The West Hollywood City Council gave its blessing Monday night to a proposal to erect a nine-story building on Sunset Boulevard that will house the Arts Club, an outpost of the famed London private members club.
The club will be housed in a 120,000-square-foot building that also will include a restaurant, a lounge, a supper club, guest rooms for club members and a rooftop pool area as well as retail space and a public art gallery and performance rehearsal space. The development will be located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hilldale Avenue, which now is occupied by a building that housing the Hustler porn and sex toy store.
The Arts Club was founded in 1863 in London by a group that included author Charles Dickens. The private club, somewhat similar to the SoHo House club, which is further west on the Sunset Strip, will be for creative people such as writers, artists and designers.
The building is designed by architect Andy Cohen of Gensler. The Sunset Boulevard-facing façade will be angled so that each floor is slightly smaller than the floor below, with the top floor being about a third smaller than the ground level. It will also feature vertical glass panels, or fins, on the outside to create a unique appearance.
The City Council’s approval was necessary because the proposed building will be substantially higher and more dense that what is permitted under the city’s zoning ordinance and the Sunset Specific Plan.
While a large number of local residents spoke in favor of the project at the council meeting, it was opposed by several members of United Here Local 11, the union for hotel and restaurant workers, who expressed concerns about what wages would be paid to those employed by the Arts Club and the building’s other uses.
Also speaking in opposition to the project was Councilmember John Heilman, who cast the only vote against the project. While Heilman said the Arts Club would be a “wonderful addition to West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip,” he said the proposal would be “an outright repudiation of the Sunset Specific Plan” which limits the density of a project to a floor-area ratio of 1.5 and a height of 40 feet. The project as proposed has a floor-area ratio of 5.89 and 141 feet in height.
An option proposed by Heilman was to eliminate the 45,000 of office space proposed for the building, which he argued was included only to generate a profit for the developer and not to support the Arts Club. Heilman also said the Arts Club, which would be open only to its members, is adding to the “privatization” of the Sunset Strip. He cited the private SoHo House club and 1OAK, an exclusive night club, as other examples. Membership in the London Arts Club costs the equivalent of $2,547 in British pounds.
Heilman said he also was concerned that, if the Arts Club should leave the property, the new occupant of the property would not be required to fulfill requirements that the Arts Club had agreed to. The Arts Club has agreed to provide $13.5 million in benefits to the city. That includes the art gallery and rehearsal space and a staff to maintain it, which it values at $10.1 million, a contribution to city arts programs of $1.25 million over 10 years and an additional $1 million contribution to the city.
Councilmember Lauren Meister supported the project, saying that its gallery and restaurant and outdoor space did offer venues for the general public. Meister recommended that 25% of the club’s contribution to the city be designated for beautification of the Sunset Strip and 25% go to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
The proposal will come back to the City Council on Sept. 4 for a final vote of approval.