Residents and Planning Commissioners alike gave a blistering rebuke to the draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed Bond Hotel project, the large hotel-residential complex proposed for Santa Monica Boulevard at Orange Grove Avenue, during Thursday night’s meeting of the West Hollywood Planning Commission.
The meeting was only intended to provide feedback for areas in the 2,575-page draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that need improvement before the final EIR is turned in. However, this report, prepared by Dudek, an environmental planning and engineering consulting firm, seemed especially weak as far as draft EIRs go.
Problems noted repeatedly were the lack of a section discussing land use and impact, standard in EIRs, and the inclusion of a traffic study based on out of date information. Several people pointed out the construction mitigation plans seemed underdeveloped. Among the minor problems were incorrect street names in several places (Fairview instead of Fairfax, Ogden Grove instead of Orange Grove).
“This EIR has a lot of deficiencies and omissions,” commented Commissioner John Altschul. “We went through a long period of time, several years, without having these comment periods on the draft EIRs and I think [the feedback from this meeting] shows how important it is.”
The Bond Hotel, being developed by the West Hollywood-based Faring development company, is a six-story project with 214,483 square feet of total space. As the only hotel in that part of town, it will feature 86 hotel rooms plus a restaurant and art gallery. The project will also have 70 residential units, 11 of which will be set aside for moderate or very-low income residents.
Featuring a 175-space underground parking garage, the project will replace the Brick Fitness gym and adjacent surface parking lot at 7811 Santa Monica Boulevard. Additionally, the project will also replace the 45-space city-operated surface parking lot on Orange Grove Avenue and a seven-unit apartment building on Ogden Drive.
Overall, residents felt the project was far too large for such a small lot, even if it is tying three lots together.
“This is 150 pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack,” commented resident Cathy Blaivas.
At six stories (71.5 feet tall), many felt the project would dwarf the neighborhood, which consists primarily of one- and two-story buildings. Several people said the renderings of how the project will fit into the neighborhood were deceptive as the building depicted in some drawings was only five stories tall.
Also troubling to some was the lack of any public benefit for the neighborhood. Several people said it should at least include some sort of public plaza the residents can use.
“It does nothing to create sense of community by walling itself off from the rest of the neighborhood and surrounding itself with driveways,” said area resident Jenny Kriendler.
Tying the commercial and residential lots together into one project is allowed under current city law. (However, the City Council will review its policy about such lot spanning at its Monday meeting, but anything decided at that meeting will not affect this project).
Residents and commissioners alike were quick to point out the current law only permits commercial-residential lot spanning for projects of 60,000 square feet or more of land. The Bond project only covers 40,000 square feet of land, thereby making it ineligible for certain zoning concessions that are needed to make the project, as currently proposed, feasible.
“Because the Bond Hotel project requires so much maneuvering of the zoning code and encroachment on our neighborhood to achieve its Machiavellian ends, it is not deserving of our approval or that of the Planning Commission,” said area resident Mike Carter, who has spearheaded neighborhood opposition to the project.
Area residents also quickly pointed out the data used for the traffic impact study is several years old. The city reconfigured the crosswalk and median on Santa Monica Boulevard between Ogden and Orange Grove over a year ago.
“The traffic study is malfeasant. It is bad,” said Commissioner John Erickson, one of several commissioners saying the traffic study will have to be completely redone.
Residents noted that street parking is already tight in the area and will only worsen with this project, as will traffic on the residential streets.
Resident Laura Bocaletti worried about noise from the project disrupting the area. She said noise from the rooftop pool, which could potentially operate 24 hours a day, would spread far into the neighborhood. She also pointed out current plans call for a loading dock to be located directly beside residential buildings.
Commissioner Adam Bass pointed out the six-story building will surround two sides of a single-story bungalow court on Ogden Drive, while Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner suggested the project would block the ocean breeze which helps cool those old apartments.
Of the 16 people speaking during public comment, only two supported the project. Area resident Rob Bergstein said a hotel on the Eastside is much needed and the new residential units, especially the “affordable units,” are also welcomed.
Andrew Rakos, who lives on Ogden and is an official with the Fountain Day School, located at 1128 N. Orange Grove directly behind the project, said he supported the project. Nonetheless, he still had concerns about how such a project would impact the preschool which has 150 students. He worried how noise from the project might disrupt the children’s nap time, as well as how the air quality might be affected during construction.
Similarly, Rakos noted Los Angeles County Social Services Department requires a parent sign a child in and out of school if the child is under five years old. With the loss of the city-run parking lot on Orange Grove, he wondered where parents would park and how that lack of parking would affect the 64-year-old business.
I’ll stick to the “design”. Could it be any more ugly?
the area doesn’t need another hotel.
Faring has been very responsive to community concerns (ie…The French Market and Studio One). I believe that Faring will listen to the community and act accordingly.
Nice interactions and listening from Faring doesn’t mean nice outcomes…. their agenda is immensely different than the community and neighborhood who surrounds this site. Hopefully they heard us more loud and clearly at the meeting as we have been giving them the same message from the very beginning.
Thank you Mr. Mills for such a heavy-hitting synopsis of last night! It is so easy to feel defeated by developers, especially this one, but the feeling of empowerment that our Planning Commissioners brought to the table for us residents last night over shadows that defeated feeling ten fold. To finally feel heard and that my opinion mattered against this incredibly offensive project is a testament to how grassroots efforts can make a difference.
We are grateful for this summary of the Planning Commission Hearing on The Bond Hotel/Residence Project at 7811 SMB. As Neighborhood Watch Captains, we have spoken to hundreds of our neighbors. Every single one we spoke to expressed frustration with overdevelopment in West Hollywood. Many feel resigned to the fact that developers will do as they please and that we as residents are powerless to influence development in our City. What went down last night in City Hall Chambers and this summary of events is testament to the fact that YES WE CAN influence development in our City IF WE… Read more »
This is a tremendous and favorable outcome at the hearing regarding the Bond Hotel/Residence Project. I am a resident of West Hollywood and have been for over 17 years and am happy that this project is not going ahead – we have a special place here in West Hollywood and would like to keep it that way and in every way. Thank you for everyone who participated in rejecting this project.
Unfortunately, they have not rejected the project, they have just rejected the draft EIR. The developer will just do it over and I bet dollars to donuts, it will get approved somewhere down the line. Do not celebrate yet… People have to keep the pressure on the Planning Commission when it comes up next time and the next time. We cannot let this project ever get built in this neighborhood!
There are two major enemies of the citizens of West Hollywood. Developers and the politicians who take money from them. The indictment of Ed Buck by the Federal Grand Jury moves his case away from the local corrupt WEHO Sheriff and the Los Angeles D.A.. It’s now in federal hands. Since John Doran was Ed Buck’s attorney and he has over $100,000 in Federal Tax Liens, the FBI will start snooping around the ex-Mayor. A big West Hollywood developer who backed John D’Amico is facing Federal charges and the possibility of a 10 year prison term for bribing political officials.… Read more »
We still have a long way to go Loretta… this was essentially having the first chance to say what revisions needed to be made on a first paper that needed to be graded… there will now probably be quite a few drafts of this project moving forward before it is voted on. Without voices like yours continuing to speak up in this process, this developer could get away with things that would be completely intolerable for us residents. The official fight for our neighborhood has now just begun.