Proposed Hotel Helicopter Landings Have Residents Making Noise

The Sofitel wants to start having commercial helicopter landings on its rooftop but neighbors are worried about sound and safety.

Helicopters are a fact of life in Los Angeles. Everyone knows how loud they can be, especially police helicopters circling overhead. But imagine living beside a regular helicopter landing site and you will begin to understand the frustration of one West Hollywood neighborhood.

Residents in West Hollywood West, an area made up of almost 1,000 single-family homes north of Beverly Boulevard, west of La Cienega and east of Doheny, already have two nearby helicopter landing sites to contend with—at the and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Now, the upscale high-rise Sofitel hotel on Beverly across from the Beverly Center is proposing to use its emergency evacuation helicopter pad for commercial use.

“The Sofitel wants to be able to offer something unique,” said Mike Leary, a consultant working with the hotel on the proposal. “It’s a lifestyle choice that few hotels can offer.”

Lauren Meister, who lives 500 feet north of the Sofitel, hopes it will not be able to offer the service. She and other residents are putting up a fight.

“The noise is bad. It can wake you up at night,” said Meister, who has lived in her home on Westbourne Drive since 1997. “It’s an irritant. It affects our quality of life.”

The neighborhood got a taste of what it might be like for three months last fall when Ryan Kavanaugh, the media mogul behind Relativity Media, which is headquartered a few blocks west of the Sofitel, used the hotel’s landing pad for his helicopter. A Hollywood Reporter profile of Kavanaugh from September 2010 described flying helicopters as his “newest obsession.”

Residents complained about Kavanaugh’s noisy comings and goings enough to get California Congressman Henry Waxman involved. In early December, Caltrans issued a cease and desist order, as the hotel did not have the proper permits for nonemergency landings.

Shortly after that, the Sofitel started its proposal for a “heli-stop” that would be used for quick landings and takeoffs. It would not be a heliport where choppers land routinely. But if someone chartered a chopper, they would be able to legally land on the hotel's roof.

“The business community is in love with the idea, because it would bring wealthy people here,” explained Leary, who said he and the Sofitel are still in the exploration stages of the proposal. Once they submit their paperwork, it is a 13-month application process, which would require approval from both the Los Angeles City Council and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Built in 1986, the 10-story Sofitel tried to get a heli-stop approved in 2007, but ultimately abandoned the idea. Leary was not involved in that proposal, so he said he doesn't know the specifics of why those plans were dropped.

But this time, the Accor Hotels-owned Sofitel intends to go through the entire application process, which according to Leary will likely cost more than $150,000.

Los Angeles 5th District Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents the Sofitel area, has already sent a letter to Caltrans supporting a temporary license for the hotel.

In late January, area residents received a letter from Leary informing them of the hotel’s plans and inviting their input. Shortly after that, the hotel began conducting noise tests to determine the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods, even though it is not required until later in the application process.

By the end of April, the Sofitel will release its plans on a website and then will begin holding neighborhood meetings. In the meantime, Leary said he is available for one-on-one meetings with residents.

Meister has not yet met with Leary, but has numerous concerns beyond the noise. She is worried about safety, mentioning that the Cedars-Sinai helipad is 1,000 feet away from the Sofitel’s. And the Maimonides Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school, is 50 feet away behind the hotel.

Calls to the Maimonides Academy for comment were not returned. A spokesperson for Cedars said it did not have a position on the heli-stop.

Meister also worries about possible accidents in landings and takeoffs, pointing out a gas station across the street from the Sofitel. Leary responds that helicopter pilots are “incredibly disciplined people who go through extensive training to get their license.”

“What happens if celebrities start flying in and the paparazzi start chasing them in helicopters?” Meister asks. “Are we going to have one helicopter landing and three others circling around trying to get a shot of them?”

“Who lands is at the discretion of the hotel,” Leary said. “It’s a private facility.” He adds that the hotel is going to great expense to add this “sexy amenity,” so it is not going jeopardize its conditional use permit for the sake of controversial landings.

What about Kavanaugh? “Is he going to be flying in and out all the time like he was last fall?” Meister asks.

Leary said he cannot speak to Kavanaugh’s plans, but reports he would not be allowed to park his helicopter on the roof since that would violate the permit the Sofitel is seeking. “I can absolutely assure you this is not meant to be anyone’s toy,” Leary said.

If the Sofitel does get approval, will other hotels, especially those along the Sunset Strip, start trying to get helicopter stops to maintain a competitive advantage?

Leary points out that the Sunset Strip hotels do not have existing helicopter landing pads. Hotels taller than 80 feet and built in the last 30 years are required to have Emergency Landing Facilities, and the Sunset Strip hotels predate that.

According to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the only hotels that are approved for commercial helicopter landings are all Downtown, including the Biltmore, the Ritz-Carlton and the Bonaventure.

Additionally, Leary said, few hotels have the proper approach and departure angles for heli-stop use. The Sofitel’s proposal would have helicopters follow existing business corridors along La Cienega, San Vicente and Beverly, and would never fly north into residential areas.

As for hours of operation, the Sofitel is proposing 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but those are negotiable. “Everything is negotiable at this point,” Leary said. “This is an open discussion. We want to work with the neighbors so that everyone can be happy.”

west hollywould April 01, 2011 at 09:34 PM
I deleted my own comment because it was inappropriate and lacking in insight, however it was obviously 100% a joke and not a threat. The point I really wanted to make, and should have just done so in the first place rather than tossing off a dumb joke, is that certain people involved in this campaign are chronically involved in fights with local businesses and people. They constantly accuse someone of trying to destroy their peaceful, harmonious neighborhood and skew those people across the hot coals of various local media outlets. If someone is in such a constant state of outrage at their community, then they shouldn't be taken seriously as a "community leader" but rather considered a nuisance.
maya edwards April 01, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Just know that "certain people" are united on this issue of opposition to approving the Sofitel Helipad for recreational, personal or business usage for valid reasons. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to stand up and be heard to maintain our peaceful, harmonious neighborhood. I, for one, am grateful to have in my community a "certain person" who has the courage to take the initiative. That is "leadership" quality. The true nuisance right now is the Helipad issue.
meister4weho April 01, 2011 at 10:01 PM
@west hollywould: you're trying to make this about me, and it's not. This is a serious issue impacting thousands of households, across two cities, not one person. The numerous comments here, as well as under the LA Times article, should make that evident. Regarding my involvement in city matters, I'm representing my neighborhood, a neighborhood I love, and helping to make my neighborhood the best it can be. If you consider me to be a nuisance, then, maybe you're one of those people trying to do improper or inappropriate things in the neighborhood -- and I'm glad to see I'm being effective.
Lorelei Shark April 01, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Maya - if nobody has approached Maimonides about this issue - I will. I had read that a reporter contacted them for comment and they never got back to the reporter. I started the ball rolling today with an email to Koretz, copying several concerned parties and I'll continue on Monday. If maimonides isn't ready to oppose this - I will get a sign or two made and stand on the sidewalk to alert parents. Anyone who wants to join me can certainly let me know. I think if we let the powers that be know this is going to be a long, protracted fight, they may stop before going further.
Lorelei Shark April 01, 2011 at 10:24 PM
Lauren, do you have a response from them?
maya edwards April 01, 2011 at 10:45 PM
As far as I know, Maimonides is aware of the situation and has not yet weighed in. Maybe they are being apolitical. Time is always of the essence and I will stand with you at the school to make sure the parents are fully informed of this pending situation and the hazards that come with an approval. Pretty sure that most of us will be in for the long haul if it becomes drawn out.
elias garzouzi April 01, 2011 at 10:50 PM
@west hollywould: Lauren Meister's represents a pretty large area with boundaries that stretch from L.A to B.H. She obviously gets a lot of calls and requests from disturbed residents that she has a duty to represent. Most of her involvement is therefore opposing and objecting stuff in order to protect the homes within the association’s boundary per the resident’s request. I don't think anyone calls her to ask her to go and congratulate a neighbor on behalf of the association because they have a well kept garden or a tidy and respectful bar/restaurant with a law abiding valet parking company and I don't think that she would even have the time for that. Consequently, she might appear to be in this fighting mode by people who are not concerned by a particular issue. On the other hand, if your peace and quiet is suddenly shattered and you find yourself all alone facing a major corporation, you could count on her and her board to provide you with much needed support.
meister4weho April 01, 2011 at 10:54 PM
@Elias: thanks for your support... On that note, I'm signing off!
allegra April 01, 2011 at 11:56 PM
Wishing somebody would get killed in their bed “lacks insight”? What does that mean? West Hollywould’s new “insight” is that Lauren’s a nuisance because she, as presidents of a resident’s group, works to keep her neighborhood peaceful and lovely. This actual issue is never addressed by West Hollywould. The wishing Lauren dead was meant as a joke?... Then, he/she realized that, that was an inappropriate comment and removed it. Somebody who reacts first, in this manner, and thinks afterward could be dangerous, a true nuisance and, I still believe, reported.
Kiki April 02, 2011 at 12:33 AM
@west hollywould: you are a coward
Mashad11 April 02, 2011 at 01:33 AM
What a country! One can buy the sheriff, the councilman and silence from the school. Maimonides gets donations from Sofitel so why should they oppose the helipad?
John Pieplow April 02, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Please stop sending these to my e-mail box. Thanks.
Danielle Jacoby April 02, 2011 at 02:18 AM
John, I am looking into this. Thanks for your patience.
Michael April 02, 2011 at 03:58 AM
but where do our fearless 4-SOME in City Hall stand on this? shouldn't they be helping or at least connecting us to people that can! I say 4-SOME instead of 5-SOME because Da'Mico is STILL on vacation until Monday night which I think is a travesty because the first thing he does after getting elected is leave town for 2 entire weeks? WTF???
me April 02, 2011 at 04:30 AM
hey lauren....will you move to MY neighborhood???? :-) thanks for doin the work you do and fighting the good fight for all....we may just be able to put the kibosh on this thing before others try to do this all over LA and beyond
me April 02, 2011 at 04:36 AM
according to an article right here on the patch, john and his partner were leaving for an 8 day vacation on 3/22, so he's BACK!!!....besides, whats yur point if NONE of them have weighed in on this issue yet?
Lynn Russell April 02, 2011 at 06:18 AM
Perhaps RK and Relativity Media will soon become irrelevant and take this entire helicopter flap with him. Some of the comments here and other posts on Curbed, LA Times and seem incredulous. It's hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would condone helicopter flying by every Tom, Dick, Harry or Ryan , other than on an an emergency basis, in their own neighborhood if they really thought about it. The self appointed fabulous folks could gain some real credibility if they endeavored to lead lives that avoided mucking it up for the general public. Is it the heat or the atmosphere here in LA that breeds such terminal nuttiness?
Lynn Russell April 02, 2011 at 06:21 AM
"LA Times and others"........
meister4weho April 02, 2011 at 06:56 AM
I'm happy to say that the school and many others are opposed to the helipad (regular use vs. emergency).... We appreciate the support. Thank you!
meister4weho April 02, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Michael, I guess you've never run for office in this town or you'd understand why someone needs a break after the election! As "me" has said, the City of Weho has yet to weigh in although I have heard from Mayor Pro Tem John Duran. Monday night is a City Council meeting and it will be discussed. Obviously, there is no benefit to our City to support this change of use, and I can't believe they will do anything but oppose this application. It's just a shame that staff didn't react a little sooner. But there's a lot of opposition to this application in the larger community -- not just West Hollywood West. (I think everyone but Koretz thinks it's a bad idea and would set a terrible precedent!)
Jerome Cleary April 03, 2011 at 12:23 PM
can we make it a law in California that if you get a DUI you cannot ever operate any type of aircraft and or a helicopter ever
maya edwards April 03, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Let's get it on the ballot
Jerome Cleary April 03, 2011 at 09:46 PM
why are our comment now being censored on this? mine disappeared?
Ken Nielsen April 03, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Distribute whistles to all nearby residents. When a helicopter lands, residents flood the hotel and blow their whistles.
me April 03, 2011 at 10:39 PM
i guess jokes aren't allowed....especially about tampons
me April 03, 2011 at 10:39 PM
haha....LOVE IT!!
Jerome Cleary April 03, 2011 at 11:19 PM
it took a lot of creativity to take the frequently over used word of HELIPAD and come up with a clever joke
Schermnaam April 06, 2011 at 06:16 AM
Ryan K. should simply buy one of the on-the-market homes in West Hollywood West and walk to work. A walk through that neighborhood will clear his head from work-stress better than a having to don headphones to drown out whirly blades. And it's much better karma.
maya edwards April 06, 2011 at 05:17 PM
If you have been following up on the latest news, you know that Sofitel is not longer pursuing the temporary permit. This stands as testimony that when people unite for a worthy and just cause, positive outcomes can be accomplished.
Drew Baldwin August 23, 2011 at 06:09 AM
Where on the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau site does it mention this? Thx "According to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the only hotels that are approved for commercial helicopter landings are all Downtown, including the Biltmore, the Ritz-Carlton and the Bonaventure."


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