Union Campaign Against Robertson Lane Draws Criticism

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

The union campaign to rescind the City Council’s approval of the Robertson Lane project is getting heated, with those soliciting signatures for a petition on behalf of Unite Here Local 11 being accused of claiming they have the Council’s support and of underpaying the canvassers working for them.

Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who notes that Unite Here, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, is paying its canvassers $12 an hour, less than the $13.25 an hour minimum wage that will take effect in the City of Los Angeles on Sunday and less than the minimum wage it lobbied for in West Hollywood. Andrew Cohen, the press secretary for United Here, disagrees and has told WEHOville that the canvassers are paid $15 an hour.

“As supporters of Robertson Lane, the Chamber finds this level of hypocrisy particularly troubling considering Unite’s Here’s claims of supporting worker rights in West Hollywood, considering they are paying below the minimum wage they pushed for in West Hollywood a couple years go,” Morrill said in a statement provided to WEHOville. “This is in keeping with the previously mentioned UNITE’s practice of asking for exemptions to minimum wage laws at the expense of their own members. https://reason.com/blog/2016/04/11/some-la-unionized-hotel-workers-realize

The Factory as it looks today.

The manager of one apartment building and several West Hollywood residents also have complained to WEHOville that Unite Here’s canvassers are falsely claiming they have the support of the City Council.

In April, Unite Here threatened to put on the Nov. 8 general election ballot an item that would force the City Council to rescind its approval of Robertson Lane, if the Council actually agreed to let the project move forward. The Council approved the hotel, restaurant and retail project on June 4 in a 4 to 1 vote, with Councilmember Lauren Meister opposing it.

To get the measure rescinding the Council’s 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 responded to the Unite Here campaign with its own street campaign. Faring canvassers are on city sidewalks, asking people to sign a document rescinding their approval of the Unite Here ballot measure. Their campaign is called “Save the Factory.”

The gist of United Here’s argument against Robertson Lane is that the project won’t properly take note of the history of The Factory, which spans part of the land between Robertson Boulevard and La Peer on which the Robertson Lane project will be built. 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 initially proposed to demolish the building. However, in response to complaints from advocates for preservation, it agreed to save most of The Factory building and commemorate the gay history of Studio One. United Here, however, claims that Faring’s plans don’t adequately call out The Factory’s history of discrimination against African-American people and lesbians.

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.”


12 Comments
  1. Does Ms Morrill even live in West Hollywood?

    “Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, who notes that Unite Here, which represents hotel and restaurant workers, is paying its canvassers $12 an hour, less than the $13.25 an hour minimum wage that will take effect in the City of Los Angeles on Sunday and less than the minimum wage it lobbied for in West Hollywood. Andrew Cohen, the press secretary for United Here, disagrees and has told WEHOville that the canvassers are paid $15 an hour.”

  2. Why support this Illoulian boondoggle?

    — Do we need another hotel and already overdone luxury “shopping” mall where the deserving homeless will be shooed away from a place that could otherwise be made affordable shelter?

    — Do we need a hotel/restaurant establishment that refuses to recognize union labor and thus skirt legislative worker protections under the guise of offering “living wage”?

    — Do we want a local resident to deride union workers petitioning us as being “outsiders” dividing well-off residents from workers who cannot afford to live here?

    — Do we want a relic of an historic building (for its architecture and work-related history) carved up and turned into a commercialized theme park?

    — Do we want a wealthy individual to pretend to be a philanthropist while gutting this community of its heritage, the Factory fully able to be retained as not just a museum but Community College satellite (along with PDC) emphasizing design, film, and LGBTQ history, among the many liberal arts and sciences?

    — Do we want West Hollywood to drift ever further into a swamp of delusional, self-referential narcissism, catering to the most simplistic, commercialistic identities as if WeHo were a west coast Key West or Fire Island, but now with chi-chi straight hotels and shopping?

    Do we want to be a caricature of ourselves?

  3. Most home owners……have no idea what the Factory is. We’d like to see the area cleaned up ……with less bars and sex shops.

    Hopefully we are moving away from a “seedy” neighborhood…….to a nice place to live for all.

  4. 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?

  5. I think the public should get a vote on this issue. Regardless of how you feel about the project, the public should get the final say…

    1. The public did have their say…time and time again at numerous meetings over the course of months.
      All the information anyone ever needs to know about a project is available at these meetings, and online on the City’s website.
      We elect officials to gather input from the residents to my decisions for us. That’s their job. If we feel the council is not listening to the people, we vote them out of office.
      The overwhelming majority of residents that came out to these meetings SUPPORTED this project.
      Robertson Lane, like every other project that has been approved/rejected has GONE THROUGH THE PROCESS, which INCLUDES PUBLIC INPUT.
      There is absolutely NO reason to spend City money (our money) to have this go through another process outside the norm. No reason (The union is pissed they are not getting their way and they are the ones mounting this effort to try to undermine the will of the people – not gonna happen).

  6. The union does not care at all about the “history” of The Factory. They are pissed that the hotel will not be union. Faring has agreed that all people working at the new hotel WILL be paid a living wage. The union threatened black mail if the council approved the project and they are following through with their threat.
    The residents overwhelming supported this project at every meeting and the council listened to the people.
    We do not need a union whose members primarily live outside of West Hollywood to threatened us and try and trick the residents into signing something that under-minds what we want to see built in our city!
    Unite Here – get out!! Don’t you dare threaten the people of West Hollywood! And don’t dare try and tell us what to build in our own city!!

  7. Much of Santa Monica Blvd., (especially through West Hollywood) is very dated and boring. The city has a chance to revive the city with some fresh new hotels and buildings. Be grateful. This Factory project will provide needed jobs and a nice, refreshing place for tourists to stay. What a gem to have in this area and the developer kept the Factory energy alive by incorporating the club with a modern twist.

    Amazes me how people waste their energy against causes that just don’t help the community. Robertson Lane is great for the city and 4 out of the 5 council members agree, after hearing much support from the citizens of West Hollywood.

    Again, be grateful this beautiful project is coming to WeHo in a convenient area for visitor. It’s a project to be proud of.

  8. Much of Santa Monica Blvd., (especially through West Hollywood) is very dated and boring. The city has a chance to revive the city with some fresh new hotels and buildings. Be grateful. This Factory project will provide needed jobs and a nice, refreshing place for tourists to stay. What a gem to have in this area and the developer kept the Factory energy alive by incorporating the club with a modern twist.

    Amazes me how people waste their energy against causes that just don’t help the community. Robertson Lane is great for the city and 4 out of the 5 council members agree, after hearing much support from the citizens of West Hollywood.

    Again, be grateful this beautiful project is coming to WeHo in a convenient area for visitor. It’s a project to be proud of.

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