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Controversial Melrose Showroom Building Gets Tentative Approval

City Council gives tentative approval to a two-story, 30,000 square foot showroom building on Melrose Avenue that will have Restoration Hardware as its main tenant.

A received tentative approval from the West Hollywood City Council on Monday night.

Locally-based BMB Investment Corp. sought to tear down half the block on the southwest corner of Melrose Avenue at Westmount Drive (across from Urth Café) to build a two-story, 30,000 square foot building with 130 parking spaces on two underground levels. The building will primarily house wholesale home furnishings showrooms.

BMB Investment also owns the other two buildings on that block, home to a Waterworks showroom and a Kitson fashion boutique, but they will not be affected by this project. 

Forty-four people spoke during public comment, the commenters being fairly evenly divided on the project. Residents living nearby voiced their opposition, primarily concerned about the increased traffic on Melrose. Residents also were upset about the possibility of the wholesale showroom switching to a retail showroom, as happened in the building that now houses Kitson.

Restoration Hardware is main tenant

The main tenant for the showroom would be Restoration Hardware, taking up 15,000 square feet of the building. Restoration’s CEO Gary Friedman spoke before the Council, explaining that the upscale, home furnishing chain had moved away from retail business and was now primarily a wholesale business.

Friedman said that 10 years ago, 75 percent of Restoration Hardware’s business was retail, the average purchase being $70. Today, only about 2 percent of the business is retail, the average purchase is $3,000.

When questioned about Restoration Hardware’s Beverly Boulevard location, a half mile from this proposed location, Friedman said it had always been intended as a temporary location. 

Councilmember John Duran said that the distinctions between wholesale vs. retail are no longer valid, pointing out that the showrooms in the Pacific Design Center are supposed to be wholesale only but many people walk in off the street and purchase things there.

Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said she didn’t want to see Melrose filled with chain stores, but also said the city should be flexible.

Massive size of project

Councilmember John D’Amico’s liked the European design of the building, but thought the building’s height of almost 40 feet was too tall. He felt the “massive” building would go against the charm of Melrose Avenue.

Councilmember John Heilman though it was as an attractive building but was also concerned about maintaining the unique quality of Melrose Avenue.

In the end, the Council voted 3-2 to approve the project if the developer agrees to several modifications, including creating driveway access to the underground parking on both Westmount Drive and Westbourne Drive. D’Amico and Mayor Jeff Prang voted against it.

joninla May 24, 2012 at 11:18 PM
"Tentative Approval" ? I saw this as a 'done deal' from the first story that described the project and the city's position on this one project. The CA Supreme Court ruled with very strong and clear language AGAINST the city on the basis that although the city may have technically met the minimun Notice To the Community for a meeting allowing residential input on new projects, the NOTICE REQUIREMENT did not actually meet the intent of the law in that the City Council had already committed itself signifcantly and to a degree of planning that it was unchangeable BEFORE thee notice and public meeting was ever made & held. A NEW PRECIDENT WAS SET IN 'SAVE TARA VS CITY OF WEHO' Which this melrose approval seems to been a decision to commit the city to it long before the first public notice and heearing on this project. anyone know an attorney who will fight the city (and how to pay for one?)
meister4weho May 24, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Also makes me think of the Palm Project. Did the City notice all of the residents within 500 ft. of the entire strip of Melrose, from Doheny to La Cienega, as this zoning change (and approval) impacts ALL of Melrose. Thank you Joninla!! Yes I have the attorney -- and all the supporting documentation (planning consultant who said it needs an EIR). Just need the money!
joninla May 25, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Ms. Meister - Glad to see you back and in action. In case you are not aware of the implications of the CA Supreme Court Ruling in the 'Tara' case, the SC Court has set a major new precedent in favor of residents and against any City from simply following the letter of the law for the minimum notice requirements if "when looking at the entire situation" and there was a known situation in fact that adequate notice not given to people affected by a development, despite the city meeting the specific requirements of the law. An undisclosed per-determined decision to approve a project before a noticed hearing could very easily be argued as being invalid under this recent major new ruling by the Court on this type of local over-development. Since Heilman's rezoning of just specific parcels within weho took years in the planning and execution process to the point where we are only now being noticed of this property's plans - I don't think there could possibly be any more clear evidence of a pre-determined and substantial commitment decision of the City to this approval of the project long before notice and public input given. If the money is your only problem - then you have one heck of a huge problem I don't have any advice about. I think this city is very aware of the this financial hurdle and is why the city is so confident and to just keeps doing whatever they feel like doing.
meister4weho May 26, 2012 at 01:17 AM
@joninla: true it's a hurdle, but i don't think it's unsurmountable.
joninla May 26, 2012 at 08:01 AM
I don't think so either, but I just don't know how you or anyone can accomplish it. The only successful effort I am aware of is 'save tara' activists ability to accomplish so much. I know nothing about how they did it, but it still impresses me every time I think about it. The ability for an activist group to not only get representation, but to get the high quality and experienced legal council that succeeded against the City and Latham & Watkins all the way to the CA Supreme Court is a first of its kind that I've heard of. If you know how they were able to achieve such a wonderful victory, and could duplicate whatever resources the activists of Tara' were able to cull and pull together, then I think your case is almost a done deal. Clearly the city has approved and substantially committed the city irrevocably to the the Melrose project. The City has spent excessive time and city resources to rezone that parcel before any notice whatsoever was given about the proposed plans the property owner has only now submitted for approval. The discussion about which parts of Melrose will be allotted the zoning variance during the recent city meeting was just a 'dog and pony show' and the 'zoning overlay' is gonna be right over this developers project and plans, fitting the zoning changes to the private developers plans to a "T" .... I am willing to place a bet on it - and it's not just a 'convenient coincidence' the city changes match the developers plans.

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