Planning Commission Approves Controversial Senior Living Facility on Palm Avenue

923-931 Palm Ave (rendering by Levin-Morris Architects)

With a 5-1 vote Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved a controversial senior congregate-living facility that will be built behind and beside two historically designated houses on Palm Avenue.

After a four-hour hearing, the Commission gave its blessing to the proposed senior congregate-care housing facility located at 923-931 Palm Ave., just north of Cynthia Street. Two historic bungalows built in 1902 already on the site will be incorporated into the project.

Designed by WeHo-based architect Ed Levin, the project includes a new, four-story, 33,460-square foot, 48-room, L-shaped building at 923 Palm Ave. and extends into the backyards of the two historic properties at 927 and 931 Palm Ave. Plans call for the bungalow at 927 Palm to be used for administrative offices, while the 931 Palm bungalow would be used for residential housing for a total of 49 units on the property.

The Commission liked the fact the project would bring assisted living for seniors to West Hollywood, something the city currently does not have. They especially liked the fact it would allow seniors to age in place and remain in the city once they are no longer able to live on their own.

“Inclusivity is part of [the city’s] DNA and including people as they age, people who have created this community, people who have given to the community, we don’t want to lose that history,” said Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro. “They can continue contributing to our community.”

However, the commissioners had reservations about the impact to traffic on narrow Palm Avenue, noting that ambulances would likely be going there with some regularity and will potentially block the street.

Cadence Living, which has over 30 senior living facilities in the U.S., will operate the facility, but the cost will be high – over $5,000 per month. Commissioner Sue Buckner noted many residents will be unable to afford to live there unless they have long-term care insurance.

During the public comment period, many callers raised concerns about the new building’s impact upon the two bungalows which the City Council designated as historic in 2013. They said the new four-story building would overwhelm the one-story houses. They also contended the historic context of the setting would be compromised by the four-story structure immediately behind it.

Architect Levin pointed out the historic designation was for the houses only, not the yards. Carvalheiro said the context was long ago compromised by the four-story apartment buildings around it.

There were also concerns about the fact the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) did not issue a certificate of appropriateness for the new building to be built adjacent to the two historic bungalows. When the project went before HPC in 2017, the commissioners denied the certificate of appropriateness in a 4-1 vote. However, when a revised version of the project returned to HPC in July 2020, the commissioners had a 3-3 split vote, meaning no formal action was taken. (Project architect Ed Levin is a member of HPC but recused himself for those votes).

Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner cast the sole vote against the project, saying although she liked much about it, she could not make some of the findings needed for approval.

Commissioners John Altschul and Sue Buckner both ultimately voted to approve the project, but had reservations up until the final seconds before casting their votes. “The good outweighs the bad,” Altschul said as he voted Yes.      

Commissioner John Erickson had to recuse himself because he will become a member of the City Council on Dec. 7. Project opponents have already indicated they intend to appeal the project to the Council. Erickson’s recusal was necessary because he can’t vote on the project both as both a Planning Commissioner and then as a City Councilmember.

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Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
11 days ago

How about just affordable housing instead at this location and project?

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
11 days ago

Truly bought and paid for when a developer can pay a member of the committee overseeing approval to lobby his colleagues. No one should be able to serve on Historic Preservation Commission if they are working for developers to destroy our historic neighborhoods.

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
14 days ago

With the guessing of it being a projected over $5000 a month which could end up being $8000 to $10,000 a month or more if it gets built this would end up being comparable to the Sunrise senior facility in Beverly Hills that cost $10,000 to $15,000 a month for seniors. So basically it’s for the haves and not for struggling seniors on a budget.

RJ C
RJ C
14 days ago

I spoke at the Commission meeting last night, and listened to the entire debate… what a farce. Committee members bullied that if they didn’t vote for the project, they would be “bad people”… confusing issues as to the whether the building was residential or commercial… Commission members asking for the vote to be delayed because it was midnight and being told NO. The meeting started with the property being described as an “affordable” residential project that would allow West Hollywood residents to “age in place”… BUT IT IS NOT! It is an advanced care medical care facility (the units do… Read more »

Weho Truth Talk
Weho Truth Talk
10 days ago
Reply to  RJ C

You’re concerned about traffic in West Hollywood?

West Hollywood has been an international destination for decades, Santa Monica Boulevard has been a major city thoroughfare for even longer. West Hollywood is not a quiet suburb like Santa Clarita or Thousand Oaks. There’s been traffic and big groups of people coming to and through West Hollywood since Donna Summer was on top of the charts (and before that too).

Long Time Resident
Long Time Resident
14 days ago

Ridiculous. Most seniors that live in WeHo will not be able to live in that facility and the Planning Commissioners know it. That is not what most people call “Aging in Place”.

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
11 days ago

I suspect Ed Levin and the developers could afford it. Perhaps that’s what they meant by “Aging in Place”.

Jay
Jay
14 days ago

The comments of two commissioners are salient: Carvalheiro’s about the context already having been compromised and Altschul’s re the good outweighing the bad overall.

To the extent that the new building could be a living green buffer from existing surrounding tall buildings, the negatives of its existence could be somewhat mitigated.

A living green cover would also reduce noise and negative visual impact for residents on Betty Way behind the project.

In terms of the location, close to Cedars, the library, the park, grocery stores, cafes and restaurants- makes sense for seniors.

RJ C
RJ C
14 days ago
Reply to  Jay

The developers asked for a variance to make the fencing higher to keep the residents in – most will be advanced care dealing with dementia and memory issues… the patients won’t be strolling to Pavilion’s. And have you ever tried navigating a wheelchair on Palm Ave?

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