West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved a demolition Thursday night for 8025 Santa Monica Boulevard, making way for the construction of a new seven-story mixed-use development.
The development is planned to have 110 dwelling units, 3795 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, and a two-level subterranean garage housing 115 parking spaces. The proposal includes 15 affordable housing units and leverages a density bonus and concessions.
The project is managed by Doug Vu, the project planner. The site currently houses a 4000 square feet commercial bank branch building originally constructed in 1961 and later occupied by the Bank of America until 2021.
The city received public comments on the project, including a letter from the firm of Los udroid, raising concerns about the city’s intention to use a Class 32 categorical exemption for infill projects. The city responded with a memorandum, asserting the project qualifies for the Class 32 exemption and that the draft resolution findings are valid.
The planned development includes varying unit types: micro studios, micro one-bedroom units, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units. A total of 95 units will be market rate, while 15 will be permanently affordable, catering to very low and moderate-income households. The building design incorporates open spaces, including a central courtyard open to the sky, a rooftop swimming pool, and various common amenity rooms.
The project is leveraging a density bonus of 49% along with three concessions that involve adding two more stories to the building, exceeding the permitted height by 19 feet, eliminating the 35-foot height limit for the rear portion of the building adjacent to the residential zoning district, and reducing the minimum separation between commercial and residential structures at the back of the property to 10 feet 4 inches.
The design review subcommittee reviewed the project, resulting in several recommendations to improve the livability of the units, including the micro units. City architect Ric Abramson was about to elaborate on the building and site design.
Abramson emphasized the project’s importance, considering it a precursor to future developments in the city. He noted that the project fills a notable gap in the housing market by introducing micro living units, a lifestyle currently absent in the city. Abramson praised the design team for their receptiveness to feedback and willingness to refine the project based on comments received throughout the development process.
Questions and concerns raised during the design review stage focused on the design of the micro units. The challenge highlighted was the need to integrate everyday storage solutions meticulously to ensure functionality given the reduced size of these units.
Commissioner Kimberly Copeland thanked the presenters and sought clarification on a few points, including regulations or design standards for micro units, which are reportedly in the works but not yet established. Copeland also inquired about traffic egress, confirming that alterations to facilitate different exits from the property would be the applicant’s responsibility.
Vice Chair Michael Lombardi provided a summary of the feedback from the design review subcommittee, noting the project’s general favorability, especially regarding the south elevation design.
Jeff Seymour of the Seymour Consulting Group introduced the team that will present the details of the project, passing on the presentation to Christian Robert of OfficeUntitled Architects, followed by the project owner and developer Alex Masachi to address any questions.
Christian Robert discussed the project’s environmental features, including a courtyard for natural ventilation and rainwater capture facilities. He also highlighted the project’s commitment to creating a variety of outdoor spaces, including a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of the city.
Robert proceeded to present the technical details of the project, which include a buildable envelope established through a series of calculated adjustments, a design process that incorporates various setbacks for fire department access, and the inclusion of a central courtyard and a rooftop terrace. The discussion covered floor plans from parking levels to upper floors, including various unit types and amenities such as a large courtyard and outdoor amenity spaces on the sixth and seventh floors. The landscape design includes a rooftop with smaller, more intimate areas separated by landscaping and connected by a walk system. The presentation underscored the project’s adherence to environmental considerations and ended with Christian Robert thanking the commissioners and opening the floor for questions.
Commissioner Erick Matos expresses gratitude to the community for their engagement and voices support for the project, citing the diverse range of affordable housing options it brings. Matos shares a personal story emphasizing the value of smaller living spaces, appreciating the integration of micro units in the housing stock, and noting the project’s alignment with commercial and transit hubs, expressing intent to support the project.
Commissioner David Gregoire reiterates support but raises concerns over the viability of micro units for long-term residency, questioning the quality of life in such small spaces and fearing they might not foster long-term relationships with the city. Gregoire also brings up concerns about parking, fearing insufficient parking might exacerbate the existing problem in the city, despite affirming support for the project and its categorical exemption.
Commissioner Copeland appreciates the design, particularly praising the outdoor and common spaces. However, Copeland echoes concerns regarding the micro units, emphasizing the lack of detailed standards and regulations for such units. Copeland suggests a continuance or imposing conditions to ensure the livability of the units, while expressing a desire for a well-considered, habitable project that responds to public concerns adequately.
Commissioner Stacey Jones shows appreciation for the applicant’s receptiveness to feedback, favoring the forward momentum of the housing project over waiting for design standards to be established. Jones favors learning from the lived experiences in the new units to inform future policies, viewing this as a proactive approach to addressing the housing crisis and supporting the community. Jones leans towards supporting the project, welcoming further discussions on the various concerns raised.
Vice Chair Lombardi sees both support and concerns surrounding the project, appreciating the responsive and evolving design. Lombardi sees a level of experimentation with the introduction of micro units in West Hollywood and hopes learnings from this project will inform future endeavors. While harboring concerns over some units and environmental aspects, Lombardi leans towards approving the project, hoping it will be a successful addition to the city, fostering positive outcomes.
In the final part of the discussion, a motion to approve the project was made by Commissioner Matos and seconded by Commissioner Edwards. The motion passed with six commissioners voting in favor and one, Commissioner Copeland, voting against it. This indicates that the commission has decided to approve the resolution, albeit without unanimous agreement.