West Hollywood residents opposed to revised plans for the controversial Restoration Hardware showroom proposed for Melrose Avenue failed to show up Thursday night to air their complaints at the West Hollywood Planning Commission’s design review subcommittee meeting, where the project received glowing reviews from the commissioners.
Residents living in the West Hollywood West neighborhood immediately south of the planned 30,000 square-foot building at 8564 Melrose Ave. at Westmount, demanded the changes have a public hearing before the Planning Commission and its design review subcommittee. City staff members considered the changes minor enough that they could have been OKed at the staff level, but bowed to pressure and sent the project back to the Planning Commission for approval.
West Hollywood West resident Lauren Meister, a former Planning Commissioner, reports that no one from city staff notified the residents of the date for the design review meeting. Meister sent an email of complaint to the City Council and city planning staff on Thursday night.
“Knowing the controversy and serious concerns regarding this project, I think it’s sad that so little effort was made to let WHW residents know about this Design Review committee meeting,” Meister said in her email to the city.
The agenda for the design review meeting has been posted on the city website since July 31. WEHOville included the date of the design review meeting in a July 23 article about the controversy over the Restoration Hardware revised plans.
The only person who did show up for public comment was Tri-West resident Larry Block who sits on the city’s Disabilities Advisory Board. However, Block wasn’t there to protest the plans, merely to make sure the proposed new rooftop terrace be accessible to handicapped people (which it will be, via elevator).
That rooftop terrace is the major change to the designs for the building, which the City Council approved in November 2012. Restoration Hardware plans to display its outdoor furniture on that terrace. The area will be public space, free for anyone to use during business hours.
Under the new plans, the building’s two-story, 35-feet high Melrose-facing façade will be lowered to one 20-foot story, while the back portion of the building will still be 35-feet high. The building’s façade, which still includes a ground-level courtyard area, will be more ornate.
The three-member subcommittee was impressed with the revised plans.
“I didn’t mind the last design, but this is a lot better,” said Commissioner David Aghaei.
“The redesigned façade is magnificent,” said Commissioner John Altschul.
“It’s going to be the nicest thing on the street,” said Commissioner Roy Huebner.
The commissioners’ major concern was whether the rooftop terrace would be used for events, which could disturb the residents living nearby. Restoration Hardware officials assured the commissioners it will not be, saying they routinely turn down requests to hold events in the garden or rooftop area of its stores.
“Restoration Hardware is in the furniture business; we don’t do events,” said San Francisco-based architect Angela Matt who has designed or redesigned many of Restoration Hardware’s locations nationwide.
City Planning Manager John Keho suggested the Planning Commission could add as a condition of approval that events could only be held on the roof with a special-event permit.
The full Planning Commission will consider the Restoration Hardware changes at its Aug. 15 meeting.
The commissioners’ other major concern was the mechanical equipment, including the air conditioning compressors, being moved from the roof to the building’s rear at ground level. To reduce the noise from those compressors, Restoration Hardware plans to buy a top-of-the line Mitsubishi compressor.
Matt said the Mitsubishi compressor operates at 60 decibels (which is about conversation level) vs. 78 decibels for standard compressors. She also said the compressors would be turned off when the store is closed.
“The store closes at 7 or 8 p.m., depending on what night of the week it is,” said Matt. “The compressor will be shut down afterwards. So you won’t be lying in bed hearing it at 10 p.m.”
To further deal with any noise disturbances to the neighborhood, Matt said Restoration Hardware has commissioned an acoustic report from the Charles Salter Associates firm in San Francisco and will make any changes needed per that report.
In Nov. 2012, the City Council approved plans for the two-story, 30,000-square-foot showroom building. At the time, Restoration Hardware intended to occupy two-thirds of the building, approximately 22,000 square feet.
In March 2013, Restoration Hardware decided to make the Melrose location into its California flagship store. Consequently, the company decided to take over the entire building and bring the design up to the standards it has for its other flagship stores.
Restoration Hardware currently has an 18,000 square-foot store at 8722 Beverly Blvd. (adjacent to Cedars Sinai Medical Center), a half mile away from the proposed Melrose Avenue store. The company originally intended to close the Beverly Boulevard store when the Melrose location opened.
However, officials announced at Thursday’s meeting they will keep the Beverly Boulevard location open as one of their specialty stores, such as Restoration Hardware Baby & Child.