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Planning Commission Delays Deciding on Sunset Strip Banks

The city proposes putting a cap on the number of banks on Sunset Boulevard and also limiting the amount of street footage a bank can use. The Planning Commission delays a vote, asking staff to investigate more options.

How many banks should be on the Sunset Strip? That was the question before the Planning Commission on Thursday night as city staff proposed putting a cap on those financial institutions.

There are currently seven banks on Sunset Boulevard between Phyllis Avenue (the city’s western border) and Horn Street, with one more due to open soon.

The city is concerned about this number because it wants to create an active, pedestrian-friendly street filled with shops (which generate sales-tax revenue for the city). Since banks are closed after dark, they don’t add to that vibrancy, instead creating dead zones that don’t encourage people to walk further down the sidewalk. 

The city proposed limiting the number of banks on Sunset to six. The existing seven banks (and one more on the way) would be grandfathered in, but no new banks would be allowed to open in the area until others closed.

The city also proposed requiring 1500 feet between any financial institutions. It further wanted to limit banks to 25 feet of street-front footage, although more footage could be in the back of the building or on upper floors. The city said similar regulations are now in effect on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and are working well.

Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce spoke against the proposal, saying putting a cap on the number of banks was wrong. She said the issue was one of urban design and all that was needed was to limit the street footage.

Commission Marc Yeber agreed that it was an urban design issue and called the proposal “a Band-Aid over a much larger problem.” He advocated putting a two-year moratorium on new banks on the Strip rather than adopting a zone-text amendment. He also recommended the city revisit the Sunset Specific Plan adopted in 1996.

Commissioner Alan Bernstein said the problem was less about the entity and more about urban design. He said banks were good tenants but 120 feet of street footage (as some banks on the Strip have) does create a dead zone.

Commissioner David Aghaei said that you have to let businesses do business but also shared concerns about the dead zones, saying, “you get to certain points on the Strip and you kinda don’t want to walk further.” 

Commissioner John Altschul said they city always wants to encourage spectacular and exciting designs, something bank buildings generally lack. He suggested encouraging banks to move onto the second floor, something that would also make bank robberies harder.

In the end, the Commission voted 7-0 to continue the item until its Sept. 20 meeting and asked city staff to investigate some of its suggestions in the interim.

joninla August 18, 2012 at 11:14 PM
It may create a 'dead zone' but it will also provide a much needed night time service for the type of people who go to the Sunset Strip to party or whatever. (Tourists from other countries, and people who don't live in the area and are clueless about how expensive a night out (especially with the high parking fees) costs on the strip and 'needs' an atm very close by to wherever they are going. This 'planning commission' doing this type of cherry picking of what to allow or not allow to open retail space has and will lead to further unnatural collection of mis-matced retail/non-retail/restaurant/medical and local business form offices. There are countless research studies done, none of which would do this current sitting Planning Commission any good, since they have a consistent history of coming with a predetermined decision based on either backroom deals that lead to the Council Member who chose them how to vote, or even worse, when they have free reign to vote "how they feel" and the current state of elevated ego's and an always irritated to annoyed and angry Head Commissioner, all of whom won't even listen when the City Attorney explains again that they do not have the 'discretion' they think they do under the law to approve or deny a submission to the Committee, and go right ahead a 'proudly' exercise that discretion anyway.
Manny August 19, 2012 at 12:30 AM
The most interesting part of this story is that there seems to be need for so many banks. Do people still go into banks as much as they use to? I mean, you can do just about any kind of bank business on line or at an ATM. I think I've set foot in my branch maybe twice in the last three years. Why so many banks?
James F. Mills August 19, 2012 at 06:36 AM
Western border of the city at Sunset is Phyllis Street. The way you can tell is where the high-rise buildings begin. If Cory Avenue were the border, that would put Soho House in Beverly Hills. Phyllis Street is parallel to Sunset between Hammond and Doheny. At Doheny, it takes a diagonal trajectory to intersect Sunset and create the border between the two cities.
David August 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I only go into a bank to use their ATM machine like Bank of America branch at Fairfax and Melrose.Other banks have their ATM machines outdoors Wells Fargo has a branch at 7950 Sunset.It's 2 ATM machines are outdoors and in my opinion are not safe to use as a criminal driving by on Sunset can jump out of his vehicle and hold someone up. I would prefer a darkened enclosed ATM kiosk to use for withdrawing money.
me August 19, 2012 at 05:50 PM
there are many "dead zones" around weho because there's NO PLAN for these areas.......there are many boarded-up, closed, empty-for-decades buildings and lots on sunset without any apparent VISION for the future....the petersen building at sunset/lacienega, tiffany theatre, sterling offices etc.....same with most of santa monica blvd......no, banks aren't the problem here folks.....it's ALL "walkable" just not enjoyable......

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