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Council grants approval to Gehry-designed project

LOS ANGELES — The City Council Nov. 1 approved a large mixed-use project designed by famed architect Frank Gehry that will replace an existing strip mall on the eastern end of the Sunset Strip.

The project at 8150 Sunset Blvd., near Crescent Heights Boulevard and the border with West Hollywood, will rise on a site that now houses a shopping center with a bank, fast-food restaurants, a dry cleaner, ice cream shop and similar establishments.

The project calls for 229 residential units of mostly apartments and 65,000 square feet of commercial space, with plans for a grocery store, restaurants and retail shops.

The developer, Townscape Partners, last week agreed to lower the height of the tallest building from 234 feet — or 15 stories — to 178 feet, and to bring the number of residential units down from an initial 249.

Townscape also agreed to set aside $2 million for the city to use on improvements at a traffic island within the project.

The changes to the project met many of the demands made by City Councilman David Ryu, whose district includes the project, in a letter sent to the council planning committee.

In his letter, Ryu recommended that the tallest building be reduced in height by 20 to 30 percent, along with other changes.

Ryu acknowledged Gehry’s design is “unique,” with the “potential to become a part of the architecturally significant fabric of this neighborhood,” but he said the project would be a “de facto revision” of existing planning guidelines for the area.

Another obstacle the project faced was a historical-cultural landmark application for a mid-century-style bank building, Lytton Savings, that is slated for demolition under Townscape’s proposal.

It was not clear whether there are plans to preserve the site, but architects with Gehry’s design firm have objected to keeping the building and dismiss its design as following an “outdated commercial real estate model.”

However, the project faced challenges in the form of appeals filed by five groups, including West Hollywood, and Fix the City, a group that has sued to halt other development plans in Hollywood and around the city.

West Hollywood City Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath told City News Service that because the project sits right outside its borders, “residents have a variety of concerns,” and the municipality’s attorneys were “in negotiations and discussions with the developer.”

The neighborhood surrounding the project includes the Chateau Marmont hotel, Granville Towers, Colonial House and other iconic Hollywood residences that stars such as Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe once called home.

Gehry was brought in to design the project after residents balked at the more traditional designs and plans initially presented at public meetings.

But when Townscape last year unveiled Gehry’s more fanciful vision for the project, featuring the architect’s signature swooping facades, some residents and stakeholders complained that the developer became less open to compromise.

Opponents say the project will dwarf nearby buildings, which must follow a 45-foot height limit. One appellant, the owner of a nearby apartment building, called it a “monstrosity” that would negatively affect her property.

 

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