With a unanimous vote Monday night, West Hollywood’s City Council denied an appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of a condominium project on Sweetzer Avenue.
Resident Patrick Earnest, who filed the appeal, argued that the 99-year-old, single-story house currently on the lot at 1257 Sweetzer Ave., just south of Fountain, is historic, something the Planning Commission failed to take into consideration when it approved the project. However, the Council disagreed, ruling it wasn’t historic.
In January 2019, the Planning Commission unanimously supported plans to construct a four-story, 14-unit condominium project with subterranean parking at 1257 Sweetzer. The project will include one unit for a low-income resident and one unit for a moderate-income resident. It also includes a distinctive wave-like metal sculpture covering the front center of the building.
The Planning Commission’s approval included the demolition of two buildings that currently sit on the lot, neither of them currently occupied. The single-story cottage in front was constructed in 1920 while the two-story rear duplex over a garage was constructed in 1937.
Patrick Earnest argued that the cottage is the last example of the typical single-family homes that were originally built on lots in that area in the 1910s. He noted that the houses in this area were distinctly different from those a mile away in the town of Sherman (the original name for what is now the western portion of West Hollywood).
“The early history of the neighborhood will be destroyed forever [by the demolition],” Earnest told the Council.
Earnest contended that entire approval process was flawed. He said the analysis required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) should have considered the cultural and historic significance of the house and offered a preservation alternative
However, the city maintains that three different historic analysis, including one by Sherman Oaks-based Chattel Inc., the city’s historic preservation consultants, found nothing historic about the house.
Ernest also argued that the Planning Commissioners were led to believe that prior to the project coming before them, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission considered the house and denied it a cultural designation. However the house never went before HPC.
The West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA) supported Earnest’s appeal, saying the cottage adds to the eclectic nature of Sweetzer Avenue. “[The cottage] still stands intact nearly a century later, a fine example of the city’s rapidly disappearing architectural and cultural history which merits preservation,” WHPA wrote in a statement.
Of the ten people speaking during public comment, only three people supported the appeal. The rest were in favor of the new project and the increased housing it will bring the city. One speaker called the cottage a “matchstick house” because it was a firetrap, while another speaker termed it an “unremarkable house.”
The Council spent minimal time discussing the matter, quickly agreeing that it was not historic.
Councilmember John Duran said there was no evidence to support a historic claim.
Councilmember John Heilman emphasized that three historic experts all said it lacked integrity to be considered culturally significant and that was all the evidence he needed.
Meanwhile, Councilmember Lauren Meister said the cottage should have gone before HPC, but nonetheless voted against the appeal.