Opinion: Decline to Sign — To Save the Factory, Robertson Lane Must Move Forward

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

Five years ago, I brought a plan to the people of West Hollywood to develop a neighborhood-friendly retail, restaurant and hotel project on the block between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer. My team and I sat down with historic preservation experts, neighborhood groups, city leaders and individual stakeholders across West Hollywood to create Robertson Lane.

We heard loud and clear that the community wanted us to Save The Factory. The people of West Hollywood spoke, and we listened.

The Factory became the centerpiece of Robertson Lane. We developed more than a dozen historic preservation measures to Save The Factory in consultation with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Los Angeles Conservancy, West Hollywood Preservation Alliance and the ONE LGBT Archives.

Three weeks ago, the West Hollywood City Council approved the Robertson Lane project after years of analysis, evaluation and public input at numerous hearings. Even the Planning Commission UNANIMOUSLY voted in support of Robertson Lane.

More recently, however, opponents of our plan to save and restore The Factory have started going door to door collecting signatures, trying to overturn the City Council’s approval of Robertson Lane.

Some of the opposition canvassers have outright lied, saying that Robertson Lane would result in the total demolition of the Factory/former Studio One nightclub. Some have claimed Robertson Lane got a waiver to pay hotel workers LESS than the minimum wage.

I cannot allow these lies to go unrefuted. We cannot stand by and let special interests overturn the careful and deliberate process of our city’s elected and appointed leaders.

The truth is that Robertson Lane will thoughtfully restore the Factory building piece by piece (an $8 million plan), following the Secretary of Interior’s standards for Historic Preservation. The process is required to be overseen by trained specialists.

Robertson Lane also includes an entire ‘Workers Bill of Rights’ to give hotel workers a living wage and workplace protections.

Professional archivists and LGBT historians will collaborate to create on-site educational displays about Studio One and the club’s cultural significance within Robertson Lane.

If there is any confusion, it is because Robertson Lane’s opponents have been spreading blatant falsehoods. So, I’ve decided to stand up and fight back to protect a project that will benefit West Hollywood.

To truly “Save The Factory” as part of Robertson Lane, I am asking my fellow residents to “DECLINE TO SIGN” this misleading referendum petition.

It’s the only way to protect Robertson Lane and ensure meaningful restoration of the Factory.

As a local West Hollywood resident, I want to thank the people of my city for their input, feedback and engagement. We are truly a community that cares. Your feedback made Robertson Lane a unique and collaborative project. Now help us to make sure it gets built!

All you have to do to “Save the Factory” is “DECLINE TO SIGN!” the referendum petition. Visit declinetosignweho.com for more information.

  1. Really, JASON. You’ve done enough. This is an example of mendacious greed in action. Illoulian sent out thousands of fliers urging residents to remove signatures on petitions already signed against this monstrosity he wants to build. Mr. Slick has a picture of a dog on the front and text that insinuates that if you stick with him your doggie will have a nice park to play in.

    All of those mailings went into our trash bins. Nice try, but we’re on to your B S.

    This creep is now going about ruining Long Beach. We need to block him from doing any more development in WH. ENOUGH.

    1. How about following the zoning laws on this stop and not just ignoring them with a zone text amendment to build this high and put a hotel in an area that isnt zoned for that

  2. This did not pass unanimously through city council. I’d be interested to see how much money Faring gave to the yes votes campaigns.
    Where does this Jason live? In weho? Does the impact of this project affect him?
    WeHo is quickly in danger of losing its charm to this mainstream development. Why is this luxury hotel, ( that people are checking into by helicopter!) avoiding paying union wages?
    A lot sketchy fog around this project. Even if built who could enjoy it after all this? Not the locals..

    1. Haha, wow, you are really behind on this project. This has been a four year process, with lots of public input. If you would bother to read, you would see that Jason’s business is located in West Hollywood. The vote was 4 to 1, and that is pretty normal, if you know anything about Lauren Meister. There is nothing sketchy, nor foggy about this project. It is really attractive, and well designed, and they are even saving a part of the old Factory building. It will be an asset to the neighborhood, especially local businesses in the area.

      1. Right on kab1200! Lauren Meister ALWAYS votes no on all larger development projects. And so does her appointee on the Planning Commission. No surprise there. The project was overwhelming supported by the public that showed up to all the meetings that were held where this project was discussed. The public got this project because the public wanted this project.

    1. Closing off streets is a bad idea. Stop turning West Hollywood into the suburbs. Stop the development, you greedy bores.

    2. Yeah, no new developments…what city on the planet halts all future development? That’s just a ridiculous statement.

  3. Building to nine stories high and 241 hotel rooms is not what this area under zoning law is permitted. The city council ignored the zoning laws with a zone text amendment to push this massive development into an already over stressed traffic area.New development needs to be in size and scale to the area and realistically fit into the capacity the roads have. This does not. Why do we have zoning laws? To not allow a developer to build whatever they want. Whats the point of a zoning law if the developer can just donate to the council members and get an approval? With a “zone text amendment” What should go here is what the area reflects in size and scale. Past the unions and the factory, this about a developer wanting to make as much money as possible, which they are allowed to do. But where is the limit? And if this is such a great project why not put it on the ballot and then it will be clearly approved or disapproved by the residents. This isnt some boutique hotel or strip mall. This is massive and sets a precedent to allow the next developer with real estate next to it to go just as high. Is that what we need in west Hollywood, more massive developments, traffic and empty retail?

    1. A 241 room hotel is PERMITTED under the General plan of the City of West Hollywood. The reason is that it meets the goals of the city. Zoning law is amended and redrawn all the time based on a city’s economic and demographics. This argument is a weak one because it only looks backwards. A city has a responsibility to be forward thinking and make decisions based on the future welfare of its constituents. West Hollywood wants to be a pedestrian friendly city, it wants to be known and celebrated for its culture of nightlife, fashion and creative businesses. The thought of being a village or a quiet residential hamlet is not in the interests of the City staff, Council, or most importantly with the citizens that live here.
      NO ONE moves to West Hollywood a block north or south of Sunset or Santa Monica and expects to not hear city noises, music etc…And if they expected quiet well they made a poor decision.
      This development meets the objectives of the area and enhances it. It has restaurants, bars, a nightclub and in the entire project there is less than 30,000 feet of retail. I’m not so sure that you should worry about a bunch of empty store fronts.

      Is it well thought out? Yes, It has a lane that creates energy to bring people into the area and promote walkability and a great pedestrian experience. It’s in direct contrast to a massive development like the PDC which offers very little to the surrounding community. This is an AMAZING project and I would wager that you will be patronizing the establishments in this massive development more than you will admit.

      1. I would agree to disagree. The buzz words of “General plan” and double talk of “based on a city’s economic and demographics.” Along with this nice spin of “West Hollywood wants to be a pedestrian friendly city, it wants to be known and celebrated for its culture of nightlife, fashion and creative businesses.” Is so full of so much PR vocabulary, im sure it tools some good cash to develop that narrative. Is all spin, spin spin. If this is such a great project why are you spending money to try and squash its challenge? How much has “Faring” spent on your counterfeit save the factory campaign that ripped off the title name of the original efforts of local activists to protect history? No sorry to agree to disagree and at least the Unions who are for working family’s not mega developers have the energy and commitment to challenge this. If weho wants all these things in the spin words from this double talk reply above then put it on the ballot and put it to rest! If its what all the residents wan’t in this forward thinking spin talk than it should pass easy. But if it isnt is that what the problem is? That Faring doesn’t want democracy to work at its highest form in weho?

        1. I’m sorry, but this is hilarious. The General Plan is not a buzzword. It’s a detailed plan of land use and development goals for the City that was adopted by the Council after hundreds of hours of community outreach meetings, hearings, etc.

          1. I’m sorry Pete that’s a bunch of buzz words also “hundreds of hours of community outreach meetings, hearings, etc.”
            If you want to know who set the goals for the city and created the general plan it wasnt the residents. Maybe you should do some research on THE GENERAL PLAN and how it was inserted into the community by ignoring the residents wants. And THE GENERAL PLAN was a way to side step the spot zoning the city got sued for at the palms project. THE GENERAL PLAN is the developer driven agenda paid for by campaign donations to the city council to take the zoning laws on the books and throw them out the window. Unless Pete you can give me a link to all the residents that are on record saying they want taller, bigger and more dense buildings and traffic. So i’m ready for your link to that in the public record, but you wont find it because it doesn’t exists. If you go back into what does exists is the residents were ignored when the “discussion” of the general plan was created. Further more this specific project steps over the zoning code that was in place, with the nice buzz words of zone text amendment. Which really means right here on Robertson lane the code says no hotels and you cant build 9 story’s high. But with a zone text amendment. Magic, presto, now you can. The point is why have zoning laws if a developer can just drop some money in a council members re-election fund or donate to his or her favorite charity and get what the want? Whats the limit? Where is the line? Well right there on Robertson lane your going to see a new line in the sky. Its going to go 9 story’s high. And the next developer gets to build that high next to it. Cause the last guy did. Then maybe he wants 10 cause the last guy got 9. Our zoning laws are not serving the residents, the quality of life of those who live in the city, stopping the massive traffic congestion. Why have zoning laws? If they really dont mean anything if your the right guy with enough money to influence policy? And also Pete I would encourage you to go look at the donation records of our city council members and see who’s put money in their hat to sit at the dais and say yes!

      2. 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?

    1. The only people fighting against the project is the union. They don’t like the fact that the hotel component is non-union (the want the union dues!). Even though the workers are to get a living wage. The union has sent in people that don’t even live in this community to try a last ditch effort to stop a project that was overwhelming supported by the community as evident in the public hearings. This project has gone through the process and the people that live here have spoken. WE WANT THIS PROJECT.

  4. Everyone’s talking about building preservation, minimum wages and so on, but the issue to me comes down to one word: TRAFFIC.
    WeHo has one of the worst thoroughfares for drivers: Santa Monica Blvd. From La Cienega to Doheny, traffic is horrendous, and constantly getting worse. Many drivers ignore the pedestrian crossing signals, as do many pedestrians. The signals are not networked to provide intelligent, coordinated phase changes. Many people just ignore them, especially when traffic is stopped at lights to the east and west but the crossing signal is in its own little world and timing. We all know this.
    But one of the WORST intersections is SMB and Robertson. The latter is very narrow, often blocked by trucks, and by cars trying to parallel park. People cross mid-block whenever they want. Crosswalks are full of people staring at the cell phones, and, especially at night, the club crowd effectively fills up the crosswalks and ignores the DON’T WALK signals. Drivers leave Pavilions’ driveway and go south on Robertson, but turning east on SMB is often almost impossible due to the pedestrians who ignore the signals. (My new car – just three weeks old – was hit there by someone who tried to “beat the red” as I was turning; I was sideswiped, causing $7000 of damage.)
    I’d have to say that neither Robertson nor La Peer can support ANY additional traffic, and certainly NOT the cars, buses, limos, etc., that will flood the area. The construction traffic alone will swamp the streets. And a HELICOPTER PAD? There’s already enough complaints about the noise from Sheriff’s Dept. helicopters; more flights will let the Rich and Famous laugh at the gridlock they’ll be flying over.
    Open parking spaces will be even TOUGHER to find, the tree canopies along Robertson and La Peer will undoubtedly be trimmed back, the street noise will intensify, and Uber and Lyft drivers will be trawling up and down the streets, or double-parked, waiting for passengers.
    In other words, a BAD problem will only get WORSE.
    I’ve lived in WeHo for 40 years, and while much has improved in that time, traffic and crossings have only gotten WORSE. The developer claims that WeHo can handle all the increased traffic. Perhaps on paper, it can. But ask ANYONE who has to drive THROUGH the Westside, and you’ll get a much different answer.
    Sure, the developers are trying to stop the petition drive; they have a lot on the line, but we are the ones who should be coming out ahead, with a city that’s fun to explore and discover and enjoy, not the rich developers in their helicopters and limos and gilded offices atop the towers.
    We’ve seen what out of control, off-the-chart development; pandering to lobbyists; and a City Council seemingly in the pocket of Big Money have done to our city.
    Let’s make WeHo better for ALL of us first, with sensible zoning controls, better traffic signal coordination and safer streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
    Please DO sign the petition to rescind the Council approval of this unneeded blot on our community. (And no, I have no association with any pro or con group or company; I’m just a 40-year resident who dreads driving on these streets.)
    Thank you.
    — Ron Harris

    1. 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 La peer 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 on the street. Stop by Sunday afternoons after 4 pm and look at the traffic trying to get into the parking lot and the line of people on the sidewalk.

      Also a Hotel offers to diffuse traffic because people don’t arrive or leave all at the same time. I know that the city doesn’t want this to become exacerbated. The new La Peer is on a quiet street that had very little traffic. Now there is a new Restaurant and Hotel and the traffic impact isn’t disastrous. So just because there is development doesn’t necessarily mean negative impact.

      The traffic argument is not binary – no development = less traffic, Development = Horrible traffic. This is a flawed argument. yes it’s a busy part of town and yes there will be traffic. The question is does this development take this into consideration and work in a thoughtful way with the city? I think so. It’s not in the interests of any stakeholder in the city to ruin the area.

  5. Over and over we hear how Faring engages the local community on things that affect our community and this op/ed is a great example. I’m very suspicious of an outside union trying to stop a supported development at the last minute feels like blackmail to me…

  6. As an involved West Hollywood citizen and former member of the City’s redevelopment agency (EPAC), I have been present for many developers proposals over the last 15 years or so. West Hollywood has always been a desirable city to invest in, and there have been some developers who think they can just come in and plunk down whatever plan that they offer, and that West Hollywood would agree to it. A case in point was when Casden tried to development Movietown Plaza…I swear that their design was a concrete cinder block built to the property line….and that didn’t fly. But Jason Illoulian and his company, Faring, not only take the time to listen, really listen to the public’s thoughts and as much as possible to incorporate them into their final plans (and that’s evident not only with this project, but also the Doheny/Christmas tree lot project, the proposed project for the former French Marketplace and so many others) , but they go out of their way to seek out public input, people who may be pro development and those who are…..not. In this case, I felt that while the Factory buildings usage certainly was historic, the building itself was not. But many others disagreed with me and Jason listened and reimagined the project to preserve the building and to honor it’s history.
    I’m not sure what the actual intent is of those that are asking to have the project’s approval overturned, but I suspect it really has nothing to do with the Robertson Lane project.

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment, Rob. I have a question, by your estimation on this project and given what you said above, do you feel the public has given ample input into the Robertson Lane Hotel project?

      I ask because the canvaser who came to my door informed me that “the city Council voted on this project with no input from the community.” Among other things.

      1. The canvaser was incorrect…vastly incorrect. This project had numerous public outreach meetings well before it came to the Planning Commission, which was also a public meeting, before it then came before Council, again a public meeting. So to say that there was no community input is just a bald faced lie.

    2. Rob I have to agree to disagree with you we dint need to kill all those mom and pops for the Avalon Monstrosity. Second closing the French Market Place a long time LGBT restaurant and 12 step meeting fellowship destination didn’t serve the needs of the community. Its serving the Needs of the developer. Really a hotel where the French Market was is serving the community? I would have to disagree with you and your take on what community out reach is and want the residents want.

  7. Bravo Jason, keep up the fight. They are spreading all kinds of misinformation about you and your company and your connection to the city council.

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