The West Hollywood residential complex still under construction at 916 Westbourne Ave. was supposed to look like Picture A. So how did it become Picture B instead? Can you spot the differences?
The building that is taking shape looks vastly different than what was approved by the city’s Design Review Subcommittee three years ago, renderings of which can be seen above and below in the images marked “A.”
It was supposed to have elegant wooden cladding, playful asymmetric windows and a central breezeway to improve ventilation. The images marked “B,” taken over the past weekend, show none of those features. In their place are metal rails and window bars. Residents at the building next door thought they had helped persuade the developer to include the features. Instead, it appears the residents whose units face the complex will be getting exactly the kind of view they were afraid of getting.
And on the east side, a huge metal pipe rises from the subterranean parking garage which will likely disperse deadly carbon monoxide … out onto the public in the direction of Trader Joe’s.
The project first won approval from the Planning Commission in 2016, but the commissioners included a condition in their resolution that the project be presented again to the Design Review Subcommittee prior to the issuance of building permits. That happened in 2019, and no further changes to the project should have occurred, lest the project be sent back to the Planning Commission.
But changes were made. And they were made without ever consulting the Planning Commission or Design Review Subcommittee.
Only two city officials had the ability to push the project (and any revisions) through — John Keho, director of the the Planning and Development Services Department, and Ric Abramson, manager of the city’s Urban Design & Architecture Studio.
Abramson was hired in November 2019 — three months after the Design Review Subcommittee’s last review, when the final renderings (seen in the “A” images) were submitted.
WEHOville has reached out to Keho and Abramson for more information on when these changes were made and who signed off on them.
WeHo’s complicated system of city planning was created to insure that buildings were constructed under the oversight of fellow residents in a forum accessible to the public — not by city employees in secret meetings behind closed doors.
Major changes such as those seen in 916 Westbourne should have been presented to and voted on by the Planning Commission and Design Review Subcommittee, according to city code. If it was neither Keho nor Abramson who signed off on the changes, then who was it? Did they have the authority to do so?
The idea that City Hall might have commandeered the legally required process of public input and muddled the transparency needed to make fair and just planning and development decisions is troubling.
But one possibility is even more troubling: This scenario might have happened before on other projects, and it could happen again.
To solve this mystery, WeHo residents must keep their eyes on new developments in their neighborhoods. Find out what they’re supposed to look like when they’re still in the planning stages — a simple Google search of the address should turn up the information from weho.org. If you see discrepancies like we saw at 916 Westbourne, email us at email@example.com.