West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on April 29 about the proposal to dig a three-story parking garage under the French Market building and surround it with buildings that will include offices and retail and restaurant spaces.
The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center, Room 6, at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd.
The hearing follows one on Oct. 22 of last year at which members of the Commission expressed reservations about plans for the project by the Faring development firm and raised questions about the project’s environmental impact report.
The 83,000 square-foot project at 7985 Santa Monica Blvd., at Laurel Avenue, will preserve the French Market building, while the area that was the French Market’s parking lot will see a new building erected for retail and restaurant space. A four-story, 60-foot-tall office building will be constructed at the rear of the property.
The project will have 269 parking spaces in the three-level garage, with the parking entrance and exit on Laurel Avenue. While that garage is being dug, the French Market building will be underpinned with steel beams above the garage.
Faring’s decision to incorporate the French Market into the project addresses concerns by some who see the building as an important part of West Hollywood’s gay history. The original 1930’s grocery store structure was significantly remodeled to become the “Louisiana Purchase” shopping center in 1974. It underwent numerous renovations while known as the “French Market” until it closed in 2015. The market’s French Quarter restaurant was known for housing the office of the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), a political action committee in the 1970s that raised money to support gay-friendly candidates. When news that it would be replaced became known in March 2016, Rick Castro, in a posting on his blog, announced “FRENCH MARKET PLACE- THE END OF GAY.” Castro was owner of Antebellum Gallery in Hollywood, which billed itself as the only fetish art gallery in the United States. The French Quarter also has long been a gathering place for members of the LGBT recovery community.
“The idea that a three-level, 40-foot deep subterranean garage can be excavated from underneath an intact French Market building is simply not credible,” Commissioner Ed Levin said at the Commission’s October meeting on the project..
Levin also questioned whether the entire building would be preserved, as has been indicated, or merely the exterior façade, noting the draft EIR only states the “exterior” will be underpinned and how the “Santa Monica Boulevard frontage” will be incorporated into the project. While preserving the entire building might be technically possible, Levin feared the cost would be far too great.
Commissioners praised Faring for abandoning its original plan to demolish the building and instead moving ahead with the preservation plan.