Despite neighborhood opposition, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission unanimously approved plans to demolish the Chevron service station building on the northwest corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Holloway Drive and construct a new building that includes a 24-hour convenience store and car wash.
The property will continue to operate as a gas station with the existing gas pumps and canopy remaining, but the automobile service bays will be eliminated.
The loss of those service bays was what residents were most opposed to. The auto service bays, the only ones in the vicinity, are a favorite of residents to drop their cars off for a tune up, an oil change, tire rotation or smog check.
“How do they think eliminating the smog check and auto service would benefit the community?” asked resident Carolyn Campbell who lives nearby.
However, Steven Jamison, speaking for Ben Pouldar, who has owned the station for the past 13 years, said the auto service bays were no longer making money. He explained that as vehicles gets more complex, people tend to take their cars to dealers and specialized mechanics rather than neighborhood mechanics.
“If the service bays were economically viable, they would remain,” said Jamison.
The Planning Commission does not have the ability to force Pouldar to retain the service bays. The Commission’s purview is over land use only, not what types of services are offered there. Thus, it could not address this issue other than to lament the loss of the service bays.
However, to appease residents, Pouldar did agree to keep the full-service gas pumps, something he had originally planned to eliminate. The Chevron station is the only one of the six gas stations in West Hollywood offering full-service gas pumps.
Of greater concern to the Commission was the request to sell beer and wine in the convenience store. Several commissioners and residents alike pointed out there are already three other stores within a block that sell alcohol – the 7-Eleven, CVS and Monaco Liquor – and a fourth was not needed.
However, Pouldar indicated he was intending to go for a more upscale market that those other three businesses. Pouldar, who owns 23 other gas stations/convenience stores in the Los Angeles area, reported that alcohol makes up only about 10% of sales at those stores and expects it to be the same here.
The Commission agreed to approve the alcohol permit provided there be no sales of individual bottles or cans of beer. Likewise, no sale of wine bottles smaller than 750 milliliters. Alcohol sales will be limited to 8 a.m. to midnight.
Also concerning to some was potential traffic problems that would come from installing a car wash at the rear of the building, with cars entering it from the southern end. Commissioners were worried about the line of cars waiting to enter the car wash spilling onto Holloway and creating traffic problems.
However, examining the plans further, Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro noted there was space for several cars to queue on the property and still leave room for cars to exit the lot onto Holloway.
Residents were concerned that the car wash would generate traffic throughout the day, thus creating more traffic than the auto service bays did. However, Jamison, Pouldar’s spokesperson, indicated this would continue to be a neighborhood business and traffic would not increase significantly.
“This is not a destination site,” said Jamison. “This gas station has been there for many years. This will remain a gas station. It will have a convenience store which it has been for many years. The statistics reflect that it will not increase the traffic to any particular problem.”
In addition to the convenience store and car wash, the new building will have space for another small shop, but what business will occupy that space has not yet been determined. The car wash will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Commissioner Sue Buckner was absent.