Hotel/Restaurant Union Is Gathering Signatures to Overturn Approval of the Arts Club

The Arts Club (illustration by Gensler)

Unite Here Local 11, a union representing hotel and restaurant workers, apparently is trying again to block a development project in West Hollywood after its failed effort to stop the Robertson Lane project.

The union is said to be soliciting signatures from the city’s registered voters to put on the ballot an item that would rescind the City Council’s Sept. 4 final approval of a plan to build a local outpost of the London-based Arts Club. Unite Here would have to obtain the signatures of 10% of the city’s registered voters by Oct. 8 for the recension proposal to be put on the March 5, 2019, City Council election ballot.

Unite Here has not returned calls from WEHOville about the campaign. Several residents have told WEHOville that they have been approached to sign the United Here petition. Also, a group called the Committee to Preserve the Sunset Strip has been formed to campaign against the Unite Here effort. As part of that campaign, registered voters have received robocalls with the recorded voice of City Councilmember John D’Amico urging them not to sign the Unite Here petition. Genevieve Morrill, CEO of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, has sent an email message to chamber members and supporters making the same request.

The Arts 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. Ten of the guest rooms will be rented out as hotel rooms. The building is designed by architect Andy Cohen of Gensler.

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. The development will be located on the southeast corner of Sunset Boulevard and Hilldale Avenue, which now is occupied by a building that houses 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.

Unite Here attempted several months ago to force a measure onto the Nov. 6 general election ballot that could have rescinded the City Council’s approval of the Robertson Lane project. That development by Faring will include a nine-story hotel along with retail shops and restaurants and cafes. Unite Here’s campaign against the project focused on its allegation that Faring wasn’t appropriately acknowledging discrimination against African-Americans and women at Studio One, a gay nightclub located on the Robertson Lane site that operated from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Faring countered that it does plan call out that aspect of the history of Studio One, which occupied The Factory, a historically designated building that Faring is incorporating into the project. Unite Here failed to obtain the required number of signatures by the July 18 deadline.

In a text message to WEHOville, Councilmember D’Amico said that he had met with Unite Here to hear the union’s concerns. D’Amico noted that he and Councilmember John Heilman already have worked to ensure that all projects that must provide public benefits to get approved also will provide a long list of worker benefits including worker safety protections, healthcare and a living wage.

“I am very excited about this use on our famous boulevard,” D’Amico wrote. “It feels like a new beginning for entertainment on Sunset. And in a new world class building by a world class architect. And I am very excited about a portion of the public benefit, the 25-year commitment to the arts … and yearly funds to the arts commission grants budget.

“That’s why I agreed to speak up on behalf of the project, because it does deliver on all the things that WeHo promises – to be a place that takes care of residents, workers and visitors. And invents the culture other cities consume.”

In her email message, Chamber CEO Morrill noted said the campaign is “backed by a Union who wants to make employees pay dues without seeing any increased wages in return.”

Morrill’s statement was an apparent reference to criticism of United Here for lobbying to exempt hotels with a unionized staff from having to pay the minimum wages for hotel workers set in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Santa Monica. Such union exemptions do not have to meet state and federal pay standards and are alleged to make hotel owners more receptive to unionization of their employees.


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Patrick K
Guest
Patrick K

I don’t know all of the specifics of this argument, but I do know that the “Don’t Sign the Petition” flyer that I received in the mail was vague and full of half-truths. This always makes me suspicious.

ReReDuce
Guest

Councilmember D’Amico – always after that win-win.

BZS
Guest
BZS

I was approached to sign the Robertson Lane petition to put the building on the ballot. I listened. There was not a single mention of the Hotel Workers Union, Worker Rights, Unite HERE, or anything else besides that they’re tearing the Factory down and that “it must be saved”. I have mixed feelings about that building but also know that preservation is planned and it isn’t being “torn down.” I’ve also heard as the article states that there were concessions given to the future workers without them asking and still the union opposed it. And now they’re asking for signatures… Read more »

L Hemsley
Guest
L Hemsley

Hotel and restaurant workers are exploited all the time.
Housekeepers, dishwashers, servers and others work for low wages.
Social media won’t help anyone from being “mistreated”, that’s a joke.

Not a good idea to leave the welfare and protection of people in these types of jobs in the hands of corporations.
If you belonged to a union you would understand or should.
Don’t let the Chamber of Commerce, who get paid by the businesses, tell you whether workers should have a reasonable wage and protections.

JJ
Guest
JJ

The unions are out-of control. You don’t need the Chamber of Commerce to tell you anything. As the article stated correctly, the workers at Robertson Lane were guaranteed a living wage by the developer. They didn’t care. The Arts Club is not a hotel. UNION GET LOST

JF
Guest
JF

Anytime a company mistreats its workers today it can’t escape the scrutiny of social media. The unions were born out of necessity. Now they are too powerful. The citizens of this city overwhelming supported this project (anyone that attended the many meetings during the approval process knows this). It’s ridiculous that they trying to extend their reach of power regarding this development. There is no hotel in this project. I’m confident they will get no where near the number of signature they need and will fail like they did with Robertson Lane… wasting the hard earned dues paid by their… Read more »

L Hemsley
Guest
L Hemsley

JJ & JF you obviously have no idea of the valuable protections, healthcare and recourse a union offers its members or you’re just a friend of the developer and don’t care.

Whether or not the residents and the City overwhelmingly desire this project it’s new employees would be better served by a union.

It’s my understanding guests will be staying overnight in the Arts Club; will they be changing their own sheets, cleaning their own toilets and vacuuming?

JF
Guest
JF

The union is trying to undo what the residents and the city already said they wanted. They will fail like they did the last time they tried to pull this. You are obviously a union member and fully support them. That’s your right. My right is to do everything I can to stop them from telling us what we can built in our own city. Have a good day.

JF
Guest
JF

The people that live in this city overwhelming supported this project and our city council recognized that and approved the project. This union think it can come into our city and dictate what we can build or not build? HELL NO! They tried with Robertson Lane and FAILED miserably. They will fail again. All they care about this there reach of power using dues collected by it’s members. Unions had a real purpose at one time and now they have outlived their need. With social media today, it’s hard for a company to get away with mistreating its workers. #Union… Read more »

Jim Nasium
Guest
Jim Nasium

Is there a petition available to get rid of Unite Here and their annoying interlopers from West Hollywood?

I’ll sign.

JJ
Guest
JJ

Me too.

John Milton
Guest
John Milton

Agreed!

Erin Lakes
Guest
Erin Lakes

Wow. Just building these new rich facilities, chasing the middle class out of WEHO. The gays turn this place into a livable place then the rich take it over and make it to costly for any of us to live . Guess we can thank the people we elected for this !!!

JJ
Guest
JJ

The ground floor will haver a cafe, music venue (in the vein of a old-time jazz club) and gallery and retail shops all OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. The rest of the building is private…as with most office buildings – you can’t go up to the office floors without being checked-in. No middle class is being driven out. Old and tired narrative.

Stan
Guest
Stan

A literal “private club” for the rich is “just like any office building” then you wrap it all up with “old and tired narrative”.
These comments are rich.