LA Council Subcommittee Okays a Change to Crescent Heights/Sunset Intersection

When the Frank Gehry-designed giant retail-residential projectis built on the southwest corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards (just a few hundred feet north of the West Hollywood border), it likely will also feature a modified intersectionat that same corner. A Los Angeles City Council subcommittee on Wednesday approved eliminating the merging lane from eastbound Sunset to southbound Crescent Heights and replacing it with a dedicated right-turn-onlylane.

Proposed changes to intersection of Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards

The Public Works and Gang Reduction subcommittee unanimously approved the“street vacation” of this merging lane,which means the land will automatically revert back to adjacent 8150 Sunset property.Project developer Townscape Partners plans to convert the merging lane, along with the adjacent triangle-shaped traffic island, into a public plaza with a large fountain.

While Townscape will own the land currently occupied by the merging lane, the  City  of Los Angeles  will retain ownership of the  land currently occupied by the traffic  island but  allow Townscape to landscape it for the plaza. 

Meanwhile,the bus stop that currently sits on that traffic island will be relocated a block east to the southwest corner of Sunset Boulevard and Laurel Avenue (in front of the CB2 furniture store in the 8000 Sunset shopping plaza).

With the merging lane from eastbound Sunset to southbound Crescent Heights eliminated, a new right-turn-only  turn lane  on Sunset will be created.  A dedicated right-turn traffic signal will also be installed. However, vehicles making the right turn at that intersection will have to make what amounts to a 130-degree turn since Crescent Heights curves to the west just below Sunset. 

This plan still needs final approval from the full Los Angeles City Council, but that appears to be just a formality at this point. In issues affecting a single council district, the 15-member  city  council generally follows the wishes of the council member representing that district. Councilmember David Ryu, whose  4th District includes this area, indicated at Wednesday’s subcommittee meeting that he fully supports the “street vacation.”

Ryu cited safety as the number one reason for his backing.

“Improved safety for pedestrians should always be our top priority,” said Ryu.“The LA DOT (Department of Transportation) report [indicates] it will be a safer pedestrian experience at the intersection by reducing the length of the crossing and interaction with vehicles.”

As it  is  currently configured, the southern side of this Sunset-Crescent Height intersection includes a traffic island on each side, thus forcing pedestrians to cross the roadway and interact with vehicles  three times to get to the other side – from the sidewalk to traffic island across the larger swath of road to the next traffic island and then to the sidewalk on the other side.

Meanwhile, that  existing  merging lane onto southbound Crescent Heights  has always  been  considered dangerous  due to the extreme angle  at which it merges. Drivers have to turn their heads  far  back to see  the  oncoming  southbound  traffic.

Several local activists are opposed to the street vacation plan, believing it will worsen traffic at the perpetually crowded Sunset-Crescent Heights intersection, which already has a grade of F. They point out that under the proposed new configuration, large trucks making the hairpin turn right from eastbound Sunset to southbound Crescent Heights will have to swing across two lanes of traffic to complete the turn.

They also argue that moving the bus stop a block east to Sunset and Laurel is impractical.

“The sidewalk is especially narrow there. The 8000 Sunset complex isn’t setback much from the street,” said neighborhood activist Keith Nakata.

Another neighbor, Rory Barish, contends the street vacation is really about aesthetics.

“It’s not about public safety, it’s about aesthetics and it’s about making the project larger,” said Barish, who lives nearby on Havenhurst Avenue.“They don’t like the way the [traffic] island looks. They don’t want a bus stop there because it doesn’t look good. The people who go in and out of buses don’t look good when they do it in front of multi-million-dollar condos. So, therefore they’re going to close up a public right of way so that they can increase it for aesthetics.”

Plans call for the  8150 Sunset  project to have 219 apartment units and 30 condominiums.  Twenty-eight of those units will be for low- or moderate-income residents but the rest will be market rate.  With five buildings planned for the site, it will also have  65,000 square feet of  retail space, including 23,000 square feet of  restaurant space, 12,000 square feet of  shops,  a 25,000 square foot supermarket,  plus a bank and  dance/yoga studio. 

Barish concedes the current traffic island, composed just of dirt and concrete, is not attractive. She suggests that instead of eliminating it, it be beautified with plantings and a sculpture.

Steven Luftman, another neighbor, questions whether Townscape will be able to finance this massive development project, which could cost several hundred million dollars. He pointed to a recent article on the CoStar real estate business website that reported that Townscape is searching for investors for the project. Luftman said he feared that Townscape might run out of money and only partially complete the project.

“We don’t want to see the buildings [currently on the 8150 Sunset site] demolished, but nothing built,” said Luftman. “It would be tragic if it ends up as nothing but a parking lot on Sunset and Crescent Heights.”

Ryu was not deaf to these  concerns. As a condition of approval,  Ryu  insisted that Townscape put a $2 million bond  into  an escrow account immediately. Thus, if eliminating the merging lane proves to be a mistake, the city will have money to restore it. Likewise, if Townscape only partially finishes the plaza,  the city will have the money to either complete the plaza or restore the merging lane. 

Renee Weitzer, Ryu’s senior advisor on land use and development issues, explained to WEHOville that if the newly configured intersection works as studies suggests it will and there is no need to restore the merging lane, then the city gets to keep the $2 million and use it for traffic improvements elsewhere.

Ryu also added a condition stating that if the project undergoes a substantial redesign, then the property owners must reapply for the street vacation.

Also, Townscape cannot close the merging lane until the dedicated right turn lane is installed. Andall that work must be completed within two years of receiving final approval or the street vacation expires.

WEHOville reached out to Townscape for comment but at press time had not received a reply.

Despite Ryu’s support, a  planning and land use  subcommittee of the Hollywood Hills West  Neighborhood  Council voted unanimously on Monday night to oppose the street vacation.  The full neighborhood council is expected to vote on the matter at its Nov. 20 meeting.  The full Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on the street vacation sometime in December.

The 8150 Sunset project received the blessing of the Los Angeles City Council in November 2016. However, it was delayed when activists filed lawsuits against the project itself and to save the historically designated mid-century modern Lytton Savings building (now a Chase bank).

The project survived  all those legal challenges  and Townscape has now obtained the demolition permits for the existing shopping center  building (which  includes  a McDonalds)  and the Lytton Savings building.  A  demolition date has not  yet  been scheduled,  but the CoStar article indicated Townscape has asked Chase to vacate the bank  building by Dec. 31. WEHOville  has been unable to verify that date. 

Renee Weitzer said Townscape hasnot yet obtained the building permits for the projectand is at least six months away, if not longer, from getting them.

The 8150 Sunset Blvd. site is where the famed Garden of Allah hotel complex sat for almost 40 years. The Garden of Allah buildings were demolished in 1959 to make way for the Lytton Savings building and shopping center currently on the site.


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Matt
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Matt

This is fantastic news. As someone who travels as a pedestrian far more often than as a motorist, I will tell you that it feels much safer and more comfortable to cross at a signalized intersection where right turning motorists are forced to slow down than it does to cross a right turn slip lane. Los Angeles drivers kill and injure pedestrians at such alarming rates at intersections like this that we could be fixing problem intersections every day and still have a long ways to go. Sunset Boulevard at Crescent Heights is on the City High Injury Network. This… Read more »

Mitchell
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Mitchell

At least the proposed new structure won’t be a gargantuan eyesore like the mega-hotel they’re plotting a few blocks west, that ‘Dubai-Vegas alien mothership’ greenlit for the Viper Room/ Aahs block

BURT GREEN
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BURT GREEN

This is so wrong on many levels. 1. The neighborhood has been very much against the scope and design of the project. 2. The developers constantly provide false data. Traffic , Congestion etc. The Councilman’s staff has refused to acknowledge legitimate complaints. And now the City s giving away land…Shutting down a safety turn lane. Who is going to be at fault when an elderly housekeeper gets hit by a car or truck when trying to cross the VERY VERY busy dangerous intersection to get a bus to East LA… at a stop moved a block away!? Who represented the… Read more »

James Francis
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James Francis

I live one block west of Crescent on the other side on Havenhurst Drive which will encompass 50-60 percent of the construction and most residential condos that will face my street since it is lined with the Hollywood Hills. As if this neighborhood isn’t already at a crossroads (pun intended) which it indeed is, it is getting even worse with gentrification and is already too expensive to live in. This strip mall is beneficial but this project is too large in scale and affordable housing which should be a priority isn’t a priority for these developers. What will happen will… Read more »

TomSmart
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TomSmart

Oh my goodness, we cannot, MUST NOT, have a “bus stop” of all things, in front of our new building. How utterly gauche.

Gina Scarlata
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Gina Scarlata

Exactly. Plus it will keep all of the poor people, who ride the bus, out of the area. They can’t afford to shop here anyway, so what is the point?

laguy46
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laguy46

This is NUTS!! The whole project is NUTS.

Josh Kurpies
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Josh Kurpies

Moving the bus stop further away from the spot it is most needed (corner of Crescent Heights/Laurel Canyon and Sunset) makes no sense to me. Any change at this intersection should prioritize pedestrian/cyclist safety and be better accommodating to public transit riders. Improved aesthetics or improving flow of vehicular traffic should not be the primary focus (replacing the southbound lane prior to existing stop and replacing with a right turn lane in front of bus stop will have a greater impact on flow of traffic than existing configuration). In the end if pedestrian/cyclist safety is improved, transit riders have better… Read more »

Vigilant
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Vigilant

The LA City Engineering Dept was tasked by Townscape petitioner, to execute an examination on a Sunday during a 90 minute window for which they paid $34,980.00. It appeared to reflect the narrow goal of aesthetics for Townscape rather than all the exponential moving parts and focus on traffic and pedestrian safety. Many letters responding to this have been submitted to Councilmember David Ryu. As a result, after this vote, they have indicated an interest in examining the many conditions presented but one cannot be too sure. Adding your voice in direct communication with Ryu’s office, particularly to Renee Weitzer… Read more »

Matt
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Matt

Agreed. The removal of the slip lane is absolutely needed to address safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus riders. However, leaving the bus stop at its existing location would be best for Sunset bus riders (Metro 2) connecting to northbound or southbound buses on Crescent Heights (Metro 218). The City likely agreed to relocate it to the east to appease the motorists. The bus could absolutely stop in the eastbound right turn lane but that would delay motorists and likely the City only agreed to do this project if the bus stop were relocated. For folks transferring from Line… Read more »

WeHoMikey
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WeHoMikey

Townscape won’t have enough money?!?? WTF?? They’re selling a condo at their 8899 Beverly project for a local record price – nearly $90,000,000. Not like they gave *all* of it to politicians…..

Gerry Feltmann
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Gerry Feltmann

Also that eliminates a connection point for transfers from the 218 bus which a lot of older passengers utilize. The whole intersection does need to be rethought but this is not exactly the best solution. It is actually very easy to cross all three traffic points and better access to the bus stop can be managed better by neighborhood patrols.

learntobeajournalist
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learntobeajournalist

What’s wrong with balancing out aesthetics (as quoted in the article from someone objecting to the project) with function? That’s what makes this a creative city (at times) and for the most part a beautiful, desirable place to live/visit. Some people go overboard with their social activism (and I’m an activist myself but know when to be reasonable). Let’s encourage this project, it will be a nice addition to the city (weho adjacent) and continue to improve the look and feel of Sunset Blvd. which is shifting and changing as it has done since its inception.

WeHoMikey
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WeHoMikey

If the project were indeed in The Creative City, your comment would be more-informative. Unfortunately it’s in L.A., so doesn’t need to be creatively executed. I guess Googie was pioneered nearby, this could be the start of the Brute Force period.

Jerome Cleary
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Jerome Cleary

This is one of most problematic intersections in LA as there are frequent collisions and accidents and even deaths at the cross walk on the curve outside of the 8800 Sunset Blvd. shopping plaza. I’m not sure if anything is going to help this speed strip.

James Francis
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James Francis

Hope you meant to say 8000 and 8150 Sunset, which are the exact addresses that split the two plazas on Crescent Heights.

Joe Korniewicz
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Joe Korniewicz

I am 100% for this change! It would be truly amazing to have a weekend farmers market hosted here with the new parking lot located on the SW corner…