One of the city’s most scrutinized developments proposals – 8150 Sunset – received recommendation for approval on Tuesday after its owners agreed to reduce its tallest building by 24 percent and increase affordable housing.
Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, was not present at the Planning and Land Use (PLUM) Committee meeting Tuesday, but he was commended more than a dozen times for working with the developer Townscape Partners to create an agreement that also includes community benefits and additional traffic mitigations.
The project at the southwest corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset Boulevards was designed by architect Frank Gehry. His plans feature five structures for commercial and residential space over approximately 334,000 square feet, and will take the place of two commercial buildings and parking space if approved.
But after facing 10 appeals and pressure from Ryu to address community concerns, the developers agreed to meet the councilman’s conditions.
The tallest structure was set to be 234 feet tall, but developers agreed to Ryu’s request and reduced it to 178 feet. The project’s density will also be reduced from 249 units to 229, while increasing affordable units to 38.
Ryu also secured additional parking and increased pedestrian access with 15-foot sidewalk widths on Sunset Boulevard, and the developers also agreed to work with Metro to relocate current bus stops to improve access and safety. Developers will also pay $2 million for additional traffic, pedestrian or bike improvements.
PLUM Committee member and Councilman Gil Cedillo, 1st District, said Ryu, the developers and Gehry should be commended for making the accommodations, especially considering there is no height limit for the project’s site and the developers had already agreed to include affordable housing.
In addition to Ryu’s concerns, 10 appeals were filed by five appellants – the city of West Hollywood, Fix the City, JDR Crescent LLC and IGI Crescent LLC, Susan Manners, and Laurel Canyon Association. They challenged the project’s height, parking, compatibility with infrastructure, earthquake readiness, traffic effects and public safety implications. They argued the project is not consistent with the city’s 1988 city planning law that dictates projects’ scale and size. But with the agreement on additional conditions, the city of West Hollywood and Laurel Canyon Association dropped their appeals.
Representatives with the group Fix the City continued to argue that the project’s 3:1 floor area ratio, which the city will give to developers in exchange for the affordable housing, is three times greater than the zoning allows and is “entirely inconsistent.”
“Fix the City doesn’t oppose development on this site,” said Beverly Palmer, the group’s attorney. “But it must be safe and mitigate its impacts and be consistent with the zoning. … Send the project back to be reduced to an appropriate scope and size.”
Cedillo explained the committee recommended approval in light of their duty and obligation to respond to the city’s housing crisis.
“It’s not 1988 anymore,” he said, referring to the last time the community zoning rules were last updated. “It would be nice if we could live in the neighborhoods we grew up in, but they don’t exist anymore.”
Cedillo said the council’s decisions are difficult and often “incredibly unpopular.” He said when others fight change, leaders are needed to push the city forward and make it “the great progressive city that we are.”
Senior planner Luci Ibarra said city staff confirmed with the Department of Building and Safety that the project is not located on the Hollywood fault line. She said comments about the illegality of the project are false, and that appellants were not able to demonstrate evidence that the environmental impact reviews were conducted inadequately.
“It’s not out of the ordinary to consider 3:1 floor area ratio,” she said.
The residents at the meeting split sharply on the project. Some commended it as a masterpiece that will create more jobs and housing. But others “vehemently” oppose it.
James O’Sullivan, president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and vice president of Fix the City, was upset that Ryu agreed to conditions with Townscape.
“It seems like [Ryu] said, ‘let’s make a deal,’” O’Sullivan said. “I cannot believe what I’m hearing. I voted for David Ryu and I’m wishing I could take that vote back right now.”
Andrew MacPhearson, who turned in 800 signatures of people who opposed the project’s initial “cookie cutter” design in 2014, commended the developers for coming back with Frank Gehry and for working with the community. Rachel Torres, spokeswoman for United Local 11 for hotel employees said they support the project.
Gehry assured the council members that the city is in good hands with Townscape.
“Personally, I don’t take every project that comes my way,” he said. “I try to work with people who share my values. With that, I am able to produce some of the works that I have.”
“I got a call from (Townscape Partners) Tyler Siegel and John Irwin. They came to me and in about a half hour I realized that they did share my values. They are very interested in creating something on this site that would be a proud part of the community. They wanted it to be real architecture.”
The city council will consider the project next.
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