Development Proposed for 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. Heads to Planning Commission Thursday

8555 Santa Monica Blvd. (DFH Architects)

A large and prominently located project proposed for 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. will go before the Planning Commission for its approval on Thursday.

The project, located on the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard at the corner of West Knoll Drive, is being developed by Soto Capital LP, one of several companies owned by Behnam Soroudi, who also has extensive real estate interests through his Ruby Group, Harper Enterprises and other companies.

It will replace a variety of small businesses including the Collar and Leash pet supply store, the Max Muscle supplement store, the Framing Gallery and the PHOnomenal Vietnamese restaurant with a 140,686-square-foot building with 97 apartments, 12 “live/work” spaces, a restaurant and room for retail and  service businesses and offices.  Fifteen of the apartments will be affordable housing units.

The Santa Monica Boulevard-facing part of the building will be five-stories high, with the residential portion facing West Knoll only four stories high.  It will include 323 parking spaces.

The project has been in the works for many years and has been revised in an attempt to address concerns expressed by nearby residents and the Ramada hotel. Those concerns have included increased traffic on West Knoll and blocking natural light into the Ramada’s rooms. In response, Soto reduced the driveways into West Knoll Drive from two to one and set the building back on the third through fifth floors from five to 15 feet to allow more natural light into the Ramada. There would be another driveway into the development on Santa Monica Boulevard.

A memo to the Planning Commission from the city’s Planning and Development Services Department gives a positive assessment of the project.

“The project is consistent with the West Hollywood General Plan, and has been thoughtfully designed to balance the economic and land use goals of the City, and encourages a vibrant, walkable vision for this area that has endured since the City’s first General Plan was adopted in 1988,” the memo says. “The project would be transformational to this portion of Santa Monica Boulevard and West Knoll Drive in the center of West Hollywood. The existing buildings on the subject site are in disrepair, underutilized and do not help achieve the goals and policies of the City.”

The project would face a large building across the street at 8550 Santa Monica Blvd. that is near completion.  That is expected to include a Sprouts grocery store, a gym/fitness studio, a restaurant/café, the Wing women’s co-working space and rooftop parking. It is a project of Michael Talla, who owns the building on its west side that houses Capitol Drugs Pharmacy, the LASC clothing store and the 24 Hour Fitness gym.

The project is likely to draw opposition from some nearby residents, who previously have expressed concerns about its impact on traffic in the area and on the residential area of West Knoll.

The Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.  Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Council Chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.

  1. Extremely well articulated and discriminating concerns expressed by Rogerio Carvalheiro and Stacy Jones. The predictable comments from another commissioner regarding housing as if it were to trump all did not reflect a sensitivity to these issues. A distinct move in a positive direction.

  2. For 15 affordable units the Planning Commission will justify rolling with this. Forget about the 323 parking spaces all gaining access on West Knoll dealing a crushing blow to the suffocating residents. Forget about the lack of aesthetics on the units facing West Knoll which slipped by at Design Review. Forget about the height increase on the SMB side that Ramada objects to. Forget about the fact that this project went out of control after Stephen Kanner’s death. Forget about too many details too numerous to mention on this patchwork project.

    Should be a contentious meeting but in the end at least one commissioner will announce that it is “spectacular” or possibly “iconic” and the city will be getting 15 affordable units as well as 97 apartments and 12 live/work spaces in essence sweep all the concerns under the carpet. Similar statements were made about the projects approved on the east side hovering on SMB & La Brea. It should not be too difficult to create a thoughtful project of timeless design respectful of a neighborhood and sensitive to traffic issues. Many architects do but too few of them seem to connect with West Hollywood.

    1. I think I speak for all of Weho when I say we’re tired of all the misinformation. Let’s leave that to the hotel unions.

      The vast majority of parking, including every single parking space for the commercial spaces, is accessed from Santa Monica Blvd. “323 parking spaces all gaining access on West Knoll dealing a crushing blow to the suffocating residents” is a downright lie.

      The EIR studied the traffic impacts, and this project has NONE!

      1. Apology for the unintended misrepresentation of the parking access from West Knoll and SMB. Any individual traveling on West Knoll can acquaint themselves with the traffic impacts. One can also read the correspondence submitted and review testimony given with multiple projects on West Knoll that go into further detail. The remaining residents in the West Knoll area are experiencing a suffocating blow to the neighborhood ambiance they chose to live in. That of course is countered by the legions of residents who live beyond the area and whose petition signatures were gathered by the facilitator of the projects who failed to provide authentic details to be evaluated on the petition.

      2. Leave it to the unions? Are you kidding me. They don’t give a crap about parking or anything other than making sure the collect dues from their members. $$$ What is proposed here are apartments, restaurants, retail and office space. Why in the world would a union have any input or interest in this particular type of build anyway?

    2. “Forget about the height increase on the SMB side that Ramada objects to. ”
      I’m sorry but the Ramada has no business objecting to anything considering that hideous looking building. The exterior of that building has been trapped in a time warp from the late 80s early 90s. It’s in desperate need of a refresh and this new building will make it stand out like a sore thumb even more.

      Also, many hotel rooms don’t have views unfortunately and look into other buildings. This is what being in a city is. Not ideal, but par for the course.

    3. Has anybody found out the occupancy rate of all these new units in these “spectacular” and “iconic” new buildings popping up all over SMB? They look pretty empty to me. What is the amount they will rent at? Does WeHo NEED more overpriced, unrentable apartments?

  3. This project will create an irreversible traffic nightmare. There are already countless backups at Santa Monica and West Knoll. It is less than a quarter of a block from the intersection of La Cienega and SMB. The entrance to the apartments and the driveway to both the apartments and the businesses will be in West Knoll. Imagine the residents and business patrons trying to enter and exit on that one little street that is already jammed. Good Luck!!

    1. The driveway for ALL of the commercial parking is on Santa Monica Blvd, along with a good amount of the residential parking.

      There is a driveway on West Knoll for residential units only, and only a portion of them at that!

  4. Don’t forget one of the displaced stores will be family owned West Knoll Pharmacy. I hope they can find a suitable new spot.

    1. The pharmacist told me they are in talks to move temporarily to a nearby building, and possibly return to the building once it’s completed!

  5. Wow, great rendering. Been following this project for a while and hope the city makes the right decision approving it. So over these ugly stucco box designs where the developers try to build for so cheap, finally something beautiful to look at. No supply of apartments in Weho, lots of homelessness and the area needs a revival!

  6. All the designs look the same. If you took all the new condos and new apartment buildings and new mixed use projects side by side you would not be able to identify who the architect is at all. No interesting courtyards or gardens or different kinds of set backs and plans at all.

  7. It’s about time this portion of the boulevard be redeveloped!! This project has been in the works for a LONG time and, from what I can tell, most of the opposition’s complaints are short-sighted and due to self-interest. There is little to no existing housing on Santa Monica blvd and contrary to Weho69’s comment above, I actually believe that MORE development on the boulevard will DECREASE traffic because people will be situated in the heart of the city, in a central location that encourages walking rather than driving!

  8. Across from Wells-Fargo on Santa Monica Blvd is a building under construction that qualifies as one of the ugliest structures I’ve seen yet in West Hollywood.

    WEHO is less a creative city but more of a monument to some of the most architecturally grotesque buildings erected in East Berlin prior to the wall coming down after the fall of communism.

    Frank Gehry claims modern architecture is 98% sh#t but fails to say that West Hollywood is a center for these ugly creations.

    Please thank the developers who own the West Hollywood City Council, since most of them seem to have no taste — mirrored by the council members who seem to have been raised in strip malls along with the planning commission members.

  9. While I love the collar and leash store and hate to see it go. ( it might not, the owner said it might move to the northwest corner of La Cienega and SMB) The entire building to be replaced is an eyesore. We should have good looking buildings on our Main Street. I also am glad that Sprouts is coming across the street. It’s a great store with a full time butcher. It will give TJ’s some competition, but I believe in competition, it makes businesses provide a better product and service.

  10. This overbearing project will be crushing to what remains of West Knoll. Interestingly enough, the original architect Stephen Kanner deceased, bears not a mention. The color scheme along Santa Monica Blvd. was lifted from a residential building of Kanner’s on Veterans Blvd. and subsequently lifted by another architect for a project on the east side of Weho.

    The intrusion on to West Knoll does not appear to fit the SMB part of the project. A more sympathetic approach to what remains of the neighborhood on the upslope would have been possible in more skilled hands. These are problems that instinctive and inspired architects solve. Some create while others copy.

  11. This section of SMB is in desperate need of an update like this. Love it! Also, with all due, I don’t see how the Ramada can place demands on this building considering that building is a GIANT eyesore that desperately needs to be renovated/re-worked.

  12. How much more traffic can we fit on Santa Monica blvd! Has there been a building the planning commission hasn’t thought, “enough is enough.” I know we have a housing issue, but the philosophy of ” building more, garners more stock,” has finally backfired on our city. We see all the empty luxury apartments, we see the for rent signs and we know that people can’t afford to live in WeHo, because the luxury market rates DRIVE the crummy apartment prices up as well.

    1. Actually Weho is one of the densest areas with one of the lowest vacancy rates in the county. Santa Monica Boulevard is route 66 and one of the biggest thoroughfares in the city. There should be development on this street and if you don’t like it, then move to a more residential area.

      The NIMBY nonsense is out of control.

    2. the rental signs you see are for commercial / retail space versus apartments.
      We need more housing for all income levels to support our local businesses.

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