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the lack of a section discussing land use and impact, standard in EIRs, and the inclusion of a traffic study based on out of date information.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.