A proposed new apartment complex at 8000 Fountain Avenue got mediocre reviews on Thursday during a critique by the Design Review subcommittee of West Hollywood’s Planning Commission.
A new four-story, 30-unit apartment complex with two levels of underground parking is planned for the southwest corner of Fountain Avenue and Laurel Avenue. The project will have a center courtyard with a swimming pool and recreation center, plus rooftop gardens. Each unit will have two-bedrooms and seven of the units will be set aside for low-income residents.
If approved, it will replace a two-story, 13-unit apartment building built in 1932 in a style that seems a mix of art deco and Spanish Colonial revival.
Of the three Design Review subcommittee members, Commissioner John Altschul liked it the best, calling the boxy, contemporary design “exceptional, but not exemplary.” Meanwhile Commissioners Sue Buckner and David Aghaei called it “adequate.”
Buckner recommended tweaking the design to make it more interesting and “bring it up a notch or two.” Meanwhile, Aghaei encouraged architect Hamlet Zohrabians of the Glendale-based Zohrabians Architects and Builders to work with the city’s interim urban designer, Gwynne Pugh, to improve it. In his review notes, Pugh called the building “elegant” with a “cohesive design,” but suggested various material which could be used for better articulation.
During public comment, residents were not thrilled by the design. While resident George Bujarksy liked it, resident Elizabeth Polley said it was far too “industrial” looking. She said she moved to Center City six years ago because of the diverse, historic apartment buildings in the area. “To see a building like this put up is a shame,” Polley said.
Resident Victor Omelczenko, who lives nearby, said it does nothing to enrich the architecture of the neighborhood. Meanwhile resident Lynn Russell, who also lives nearby, said the contemporary design wasn’t especially compatible with the rest of the neighborhood, which has many historic buildings.
Zohrabians became defensive and insisted it was not a historic district, noting the large Crescent Gardens apartment building (built in the mid 1980s), next door to the project on the southeast corner of Fountain and Crescent Heights, has a contemporary style.
“This particular neighborhood is not a historical district neighborhood,” Zohrabians said. “They cannot make these kinds of demands . . . in the context of the existing buildings there, there is no reason to believe this has to be mimicking any historic building. There are buildings that are being approved in West Hollywood that are very modern and very progressive. They are nice, they are polished and everything, so this is very appropriate for the area.”
While that block is not specifically designated as historic, Russell noted there are several historic districts nearby, with a total of 40 historic buildings within a four block radius of the project. She noted that stretch of Fountain Avenue from La Cienega to Fairfax is known for an array of architecturally significant apartment buildings, many of which have been designated historic.
The large, historically designated, high-rise apartment buildings La Fontaine (southwest corner of Crescent Heights and Fountain) and Hayworth Towers (northeast corner of Fountain and Hayworth) are both within 1,000 feet of the project.
Almost 30 people attended a neighborhood meeting about this project in late April. At that meeting, they gave their email addresses to be notified about future meetings regarding this project. However, they were not notified of this Design Review meeting (the handful of residents at this meeting learned about it from the city website). Altschul and Aghaei both suggested the project team should come back for another critique session, one that was properly noticed to the neighborhood, so concerned residents can attend and air their concerns.
Design documents show this property is owned by a group called Fountain Blue Holdings LLC.
John and Lesley Duffy, who have lived in the 8000 Fountain Avenue building since 1976, said the building was owned for decades by the Kadvany family, but was sold about five years ago, and then sold again in 2016 to Fountain Blue Holdings.