In the 1950s, the structure on Sunset Boulevard near Crescent Heights Boulevard was called The Garden of Allah, which was once home to Robert Benchley, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others.
It could be redeveloped yet again under a proposal by Townscape Partners, a real estate investment firm seeking to construct a mixed-use project on the site.
A McDonald’s, Chase Bank, storage facility and other small retailers are currently located on the site, a commercial center built in the 1980s. However, if the project is approved, they could be replaced by 110,000 square feet of commercial space and 249 apartments, 28 of which would be affordable housing.
“We believe our project is fitting of a site of such prominence. …Our project will stand as a modern gateway to Hollywood and The Sunset Strip,” said Tyler Siegel, of Townscape Partners, in a statement.
According to a press release, the developers will use “forward-thinking” urban design principles with “timeless, modern architecture” at the 2.2-acre site. It will be transit-oriented with housing options for all income levels, the release states.
The developers believe the proposal’s most prominent feature is the amount of open spaced involved. According to the release, the design includes expanded sidewalks, green rooftops, a central plaza and a pocket park.
The Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council had not taken a position on the project, though the organization held a town hall about the project last week. Approximately 150 people attended.
Anastasia Mann, council president, said Hollywood Hills West must be “very careful” about new development in the area due to consistent traffic and congestion concerns.
“Any kind of development has been a concern for our neighborhood council, the community and stakeholders. Everybody’s worried about more traffic. That’s the No. 1 hot button [issue],” she said, citing other projects in Hollywood that will increase density. “It’s just constant. There’s just so much new development on the horizon.”
However, Mann said she has found that most developers who have come before the neighborhood council recently have been sensitive to the needs of the community, and she is confident that Townscape Partners will be as well.
Orrin Feldman, council vice president and Planning and Land Use Management Committee chair, said the town hall meeting was the beginning of a long environmental review process for the project, which was filed with the city on Aug. 19.
He agreed that traffic is troublesome in the area, and added that the intersection is quite dangerous as well. Feldman said numerous accidents occur at the intersection, some of which involved pedestrians.
“Traffic improvements will be an important part of any development at that site,” Feldman said. “There’s no question about that.”
He said it will be important for the neighborhood council to assess the impacts the projects would have and see how the developers would aim to mitigate those impacts. However, the property is zoned commercial, allowing Townscape Partners to build “quite a bit there,” Feldman said.
“The real question,” he said, “is how do we make this the best project it can be? How do we improve the traffic situation there? And what other improvements can be made to make this the best project [for the community]?”
Feldman said the review process will likely take a year.
“There’s a lot of work that will happen,” he said. “This is really just the beginning.”
The site falls within the jurisdiction of Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, who has yet to take a position on the project.
“The life cycle of what is currently on the site is coming to a close,” he said in a statement. “The community and developers need to work together to come to a consensus for the future of that corner.”
A scoping meeting for the project was held on Oct. 2 at the Will & Ariel Durant branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.
On a related note, Feldman said Townscape Partners had recently begun charging for parking at the commercial center at a cost of $3 for the first 15 minutes, only validating McDonald’s and Chase customers. However, the neighborhood council found out that the developers were required to apply with the city to charge for parking on the site, and after they worked with LaBonge’s office to remedy the issue, parking is again free at the shopping center.
“It was a good result for the community,” Feldman said.
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