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City Staffers Recommend Approval for Proposed Centrum Sunset Project

A report released online late Thursday afternoon reveals city support for the three-story, 52,000-square-foot Sunset Strip development.

After months of not taking a position on a controversial Sunset Strip project, City Hall staffers have released a report recommending approval.

The City Council is scheduled to hear the proposed Centrum Sunset project at its Monday meeting. The 52,000-square-foot development with ground floor retail, a David Barton boutique gym/spa on the second level and third floor office space would replace the old Tower Records building at 8801 Sunset Blvd.

When the project went before the and , city staffers did not make a recommendation for or against it. Not taking a position then was something virtually unheard of, but offering an opinion now is even more unusual. 

The report, released online late Thursday afternoon, says, “Staff supports the project as it furthers the economic and urban design goals of the Sunset Specific Plan.” The report goes on to say that the project will develop a “landmark building that is a contextual and appropriately scaled solution for the subject site.”

When Weho Patch contacted Community Development Director Anne McIntosh for further information about why staffer were now recommending the project, she declined to comment. Calls to other members of the city’s Planning staff were not returned.

Residents weigh in

Many area residents have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the project from the beginning, citing concerns about traffic and the video billboards incorporated into the building’s architecture.

Elyse Eisenberg, who has spearheaded the opposition, was surprised staffers were suddenly taking a position.

“We are stunned that city staff has recommended approval of Centrum Sunset with a straight face when all evidence from the EIR [Environmental Impact Report], the Planning Commission hearings and even their own original staff report were filled with the enormity of problems that this project will generate in its current configuration,” Eisenberg said. "The negative impacts of this project far outweigh any illusive benefits beyond the clear prospect of keeping Sunset in perpetual gridlock.”

Planning Commission did not recommend project

When the Planning Commission , it voted 6 to 0 not to recommend it to the City Council. Commissioner Roy Huebner recused himself since he has business dealings with David Barton.

Although the commissioners liked the building's unique curving architecture, they had serious concerns about parking, traffic circulation and video signage that prompted them not to recommend the project.

The proposed building would have 238 parking spaces on two levels, 40 spaces fewer than what the city code requires. Parking would be entirely valet with triple tandem parking in some areas and mechanical lifts in others.

Entrances to the parking garage would be off Sunset Boulevard and Horn Avenue. The EIR estimates the project would add 1,200 vehicles on Sunset each day. The EIR also estimates traffic on Horn would increase by 27 percent on weekdays (up 550 cars per day to 2,558) and 17 percent on weekends (up 336 cars to 2,309). 

The project proposes having two billboards. A standard 14-by-36-foot billboard would be on the southern facade, while a video billboard consisting of four separate video screens would wrap around the southeastern side of the building going up Horn.

These billboards would require zoning ordinance changes by the City Council since billboards are currently banned on that part of Sunset under the 15-year-old Sunset Specific Plan, which guides development along the Strip. If approved, Centrum Sunset would enter into a development agreement to pay the city a monthly fee amounting to almost $500,000 per year.

Some support the project

Although the project has seen strong opposition, the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce has come out in favor of it. Similarly, the Sunset Strip Business Association voted to support the project earlier this year, saying it would bring a new and exciting business to an iconic corner known around the world.

“It’s new. It’s unique,” said Todd Steadman, executive director of the business association. “The Sunset Strip has numerous experiences. It’s music, it’s fashion, it’s entertainment. This is a new experience for the 1.6 mile boulevard.”

Centrum Sunset developer Sol Barket said, “This project not only promises to enliven a long-dormant site at the heart of the Sunset Strip, but will help bring a new energy to the area.”

Barket also points out that the project would include a 11,000-square-foot pocket park at the back of the property.

The City Council meets Monday at 6:30 p.m. in West Hollywood Park Auditorium.

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Jerome Cleary September 16, 2011 at 04:34 PM
What a surprise in the 11th hour staff suddenly has a recommendation? this part speaks volumes: "When Weho Patch contacted Community Development Director Anne McIntosh for further information about why staff was now recommending the project, she declined to comment. Calls to other members of the city’s Planning staff were not returned." and "The EIR estimates the project would add 1,200 vehicles on Sunset each day. The EIR also estimates traffic on Horn would increase by 27 percent on weekdays (up 550 cars per day to 2,558) and 17 percent on weekends (up 336 cars to 2,309)." I guess having permanent total gridlock on Sunset Strip at Holloway and Horn will not matter to our city and council then? What about emergency vehicle access? and the destruction of the surrounding businesses on Sunset Strip?
jimmy September 16, 2011 at 06:14 PM
I agree with developer Sol Barket: the building will bring "new energy" to the area. Unfortunately, the kind of energy it will bring is negative energy with noise, traffic, diminished safety access and billboard blight. It will be interesting to see the campaign contributions reports of the City Council in a few months when they are revealed. And we can hope there were no other unreported contributions or gifts or free dinners or anything else. Right? West Hollywood isn't the city of Bell, right?
joninla September 17, 2011 at 07:47 AM
In reply to the most relevant thing on this page ... The first comment about the "11th hour" unplanned/notice to approve the project. All the City Meetings are just 'dog & pony shows' where in the end the City will do whatever it wants ..... Residents, Voters, Local Business, Quality of Life .... Be 'dam#ed'. Sometimes the City's plans coincide with some participants input, which makes it appear the Community Input is actually taken into consideration, when in fact it is the corrupt council following the rich developers instructions after their large campaign contributions.
joninla September 17, 2011 at 07:48 AM
EXACTLY! 11th hour decision after how many months of noticed meetings?
Richard Maggio September 17, 2011 at 07:50 AM
For me the biggest problem with this project is the traffic gridlock and the billboard blight. The people say no and the City Council will say yes.
joninla September 17, 2011 at 01:27 PM
It's the same every time a project is approved by the City. Only people directly affected by a particular project gets involved. It is frustrating until, as is the case here, an 11th hour rapid approval. I have no personal interest in this or any other project, but I have noticed the pattern of the corrupt City Council over and over again. It really is an issue of going after the corruption that makes West Hollywood the only City in Western Civilization that is still having a robust booming building and growing municipal budget for absurd projects ..... While the world has Economic Catastrophe. It needs to stop .... but it won't change with people only concerned about their own very personal interests. I wish there would be some publicity on the Major News Networks about the one City not hurting while others are going bankrupt.
JESS Kalinowsky Registered Voter September 17, 2011 at 02:29 PM
City Staffers Recommend Approval for Proposed Centrum Sunset Project A report released online late Thursday afternoon reveals city support for the three-story, 52,000-square-foot Sunset Strip development. OK let me see if I can get this right. The city OK's a mega development, but they cannot see their way clear to OK "Laurel Hardware" as a restaurant to open. {UNLESS I have missed them being OK'd]. I cannot understand "The most walkable city in America?" and they hold back approval because of lack of PARKING???? The resolution is SIMPLE make ALL parts of City Permit Parking only for residents. Enforce that. and let the restaurant open and sink or swim based on parking they do have and "walk in" traffic. It seems "City" is against "Small Business" but for mega development???? Am I missing something???? City should be encouraging "Small Businesses" instead of blocking them at every opportunity.
joninla September 17, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Again ... The world economy crashes, the subway does not get built, condos built and unsold, small business dying out, demographics change .... Each Major Event is blow off as it being insignificant and too much effort to re-evaluate the set 25 year plan for the next 25 years of the same people running this City and taking off with its assets. And this one little corrupt City is spending MILLIONS and MILLIONS of the revenue on self-serving projects and unlike virtually all other Cities - The "Job" of Mayor is really mostly about getting, supporting and creating local businesses and local jobs..... But West Hollywood doesn't care about the Residents and although not a business owner, the City seems HOSTILE and ADVERSE towards new businesses and existing business that are the backbone of the City. One reason after another to get the Corrupt City Council - OUT FOR GOOD!
Todd Bianco September 17, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Does the Emperor have no clothes? This project is a gigantic billboard with a building attached, not the other way around. The developer admits that it doesn't make economic sense unless he's given every square inch of advertising space. Why even bother with the pesky building, the gym and parking spaces? This is wrong for that intersection. Wrong for the residents and wrong for all the traffic that already crawls through Sunset. I have a feeling that IAC (the City's largest employer, I believe) isn't just going to roll over and let the project happen. At least it can afford expensive lawyers to stall or block the project. I wouldn't want to piss off an important employer like IAC. We need the jobs and their presence in WeHo. If the City Council has any intestinal fortitude (which I'm not so sure of) this project should be scrapped. Until a better project comes along, the old Tower Records building is just fine with me.
jimmy September 17, 2011 at 04:38 PM
And what if EVERY new project in the City will now only get built, if the owner/developer can have massive billboards all over it? I'm sure we are not far off from a new condo high rise on Sunset will billboards all over it, and after that, residential condos on smaller residential streets with gigantic moving billboards. That is clearly the direction weho is heading.
joninla September 17, 2011 at 05:21 PM
AS FOR THE DIGITAL BILLBOARDS: They can be awful, bright and wreck your sleep. But the Digital billboard on Santa Monica and La Cienega (SE Corner) was first installed, and when I would walk down the street, I could not believe how bright it was and was thankful not to live near it. BUT! They have since made adjustments to it, and you can see (if they get it right) the digital billboards (assuming the inevitable will happen) are not necessarily as bad as it seems. I think it will take a lot of push to get them to lower the lighting as they did on the one I mentioned. Check it out if you haven't seen it at night. Not so bad after all.

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