The City of West Hollywood and the developers of The Harper on Sunset held a virtual meeting Wednesday night for the area’s residents to ask questions and offer feedback.
The proposed hotel/housing complex will feature 172 hotel rooms and 46 mixed-income housing units, plus restaurants, retail and commercial-use space. Currently on the property are two office buildings and a commercial parking lot. The building could reach up to nine stories high.
The architect on the project is AXIS/GFA. Steven Kent Architects is listed as a design consultant. Mark Lehman fielded questions from the public on behalf of the applicants.
NOTE: The original version of this article starts off stating that the City and the developer held the meeting. This was a Neighborhood Meeting held by the developer as required for their application. The City’s Senior Planner attended as the assigned Planner in case anyone had any procedural questions and to take notes.
Will the digital billboard be a 24-hour show?
“I think that, as of now, yes, and the hours will be controlled by way of city regulation. There will be a development agreement with the city with respect to the video sign as well, and just to note for the future, there will be a separate process the city as some of you may know already has a separate process that’s underway for approval of the new signs and billboards on the Sunset Strip so that sign will go through that process as well with hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.
What justifies the original height request?
The idea is we’re proposing a large-scale hotel and residential component and in order to accommodate all of that we’re asking for the additional height. The Sunset Specific Plan, which has been around for a long time, calls for large-scale architectural landmark projects. On this end of the Strip no one has done that yet, so this is the city’s first attempt to meet the goals of the Sunset Specific Plan.
What about Harper Avenue historical district designation?
Well the project will be analyzed by historic consultants to address any impacts and its relationship with the Harper Historic District, as well as any other historical or cultural resources near the property.
When will the traffic issues on Harper be addressed?
The city is doing the full Environmental Impact Report on this project, which has not yet begun. As you probably all know the EIR will include a traffic and transportation study, which will look at Harper, Sunset and the surrounding neighborhood and impacts on those neighborhoods. We don’t have the studies yet but they’re in the works. I would like to add that it’s going to be a scoping session where the community is invited to express any concerns they have and the kinds of things they would like studied in the EIR. The meeting tonight is just the first initial meeting, but they’ll be a full scoping session run by the city under your consultants to look at all the issues. It will be an opportunity for the community to come in say, ‘We’d like you to study this, we’d like you to study that.’ That will be incorporated into the EIR and all of that will be studied over the period of time that they’re doing all the analysis.
How does this design honor the historical buildings on Harper?
It’s an interesting question and a complex one. That will be analyzed by her store the historic consultants but pursuant to the Secretary of Interior standards. You know, they actually do not want us to mimic any of the historical properties nearby and our attempt is totally independent in effect of those.
Why do the project on such a narrow and busy street?
I think the intent here is that Sunset Boulevard is one of our most important thoroughfares, our iconic boulevard, and the Sunset Specific Plan calls for development on Sunset Boulevard and that’s the intent of this project.
In what ways does this benefit the longtime residents of Harper Avenue?
We will be working with the community to develop public benefits as the project moves along. One of the key benefits we think that we hope all the residents will enjoy is that the open-air courtyard is actually going to be open to the public at all times except for late at night probably for security reasons, but it’ll be an easily accessible park space which I hope that the entire community enjoys. There is also going to be indoor/outdoor dining, and a bakery as well. So our goal here is to make this property attractive and useful to everybody in the community
What sustainable design features are you incorporating?
We’re using solar energy. All the materials being used are specifically geared towards sustainability. The entire landscape plan for the project designed by Studio MLA is using low water usage plantings that are all approved by the city. We have a green roof. All-electric appliances, that’s another thing that we’re moving towards, there’s been a move away from using gas appliances in the future. Grey water for landscaping will be also there. Facilities for EV charging, for electric cars. We also have an area with bike racks, so we will be encouraging people to use bikes coming to and from the facility.
In what way does this project do anything other than make money for the developers?
I think there’s a lot of demand here that we are attempting to satisfy. First of all, housing will be both market-rate and affordable. Housing, which as we all know, is in great demand in this neighborhood and across the entire country. There is still clearly a demand for hotel space. Hotels provide a new source of revenue for the city of West Hollywood and actually help support all the social services and other services we have in the city. We also have the restaurant; there’ll be a bar area and bakery, all of which we think will be of benefit to the community.
Why does this project have to be 9 and 7 stories high? Can it be 7 and 5?
This is the project that we’re proposing. We think it works very well as proposed and meets all the goals of the Sunset Specific Plan.
What is the Sunset Specific Plan?
Well, it’s a document that the city adopted that specifically looks at what kind of zoning and development we want on the Sunset Strip. So it basically covers development from the east all the way to the west side of the Sunset Strip within the city of West Hollywood .
Will low-income people be able to live in the residence?
Yes, there will be, at this point we’re planning 9 affordable units out of 46 planned residential units.
Can the digital billboard be turned off from 11 to 6 a.m.?
We would be dealing with the hours of the digital billboard as we move forward with the project. None of that has been resolved as of now. That said, before we will be entering into a development agreement with the city and the whole process that we have to go forward with to get approval for, one of the other things I know that one of the primary issues to the community is the brightness of digital Billboards, and the city has now set strict guidelines on how bright the digital billboard can be and we will adhere to all of those guidelines defined by the city and by the state not by us. We don’t really have any say in that.
Who gets a say in approving this development?
Well I mean this is the very first of what will be many meetings this project will go to. The Planning Commission, City Council ultimately and anyone in the community has the right to raise questions and of course you’re always welcome to contact me or Tony Castillo, who’s the city planner.
Is there any nightlife activity plan for the development that will bring back the Sunset Strip energy?
That’s a really good question, something that I think the community has been struggling with for a long time. You know, the energy used to be based upon nightclubs primarily and restaurants. There has been a resurgence of new restaurants on the Sunset Strip and that’s why we’re proposing a very prominent indoor/outdoor restaurant component to this project that is visible from the street. So we hope that it will bring back some of that energy as well as with the digital billboard which we think also will will bring back a lot of energy to the Strip, and also of course we’ll be bringing a lot of jobs with this project which will help bring money to the community and help the community that way.
Will you have parking on site that will keep folks from parking on Harper?
The project has 174 parking spaces as of now and a separate area that’s specifically earmarked for the residence. There’ll be both valet parking for the hotel and commercial uses and self parking for the residents. Residents will also have the option to valet park if they like as we understand that Harper is a permit parking district and so there should not be a lot of impact on Harper. And we’re happy to work with the community to make sure that those permit parking restrictions and guidelines work there. So we actually meet or exceed all the parking requirements set forth by the city.
Sure, a bakery and parking space are seemingly great benefits but how does it how does that genuinely justify all the noise, traffic, brightness and craziness that this development will bring?
Our intention is not to bring any noise and craziness to this community. First of all the restaurants and the courtyard will be a buffer from the residence on all sides because it’s part of a courtyard with buildings on all sides, so that noise will not be heard by the residents. We will also be working with the city analyzing noise impacts. We will be incorporating mitigating measures into the project to make sure that the noise does not impact the community. And I think there’s a lot of positive models that we’re working from here in West Hollywood. A lot of the hotels up and down the Sunset Strip have similar uses that now are working very well with the community. We’ll have a glass wall on the south and east sides of the rooftop so that noise will not be transmitted to the community.
How long will the construction take?
We’re not sure at this point in time but I think the estimate is probably about two years’ worth of construction, somewhere in that range. Obviously we don’t have approval so we don’t know exactly what we’re building but assuming it’s this project that we’re presenting now, yes it’ll be about a two-year project construction.
What are some of the developers’ other projects in West Hollywood?
Well in particular, the LaPeer hotel, which many of you may know, on LaPeer just above Melrose, was built by them.