On Tuesday, at the City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) Committee meeting, it appeared as if famed architect Frank Gehry and developer Townscape Partners had made concessions that adequately addressed all neighborhood concerns about the controversial 8150 Sunset mega-project at Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards, especially if one read coverage in the Los Angeles Times. That was far from the case.
Going into the meeting, a number of entities, including the city of West Hollywood and the Laurel Canyon Association, had filed appeals with the city of Los Angeles in opposition of Frank Gehry’s 8150 Sunset, an over-sized development that proposed more than 220 residential units in two towers — one of which would be 15 stories tall — and 65,000 square feet of commercial space. Developer Townscape Partners had hired world-renowned architect Frank Gehry to design the mega-project.
Numerous community groups and nearby residents objected to the immense size of 8150 Sunset, which is located at a gridlocked intersection near Laurel Canyon Boulevard — a major thoroughfare for Angelenos who travel to and from the San Fernando Valley. Not only did citizens fear that the mega-project would cause more gridlock, but that the height and size of it was out of place in a mostly low-slung neighborhood.
And historic preservation activists wanted to save the Lytton Savings building — now a Chase bank — on the site of the mega-project and have it designated a landmark by the city of L.A.
Through it all, L.A. City Councilman David Ryu of District 4 was under intense community pressure to get the developer to scale back 8150 Sunset.
Then came Tuesday’s PLUM meeting after the City Planning Commission gave Frank Gehry’s mega-project the green light.
As noted in the L.A. Times, Ryu managed to get some concessions from Townscape Partners, including decreasing the height of the 15-story tower from 234 feet to 178 feet, slightly lowering the number of residential units on the site, adding more affordable housing units and providing some traffic mitigations.
At the PLUM meeting, Ryu was praised for his work by supporters of the 8150 Sunset mega-project, the developer was thanked for working with Ryu and Laurel Canyon Association and the city of West Hollywood dropped its appeals. But there were still deep concerns among neighborhood people and preservation activists who also spoke before the PLUM committee.
Time and again, the issues of gridlock traffic, the ruining of neighborhood character and designating the Lytton Savings building a historical landmark came up. The city’s Cultural Heritage Commission had already approved that status, but PLUM decided on Tuesday to postpone its own vote. In addition, Ryu did not appear to take up the preservationists’ cause.
Perhaps the person that best summed up community discontent at the PLUM meeting was Kristina Kropp, a land-use attorney for the owner of a three-story apartment building directly south of the proposed mega-project.
“Neither the City Planning Commission nor city staff have made any attempts whatsoever to respond to the very real issues and concerns raised by our client,” said Kropp, echoing what many community activists have complained about.
She added, “All concerns fell on deaf ears at the City Planning Commission hearing, as if the planning commission had pre-determined that despite any challenges raised, it would approve the project in whatever form was brought before it.”
It was a remark that not only applied to Frank Gehry’s mega-project, but numerous others that have gone through L.A.’s broken and rigged planning and land-use system.
Kropp further stated, “These are the reasons for the deep and growing divide between [City Hall] officials and their constituents.”
The attorney then said that 8150 Sunset was still too big and “inherently inconsistent with the Hollywood community plan,” and noted that the mega-project remained in an area that has several intersections that are “F” rated by the city of L.A.
After Kropp’s testimony, many community members only backed up the attorney’s remarks. What did the PLUM members do? They approved 8150 Sunset and sent it to the L.A. City Council. But neighborhood concerns about traffic, size and historic preservation have not gone away.
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