Major Santa Monica Boulevard Project Gets Another Design Review

The Santa Monica Boulevard facade of 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. (DFH Architects)
The Santa Monica Boulevard facade of 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. (DFH Architects)

The Design Review Subcommittee of the West Hollywood Planning Commission will review the design of two major new developments and one smaller one at its meeting next week.

The largest is a five-story building with 109 apartments and 22,000 square feet of retail space on Santa Monica Boulevard and West Knoll Drive. It would extend from the east side of the Ramada Inn to West Knoll Drive, with a portion of it extending up West Knoll and replacing an existing single-family home.  It will have 336 parking spaces, an increase of 83 space from earlier plans.

The top floor is set back on the Santa Monica facing portion of the building, reducing its perceived bulk. The retail space on that side now houses a number of small businesses such as Collar & Leash, West Knoll Pharmacy, Box Brothers, Max Muscle and the Framing Gallery.

East facing facade on West Knoll of 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. building. (DHF Architects)
East facing facade on West Knoll of 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. building. (DFH Architects)

Twelve of the apartment units are “live-work” spaces, an increase of two from earlier plans, which means they are designed to accommodate people who work from home. Twenty-two of the apartments are “affordable” units, set aside for people who meet certain low- and moderate-income standards. The apartment building lobby opens on West Knoll. It would extend into two lots north of Santa Monica that now house single family homes.  That portion of the building is three stories tall.

The development is a project of Soto Capital LP, one of several companies owned by Behnam Soroudi, who also has extensive real estate interests through his Ruby Group, Harper Enterprises and other companies. The Soroudi family is a major donor to the campaigns of West Hollywood City Council members, with four of its members donating $2,000 to the 2011 election campaigns of Lindsey Horvath, John Heilman and Abbe Land and $1,500 to John D’Amico. In the 2013 council race, they donated $2,500 to John Duran and $1,000 to Jeffrey Prang. The architect is DFH Architects.

Stephanie Reich, the city’s urban designer, praised the design for the way it changes slightly on the West Knoll side, making it more compatible with nearby residential buildings. “The building geometry shifts to address the street as it curves up West Knoll Drive,” Reich said. “The front setback is landscaped with flowering trees and a variety of low planting. Entries to each of the five ground floor units are provided from the sidewalk, similar to elsewhere along the street. The landscaped setbacks, pedestrian entries and transparent ground floor all provide a residential sensibility that is welcoming and pedestrian-friendly.”

It first came before the Design Review Subcommittee in Sept. 2012 and was reviewed again in June 2014 and January 2015. Among the changes in the latest iteration is further expansion up West Knoll of the apartment building to cover two lots. Reich noted that the current proposed design addresses an earlier subcommittee concern, with the second floor of the building now pulled back 15 feet from the Ramada Inn building on its west side, giving it some “breathing room. Reich also noted that the development will likely score 90 points on the “Green Building Point System Checklist,” indicating that it is very environmentally friendly.

A proposed building at 8597 Sunset Blvd.
A proposed building at 8497 Sunset Blvd. (Hodgetts & Fung Architects)

The other major project on the subcommittee’s agenda is an office building on 8497 Sunset Blvd., directly north of Sunset’s intersection with La Cienega Boulevard. What is proposed is a three-story, 24,000-square-foot building with almost 10,000 square feet devoted to a restaurant and more than 11,000 square feet used for office space. There would be 148 underground parking spaces. The architect is Hodgetts & Fung and the development is a project of United Property Management Services.

The restaurant would occupy the first two floors of the Sunset-facing facade of the building. The office space would be behind that, making the building appear to rise in height. The ground floor is designed to offer an outdoor dining area.

In her analysis, Reich describes the project as “simple yet dynamic, with an innovative three-dimensional approach. The restaurant at the ground floor with outdoor dining will create a lively street front. The sophisticated and integrated approach to materials, lighting, landscaping and signage indicates a thoughtful, holistic architectural expression.”

Reich suggested that signs on the building should be as transparent as possible and that blank areas on the west and east sides of the building should be better integrated into the design. She also recommended that the developer coordinate with the city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs staff to integrate art into the project.

Ilustration of proposed development at 1011 Ogden Drive, (architect Robert Abramson)
Illustration of proposed development at 1011 Ogden Drive, (architect Robert Abrahams)

A five-unit townhouse building proposed for 1011 Ogden Drive got a less positive review from Reich. The developer, Moshe Schnapp’s American Realty Group, is proposing a three-story building. The architect is Robert Abrahams.

In her report to the Design Review Subcommittee, Reich notes that the block on Ogden just north of Romaine Street contains a number of two-story buildings built in the 1960s and ’70s along with a two-story apartment building to the south of the 1011 lot.

“The project design is straightforward, identifying each townhouse and providing a repetition of forms along the length of the project,” Reich said in her evaluation. But “while the project mass and scale is appropriate, it does not provide a clear concept, window locations and proportions appear utilitarian and other elements create an unresolved design.”

“The building is set back more than 25 feet with a raised planter that fully occupies the front yard,” Reich’s evaluation notes. “There is a variety of planting and two canopy trees in the planter. However, the raised planter separates the building from the street in a way that differs from the development pattern and from the recently approved projects on this block of Ogden, which provide a greater sense of openness to the street. The sides and rear have minimal landscaping. Recommend landscape buffer be provided at the sides and rear and additional landscaping at the rear and wherever possible.”

The Design Review Subcommittee will meet at 5:30 p.m. at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 in Room 5 of the Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. at Martell.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  An earlier version of this story, relying on a report to the Design Review Subcommittee, misstated the number of apartment units in the 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. building. The story has been corrected.

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Roslyn Lothridge
4 years ago

Traffic problem on Santa Monica Blvd. will definitely be solved with the two large developments in the works, Santa Monica/Westbourne. Since traffic on SM Blvd is bumper to bumper…cars will not be able to be on SM…..consequently traffic is solved.
Brilliant council members we have.

J Simmons
J Simmons
4 years ago

FIRST – BY PUBLISHING ONE ARTICLE FOR SEVERAL MAJOR PROJECTS IS MAKING IT AN INCOHERENT MESS OF OPINIONS BEING EXPRESSED. I’VE NEVER SEEN WEHOVILLE SHY AWAY FROM ENDLESS NON NEWS “ARTICLES” IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY VOICE TO BE HEARD WHEN EACH PERSON IS FOCUSSED ON THEIR BIGGEST PROJECT ISSUE. IT FEELS AS IF CITY HALL “ENCOURAGED” THIS JUMBLE OF SEPARATE AND SERIOUS TO THE READER INTO A HEAP, IMPOSSIBLE TO FORM ANY TYPE OF POSSIBLE CONSENSUS OF THE CONCERNED WEHO RESIDENYS. WAIT!!! I JUST MADE THE SAME POINT ON THE LATEST THREE PROJECTS, ALL IN ONE ARTICLE. WHERE IS… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
4 years ago

The West Knoll site would be a great place to try something new…like encouraging residents NOT to own a car. What would happen if we told the developer NOT to build all those parking spaces for the residents, cutting the number from that ridiculous 336 spaces down to only what is required for the commercial space (I’m guess-timating a reduction of about 200 previously designated for 109 units). In place of those 200 spots we’d put 22 spaces (10 spaces dedicated for carshare vehicles, 4 disabled parking spots (or whatever code requires), and 6 for visitor parking (divided into 30… Read more »

Development Woes
Development Woes
4 years ago

Thank you J Simmons. An example of how the rezoning is now creeping around corners of main boulevards to encroach upon residential neighborhoods. At this rate single family urban homes will be put on the list of endangered species.

Also troubling is the self serving nature of some architects that give “community service” by sitting on a commission in order to be in #1 position to line up future projects. Especially troubling when the purported expertise is flipped and the projects represent a disharmony with the neighborhood. Harsh!

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
4 years ago

And like I’ve said before…if we as a community want design guidelines for how we want the blvds to look…then that’s what we need to focus on now from any future developments. Create a style architectural guide to create a cohesive look. Until we do that…anyone can build any ugly looking thing they want. Pasadena has guidelines. Santa Barbara has guidelines in the core of their cities.

So its up to us. If not…then its the decision of the current architecture approval person at Weho City Hall.

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
4 years ago

@WehoMikey — By empty lots I mean the empty lot (or parking lot) between Ramada Inn and the Pet store and the entire parking area behind the other old building going towards West Knoll which is quite sizeable. I’m not sure what you’re talking about multiple homes or apts being torn down. All I can see (and from the article) is one home in the back adjacent to the parking lot being torn down. Yes…this is a commercial area. Its on SM Blvd! Thats considered commercial. Thats why the entire ground level will be shops. I know the older stores… Read more »

J Simmons
J Simmons
4 years ago
Reply to  SaveWeho

Just factually, yes the first home next to the rear retail parking was rezoned fairly recently (after the major 25 year plan leading to 2011major Rezoning of all of weho (supposedly because of and goo enough to last at least for the next 25 years for wehos long and alleged properly thorough). I know of one more house us now rezonrd and I think 00%confident I recall) a third one (yhat referring to single family homes on the south side of the 8500 block of westknoll dr.) However if it is in fact now 3, that leaves only 1 single… Read more »

Kaycee
Kaycee
4 years ago

Well, now we know how SoCal will crack off and slide into the Pacific as predicted for so many years- the sheer weight of too many high density monstrosities being built on small land plots. Seriously, though, while I understand that development is sometimes necessary and even positive, it needs to be managed properly and with some semblance of architectural integrity. These development projects really are a case of too many, too soon-and apparently with little thought given to the negative impact on the quality of life for current residents, particularly the seniors and disabled who are being displaced. The… Read more »

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
4 years ago

SaveWeHo – “Its been an empty lot for decades.” Do you have your head up your tuchis? That property has been occupied by operating businesses for many decades, and indeed continues to be occupied by operating businesses. As for your suggestion that it’s “a commercial area”, that’s quite misleading. Single-family homes are proposed to be replaced by this multi-story monstrosity. From maybe 6 residents to 109 apartments, many of which will be occupied by multiple individuals? We can surely park all the cars, but how do they get in and out? How do they get up and down Santa Monica… Read more »

Developement Woes
Developement Woes
4 years ago

Often most sites ripe for redevelopment contain a structure of value. If not potentially one that rises to landmark status most certainly one with design integrity built in a previous era. It should be incumbent upon developers to determine that ingredient and use it as a catalyst. While it may push the envelope for the architect, it will provide continuity in the architectrural dialogue. Erasing a site imight seem the cheap way to go in the short run but architects and developers have an opportunity and responsibility to preserve the context of a built community and preserve a sense of… Read more »

Todd Bianco
4 years ago

It seems to me that, based on the artist’s rendering, the La Cienega & Miller Dr. building is there simply as a billboard. Sort of like the horrible new Borg cube condos on Sunset with no outdoor balconies and limited use of windows on what should be a building wrapped in glass for the views. Does anyone want to live in front of those two gigantic vertical triangular billboards facing Sunset? I suppose you can scoop up one of those for only $1 million. Let’s drop the charade about office & restaurant space and just put up a huge billboard.… Read more »

Development Woes
Development Woes
4 years ago

Ramada would be wise to utilize Ric Abramson…

Development Woes
Development Woes
4 years ago

Good thoughts J Simmons. While we are On the topic of this section of Santa Monica Blvd. the Ramada could use a face lift. Radioson would be wise to utilize Ric Abramson who advocated against the intrusion of the new project, to revitalize their building. It is a giant hulk of faux postmodern nothingness. A good example of “Trendy Never Survives”, it only has a shelf life enough to replenish the expedient developer.

J Simmons
J Simmons
4 years ago

THANK YOU!!!!! YOU INDEPENDENTLY REPLIED WITH THE EXAMPLE I LEFT OUT. YES!!## WE DON’T WANT ANOTHER RAMADA THAT WHEN BUILT, WAS “THE IT STYLE OF THE 80’s. It could use a facelift, but no property owner would put that kind of money for a facelift. I am officially old. I remember not only the pony rides, but the huge excitement felt about the day THE BEVERLY CENTER WOULD LET US IN FOR THE PROMISED NEW MALL OF THE FUTURE. Bev Center has tried many facelifts, but it’s a monolith. The grove (to me was always the dirty disgusting rat/human TRAP… Read more »

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