Despite Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu’s support of it, the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council voted unanimously on Wednesday night to oppose plans to slightly modify the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard, just a few hundred feet north of the West Hollywood border.
Under the proposed plan, the City of Los Angeles would eliminate the merging lane from eastbound Sunset Boulevard to southbound Crescent Heights. Instead, a dedicated right-turn lane would be created on the southwest corner of that intersection along with a dedicated right-turn arrow on the stoplight.
Once the merging lane is eliminated, it and the adjacent triangle-shaped traffic island will be converted into a public plaza as part of the giant retail-residential project that developer Townscape Partners plans to build at the 8150 Sunset Blvd. site.
At the same time, the bus stop currently on the 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).
At Wednesday night’s meeting, the 20-member Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council had minimal discussion before unanimously voting to oppose the “street vacation,” as it is officially called.
“We prefer they leave it the way it is,” explained Orrin Feldman, the first vice president of the neighborhood council. “We don’t think that proposed street vacation makes the site or the community safer. It just doesn’t. It’s a dangerous intersection.”
Renee Weitzer, senior advisor on land use and development issues for Councilmember David Ryu, told WEHOville that the neighborhood council’s opposition vote will not change Ryu’s position.
“He supports it,” Weitzer said. “It goes before the [full Los Angeles City Council] on Dec. 3, and it’s going to be approved.”
In issues affecting a single council district, the 15-member Los Angeles City Council almost always follows the wishes of the council member representing that district, so Ryu’s support is essentially all that’s needed.
In a council subcommittee meeting on Nov. 7, Ryu cited improved pedestrian safety as the reason for his support.
Weitzer explained the street vacation and creation of the public plaza was originally adopted by the full Los Angeles City Council as part of the council’s approval of the 8150 Sunset project in November 2016.
Three different lawsuits were filed against the project, but the courts ruled in favor of the 8150 project each time. However, one of the court rulings said a separate hearing had to be held regarding the street vacation.
There is an official process for approving such a street vacation – an engineer does a report and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation also does a report, followed by public hearings on the matter.
“Those departments swear to God it’s going to be a much better intersection,” Weitzer told WEHOville.
Ryu did add several conditions of approval for the street vacation. Townscape cannot close the merging lane until the dedicated right turn lane has been installed. That work must be completed within two years or the street vacation expires.
In addition, if the 8150 Sunset project is sold to another developer and/or undergoes a substantial redesign, the developer must reapply for the street vacation.
If at any point in the future (even 10 years from now), the city decides that eliminating the merging lane was a mistake, it can take the land back and reinstall the merging lane. Townscape must place $2 million in an escrow account to cover the expense of rebuilding that merging lane. If the city decides it is happy with the plaza and dedicated right turn lane, then it can use the $2 million on traffic improvements elsewhere.
Plans call for the 8150 Sunset project, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry (who created the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles), 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 separate 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.
When construction begins, the site’s historically designated Lytton Savings building, now a Chase Bank, will meet the wrecking ball. Designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer, the highly praised mid-century-modern building with its zig-zag folded plate roof, glass walls and interior artwork offered a radical architectural departure from traditional staid bank buildings when it opened in 1960. Preservationists have fought to save the Lytton building or move it to another site but have been unsuccessful.
Townscape has not yet obtained building permits for the 8150 Sunset project and is at least six months away, if not longer, from getting them, according to Weitzer. However, demolition permits have been issued for both the Lytton Savings building and the accompanying shopping center building (which includes a McDonalds). Persistent rumors say Townscape has asked all tenants to vacate the buildings by Dec. 31, but WEHOville has been unable to verify that date.
The 8150 Sunset Blvd. lot is the location 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.