Historic Preservation Commission Endorses Proposed Changes to Robertson Lane Project

View of Robertson Lane project looking west with the Factory building fronting Robertson Boulevard. (Hodgetts + Fung Architects)

Several proposed changes to the Robertson Lane project, including the restoration of even more of the historic Factory building, got the unanimous support tonight of the West Hollywood Preservation Commission and dozens of local residents.

In a plan approved by the West Hollywood City Council in June 2018, Faring, the developer, had proposed repositioning and renovating 55% of the Factory building and including it in the Robertson Lane hotel, retail and restaurant development. That project, which features a nine-story hotel, covers two acres and extends to La Peer Drive on the west. The revised proposal that went before the Historic Preservation Commission tonight calls for the removal of two existing design showroom buildings at the south end of the project, which will allow Faring to preserve 79% of the Factory building and relocate a proposed driveway that was to have entered the base of the building.

Removing those showrooms also will allow Faring to extend the underground parking area to accommodate the same 750 parking spaces on three underground levels rather than the six initially approved. The removal of those buildings also allows for a 42-foot setback from the Factory building and the building to the south, improving its visibility. And the extra square footage on the site means that instead of directing the driveway into the base of the Factory building, there will be two driveways into the project from Robertson Boulevard, one on the south side of the Factory and one on its north side. Instead of the three driveways proposed for the La Peer Drive side of the property there would be only two.

The Factory’s position in the revised plan for Robertson Lane. (Hodgetts + Fung Architects)

The proposed revisions drew praise from a representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and from Victor Omelczenko of the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance and Adrian Fine, who represented the L.A. Conservancy. Both organizations had pushed for Faring to change its original plan, which had called for the demolition of the Factory building. They had argued that the Factory, constructed in 1929, needed to be preserved because it had once been home to Mitchell Camera, an early maker of movie cameras, and later to the famous Studio One gay nightclub. The southern end of the Factory building will terminate at the new entrance to the Robertson Lane ballroom, which was the former entrance to the Studio One nightclub and where Faring intends to commemorate Studio One.

Jennifer Gregg, executive director of the ONE Archives, praised Faring for its recognition of the role Studio One had played in gay life. It was in 1975 that Scott Forbes, a gay optometrist, opened the club called Studio One during the height of the disco era. Studio One closed in 1988.

Several speakers said they had not appreciated the Factory building, given its current condition, until they had seen Faring’s plans to renovate it, which include restoring its exterior and, where necessary, replacing its glass panels. Sam Borelli said that he hadn’t supported the idea of preserving the Factory building initially but had changed his mind as the design progressed. Stephanie Harker, known for her work to save Plummer Park from a proposed renovation that would have demolished its historic Great Hall / Long Hall, acknowledged that she was likely to surprise some of those at the meeting before she expressed her support for the revised project. Cathy Blavis, who had opposed the project during her tenure on the Historic Preservation Commission, spoke in support of it tonight, saying “this is adaptive re-use at its best.”

The Factory building on Robertson Boulevard.

Commissioner Ed Levin, who originally had voted against the project, noted that it has been approved by the City Council and that the Commission’s task tonight was only to consider the proposed alterations to the original plan. Levin said he viewed the alterations as “an enormous improvement.” Levin asked that Faring also commemorate the Factory’s role as the manufacturing plant for Mitchell Cameras, which supplied cameras to the nascent motion picture industry. Matt Dubin, newly appointed to the Commission by City Councilmember Lauren Meister, echoed Levin’s request.

Lola Davidson, who was sworn in as a commissioner tonight by Mayor John D’Amico, also expressed her support for the project, saying she was touched by the amount of support it got from community members.

Commission Chair Christopher Winters said the changes over time in the design of the project have led people who initially wanted to demolish the Factory building to appreciate it. “This is very much the Robertson Lane project being incorporated into the Factory and not the Factory being incorporated into Robertson Lane,” Winters said.


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Design Standards for West Hollywood
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Design Standards for West Hollywood

Please absorb the visuals placement of the Robertson Lane Project photo next to the photo of a recently approved project at Detroit & Fountain by Giovanni Fruttaldo. These two elegant projects not only substantially improve the neighborhoods with more than was required, they both contribute grace and sensitivity to the surroundings in an outstanding and timeless manner that would be so regarded internationally. These projects should be the standard in West Hollywood for those presented to and approved by the Planning Commission, not the exceptions. The genesis of these designs begin in early deliberations with planners who could benefit by… Read more »

mark
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mark

Jobs, that’s what I see this project bringing which is what we need more of rather than more taxes/socialism and the affordable housing rants. Cities aren’t affordable. They never have been because there are so many people who want to live in them so besides from the tourism this hotel will bring, it will bring much needed JOBS. It’s a winner. And it preserves the historical significance of the area, making it more than just another hotel. It becomes a destination with some history/character balanced with modern aesthetics.

mark
Guest
mark

If you’re worried about traffic, don’t live in a dense and popular area.

Jerome Cleary
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Jerome Cleary

The amount of truck deliveries, cars, Ubers, Lyfts, TMZ tour busses on Robertson just south of Santa Monica is already too much so I cannot imagine the amount of additional traffic added to this area with this project and hotel.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Guest

I will believe the project as planned when I see it. Development plans are change like underwear in West Hollywood.

Stephen
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Stephen

Loving these changes! Great job guys.

Larry Block
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Larry Block

It looks great and we can all look forward to the future with the reflection on the past. Its beautiful.

mike m
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mike m

Although I have find memories of Studio / Factory. I believe it should not be preserved. Some things served their purpose. Those memories will always be etched in my heart . A new beginning for Weho.

David
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David

Tear it down, perserving this does nothing to perserve the memories.
Young people dont flock to West Hollywood anymore…everything is too expensive and parking is a nightware. Some yes…but not they use to.

Stephen
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Stephen

Old people don’t speak for young people.

Manny
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Manny

You need to get out at 10pm. WeHo is packed!

David
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David

I think more people remember it as the Axis building. Those were the days.

mark
Guest
mark

Although the factory building itself may not be “significant”, maintaining the shape preserves its historic significance as a landmark. With better quality cladding (if that’s in the plan, or new paint) windows, etc. and a revamped interior it will give the project an identity. Some character, history, a destination to be be proud of and reminisce upon even if everything that happened IN the factor wasn’t always something to rejoice. Love this project, most everyone does. Something we can all get around and be proud of and it keeps West Hollywood on the map with a nice hotel near the… Read more »

JF1
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JF1

I don’t know that I was seeking to demolish the Factory building…it was just…I couldn’t care less what happened to it. It was built a factory..with spit and glue and no architectural significance. I hope to God that this is the last we have to hear about saving this damn thing. Not every old building is worth saving…it’s what went on IN the building that mattered. Not the building itself. The end.