developments but this one is fantastic.) .

  10. Oh for christ’s Sake. Go away Unite here. Unite somewhere else. This union has gone too far and needs to stop with its thuggish tactics.

    1. For Christ’s sake, REALLY? Let’s put that into perspective, Christ a dark Middle Easterner (NO he was NOT white), who spend a lifetime opposing feudalist/capitalist exploitation and Roman imperialism, by his appearance would be considered a hippie by just about any in law enforcement. Let’s see how he felt about rich people?

      “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

      Matthew 19:23-24

      You might wast to look for someone who is NOT a Dark Middle Eastern Hippie Socialist to support the corporate agenda for you!

      Speaking of “thugs” it’s always been wealthy businesses who hires the REAL “thugs” as “security” many with guns and a proven history of skilled violence.

      1. Wow. Someone is a bit holier than thou. Lighten up, it’s an expression.

        Trust me I have no corporate ties. I’m a union member, and will strike or take union action if necessary for my job. I WOULD NOT go after people that aren’t affecting my job or coworkers.

        They are out of bounds, WAY OUT OF BOUNDS going after a proposed development demanding anything. Let the hotel that moves in decide if they want a union or Better yet, let the employees that will work there decide to unionize.

        Unite Here just wants more members which translates to more dues. That’s your corporate greed there. Buh bye

        1. What in the world does race have to do with the project? It’s unbelievable me that some try to interject race divide into every argument they make.

          1. You might want to take a look at Professor Cornel West’s famous book: Race Matters

            The question shouldn’t be why oppressed people keep bringing it up but, rather why those in power make it so relevant do to their own actions?

          2. Thank you. I’m not sure why this guy would suggest I thought Jesus was white? Sounds to me like he has issues with white people.

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