We asked all 12 city council candidates the same questions: Do you support or oppose the 8850 Sunset Blvd. Project? And what changes or considerations do you have?
Chelsea Byers did not return our request for a quote, but she did lavish praise on the 8850 Project during public comment at City Council’s April 29, 2022, meeting. Below is what she told council.
“There are many impressive qualities about this building that I want to appreciate tonight. The heightened scale of this building is what allows for the affordable housing it brings. So I celebrate the contours of this building and the creative use of space that allows for this new housing and economic opportunity which our community will benefit from for years to come. The native landscaping is incredibly valuable to the activation of our natural environment. A building that positively influences pollination sounds like a save the world sci-fi fantasy, but it can be a reality in our neighborhood, and that’s a good thing. We’re climate champions in the city, after all, and building should be as well. So I appreciate that thoughtful addition. The lighting on this building is the exact type of energy and magnetism that makes sense, that comes alive, and the expanded sidewalks will allow for the life that will be drawn to the space. The Viper Room has built allegiance to its name, and this modern redesign will foster loyalty for generations to come.”
At the first candidate forum — co-hosted by the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters — I spoke briefly about my approach to new development. While I’m not opposed to it, I believe we need to ensure that any new development projects address the following criteria:
1. Serve the needs of the community. The most important thing any new development should do is serve the needs of the community, and that is not necessarily more luxury apartments; there are enough of those already, and many are unoccupied. Affordable housing is incredibly important to our city, and more is needed to ensure that we have a city that is inclusive, creative, and diverse. If it’s possible, I would urge the developers to consider increasing the number of affordable units to be proportionate to the demand.
2. Fit the character and culture of the city. West Hollywood has a unique culture. We are an epicenter of great nightlife, fashion and design. The Sunset Strip in particular, is a special place with an important role in rock-and-roll history. It’s important to not only protect the character of WeHo, but even more important to preserve that nostalgia. In my opinion, this project does not do that; instead it proposes a Vegas-style remodel of the Viper Room, which is an affront to the historical significance of the venue. I would recommend that the developers consult with some of the original owners and patrons of the Viper Room to ensure a level of authenticity.
3. Give back to the community in a meaningful way. New construction is destructive to the community in several ways: it creates traffic, reduces parking, pollutes our streets and disrupts neighborhoods. We need to ensure that these developers give back to our community by creating green spaces for people to gather, donating to local nonprofits, volunteering locally, and/or offsetting carbon emissions. This project claims to “exceed LEED standards,” but the pathway to get there might do more harm than good. I would work with the developers to ensure that the construction has a minimal impact on the environment, and that local nonprofits – like West Hollywood Elementary School, which is actively seeking funds for arts and enrichment programs – are getting much-needed support.
If these items are considered seriously, I believe we can create a space that supports the progress of our city, while minimizing any harm to our neighbors, our culture, and our environment.
My grandmother used to describe a friend’s fashion sense as trying to put twenty pounds of potatoes into a ten-pound bag. That is a rather apt description for the project proposed at 8850 Sunset.
In its’ most recent reincarnation, the project includes a 113-room hotel, five restaurants, a large ballroom that could function as a night club, as well as 26 luxury condos and eight affordable units. As a nod toward the site’s historic past, there will be a newly designed Viper Room.
The project is both too large for the site and the proposed parking is inadequate. The entry, which is on San Vicente, is problematic and the exit is on Larrabee. Based on the traffic circulation alone the project should be rejected as impractical and harmful to adjoining businesses. This project would bring traffic chaos to San Vicente and turn Larrabee into a freeway. The addition of 113 more hotel rooms is simply moving the Strip toward over saturation which is not in the interest of the City or our hotel industry.
The project is supported by Unite Here as the hotel will be unionized. Chelsea Byers has already posted her support in WeHoville. I suspect that Unite Here’s campaign to elect their slate of Robert Oliver, Chelsea Byers and Zakiah Wright, is at least partially being funded by this developer, as they only need one more Unite Here candidate to be elected to have a three-person majority on City Council. There are a lot of agendas being pushed in this project, but none of them are in the best interest of the community.
I would not support this version of the project, which needs to be substantially downsized. I am not taking contributions from developers so I can be candid in my assessment.
“Having grown up in Los Angeles, I understand the cultural and historical significance of the Viper Room aka Filthy McNasty’s aka Melody Room.
The 8850 Sunset Project deserves consideration only if the project is executed thoughtfully and preserves the spirit of the original space – and it’s importance to the legacy of the Sunset Strip.
Further, any construction process should respect the surrounding area and the privacy of nearby residents.
On the plus side, not only does this project promise to provide more housing units for the city, including deeded affordable units, but it will provide new jobs and help to drive commerce to restaurants and retail spaces along the Sunset Strip. That’s a huge win for local businesses, residents and the economy.
I have been talking with nearby business owners who are supportive of the project and believe it will revitalize the area and bring a new customer base to the strip.
The project is also a win for the city’s budget, as local business taxes fund 75% of city services – including law enforcement, Block by Block and healthcare workers.”
“I oppose the project as it was presented to me 2 years ago. It is too tall and too intense for that corner. I am very protective of the viper room and its history. If I am re elected to council, I will push the proposed development to be more compatible with the neighborhood in its height, density and traffic impacts. I would also demand that it blend successfully with the rock-and-roll history of the neighboring Whiskey A Go-Go, Rainbow Bar & Grill and The Roxy.”
“While bringing new life to this stretch of Sunset is a good idea, traffic mitigation in the surrounding residential area needs to be top of mind to minimize neighborhood intrusion. Residents on the immediate residential streets next to this development need to have input and Transportation Commission along with traffic management experts at City Hall need to come up with solutions to address impact on quality of life for residents and their safety before the project is approved through Planning Commission and City Council.”
“I do not support the current proposal. I’ve been clear from the start that the proposal is too large. It does not comply with the zoning ordinance or the original Sunset Specific Plan. The height of the project needs to be significantly reduced. The developers need to do a better job of listening the concerns expressed by the community.”
Apologies for the late answer to this! While I think this building is FAR better than the previous proposal, I’m still not a fan for a few different reasons:
I think it’s too large for the space, and it doesn’t fit in with, or respect the integrity of the neighborhood. It’s a gorgeous building, but that part of sunset has much lower buildings, and it’s trying to bring a modern, sleek looking structure into an area that doesn’t have those types of buildings. It also doesn’t, in my opinion, retain enough of the Viper Room. The Viper Room is incredibly significant to a lot of our residents, and we don’t want to tear down landmarks in our city in the name of more hotel rooms.
On that note, West Hollywood needs more affordable housing units, and places for people to live, not more hotel rooms. Rents are going up every month and people are spending more and more of their income on just living expenses, which means they saving money for retirement.
Traffic is also going to be a major issue. Another driveway on San Vicente and Larrabee is going to make those intersections even more difficult than they already are. What I would prefer to see is a building that follows the style of The London so it fits the neighborhood, AND they must work with The London to have a shared driveway/car port, just like The Pendry Hotel shares with the Pendry Residences. That way we can cut out two extra entrances/exits on our already busy streets, and we can use less land for something that doesn’t serve the residents in any way – a driveway. That extra space could be used for affordable housing, a park area, community garden, anything over than a slab of pavement
Mayor Lauren Meister (a current city councilmember) and Marquita Thomas (a current Planning Commissioner) cannot answer this question because the matter is under official review by those governmental bodies, and they are forbidden by law from discussing official business outside Council chambers.
Campaign Note: Robert Oliver and Chelsea Byers are supported by the lobbyists for this project. As well as UNITE HERE Local 11 who ‘made a deal with the developer’ to unionize this project, – as noted by Steve Martin above.