With a unanimous vote on Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved a new luxury hotel on La Brea Avenue, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard.
Located at 1040 La Brea Ave., the hotel will be 100 feet tall and have nine floors for a total of 67,000 square feet on a half-acre site. It will have 85 hotel rooms plus another eight residential apartment units, as well as a ground-floor restaurant and a bar/lounge on the top floor with views of the Hollywood Hills. It will also have four levels of parking (one subterranean, three above ground), plus a large outdoor pool and meeting rooms on the fifth floor.
Architect Neil Denari of the Los Angeles-based NMDA Architects said he hoped the high-rise building would become a landmark for the city’s Eastside. The building’s exterior “skin” will be a metallic silvery grey that changes color slightly as sunlight reflects off it from various angles throughout the day.
The Planning Commissioners loved the project, Commissioner John Altschul calling it “extraordinary” and “exceptional architecture.” Commissioner Adam Bass deemed it a “remarkable project” that will invigorate the Eastside.
In fact, the commissioners were so impressed with the project, they added a requirement that any further changes to the building’s exterior must be approved by the Commission’s Design Review subcommittee, rather than by city staffers.
While that requirement may seem severe given that city staffers okay small changes to projects “over the counter” all the time, this project is being developed by the CIM Group, which also developed the Sunset-La Cienega project on the southern side of Sunset Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard.
That massive retail-residential-hotel project went through so many small changes over the 16 years it was in development that by the time it was finally built, it looked nothing like what the Planning Commission had originally approved. Thus, by adding this requirement for the La Brea hotel, the commissioners want to assure that what they approved is what gets built.
Clyde Wood, vice president of development for the CIM Group, had no problem with that requirement.
“We’re flattered with that condition because it means they love the design and they don’t want it changed,” Wood told WEHOville after the meeting. “We certainly would not put forth a design that we would have any intention of changing. We feel strongly that we support the design integrity that Neil Denari has come up with and we have every intention of following through.”
During the public comment period, Alexander Bazley, the general manager of the WeHo Gateway shopping complex (home of the Target store) directly across the street, praised the project saying it would be a good addition to the area. Meanwhile, resident Richard Maggio, who lives a block away, called it “outstanding” and “beautifully designed.” Maggio liked that it had residential units as well as the hotel rooms, adding that he wished it was even taller so it could provide even more residential units for the city.
On a 5-1 vote, the commission also approved a residential project by architect Ric Abramson on Hilldale Avenue, just north of Cynthia Street, in the Norma Triangle neighborhood.
Replacing a single-family home at 926 Hilldale, the project, named Hilldale Mews, will have three buildings, each with a two-story townhouse. Each townhouse will have ground-level parking plus a private garden area.
Abramson’s design is innovative because it has three separate building on the small lot rather than one single building. Also unusual, it achieves its parking requirements without digging a subterranean parking garage. As a result, each unit’s garden area will be planted in the earth, rather than dirt on top of the concrete slab of the underground garage.
The commissioners loved Abramson’s design, Commissioner John Altschul calling it “the definition of exemplary architecture.” Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner called it “extraordinary beautiful,” praising the energy efficient design and use of sustainable materials.
“From an environmentally sustainable perspective, I think this, frankly, should be used as a how-to example for all the projects that come to our city,” said Hoopingarner.
Commissioner Stacey Jones agreed, saying “This really does set a standard for what we want in the city.”
Even though Commissioner Adam Bass also liked the design, calling it “exceptional,” he cast the only vote against the project. His No vote was because it was requesting a variance to the front setback (distance from the property line to the front of the building). The city’s zoning codes requires the front setback be the average to the two adjacent buildings, which in this case would be 18.75 feet. However, Abramson’s design calls for an 11-foot setback, thus necessitating the variance.
The city’s zoning code also says a variance can only be granted in extraordinary circumstances and Bass, who believes in a strict interpretation of the zoning code, felt this did not quite meet the level of an extraordinary condition.
After the meeting, Abramson told WEHOville he was happy the Commission liked his design.
“It’s very gratifying that the Commission is open to innovative ideas and recognizes when there are other possibilities for the future of the city that can really lead to some positive outcomes,” Abramson said. “I think this tonight showed a certain open mindedness about possible futures for housing in the city.”
Abramson reported he’s been wanting to try this three-separate-buildings-on-the-property model for a while, but had to wait for a developer who was open to the idea.
“It does set up a model for a way of thinking about how we can integrate the density, but also still be sensitive to the environment and climate and goals of the city and some of our other environmental considerations,” he said.
The property is owned by the McIntosh Trust, with Robin and Susan Kim listed as the trustees.
Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro was absent.