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City Council Approves Melrose Projects

Two different design showroom buildings on Melrose Avenue receive approval from the City Council, which also approves an Avenues overlay bonus allowing both buildings to go taller.

The West Hollywood City Council approved two projects on Melrose Avenue as well as a zoning amendment allowing each to go taller at its Monday night meeting.

The project at 8711 Melrose Avenue (at San Vicente Boulevard) is a three-story, 23,000 square foot building designed for retail and wholesale design showroom space.

The project at with 130 parking spaces on two underground levels. That building will primarily house wholesale home furnishings showrooms. Restoration Hardware is set to be its main tenant.

As part of the city’s new General Plan, the Council has created an Avenues Bonus overlay zone allowing buildings to go taller if they meet certain criteria. Since both buildings were requesting to go higher, the Council had to first approve that height bonus in order for the two projects presented to be approved.

The Council approved the bonus on a 4-1 vote with Councilmember John D’Amico voting against it. D’Amico said he wanted to assure each project has a specific and distinct public benefit before getting the bonus.

With the bonus overlay in place, the 8711 Melrose project easily received unanimous approval.

However, the 8564-8590 Melrose project proved more controversial. Area residents have opposed the project as too massive since at 35 feet, it will be significantly taller than the surrounding buildings. Residents also expressed concerns about the traffic impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

Questions were also raised about the stability of Restoration Hardware since its chairman, Gary Friedman, recently stepped down amid charges of having an inappropriate relationship with a 26-year-old female employee.

Nonetheless, the Council approved the 8564 Melrose project on a 3-2 vote. D’Amico and Mayor Jeff Prang voted against it.

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me August 23, 2012 at 03:32 PM
gunna suck to live in that neighborhood with gridlock, especially during construction....question is, will they lawyer-up to fight???
Shawn Thompson August 23, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Do we really need to keep inserting as much as possible into new construction at the expense of the quality of life of the residents?
Mile c August 23, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Yes of course. It's called progress and city building - and it's a good thing. Should we regress backwards to weed-strewn fields?
joninla August 23, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Didn't anyone notice this was a 'done deal' a long time ago when John Heilman drafted the new 25 year plan for the City. That whole effort (despite the various stories why it was necessary) was to allow heilman to cherry pick very specific parcels in the City to change the zoning and allow bigger, taller, less set backs, fewer parking etc.... The parcels getting this 'rezoning' were for the developers who contribute to Heilman's campaign war chest. Those that didn't kept the same old zoning and put through the wringer trying to develop those non-rezoned parcels which are all much smaller and less overbearing on the local neighborhoods and overall City Traffic. For example - compare the Sunset Centrum Plans vs. the mega hotels for sunset, the La Brea mega mixed use and this very specific zoning change to just this portion of Melrose to allow this project to be built, and built much larger and with ease through the planning commissions. (and not to forget the very cherry picked rezoning of the City Hall and parking lot behind to allow the robo garage and the back up reasoning now is the existing city hall parking does not meet minimum zoning requirements .... which Heilman just increased Sept 2011 (around that time))
scott ferguson August 23, 2012 at 10:12 PM
My understanding from the council meeting I watched was that this project was approved only after modifications negotiated by the city responding to resident concerns were addressed. That would seem to disprove the idea that this was a done deal. It sounds like both sides had to meet in the middle, which is usually the way these things are resolved in a progressive, citizen-input encouraged city like ours.
joninla August 23, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Like the entire first hour or two of the regular city meetings, the planning commission is a big 'Dog & Pony' show meant to meet minimum statutory requirements and designed to be a means of getting projects that are favored by Heilman, but which outrage the locals being affected by the projects will point their fingers at, instead of heilman. There is a difference between just watching the meeting and listening to and understanding the real issues from the 'show' that most people are unawre of, a few take it is an open fair independent body, and the very few outspoken people who do not look for reasons to go along with whatever the city does for whatever irrational reasons they have to blind themselves to the possibility their 'faith in weho politics' remains 'true' and they haven't been foolishly beguiled for so many years.
AntiPrang August 23, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Beyond the obviousness that Heilman et al are in bed with developers and are willing to green-light zoning exceptions for any developer willing to make a campaign contribution, in addition, we should all be truly aghast at the lousy design abomination our so-called "creative city" has just approved. I mean, if you're going to decimate the scale and character and livability of a neighborhood, as this project does, can't it at least be in the name of spectacular architecture? I second another commenter's suggestion that it's time for the local neighborhood to "lawyer up" and fight. Add to that, it's also time for all of us living in WeHo to take a more active role in voicing our discontent. The best way to do so would be to vote out of office a mayor and city council who largely appear to be in their jobs for baldly self-serving purposes. They should all be deeply ashamed of this latest wrong-headed decision and we citizens should organize to vote them out before the character of our entire city is irrevocably marginalized.
scott ferguson August 23, 2012 at 11:20 PM
But this flies in the face of watching the last few meetings and seeing lots of projects rejected and delayed. And of course many more likely never reach this stage. Sorry, I don't see the "obviousness". I've lived in several major cities, and almost always local residents - or at least a vocal minority - oppose any project in their neighborhood. I've lived her for 12 years. In my experience - and I work from home, spend 98% of my time within the city borders, and travel within it on a regular basis - the notion that this city is as liveable as ever and has maintained a character that is very positive. And I suspect most residents agree. Nothing wrong with disagreeing, of course. It just shouldn't come with the presumption that it represents the majority opinion.
joninla August 24, 2012 at 05:02 AM
First - I have long agreed that IF we are to have over construction .... It should at least be 'good looking' ... Which they seldom are. Second - I think you hit the nail on the head why the City Council can keep doing this despite residents being against projects .... "Lawyering Up" costs a lot of money and the predominately Rental Areas don't have the ability to pool resources to do so. This Melrose Project, however, is adjacent to many lovely single family homes, and if they want to to stop it, they will need to pool resources and as you suggest "Lawyer Up".
Shawn Thompson August 24, 2012 at 05:02 AM
@scott so you think allowing these two projects to get zoning variances and be built higher than previously allowed makes the city more live-able?
Shawn Thompson August 24, 2012 at 05:07 AM
@scott In the last 12 years have you noticed a change in traffic flow? As the zoning changes passed by the long term council member's has forced more cars onto the city s streets that weren't engineered in size for all the new density?
scott ferguson August 24, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Shawn I live on a terrific, quiet street two blocks below Sunset. The city approved a 10+ story hotel that will face two streets just north of us. The residents here, many of whom own among the more expensive single family houses in the city, haven't batted an eye over this. The city held meetings, we had input, we trust them. We just had the Sunset Strip Music Festival last weekend. Thousands of people, a little bit of noise. It went swimmingly. In my own personal experience, overall in the city I've found traffic to be fairly consistent. Obviously, different areas have different factors, but living in one of the highest density areas, with much traffic on all sides, I am pleased with how the city has added new businesses and buildings. I since I am concerned about the city's financial well-being, I am glad the government recognizes that, without going crazy, we need new businesses. For whatever reason, my neighborhood is not afflicted with the NIMBY concerns that seem so common elsewhere. And since we have a lot of growth, big buildings, traffic and other similar concerns, it does make me think some of the complaints just might be somewhat exaggerated.
AntiPrang August 24, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Scott, I've attended all but one of the planning committee meetings and all of the City Council meetings this calendar year. The atmosphere of cronyism and rubber stamping has just about sucked all of the breathable air out of the room on many notable occasions. I, too, have lived here for 12 years and work from home and spend 98 percent of my time within city borders...and unlike you, I have been appalled by the increased congestion and inability at times to cross through WeHo on SMB in less than half an hour. The city is fabulous when you're on foot--which I often am--but once you need to drive somewhere--particularly before 9:45 am or after 3:15 pm--it's a painful experience...and it was not always so, sorry to say.
Shawn Thompson August 24, 2012 at 05:48 AM
@scott Your missing my question to you. How does building higher in these two projects make the city more live-able?
Manny August 24, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The "before 9:45am" and "after 3:15pm" (I would call it before 9:15 and after 4:00)traffic delays can be attributed to cars going through the city rather than activity within our borders. During the rest of the day and night, traffic seems ok. Except for weekend nights on SMB in the bar strip between San Vicente and Roberston
Todd Bianco August 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I think the major complaints are valid. First, traffic on this part of Melrose is tragic almost anytime during the day or evening. The city, several years ago, put chokers and those large bollards/balls at each intersection to make pedestrian crossings a bit safer and easier and to "slow down" traffic. I think the advice from "me" to lawyer up is probably smart. It seems the only way to get the attention of government is to threaten legal action as well as negative publicity. Hire a publicist to get the word out. For this project, I think the reduced parking is okay, assuming it STAYS a showroom only. Restoration Hardware fell on hard times and got gobbled up by a hedge fund. They now don't do in-store retail sales, you have to order everything from a catalog. The CEO just got fired for some sort of an "inappropriate" relationship with a female employee. And this is just before a planned IPO of the company. How much longer Restoration Hardware will be in business is anyone's guess - it's by no means clear. So when Restoration is gone, what will go in the space? Retail? Another Kitson? A restaurant as popular as Urth Cafe? If the extra parking doesn't go in now, then when a new tenant takes over, the necessary spaces will not, and will never be there. I also dread the two years of construction traffic, blocked streets, trade trucks, etc. It won't be good for any of the surrounding businesses either.
D'Amico Must Go August 24, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Why would D'Amico bring up the situation with Gary Freidman at Restoration Hardware? It is inappropriate and irrelevant and goes further to show that this guy is operating in a world he doesn't understand. Should we bring up all of John Duran's questionable behavior? Since when did WeHo become a moral judgement zone. It goes against everything the city stands for! Furthermore, it has nothing to do with land use or building size. D'Amico's contributions in his year plus reign: GO GO Day, the Fur Ban, and a failed attempt to close the already congested Robertson Blvd. You go girl!
Todd Bianco August 24, 2012 at 04:10 PM
The reason the former CEO of Restoration Hardware is relevant is because it was his vision that has realigned the company and turned around its losses. He was expected to lead the company forward into the future with an imminent IPO. I don't care what he did or who he did it with, but it does throw into chaos the plans of RH's hedge fund owners and the IPO that is, in part, meant to finance Mr. Friedman's planned expansion. The IPO is on hold now. Everyone is operating on the assumption that Restoration Hardware will be around in 2 years to occupy the space as a showroom. That's not so clear now. And if RH isn't the tenant when the building is complete, what business will take its place? It's an important issue.
scott ferguson August 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I don't know that it makes it more liveable. I also don't know that it makes it less liveable either. I do know that I like a city that provides a balance of managed growth that encourages appropriate businesses that will help keep us financially stable and enhance the West Hollywood brand as center of fashion, design, creativity and related while making sure new projects are still subject to reasonable controls. As I said, I live a block from where a 10 story+ hotel taking over several current property lots bordering three streets has been approved, and like just about all my neighbors, who care about the quality of our neighborhood no less than people elsewhere in the city, we are mellow about it. Obviously I don't know the minute details about this project, but based on how I've seen the city operate closer to me, I give them the benefit of the doubt.
meister4weho September 02, 2012 at 05:23 PM
No, Scott, residents' concerns were not addressed. I live in the neighborhood and have been dealing with this project since 2010. Council members shake their heads as if they understand residents' concerns, then vote for the project anyway. Only D'Amico and Prang voted against the project.
meister4weho September 02, 2012 at 05:33 PM
@joninla - you are absolutely right. The best dog and pony show yet was the ridiculous Q&A between Duran and the former CEO of Restoration Hardware. D'Amico was the only one who said anything of value. The Melrose Westmount project provided no "public benefit" as required by the Avenues Bonus criteria. Only to the applicant and the recipients of campaign contributions and contributions to pet projects, and maybe legal defense fund contributions (but who knows? - that semi-annual report has yet to be filed).
meister4weho September 02, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I'm sure the neighborhood would love help raising $50,000 - $70,000 to file a lawsuit. Anyone who would like to contribute, please email whwra90048@gmail.com.
meister4weho September 02, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Todd, that is correct. It was because of Restoration Hardware's supposed "showroom-like" business model that several council members were for the project and didn't think it needed environmental review. Now ANY retail project can go in...
joninla September 02, 2012 at 09:23 PM
re: D'Amico - what ever happened to his motion to shorten the Dog & Pony Show a.k.a. The city council open meetings every other Monday? I think Mr. D'Amico is coming from a good direction, but is unable to see (as do the rest of the non-heilman members) the bigger picture of how the city is run by Heilman and The City manager, while the intentionally long meetings always have a fairly quiet Heilman who always asks some basic question as if he is just as naive as the rest of the council about where this and the other excessive projects originated, and what the specifics are. Note his reguoar question 'for clarification' he always asks.
meister4weho September 15, 2012 at 12:49 AM
The neighborhood looks like they are "lawyering up." They are accepting donations to the cause. Please feel free to email me if you want more information: lauren@meister4weho.com. If the City gets away with this one, the City will just keep approving projects without doing the proper environment study. They bet on people not filing a lawsuit. Stay tuned...
Michael Mooney September 18, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I re-produce a note from an idealistic neighbor - a newcomer to WEHO - who thought there's a there here. She was engaged in the issues around 8564 and went to two City Council meetings. I wish that Heilman, Land and Duran would read what she said, but it probably wouldn't do any good. They don't represent concerned citizens very well anyway. What she said is telling. Here it is: "I did attend the meeting as well as the marathon budget meeting last month. This meeting was disappointing, to say the least. It’s as if these meetings are just for show. Herding residents in one by one for 2 minutes to make comments which are rarely considered, except by John D'Amico, who consistently raises thoughtful and neighborhood-sensitive questions which are usually ignored by the rest of the council members. I sat and listened to the Mayor express his concerns regarding a property 600 feet away from where he lives, but when it came to this project, which is not in his neighborhood, he failed to see any of our concerns. I thought our council members and mayor were there to represent our needs and concerns, not just their own. It gives me little hope for the system, especially as one of the younger homeowners in this city, and I am discouraged from remaining involved if our concerns are falling upon deaf ears. I thought West Hollywood was progressive and different. Perhaps I was wrong, at least when it comes to the governmental portion." Enough said.

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