Opinion: Melrose Triangle Project Reneges on Promises, Needs New Environmental Impact Study

Revised Melrose Triangle project rendering (Gensler)

The long-gestating Melrose Triangle Project will be discussed by the City Council at its Monday meeting where questions should arise before it wends its way back through the review process.

Prior approval of this controversial project by the City Council required adoption of a Statement of Overriding Considerations. That’s basically a get-out-of-jail card that gave the legally-challenged developer permission to demolish a noteworthy Art Deco/Streamline Moderne building designed by renowned architects Wurdeman and Becket in 1938. In addition, the Statement of Overriding Considerations confirmed that traffic flow would worsen considerably at our intersections, including the already extremely troubled intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive.

For years, the Streamline Moderne building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. (across from The Troubadour) served the surrounding community as the Jones Dog and Cat Hospital, and it still retained its architectural integrity until a mysterious fire and tragic death occurred on site. Then the wrecking ball ultimately descended.

The community was told that the benefits of the Melrose Triangle project would offset the loss of the historic building. We were regaled with how many new units of housing – both market rate and affordable/inclusionary — would result and how these would help the city meet its state-required Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). We were promised quite a few new parking spaces. And we were told that the new development would feature an homage to the demolished Streamline Moderne building.

NOW WHAT?

Earlier rendering of the proposed Melrose Triangle Gateway building (Architect Studio One Eleven)

Housing Ramifications:

The project originally offered 60 market-rate units, 8 low-income units and 8 moderate-income units for a total of 76 residential units.

But now, the developer offersNOmarket rate units, 8 low-income units, 8 moderate-income units and 25 workforce-income units for a total of 41 residential units.

This nearly 50% proposed decline in total units is alarming. How does this decline meet the current housing crisis?How does this decline affect the numbers that the City has been reporting as meeting the Regional Housing Needs Assessment over the years and what impact will it have on future development?

Providing for workforce-income units is certainly a new fillip here – one that community members will applaud, but exactly what are the income limits and the standards for such units?

Parking Ramifications:

The original project promised approximately 884 parking spaces in four levels of underground parking (792 parking spaces required), while the revised project provides 521 parking spaces.

Bait and switch, anyone?That’s a 40% decline in parking spaces that cannot be totally accounted for by the loss of 35 residential units. How does this project now meet the area’s parking needs?

Cultural Resources Ramifications:

The approved project required preparation of professional photographic documentation prior to demolition of the historic property at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. Per the mitigation measure, copies of the recordation package were to “be deposited with the City of West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission.”

When will the Historic Preservation Commission and the preservation community be presented with this package for review and comment?

Prior to issuance of demolition permits to the developer, another mitigation measure required that design and/or construction plans be approved by the city that illustrate how the building at 9080 Santa Monica Blvd. shall be permanently memorialized and incorporated into the proposed development on the site. The plans for the new buildings on site shall incorporate some of the character-defining features of the Streamline Modeme Style into the design.

It was difficult to discern how this measure was being met in the original plans. Now with the proposed redesign by a new architectural firm, it is imperative that the Historic Preservation Commission be brought into the act so that some semblance of the city’s architectural history be reflected in this transmogrified Melrose Triangle Project.

Given all the permutations and the new concerns raised regarding what should be an iconic Western Gateway into the City of West Hollywood, the Melrose Triangle Project needs a new Environmental Impact Report and much fuller discussion by all affected parties.

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Steve Carry
Steve Carry
1 month ago

I’m tired of developers destroying LA history all for the sake of profit. There’s nothing wrong with profit but, as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Or as they found out in Watergate, “follow the money.”

Mark T.
Mark T.
1 month ago

I live within 3 blocks of this project. While it is not perfect, it is acceptable and we are tired of 10 years of inaction to make that dead area of the city into a living part of our community. Redoing all of the permitting will just extend this nightmare longer – BUILD IT!

Art
Art
1 month ago

Thank you Victor for your concern–let’s keep an eye on what’s going on there and on who’s to benefit!

Alison
Alison
1 month ago

Just Build It! I’m tired of hearing about this project and the Robertson Lane project. BUILD THEM ALREADY!

WeHo Dave On Kings
WeHo Dave On Kings
1 month ago

I’m not sure why you’re surprised that a Billionaire made a promise that floated away like a balloon at Disneyland. This is *what they do* — Promise something that will get the deal to pass through the red tape, and then do what you wanted to do all along. Factor the lawsuits and fines you might receive into the project cost, and you’ve got yourself your vanity building. At this point, they’ve demolished what was there – and that can’t be put back. Now it’s just a hole in the ground which doesn’t do anybody any good. At his point,… Read more »

Steve Too
Steve Too
1 month ago

Not sure how on one hand you can complain about increased traffic, while on the other hand, the reduced number of parking spaces. Extra parking leads to increased traffic. By reducing the number of units and changing them to workforce or low income, they qualify for a lower minimum.

Build the darn thing.

Nicholas Musolino
Nicholas Musolino
1 month ago

This feels disingenuous. The number of low income units has not changed, and workforce units (which have been detailed in other articles *on this very site*) are an improvement on market rate units. The buildings that were demolished were of nominal value historically. The city owns a number of parcels along SMB that could be developed for low income housing if you honestly support that (I suspect there is actually fairly little spine for a true commitment to serving the unhoused or other at risk population – mostly we traffic in waving the flag of progressivism in service of the… Read more »

FJ1
FJ1
1 month ago

Most of the “unhoused” we see in our city are not looking for an affordable place to live they’re looking for their next high or drink or they’re not in their right mind. We have to stop with this delusion/narrative that our biggest problem is affordable housing. Our biggest problem is having our mentally ill and drug/alcohol addicts walking the streets without getting the proper care they need to be productive citizens.

Vigilent
Vigilent
1 month ago
Reply to  FJ1

And it could be argued that WeHo engages in such practices as to enable unhoused and housed citizens fraught with drug and alcohol problems exhibited by mentally ill behavior. Stopping such abuse appears to be much more effective than creating euphemistic organizations dedicated to providing housing but no treatment? And of course the wait list is often too long to accommodate folks in their immediate lifetime but it makes the board at WHCHC feel good. City encouraged bars, clubs cannabis stores/lounges add to the problem because they bring revenue and yes, folks with addled and impaired behavior whether they are… Read more »

FJ1
FJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  Vigilent

so true.

FJ1
FJ1
1 month ago

I seem to remember the developer incorporating the doorway of the old building into the design but the forces that wanted the whole building preserved balked at the idea. In the end, I believe the project was approved without the mandate to save any part of the old building- which itself was a remodel. None of the elements of the old building that the author is so concerned about were original to the structure. BUILD THE DAMN THING ALREADY. We’ve been looking at this eyesore of a corner for YEARS!. The new design looks lovely. BUILD IT. Revitilize that whole… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by FJ1
FJ1
FJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  FJ1

although..now that I look at it, from this top view, it looks like the Battlestar Galactica. LOL

Vigilent
Vigilent
1 month ago

The aesthetic difference between the Triangle Design and that of Faring’s Robinson Lane is vast along with the interest in nods to preservation essentials. It is not difficult to get things right.

Vigilent
Vigilent
1 month ago

All these issues require answers but starting with the visuals it would seem the design has moved from a Rick Caruso replicant at San Vicente & Burton Way to the Beverly Center itself. Are there any architects in the surrounding area capable of notable authentic design or are they only invested in tweaking xerox copies of other peoples designs?

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

Seems fine to me. Just build it.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

I heard the ground floor will only be bars

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Got a chuckle out of me! Thanks for that, green eyed guy!

FJ1
FJ1
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Oh that will be something new and different. Yay!

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

regular bars are fine.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

What are regular bars?

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

Was wondering about that myself, Gimmeabreak!

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