Developers for the 8150 Sunset project took the first big step in the approval process last week when the Los Angeles City Planning Commission unanimously approved plans for the mixed-use proposal designed by architect Frank Gehry.
“We are grateful to the commissioners for approving this project and look forward to continuing to improve the details of the design with all of the stakeholders,” said Townscape partner Tyler Siegel in a statement.
Gehry’s plans feature five structures – one, three, five, 11 and 15 stories tall. The mix of commercial and residential space will unite at a common plaza and cover approximately 334,000 square feet. The $300 million project, which includes 65,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space will take the place of two commercial buildings and parking space.
“Frank Gehry’s design will provide much-needed, high quality residences, as well as create a new destination for shopping and eating in the city. This is the right direction for development in L.A., embracing both the benefits of good planning – as well as a commitment to providing affordable housing at varying income levels, which we have agreed to increase at the recommendation of the commission,” added Townscape partner John Irwin.
Dozens of community members appeared to hear Gehry present the project to the commission on the key features of his design, as well as to hear the commission’s decision on the four appeals on the project’s proposed size and potential impacts. The approval effectively denied the appeals, but the project will surely face more challenges, as appellants promised litigation if necessary to address their concerns. It was approved with an additional 4 percent of workforce housing, bringing the total to 38 of the total 249 units, but opponents say that is not enough to mitigate the other impacts.
The project advances to the city council’s planning and land use management committee. If approved, it will be considered by the full council, which might be one of the project’s biggest roadblocks. Earlier this year, Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, asked for the project to be downsized and said it is out of scale with adjacent buildings and residential properties on Havenhurst, but those concerns were not addressed by the developers.
“While I recognize that the prodigious Frank Gehry design at 8150 Sunset will provide jobs and affordable housing for residents and Angelenos, I have serious concerns about the project’s height and density, as well as its limited return on community benefits, most importantly affordable housing,” Ryu said in a statement after the commission’s decision. “Though I applaud the City Planning Commission on deciding to add an additional 4 percent of workforce housing … the commission dramatically reduced parking, increasing the profit for the developers while ignoring the concerns of the neighborhood. Further, the height and density of the project still exceed what the city is getting in exchange for the affordable units.”
In exchange for the affordable housing, the project will be allowed to have a 3:1 floor area ratio – three times greater than the zone allows. Representatives with appellant group Fix the City say that additional affordable housing should only allow developers a 35 percent increase, not 300 percent, which would cut the project to 150,308 square feet. Fix the City also appealed on other issues including the project’s compatibility with aging infrastructure, effect on traffic and the elimination of a right turn lane from Sunset Boulevard going to Crescent Heights.
The group has been critical of the proposal since it was first proposed and vice president Jim O’Sullivan said they will continue to challenge and appeal the project until their concerns are addressed. O’Sullivan said the only caveat would be if the developers reached an agreement or compromise with the council office and community. Until then, and until developers change their plans to eliminate the turn lane, Fix the City plans to challenge the project and will likely file a lawsuit to stop it.
O’Sullivan said the larger issue with the project is the precedent it will set with density and height in the area.
The city of West Hollywood also filed an appeal. City officials and planning staff have been tracking the project that is proposed near its border. Members of West Hollywood’s city planning staff attended the hearing in Van Nuys to raise concerns that were “not adequately addressed” or analyzed in the environmental impact reports, including effects on traffic both due to volume and to the elimination of the right turn, as well as effects on the sewer systems.
On Tuesday, John Keho, assistant director of West Hollywood’s community development department said the additional affordable housing does not address the city’s concerns.
West Hollywood staff and officials will review the decision when it is officially rendered to determine if the city will continue the appeal to the Los Angeles City Council.
In their appeal and letters to the Los Angeles planning staff, West Hollywood requested further analysis of streets that will be most affected based on “worsening conditions” at nearby Fountain Avenue intersections, and requested that the developers help pay to mitigate and upgrade effects on the existing pedestrian crosswalks and “ongoing maintenance” of the sewer system. The city staff also requested that the developers include the 48,574 square foot residential development at 8350 Santa Monica Blvd. with the list of relative projects.
West Hollywood Mayor and former city planning commissioner Lauren Meister also said the project is too big and will negatively impact West Hollywood and Los Angeles.
“The intersection at Sunset and Crescent Heights is already a traffic nightmare,” she said in an email. “Among other things, the project, as proposed, will likely have impacts on traffic circulation, emergency vehicle access and our sewer system. Water consumption will increase as well, at a time when we’re trying to recover from drought. It will also forever change the quaint West Hollywood neighborhood to the south. I was relieved to read that L.A. Councilman Ryu would like to see the project down-sized.”
Los Angeles planning staff reports said the project is consistent with land use and planning and that housing, utilities and service systems, transportation, will not be significantly impacted. The staff report did say that traffic will be significantly impacted at the intersection.
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