Planning Commission Unanimous in Supporting La Brea Hotel Project

Illustration of hotel proposed for La Brea Avenue just south of Santa Monica Boulevard (NMDA Architects)

With a unanimous vote on Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved a new luxury hotel on La Brea Avenue, just south of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Located at 1040 La Brea Ave., the hotel will be 100 feet tall and have nine floors for a total of 67,000 square feet on a half-acre site. It will have 85 hotel rooms plus another eight residential apartment units, as well as a ground-floor restaurant and a bar/lounge on the top floor with views of the Hollywood Hills. It will also have four levels of parking (one subterranean, three above ground), plus a large outdoor pool and meeting rooms on the fifth floor.

Architect Neil Denari of the Los Angeles-based NMDA Architects said he hoped the high-rise building would become a landmark for the city’s Eastside. The building’s exterior “skin” will be a metallic silvery grey that changes color slightly as sunlight reflects off it from various angles throughout the day.

The Planning Commissioners loved the project, Commissioner John Altschul calling it “extraordinary” and “exceptional architecture.” Commissioner Adam Bass deemed it a “remarkable project” that will invigorate the Eastside.

In fact, the commissioners were so impressed with the project, they added a requirement that any further changes to the building’s exterior must be approved by the Commission’s Design Review subcommittee, rather than by city staffers.

While that requirement may seem severe given that city staffers okay small changes to projects “over the counter” all the time, this project is being developed by the CIM Group, which also developed the Sunset-La Cienega project on the southern side of Sunset Boulevard at La Cienega Boulevard.

That massive retail-residential-hotel project went through so many small changes over the 16 years it was in development that by the time it was finally built, it looked nothing like what the Planning Commission had originally approved. Thus, by adding this requirement for the La Brea hotel, the commissioners want to assure that what they approved is what gets built.

Clyde Wood, vice president of development for the CIM Group, had no problem with that requirement.

“We’re flattered with that condition because it means they love the design and they don’t want it changed,” Wood told WEHOville after the meeting. “We certainly would not put forth a design that we would have any intention of changing. We feel strongly that we support the design integrity that Neil Denari has come up with and we have every intention of following through.”

During the public comment period, Alexander Bazley, the general manager of the WeHo Gateway shopping complex (home of the Target store) directly across the street, praised the project saying it would be a good addition to the area. Meanwhile, resident Richard Maggio, who lives a block away, called it “outstanding” and “beautifully designed.” Maggio liked that it had residential units as well as the hotel rooms, adding that he wished it was even taller so it could provide even more residential units for the city.


Rendering of proposed building at 926 Hilldale Ave. (Richard Abramson Architect)

Hilldale Mews

On a 5-1 vote, the commission also approved a residential project by architect Ric Abramson on Hilldale Avenue, just north of Cynthia Street, in the Norma Triangle neighborhood.

Replacing a single-family home at 926 Hilldale, the project, named Hilldale Mews, will have three buildings, each with a two-story townhouse. Each townhouse will have ground-level parking plus a private garden area.

Abramson’s design is innovative because it has three separate building on the small lot rather than one single building. Also unusual, it achieves its parking requirements without digging a subterranean parking garage. As a result, each unit’s garden area will be planted in the earth, rather than dirt on top of the concrete slab of the underground garage.

The commissioners loved Abramson’s design, Commissioner John Altschul calling it “the definition of exemplary architecture.” Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner called it “extraordinary beautiful,” praising the energy efficient design and use of sustainable materials.

“From an environmentally sustainable perspective, I think this, frankly, should be used as a how-to example for all the projects that come to our city,” said Hoopingarner.

Commissioner Stacey Jones agreed, saying “This really does set a standard for what we want in the city.”

Even though Commissioner Adam Bass also liked the design, calling it “exceptional,” he cast the only vote against the project. His No vote was because it was requesting a variance to the front setback (distance from the property line to the front of the building). The city’s zoning codes requires the front setback be the average to the two adjacent buildings, which in this case would be 18.75 feet. However, Abramson’s design calls for an 11-foot setback, thus necessitating the variance.

The city’s zoning code also says a variance can only be granted in extraordinary circumstances and Bass, who believes in a strict interpretation of the zoning code, felt this did not quite meet the level of an extraordinary condition.

After the meeting, Abramson told WEHOville he was happy the Commission liked his design.

“It’s very gratifying that the Commission is open to innovative ideas and recognizes when there are other possibilities for the future of the city that can really lead to some positive outcomes,” Abramson said. “I think this tonight showed a certain open mindedness about possible futures for housing in the city.”

Abramson reported he’s been wanting to try this three-separate-buildings-on-the-property model for a while, but had to wait for a developer who was open to the idea.

“It does set up a model for a way of thinking about how we can integrate the density, but also still be sensitive to the environment and climate and goals of the city and some of our other environmental considerations,” he said.

The property is owned by the McIntosh Trust, with Robin and Susan Kim listed as the trustees.

Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro was absent.

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Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
4 years ago

Not opposed, but can’t get excited over this. If we’re going to allow more hotel rooms, we should incentivize moderate priced rooms that visiting family members can afford that are closer to the $100/night range than the $250+/night range. The Chamber has been asking for years for banquet/event space to be included in one of these places and the WeHo Convention & Visitors Bureau changed it’s name years ago to remove the “convention” from its name because we have no such space. New hotels that compete with our existing hotels keep getting approved without offering the City anything to meet… Read more »

J Simmons
J Simmons
4 years ago

I am SHOCKED!! THEY APPROVED IT. Oh wait, I forgot, all of my comments during the “for show faux resident input” was going to result in the project being built with no thought or care about resident input.

4 years ago

Altschul thinks everything is “exceptional”. Does the Planning Commission ever turn anything down? It seems they are determined to “upscale” the East Side until all lower income people are gone. It really stinks.

There is no need for a hotel on the East Side and you know as well as I do the residential units in this project will be of ridiculously high rent that nobody can afford and will end up as “corporate housing”, which is short-term and is illegal. Who wants to live in a hotel?

4 years ago

Nice design. And mike leave the hookers alone. It’s a living. And it’s no where near what it used to be due to the Internet. It’s a nice addition to the area, which will improve that stretch of SMB. It’s small enough to be like a boutique style hotel but large enough too.

Todd Bianco
4 years ago

I must be missing something with this hotel. First, the location doesn’t scream “luxury hotel” to me. This is extraordinary, exceptional and remarkable? The shimmering “skin” will probably get dull pretty quickly. That intersection is always jammed and the little alley to the north that goes to Sycamore won’t be good for hotel traffic. Only one vehicle at a time can squeeze through. Construction traffic will be a nightmare. I’m also disappointed that my mechanic will likely have to take his business out of the city. Where? Who knows. It’s not like there many gritty, industrial areas left in WeHo.… Read more »

4 years ago
Reply to  Todd Bianco

Well, now you know what it feels like to be inconvenienced by growth. We gain and we lose. Join the club. I lost my view when the city approved a condo within a stone’s throw from my balcony. I’ve learned to deal with it. It’s growth. I think developers should compensate their neighbors (directly next door) for the noise, dust, loss, etc. that goes on for years. The hotel is fine. This is gentrification. Enjoy. And there will be good things that come from it, but painful during the process.

4 years ago

SMB and La Brea is one of the trashiest intersections in L.A./West Hollywood. Transients and Hooker trannies permeate that area. And it has been dodgy for the over 40 years that I have passed through on my way to work. A hotel? Really?

4 years ago

re: La Brea hotel, great addition to the neighborhood but still bummed they couldn’t have taken over the Avon Rental lot on the corner.

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