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Planning Commissioners, Residents Weigh in on Movietown

The Design Review Subcommittee calls for a more inviting, pedestrian-friendly project.

City staff members briefed a subcommittee of the West Hollywood Planning Commission on Thursday about the revamped Movietown Plaza development project.

The current design features two seven-story buildings that will house condominiums, down from 10 floors, and retail space totaling 26,000 square feet, which is a 20 percent reduction from the original design. There are also five- and six-story buildings that will have retail space and senior citizen apartment units on the property in the 7300 block of Santa Monica Boulevard.

The project remains very similar to the design approved by the City Council in 2010, according to a staff report. However, some changes have been made to the Santa Monica Boulevard facades, landscaping and other relatively subtle aspects of the design.

"The primary modification has been in the design of the exterior skin of each building," the report states. "The buildings remain in the modernist vocabulary with substantial glazing and balconies."

The commission's three-member Design Review Subcommittee responded with guidance to Community Development Department planners Emily Stadnicki and Stephanie Reich on how to advise the project's applicant.

Real estate developer Avalon Bay Communities has hired architectural firm Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh to design the project.

"I think it could be a little more transparent and a little more exciting," Planning Commissioner Roy Huebner said of the front facades that face Santa Monica Boulevard. "It looks a little disjointed and busy. I would like to see maybe a little more of the same symmetry that is on the rest of the building."

Planning Commissioner John Altschul agreed.

"My concern is that the Santa Monica frontage be vibrant, and be alive, and be something that attracts people's view ... and not come to the conclusion that it's just apartments over a store," Altschul added. "It's got to have some zest."

Planning Commissioner David Aghaei praised the reduction of the building's mass.

"It seems more in line and in scale with the other buildings in the surrounding neighborhood," he said.

Altschul noted that the square footage reduction indicated a change in land use, not the project's design. This deprives the city of commercial tax revenue and could require a new round of Planning Commission or city council approval, he said.

City planners will eventually decide when the project is ready for building permits.

West Hollywood residents attended the meeting and shared their views on the development.

"I appreciate the fact that this has been reduced in terms of height, but what I don't get is how a height reduction has any kind of significantly less impact on the community," Cathy Blaivas said. "It's fewer stories, but it's the same amount of apartments, it's the same amount of people, and this area is going to have a very difficult time handling the influx that's going to be happening within the next five to seven years."

City Council candidate Steve Martin favored more space buffering the buildings from Santa Monica Boulevard in order to create more opportunities for outdoor dining and make the property more walkable.

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michael December 18, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Another ugly west Hollywood complex. We seem to specialize in badly designed Buildings.
Chloe Ross December 20, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Ali - I use the term "Blighted" to remind the City what they have neglected. And yes it sounds grim because it is. I also live here. Van Tilburg is a very good architectural choice. The only light in what I perceive to be an ugly and oversized project that will overwhelm the property it is on and further turn our side of town into a high density, over driven and traffic nightmare. I do not like the project.
Chloe Ross December 20, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Having taken a closer gander at the exterior - this does not appear to be one of Van Tilburg's better efforts. I withdraw the above and reserve comment until the final renderings are submitted.
joninla December 22, 2012 at 07:14 AM
Sorry wasn't clear. My point, if keep identical number of units/sq footage and size, but reconfigure the whole project to be (for example) just one tall tower (like the few left over tall apartments/turned expensive condo) in the center of the property would allow for the green, driveways and avoiding the "Canyon Effect" of building up the edge of the property lines on all sides. A tall narrow tower with a lot of space around it is very much less obtrusive overall, to the neighbors adjacent and the people who will someday hopefully want to live in the project. I mean .... start from total scratch on the design, but not any larger or more square footage overall. Not going to happen, but everyone would be happier .... if that size project is going to be built.
Arthur RIng February 28, 2013 at 04:28 AM
I used to have a view of the Hollywood Sign from my kitchen window. I had a sunset view on the west side from my living room. Now the building I live in has tall buildings in both those spots and my place isn't nearly a nice. That is what all this development is doing all over the east side. I like the old rule of no more than two stories.

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