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.