West Hollywood’s Planning Commission welcomed two new members, Lynn Hoopingarner and Rogerio Cavalheiro, on Thursday night while also taking steps to insure outdoor rooftop dining and lounge areas get greater public input before receiving approval.
In a unanimous decision, the Commission voted that all requests for outdoor dining and lounge areas on a building’s second floor or above must go before the full Planning Commission for approval. Previously, city staffers or the city community development director could approve outdoor rooftop dining under some circumstances.
The move came at the request of the City Council in response to the growing popularity of outdoor rooftop dining and lounge areas in the city. The popular restaurant EP & LP, on the roof of the building on the northwest corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Melrose Avenue, opened in spring 2015, while the celebrity hotspot Catch restaurant, on the roof of the building on the northwest corner of Melrose and San Vicente Boulevard, opened in September 2016. In March, the City Council approved a rooftop lounge at Palihouse hotel on 8465 Holloway Drive, at Hacienda Place.
The unusual way Catch restaurant came into being left many residents outraged and led, in part, to this change in policy. The building, owned by developer Jason Illoulian’s Faring Capital, was approved as a showroom only. When the building was almost completed, Faring representatives applied to add a restaurant on the roof. That request was approved by city staffers over the counter without any notice provided to residents and without Planning Commission review.
Since Catch opened for business eight months ago, it has developed a reputation for attracting Hollywood A-listers, but also has gotten many noise complaints from nearby neighbors who are especially angry that they had no input into whether the restaurant should be allowed or not, but now must put up with noise coming from that rooftop. In recent months, public meetings have been held regarding noise from Catch and the restaurant has taken steps to minimize the noise.
During the public comment period on Thursday, several people spoke against the outdoor rooftop dining item. Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, argued that the extra paperwork and high fees would hurt small businesses.
Similarly, Josh Zad, owner of Alfred Coffee on Melrose Place, urged the Commission not to add to the red tape involved in opening a business in the city.
“It’s nice to promote more outdoor spaces to promote this wonderful weather we have,” Zad said.
Meanwhile, residents Susana Lagudis and Richard Giesbret, president of the West Hollywood West Residents Association, spoke in favor of the item, saying greater public input was needed. Giesbret suggested that noise and light impact of rooftop dining areas needed closer examination. The Commission agreed and added that “noise, light trespass and other public impacts” should be a consideration in approval of outdoor rooftop dining.
Ground-level outdoor dining facilities are not affected by this change to the zoning code, which requires City Council approval before becoming final.
Swearing In New Members
Mayor Lauren Meister was on hand to swear in her new planning commissioner, Lynn Hoopingarner. A neighborhood activist who has lived in West Hollywood for almost 30 years, Hoopingarner runs a management consulting business, frequently working with clients who build large construction projects. She replaces Sheila Lightfoot, who resigned after two years, saying, “it’s someone else’s turn.”
Councilmember John Duran was also on hand to swear in his new planning commissioner, Rogerio Cavalheiro. The principal architect with the Los Angeles-based RCDF Studio, Cavalheiro is a longtime resident who has previously served on the Public Facilities Commission and the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission. He replaces Roy Huebner who served for six years, but resigned in December when he also retired from his job at the Culver City-based Wolcott Architecture Interiors.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Cavalheiro told his new colleagues. “My background is design intensive, and I’m really interested how design impacts [zoning] code, how code impacts design and how both of them impact the urban environment.”
Meanwhile, Hoopingarner made it clear that her years as a neighborhood activist will guide her work on the commission.
“I love our village, and I want to do everything I can to keep it strong and vibrant and anything I can do to help that is my personal goal,” Hoopingarner said. “I’m very much interested in how we contribute in terms of our parks and landscapes and how that impacts all of the things that come to our commission.”
The commissioners also paid tribute to Lightfoot, calling her a “wonderful person,” “well prepared” and “insightful.”
“Sheila always put in the work,” noted Commissioner Stacey Jones.
Commission Sue Buckner said she enjoyed the fact that Lightfoot brought a different perspective to planning issues. “Her vision and viewpoint was something that made us look at things in a different way, and I really appreciated that very much,” Buckner said.
Meanwhile, Hoopingarner admitted she is nervous about taking Lightfoot’s seat.
“I am especially trepidatious about stepping into Sheila’s very, very, very well tread and capable shoes,” Hoopingarner said. “I’m going to do my very best to try and catch up quickly.”
Back to the drawing board
The Commission also agreed to let a proposed five-story, retail-residential project on Beverly Boulevard and Sherbourne Drive, near the old Jerry’s Famous Deli building, go back to the drawing board for redesign. At its April 6 meeting, the Commission rejected the project at 8713 Beverly Blvd. Boulevard and 321-327 Sherbourne Drive, saying it was incompatible with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Designed by architect Lorcan O’Herlihy, the project is being developed by Arash Danialifar. The project will return to the Commission’s design review subcommittee for feedback before coming back to the Commission for approval sometime in the coming months.