LYNN HOOPINGARNER: 8555 Santa Monica Blvd. What is so special about this developer?

Date:   November 02, 2022

To:       West Hollywood City Planning Commission & Staff

From:  Lynn M. Hoopingarner, CMC

Re:       8555 Santa Monica Blvd. Proposed Project, Item 10.C PC Meeting 11/3/2022

Since this is a continuance of the September 15th hearing I will not repeat the memo submitted at that time but incorporate it by reference for purposes of this hearing.  Let me repeat, I, like most of my neighbors, agree that it is long past time to develop this property into a neighborhood friendly mixed-use project with lots of housing and neighborhood serving businesses. I disagree that the project before you meets the OBJECTIVE STANDARDS of our city codes in either letter or intent that must be met in order make the Findings for approval of this project. 

While the staff report submitted for this hearing has not been significantly modified, I see that there is an Exhibit J that has been included that purports to respond to comments made by the public relating to the September 15th hearing.  Exhibit J has no author, no date, no page numbers, does not include factual elements in many areas and is largely unresponsive to the issues presented by the public.  In fact, it cherry picks the issues it wishes to address (more on that later).  Frankly the content appears to be a compilation of content from a number of sources and in multiple areas does not address the commenters’ questions but rather makes generic comments in a subject area.  It is unfortunate that no author is identified for this exhibit.

So I said I wouldn’t repeat, EXCEPT for the most important issue—HEIGHT

  • Calculations: When it comes to height calculations there are two choices.  Either there is a sloped hill or there are flat surfaces.  From the diagram in 19.20.080 Height Measurements and Exceptions this is what describes a “Sloping Site.”

However, no parcel in this project has a sloping site.  If you look at the surveys, if you visit the site, all the parcel surfaces are flat.  There is no slope.  There is no sloping site.  The two primary parcels closest to the Ramada are completely flat, the remaining parcel ONLY slopes on the sidewalk which is NOT owned by the applicant!  The parcels have flat surfaces. 

 B. Height Measurement

  1. Parallel Plane Method.  The maximum allowable height shall be measured as the vertical distance from the grade existing at the time of project submittal to an imaginary plane located at the allowed number of feet above and parallel to the existing grade (see Figure 3-2).

This is the ACTUAL configuration of the easternmost parcel on the commercial properties.  It is flat.  NO “natural grade” remains AND the applicant proposes to demolish what remains of the “natural grade.”

  • Applicant’s Election:  Per 19.20.080.B.2.

Sloping Sites. At the option of an applicant, the following method of measuring the maximum allowed building height may be used instead of the method provided in subsection (B)(1) above, only on sites with slopes of five percent or more. This method of establishing heights on sloping parcels is intended to ensure compliance of structures on sloping parcels as closely as practicable to the height limit provisions of this section, in a manner that considers the design of efficient spaces within proposed structures.

To be clear:  This site does not slope (except for the city owned sidewalk) so there is no election option available to the applicant.  AND, this in no way ensures compliance “as close as practicable to the height limit provisions of this section.”

  • Precedent: A brief review of the history of projects in this area of north SMB shows that the “Sloping Site Method” (SSM) has NEVER been used for any project on SMB.  Staff has not responded to my request for an example where a similarly situated property was granted the use of the Sloping Site Method anywhere on SMB on similar properties.  In fact, these properties were denied the use of that methodology on properties with exactly the same characteristics, flat property on SMB with retaining wall and elevated parking on flat parcel to the rear.  Each one was required to use the Parallel Plane Method.  There are no differences between these properties and the applicant’s properties. WHY was this particular developer granted an exception?  There is nothing in Exhibit J to answer that question from my previous memo.  Can staff give a single example of the SSM being allowed in this area of SMB?

8585 Santa Monica (Ramada Inn & Apartments) – DENIED

8611 Santa Monica (Trader Joe’s) – DENIED

8625 Santa Monica (Artist Tree) – DENIED

8631 Santa Monica (Union Bank) – DENIED

9001 Santa Monica (the Palm) – DENIED

Recommendation:  Absent a new interpretation of the code, I do not see how it is possible for PC to make a Finding that the “objective development standard” has been met as regards the height calculation.  Especially in the absence of a declaration as to what makes this applicant and their application different from all prior applications as relate to this code.

  1. Hydrology. 

I will say no more–the “experts” have spoken.  The same experts who led 901 Hancock into bankruptcy thanks to the “lake” that they dealt with for almost 2 years.  Two developments on West Knoll had exactly the same problems.  This developer is the one that will pay the price when reality sets in—as will the neighborhood with the years-long construction, subsidence, etc.  PC can’t rule on this but it should be on the public record.  Be forewarned.

  • Live/Work Residential Units

Are these units counted for RHNA or not?  If they are counted for RHNA, why aren’t they part of the Affordable Housing calcs?  Chicken, meet egg. 

  • Loading/Delivery Zones

This project provides NO loading or delivery zones for 111 residential units on an extremely narrow street (not counting the 12 Live/Work units):

  • Package delivery (Fed Ex, UPS, Amazon, etc.)
  • Meal delivery (by the time the person double parks, gets into the building, calls up to the resident, goes up the elevator, delivers, goes back down, it is a solid 5 minutes for EVERY delivery x how many units every night?)
  • Ride Share (people are NOT going to go down the elevator, and around the corner to stand on SMB to wait for cars, they will expect pickup and drop-off in front of their door on West Knoll)
  • Moving vans (123 units are going to turn at least a couple of units every month.  There is NO room on the street for moving vans)

Unfortunately, there is nothing in our code at this time to address these very important issues but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed in the design.

Recommendation: HIGHLY recommend to applicant to revisit parking to address the loading/delivery issue.

  • Parking
    • 12 residential spaces segregated into unsecured commercial parking zone. 

Who is going to be given one of the 12 unsecured parking spaces?  Will any of these be assigned to the affordable units?  This question has NOT been answered.  AND Exhibit J talks about securing the vehicle, I AM TALKING ABOUT SECURING THE HUMANS who have to walk around in an unsecured garage in the dead of night. 

  • There is NO guest parking for 111 units.  While the HAA may give the developer a “bye” on this, seriously 111 units with no guest parking?  There is NO street parking available.  Is this a good business decision?
  • Not parking related but, seriously, you have to go down into the basement, slide between some parked cars (with who knows who is hiding between them) in an unsecured garage to turn your back and unlock a door to get your packages and then walk back out with them?!  How long will it take a couple of bad actors to figure out this is where the packages are?  You think porch pirates are bad, wait until they learn about this.
  • Green Points

Applicant is requesting an additional .1 FAR (floor area ratio) for complying with 90 Green Points.  Staff has stated that these items will be accounted for in “plan check” (Exhibit J).  NOT possible.  It is impossible for plan check to verify the fly ash content of the concrete or the FSC wood in the construction.  This MUST be verified in the onsite inspections.  To be clear folks, these items are about environmental sustainability of a project.  Super easy to say on a check list you will do something, entirely different thing to write the check and do it when it comes to construction.

Recommendation:  ALL of the elements of Green Points are on the Inspection Card to be certified during actual construction.

  • Construction Noise

The staff report states on p. 9 that:

“There is no objective evidence suggesting the proposed project will create a specific adverse impact on public health or safety if the proposed density is maintained, and there is no objective evidence that shows the potential impacts of the project cannot be successfully mitigated.”

However, on p. 23 they state that the FEIR found that:

“…no feasible mitigation was identified that would reduce the temporary construction period noise impact to a less than significant level.”

Sooo… No adverse impacts that can’t be mitigated EXCEPT the one that can’t be mitigated and requires a Statement of Overriding Considerations.  PC is being asked to make a finding around that tortured statement around the health of the public.

The public should be involved in the mitigation plan and it should include sound walls.

There is so much more to discuss around this issue, I will leave it to others but the mitigation plan should be part of the approval—not an afterthought—and should include the community directly.  This is going to go on for three years minimum.

  • Design

See all my previous comments not addressed.

  • Landscaping

 See all of my previous comments not addressed.

Needless to say, I could go on.  This project was conceived over a decade ago and did not meet the neighborhood’s or city’s needs then and frankly has only gone downhill since then.  This location has the potential to be an iconic and vibrant component in our city and neighborhood—it meets the bare minimum.  This process shouldn’t be so difficult. 

Once again, it is late.  I have a great appreciation of how much work is required to thoroughly review all the materials presented prior to a PC hearing and thank you for your time and attention given the magnitude of the volume presented for this project.  Like you, I strive to work towards what is best for all the community.

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Developer
Developer
22 days ago

According to early articles in Wehoville about this project the Benham (Ben) Soroudi Family have been generous donors to all the right folks in the city. $2000 to each of the City Council Members in 2011 election, Horvath, Land, Heilman and $1500 to D’Amico with $2500 to Duran. A fifth family member donated $1000 to Prang. This was while Stephanie Reich was the WH Urban Designer. Successive voices have been Gareth Pugh and Ric Abramson whose client was Ramada Inn prior to him joining the City Urban Design Studio & Architecture. This project had devolved significantly from the original inception… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
23 days ago

Thanks Lynn for your time and work.

David Abrams
David Abrams
23 days ago

I wonder the same thing, Lynn “Those People” Hoopingarner.

What is so special about this developer to be singled out by you so much over the years? Before, during, and now after your time as a commissioner.

Hmm..

Cruise Ship on the Rocks
Cruise Ship on the Rocks
23 days ago
Reply to  David Abrams

In response to your comment, I have had and continue to have similar concerns as the astute Lynn Hoopengarner, Atty. Mark Lehman and immediate members of the neighborhood surrounding this Cruise Ship project which has somewhat transitioned to a new exterior not particularly distinctive with new aesthetics schematic but still replicating the endless word salad staff reports the Planning Commission and public are being required to decipher. This is not good business practices not does it contain any semblance of Land Use Ethics which Mayor Meister recently wrote about. Having attended the first and subsequent Design Review Meetings I have… Read more »

Tom
Tom
23 days ago
Reply to  David Abrams

Maybe they deserve the scrutiny? Hmm?

Michael
Michael
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom

100%
Lynn is 100% on the money and firmly located on planet Earth. I consider the public lucky to have her. IMHO.

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