City Staff appears to override Planning commission approval.

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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.

WHAT HAPPENED?

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.

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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 brandon@wehoville.com.

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e-ric
e-ric
1 year ago

It seems that John Keho, Head of City Planning, and those he supervises, approved revisions that skirted around required review by city entities and public stakeholders. By law, the Planning Director is required to assess whether an applicant’s revisions are “minor” or not. If not “minor”, they require a return to the Planning Commission for re-evaluation. It appears that Keho and staff judged these revisions as “minor”, requiring “over the counter” approval which is allowed by code. But Keho is also required to monitor an applicant’s small, incremental revisions that might undermine the intent of the code and Planning Commission… Read more »

Rose
Rose
1 year ago

REALLY???? Do you think that is what happened with this project?

I’m in SHOCK!!! SHEER SHOCK!!!

I’ve lived in WeHo for over 27 years …… I HAVE PAID ATTENTION.

==>> EVERY SINGLE PROJECT GOES THOUGH A WORSE REVISION & NEW “Artist Rendering” to appease the disjointed “Planning Committee”

=>> IN THE END THEY NEVER LOOK LIKE FIRST OR SECOND RENDERING.

=>> I’VE NEVER SEEN A WEHO PROJECT NOT! COME OUT ANYTHING LIKE PLANS & ARTISTS RENDERINGS – ALL OF COURSE FOR “THE WORSE” OR ELSE “THE MUCH MUCH WORSE”

where you been looking?

WeHo Mary!
WeHo Mary!
1 year ago

Both are ugly, but I feel like maintaining the built design is actually manageable in terms of maintenance. When it’s finished, no one will even notice it. In fact, it might look ok when it’s done. Trying to be optimistic!

Really...
Really...
1 year ago

If this turns out to be true. it begs the question: Who is running West Hollywood? Recall that staff altered a map to accomodate yet another cannabis location without, as I remember, consulting or informing Council. City staff must be held raccountable for their actions, especially if they are not following the decisions of the Council or the direction of the City Manager.

LateralThinker
LateralThinker
1 year ago

While the Owner , General Contractor, and Original project Manager are all Kind and Communicative. The architects involved should not have projects approved in this city. They and the interior and exterior designs and structural elements of this building are a disaster and have been through the whole project. I wasted years going to meetings about this project to be constructive, voice concerns, and hope for the best. Little that was discussed or approved in those meetings happened, the designs and sitelines deceptive from the beginning. Did you know ALL OF THE POWER LINES WERE TO BE UNDERGROUND ? Not… Read more »

Betty
Betty
1 year ago

It’s still under construction, it’s possible the cladding goes on after the foundation. A little too soon to be so judgemental.

Robert Switzer
Robert Switzer
1 year ago
Reply to  Betty

If you compare the pictures, the window designs do not match, which means it is unlikely that the cladding, if there will be any, won’t match up with the approved design either. The problem at issue remains: it appears that the building design was changed without going back for re-approvals as required by law.

Woke Up
Woke Up
1 year ago

Get a new City Attorney and planning director. In fact do house cleaning of staff at that entire city hall. The former city clerk was such a lovely person. Would take your calls. Very gracious and thorough. The current City clerk is the worst. Plus that meeting was something that looked like it was being done in 1995. There is nothing about the creative City when it comes to that dreadful City channel. And the way those meetings are staged. Who is doing that now? Shyne?

Last edited 1 year ago by Woke Up
WehoQueen
WehoQueen
1 year ago

I heard raspy voiced John keho makes around $400,000 per year in salary and perks. I wonder what his pension will be. No wonder there is no money for property owners’ needs and taxes are so high.

Betty
Betty
1 year ago
Reply to  WehoQueen

Does his salary and voice need to be called out? Very unkind. Try being a city planner and having to balance the law, the elected officials, and citizens who are never satisfied.

Woke Up
Woke Up
1 year ago
Reply to  Betty

Skip the voice and look at his salary. Then look at the buildings in this city. This guy has absolutely no taste. Get rid of him. He’s an overpaid hack who should be city planner in Cucamonga.

Last edited 1 year ago by Woke Up
Mikie Friedman
Mikie Friedman
1 year ago

John Kehoe again? He also tried to push through the scooter program to be permanent by omitting (or possibly hiding) certain important details from the City Council.

Stevie
Stevie
1 year ago

The contractors will say the new design is a result of Biden’s famous “supply chain issues.” Yea that’s it “supply chain issues.” LOL

Enough!
Enough!
1 year ago

Thank you, we need someone watching and calling the city out. We can’t let this happen on future projects.

More than Enough
More than Enough
1 year ago
Reply to  Enough!

Keho is a Dinosaur and needs to retire. We need a petition demanding a qualified City Attorney and a qualified Planning Director. So much of what goes wrong in Weho relates to these two people. Badly drafted laws, staff reports and we the residents are just supposed to accept these actions?

We don’t need the Counsel to create a Public Integrity Commission. Let the heads of the Neighborhood Associations get together and start making an investigative report.
#WEHOPE
Wehons Empowered to Ordain Public Ethics. Make a report and send it to the Attorney General.

TomSmart
TomSmart
1 year ago

YESSSSSS!!!! (and GREAT work Wehoville!!!)

Betty
Betty
1 year ago

you should run for office and as an elected official you can do that. Petitions are not going to do anything.

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