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.
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.
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.
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.