LA Conservancy Asks Court to Block Melrose Triangle Project

streamline moderne, 9080 santa monica blvd.
The former animal hospital built in the Streamline Moderne style at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd.

The Los Angeles Conservancy has asked the L.A. County Superior Court to block the demolition of the Streamline Moderne building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. near Doheny.

That West Hollywood building is slated to be demolished as part of the construction of the Melrose Triangle project at the city’s western border with Beverly Hills. The Conservancy filed a petition with the court asking that a judge block the Charles Company, its developer, from proceeding with the project and alleging that that an analysis of it by the City of West Hollywood failed to comply with state requirements for assessing the environmental impact of construction projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). That environmental impact study includes an assessment of an existing building’s cultural or historic significance.

The City Council in a meeting last month endorsed the Melrose Triangle project. The project will sit on a plot of land bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and Almont Drive at the city’s border with Beverly Hills. It will consist of three buildings with a total of 300,000 square feet with a wide public passageway connecting Santa Monica Boulevard with Melrose Avenue. It will house offices, restaurants and shops and 76 residential units, 15 of which would be reserved for low- and moderate-income renters.

The project has been praised by some for serving as a dramatic gateway to West Hollywood. But other residents objected to the proposed demolition of the 9080 Santa Monica building. That building was built in 1928 and then renovated in 1938 in the Streamline Moderne style by Wurdeman & Becket, one of whose principals, Welton Becket, designed the Capitol Records building and the Cinerama Dome. For many years the building served as the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital, whose clients included actors such as Charlie Chaplin.

The Council, at its August meeting, ignored requests to block the project because of the demolition of the 9080 Santa Monica Building. However it did ask city staff members to investigate ways to reduce the impact of various problems such as traffic congestion that the new development is likely to cause. Representatives of the developer, the Charles Company, said at that meeting that their client would be interested in finding a way to preserve the entryway to the 9080 Santa Monica building within the Melrose Triangle Project.

The project has been under development since 2004. Like many such projects, it was delayed because of the Great Recession, and the developer and the city have been in lengthy negotiations regarding its appearance and impact. A 2006 assessment of the property by LSA Associates said the building appeared to be eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources as an example of Streamline Moderne design. However no one has taken any action to request such a registration.

“We are not a litigious organization, but the city’s violation of CEQA was so egregious that we had no choice,” said Linda Dishman, the Conservancy’s executive director. This is the first litigation filed by the Conservancy since 2007, when it filed a suit regarding the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

In a press release, Dishman said that the Conservancy considers the environmental impact statement certified by the City Council to be flawed and inadequate “because of its cursory analysis of preservation options for the building. Though the EIR purported to identify a preservation alternative, it offered no details, schematics, or other information to allow meaningful evaluation and comparison with the proposed project.”

“Cities have to obey the law when it comes to environmental review,” said Adrian Scott Fine, the Conservancy’s director of advocacy. “West Hollywood’s actions set a dangerous precedent.”

The Conservancy acknowledged that the Charles Company had agreed over the summer to work with the preservation community to evaluate options that would incorporate the building into the proposed project. “Yet in this case, the developer proposed only to reconstruct a small portion of the facade in a new location. That is not meaningful preservation,” the Conservancy said.

“We’re not opposed to the development of a mixed-use, gateway project at this location,” said Fine. “We oppose the needless loss of this historic building when its adaptive reuse as part of the overall design is so clearly feasible. State law requires no less.”

Lisa Belsanti, manager of West Hollywood’s Public Information Office, said the city is in the process of reviewing the Conservancy filing.

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JJ
JJ
8 years ago

I hope the LA County Superior Court blocks denies their attempt to stop the project from moving forward.

mattymatt
8 years ago

I lived two blocks away from this building for a year, and I can promise you that it provided no “sense of place” to the community. Just a falling-apart facade that you ignore on your way to someplace else. There’s nothing to preserve with that facade that a picture and plaque wouldn’t accomplish.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
8 years ago

Climate Change Scientist vs. designation of GH/LH??? Fiesta Hall is historic. Built in 1950 with same amenities was to replace the old utilitarian building in the center of a park. That is part of an approved Master Plan for Plummer Park with a statement of overriding consideration. The City is doing nothing unlawful. Nor the developer of the Westside Gateway Project. 9080 SMB has no historic designation and The Westside Gateway project is pending final approval based on Councils recommendations. Once again irrational nostalgia at the eleventh hour over an old building that sits at our west side gateway that… Read more »

Lynn
Lynn
8 years ago

Historic Preservation seems a difficult challenge to get ahead of. There appear to have been several failures regarding this project. 1. The owner/developer apparently neglected to inform himself about the true value of what he had purchased, not just development potential but stock in the 9080 Santa Monica Building, consequently the building deteriorated. 2. The general public passed by this site thousands of times in the last 10 years and yet few took any interest in what the future was for the structure. Nomination could have been accomplished earlier leading to meaningful incorporation into a future project. 3. The City… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
8 years ago

As far as I’m aware not even the city nor the developer have contended the historic designation of the building. Should I go with the assessment by experts in the field or with the opinions on this comment thread? Hmmm… Everyone has the right to an opinion but It was embarrassing to hear the lawyers and administrators on the council belittling the unanimous expert designation of GHLH. Just as it is embarrassing to hear politicians belittle the overwhelming consensus among climate scientists or any real expertise for that matter. I’m all for the city obeying state laws instead of bending… Read more »

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
8 years ago

The incorporation of a non-historic building into the Gateway Project would greatly compromise the aesthetic, function of the outstanding project that has been thoughtfully designed and creates a new Wow-factor to our Westside Gateway. This project will become the new historic ideal for the 21st century that will revitalize and bring immediate economic benefits to West Hollywood.

Melodrama, while suitable to our area only belongs on film.

Hillsman Wright
8 years ago

It’s about time somebody reminded the City Council that laws are written with common consent for the betterment of the lives and communities affected and are to be obeyed. For some time now, there has been a reckless disregard for the CEQA process – particularly when it comes to historic preservation. Having experienced these issues firsthand in efforts regarding the future of the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio, Legion/Long Hall and the needlessly extravagant plan calling for the wholesale destruction of Plummer Park, all I can say is – it’s about time. The L.A. Conservancy is a respected and effective non-profit organization –… Read more »

Manny
Manny
8 years ago

…..how about 8899 Beverly?

Former Staff
8 years ago
Reply to  Manny

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Todd Bianco
8 years ago

The LA Conservancy wakes up after all these years to save this building? There are better examples of Streamline Moderne in LA that could use their attention. And how about the Mid-Century Modern folded roof Chase Bank building scheduled to be demolished at Sunset & Crescent Heights? I agree with SaveWeho – they should pick their fights better and this shouldn’t be one of them.

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
8 years ago

Here we go again. So called “historic” buildings brought to court. The design of the Westside Gateway is simply fabulous and a continuum of history in the 21st century. I love history and historic building when they are truly worthy of historical preservation.

mattymatt
8 years ago

Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

JJ
JJ
8 years ago

Save WeHo & Blue Eyed Boy – right on!!!!

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