The West Hollywood City Council tonight was unable to reach a decision on whether or not to approve a controversial project at 8899 Beverly Blvd.
In an “on the one hand this, on the other hand that” discussion, Council members went back and forth about whether converting the 52-year-old office building into condos with 14 units of low-income housing justified letting the developer nearly double its size, which already is larger than permitted by the city’s zoning ordinance for the area.
One factor weighed by Council members was a last-minute bonus package that the developer, Beverly Blvd. Associates, put forward late on Friday. That package included an offer to build a small park on Bonner Drive near the intersection of Robertson and Beverly boulevards, valued at $1 million; upping by $250,000 a previous offer of $1.75 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund; spending $250,000 on landscaping along Beverly Boulevard and Rosewood Avenue at the rear of the project; a donation of $100,000 to the city’s Urban Arts Project, and an expenditure of $3 million to subsidize the owners of Madeo Restaurant and its employees while it is closed for the building’s renovation.
John Duran was the only Council member who unabashedly supported the proposal. Duran argued that the so-called “adaptive reuse” of the building was important to protect it from possible earthquake damage, remove asbestos and make it more environmentally friendly. Duran also said that he saw the existing building as an “eyesore.” Councilmember Jeffrey Prang said converting the office building into a residential building would provide a protective buffer for residents of the neighborhood of single-family homes to its north, many of whom opposed the project.
Councilmember Abbe Land said she believes the building needs to be “brought into the 21st Century” and that she liked the developer’s proposal to include both condos and retail space and retain Madeo Restaurant in the building. But she said she was concerned that an alternative proposal by the developer would reduce the number of low-income apartments from 14 to 10. That would be accomplished by eliminating a building the developer had proposed on Rosewood Avenue to house a pool and low-income apartments.
Land also said she didn’t believe that all of the last minute benefits offered by Beverly Blvd. Associates were necessarily of benefit to the public. “I’m troubled about what looks like a lot of self-serving public benefits than real public benefits,” she said. And Land asked whether the project could be reduced in size. “I’m not sure that it needs to be as big as it is,” she said.
That concern was echoed by Councilmember John Heilman. “Is the increase in density justified by the benefits that we get from the project?” Heilman asked, calling out proposed large additions to the north, east and west sides of the existing 10-story building. He cited some of the benefits of the project as additional low-income housing and a donation to the city’s housing trust fund. Heilman said converting the building from office use to residential use also would reduce traffic in the area.
Mayor John D’Amico initially said he supported a recommendation by the city’s Community Development staff and the Planning Commission to deny the developer’s request for an exception to the zoning ordinance and to the city’s General Plan. But D’Amico said he thought the city’s staff should be asked to analyze the additional benefits offered by the developer.
The Council voted unanimously to ask city staffers to discuss with the developer the possibility of reducing the size of the building and the size of units and to provide an analysis of public benefit. The Council then will reconsider the project when that analysis is done.
FYI – The current building is unattractive and outdated. The planned building is an improvement for the neighborhood and West Hollywood. Los Angeles needs more housing! Why does everyone fight urban growth? Los Angeles will continue to change and grow. We need to begin embracing new construction and renovation!
I’ll make it real easy for everyone. If it comes to a request from a developer, just say “no.” The current destruction of West Hollywood to please the coffers of developers is just an OUTRAGE. No matter what the thorough-fare, if it’s in West Hollywood, chances are, there’s a massive development project going on within a few blocks of where you live. It’s disgusting, and WITHOUT EXCEPTION, I am working to unseat EVERY single current city council member, and supporting ONLY those who sincerely seek to limit development. That is…if there’s anything LEFT to redevelop after this disgusting city-council gets… Read more »
I don’t understand how increasing the size of an existing building solves the problems currently caused by that building. It’s an over scaled structure that creates major traffic problems on Beverly Boulevard. Two times bad equals good? I don’t understand how a building whose major current benefit is that is primarily used in the daytime can improve a residential neighborhood with conversion to twenty four hour use. This would allow for noisy activities well into the night blasting from high above the quiet residences to the north – witness weho’s recent problem on fountain and sweetzer controlling a noted entertainment… Read more »
I’m not sure I would consider this buffer a “park”…but it obviously was put there when this building was built decades ago and the other homes torn down. No doubt it was so the neighborhood maintained that quiet feeling in addition to the large trees to shield it from the looming tower. So why the City of West Hollywood feels this extra bit of land is so precious for this new developer is purely financial for the developer and probably backhanded money or campaign financing for city council. Regardless, this should be left alone. If this developer wants to remodel… Read more »
It’s come to my attention that the City of West Hollywood is indeed the owner of the strip of land that is facing Rosewood Ave. This strip of land seems to be the basis of their calculations of allowed development for the project. I’ve heard this strip was deeded to the City for “expansion of Rosewood Ave” which of course will never happen. Previously, all I heard was the developer owned this strip although I have personally seen the City do all the upkeep and maintenance of the property. I’ve also heard that recently, the developer has been billed or… Read more »
this decision or lack there of, is code for, we haven’t been able to really understand just how angry the residents would get if we approve this development.
they are passing the buck because they are weak and feckless, and unwilling to take a stand and be accountable. sad.
I’d really love to know why we keep reelecting these city council members. We really are the ones to blame. We need to start a campaign against every one of these members, what they voted for/against and their lack of knowledge or community interaction. I don’t think voters have the time or patience to really read what they do. WE NEED TO INFORM THEM. And btw…the only real bribe that would have me thinking is if this developer pays for an entire overhaul of West Hollywood’s city streets including crosswalk traffic stoplights, lighting, safety, traffic light syncing and a light… Read more »
Finally a picture of a back balcony shows up. Just what we need is another Baby Dangle scandal. How about a scale drawing of what it will look like from the neighborhood behind it ? It is so sad to see developers and the city attempt to spin these projects. They must all think we are dumb !! Oh and they say “planting of mature trees” ? I was a landscape design build contractor for over 25 years and a 24″-36″ box is not a mature tree. A 128″ box tree is mature. I know I have planted 100’s of… Read more »
After spending 5 plus hours watching our leaders last night each time I understand a little better their inabilty to make the right choices for us as a whole. Watching Duran attempt to spin a for decision after not being able to tell where a wall is on a plan, or Prang flip his support only after there was not enough votes to approve, and who knows whats coming out of Lands mouth besides her weeks topic but poop. Then at the end the city manager try to convince them to make a few changes and move it forward. What… Read more »
What a tiring and vexing decision. Equivocation and waffling at its best. What public benefit? The biggest part of this “benefits” (please stop calling it a bribe, it sounds bad) package was the money allocated to renovate their own building’s restaurant space and keep the (apparently successful) restaurant from moving elsewhere. If that isn’t self-serving, what is? The right answer was to reject the project, as staff and the Planning Commission recommended. Then let the developer come back to the PC with a project that can be approved. There is nothing to save here and every reason to reject the… Read more »
This is a terrible precedent the council is setting. But it’s not surprising. I wish for once one of these 5 bozos would grow a pair and take a stand against these runaway developers, all of whom have contributed quite nicely to the councilmember campaigns, Prang’s for County (Ass)essor and Duran’s MAJOR FAILED bid for Supervisor, as if. Didn’t dummico run on the campaign promise of being tough on developers? What BS we were fed. Whats most interesting is that while we the RESIDENTS and TAXPAYERS of this city continue to get the doors shut in our face and our… Read more »