Efforts to rehabilitate the historic El Mirador apartment building were upset Thursday night when the West Hollywood Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of its rehab plan.
Built in 1929, the 7-story, 32-unit Spanish Colonial Revival building that sits on the northeast corner of Fountain Avenue and Sweetzer Avenue has been vacant for the past two years.
Jerome Nash, who bought the deteriorating building in 2002, tried for four years to do renovations, but said he was continually thwarted by various city regulations and commissions. Frustrated, Nash evicted all the tenants under the Ellis Act and went out of the rental business in fall 2010.
Since the city doesn’t want to see El Mirador deteriorate further while its sits empty, the city and Nash worked out a development agreement to rehabilitate the building which was designated as a “cultural resource” in 1992.
Once restored, Nash proposes to reopen El Mirador as either an urban inn or as condominiums. Planning Commission heard the project in order to make a recommendation to the City Council, which has the final say on the development agreement under which the city would waive many fees.
The commissioners were unhappy with condominium option. City zoning ordinances would require 63 parking spaces. However, El Mirador only has 24 spaces in its garage.
Commissioners felt they could not recommend the project when it lacked 60 percent of the required parking, noting that the surrounding streets were already too crowded to accommodate the extra cars parking on the road.
Commissioner John Altschul said the project didn’t seem viable as condominiums because of the parking. Several other commissioners echoed those sentiments, noting condos would be hard to sell without proper parking.
Urban Inn option
If El Mirador were to become an urban inn (similar to the San Vicente Inn), parking would not be a problem since zoning ordinances only call for 16 spaces.
However, the commissioners said the building does not meet the main criteria for an urban inn which has a maximum height of two stories and at least 10 percent communal space so guests can interact easily.
Commissioners felt approving it as an urban inn or as condominiums would set a dangerous precedent, noting that many other historic apartment buildings might want the same deal.
Commission Chair Alan Bernstein noted the many aging properties needed rehabilitation, saying the city needs to develop a policy for dealing with such properties rather than addressing it on a case-by-case basis.
Altschul said the building should be rehabilitated, but couldn’t support either option. He felt the project should go back to the drawing boards to look for a better solution. “There is an answer that hasn’t been investigated yet,” Altschul said, also acknowledging that he didn’t know what that answer is.
In the end, the Commission voted 6-0 to recommend the City Council deny the development agreement. Commissioner Marc Yeber recused himself since he lives within 500 feet of El Mirador.