Developer Postpones Presentation of 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. Project to Planning Commission

A meeting Thursday of West Hollywood’s Planning Commission that was expected to be lengthy turned out to be short when the developer of the massive retail-residential project at 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. at West Knoll Drive asked that the Commission postpone its review of the project. Thus the highlight of the meeting was the swearing in of new Commissioner John Erickson.

An appointee of Councilmember John Heilman, Erickson is currently the director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. He also serves as the president of Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization of Women (NOW).

John Erickson

The 32-year-old Erickson told the commissioners he looks forward to working with them and thanked them for the warm welcome.

The other six commissioners applauded his appointment. Commissioner Stacey Jones, a longtime friend of Erickson, said, “I have every expectation that you will be approaching this post with the comments, vigor and enthusiasm that you employ in everything you do and you do a lot.”

Erickson replaces David Aghaei who has moved out of the city. Aghaei, an attorney and real estate developer, served seven years as Heilman’s appointee, joining in July 2011.

After the meeting, Erickson said he was honored and excited to be joining the Planning Commission.

“Being on the Planning Commission is a great opportunity, and I’m so thankful to Councilmember Heilman for appointing me, as well as for serving as Councilmember Lindsey Horvath’s appointee to the Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board,” Erickson told WEHOville. “Being on the Planning Commission, there is a lot that comes before us that involves community input and hearing very intricate details of projects that will change the face of our community, and I’m very excited to serve the City of West Hollywood in that way.”

Erickson has a special interest in affordable housing and said he is keeping a keen eye on various state laws regarding housing for moderate, low and very low income residents.

“Affordable housing is needed, and it serves a real purpose and we need more of it in West Hollywood,” Erickson said. “I look forward to making sure the projects that come before us really address that issue.”

Erickson lives on Fountain Avenue near Plummer Park and is also concerned about changes to that thoroughfare.

“The issues on Fountain Avenue are of big importance to me,” he said. “As you are aware, Fountain is changing, and it needs to be updated and improved for public safety.”

A native of Ripon, Wisc., Erickson holds two master’s degrees from Claremont Graduate Universiety – one in gender and sexuality studies, the other in religion. He is currently working on his PhD at Claremont in American religious history with an emphasis on politics, policy and religion.

Erickson moved to West Hollywood in 2011 when he was hired as an intern at City Hall. He served as the interim deputy for former Councilmember Abbe Land and later for Councilmember Heilman, while their full-time deputies were on maternity leave and medical leave, respectively. After that, he was hired full time by the city and served as the community events technician. He also served as president of the West Hollywood Municipal Employees Union (WEHOME).

He left City Hall in 2017 to work as the legislative representative for Los Angeles International Airport, and joined Planned Parenthood earlier this year. In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Erickson to the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls, the first man to be appointed. He also is on the board of the ACLU of Southern California and is chair of the legislative committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club.

Even though he was relieved not to have to tackle as huge a project as the 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. development at his very first meeting, Erickson said he felt aptly prepared for it, having studied the 400+ page staff report diligently. He showed WEHOville his agenda packet with many handwritten notes, turned down pages and post-it notes inserted.

In talking about the postponement, he joked to his fellow commissioners that he was accustomed to making complicated decisions.

“What I thought was going to be a very difficult decision [on 8555 Santa Monica Boulevard] was mirrored by the fact that I had to judge the youth carnival this weekend at Plummer Park,” he said. “If I thought the decision that we were going to make tonight was going to be complicated and complex and full of ins and outs, you were not judging the same carnival that I was.”

Illustration of proposed 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. project (DFH Architects)

The five-story, 139,000 square foot 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. development covers the area from West Knoll Drive to the Ramada Plaza hotel, land currently occupied by a parking lot, the Collar & Leash pet store and several other small businesses. It also incorporates three residential properties immediately behind it on West Knoll Drive.

The developer is Soto Capital LP, one of several companies owned by Behnam (Ben) Soroudi, a Beverly Hills developer who also has extensive real estate interests through his Ruby Group, Harper Enterprises and other companies.

As proposed, the project will have 95 residential units, six of which will be for very low income residents and six for moderate income residents. It will also have 15 “live-work” units, 5,000 square feet for restaurant/cafes, 13,000 square feet of retail space and 7,000 square feet of office space on the second floor.

The new hearing date for the 8555 Santa Monica Boulevard project has not yet been scheduled, but it likely will return in early 2019. There was no official word why Soto Capital requested the continuation.


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Andrea Reider
Guest

Congratulations to John Erickson! He’s a very talented and hard-working man. Any organization is lucky to have him as a member or leader.

David Abrams
Guest
David Abrams

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame this project has been delayed again. The developer has met with neighbors endlessly over the years and done a nice job of making changes as a result of those meetings.

The planning commissioners should listen to the majority of the neighbors that’s support the project, not a vocal minority that oppose any project at the site.

Deck Chairs on the Titanic
Guest
Deck Chairs on the Titanic

So sorry to hear that. Most of the letters did not appear to be from neighbors, despite the endless meetings, they appear to be from friends of the developer. People are not opposing “any ” project on the site. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic does not ensure a safe journey. This project appears destined for failure. You may be interested in looking at the Faring project designed for Sunset and Curson across from Bonham’s as a sophisticated example of mixed use in an elegant design that speaks timeless elegance with a fresh contemporary feel.

Deck Chairs
Guest
Deck Chairs

Could you please point out some of the changes made as a result of the neighbors requests?

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

Erickson has no experience in planning and should have never been appointed to this position……stick with womens rights

Rob Bergstein
Guest
Rob Bergstein

By no experience, you mean aside from the six plus years he worked for the City of West Hollywood, serving as deputies to Councilmembers Abbe Land and John Heilman? His years of activism at every level as an engaged West Hollywood citizen?

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

No experience in planning. You don’t have to have experience to be a City Council Member, just level headed. But to be on a Board or Commission you should have experience in the field. These positions should not be given out by Council Members, rather by Residents informal voting based upon experience. Look at the guy Erickson is replacing.

Missed Opportunity
Guest
Missed Opportunity

What do you mean by “look at the guy Erickson is replacing.”
And the residents have the qualifications to vet someone?

Experience Matters
Guest
Experience Matters

“You don’t have to have experience to be a City Council Member, just level headed”. And your qualification(s) are ….what did you say? Oh, never mind. That is not being mean, just my level headed observation through years of verifiable experience.

Cy Husain
Guest

Ironically for the very reason that he “has no experience in planning” was why wealthy capitalist developers want him to represent their interests. Yes he is highly qualified and stood up for issues many others including myself strongly support but, this is an excellent diversion away from the issue of gentrification and unregulated over-development. A few activists I know have called out John Erickson and the interests he represents to clarify their positions on this issue. The reply is along the lines of how supportive they are with civil rights issues completely unrelated to the interests of developers. Sounds lake… Read more »

West Hollywood Eastside
Guest
West Hollywood Eastside

Commissioner Erickson has a whole lot more experience at Planning than Mr. Schmidt has in anything city government related…so by his own argument Mr. Schmidt has completely disqualified himself as a candidate for City Council. Step aside and stop making a fool of yourself Mr. Schmidt. You’re a joke.

Cy Husain
Guest

A politician spending a lifetime promoting corporate interests does NOT count as “experience” when it comes to serving public interests. Now I am speaking more in reference to politicians in general as opposed to John Erickson specifically whose civil rights work I highly respect. In regards to Erik Schmidt, please mention some specific political or policy issues you feel he is wrong about as opposed to personal attacks. Myself and many others belonging to some highly marginalized and violently oppressed minority groups do NOT at all consider our situation “a joke” and, Mr. Erik Schmidt has taken these issues quite… Read more »

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest
Eric Jon Schmidt

This is not criticism against Mr. Erickson. In fact, it is a compliment. He has done wonderful things for Women’s Rights and I would love to see him continue to do so. I believe that when you find your niche in life and are good at something, keep going and do as much good as you can. I wish him well.

Missed Opportunity
Guest
Missed Opportunity

Hopefully the developer requested a postponement due to possible lukewarm contacts with various commissioners. A time out would be welcome in order that the proper thought and consideration be directed towards whatever project evolves. The current massive proposal is already dated in design and appears eerily reminiscent of a smaller Stephen Kanner project on the westside build a few years ago.

There is a real opportunity on this site for an architect to develop a forward thinking, classy project on this space compatible with the neighborhood and inspire likeminded future development.

A response
Guest
A response

This project was originally designed by Kanner and most of that design along Santa Monica has been retained by the architects that took over the project after he passed away.

Missed Opportunity
Guest
Missed Opportunity

Thank you, my instinct was correct. A fresh design rather than resurrecting something whose time has faded would be great. Overthinking and overworking an idea generally removes all the energy.

HELP
Guest
HELP

The current design has so many holes in it you couldn’t even drive a truck tru-it.

Get a new team and bring in a proper design.