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Judge halts development on West Hollywood border

LOS ANGELES — A controversial project proposed at the foot of Laurel Canyon Boulevard has been indefinitely halted by a judge after a rare lawsuit by the Los Angeles Conservancy, which fought the planned destruction of a historic 1960s bank on the site.

Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue’s ruling was called an embarrassment for L.A. City Hall by supporters of the decision.

The city had spent significant time and resources opposing community groups and land-use reformers who challenged the 178-foot multi-tower designed by world acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

Opponents of the project said the development, known as 8150 Sunset for its address, would severely jam traffic and forever destroy the character of the tree-lined, low-rise and heavily historic local community on the West Hollywood-Hollywood border.

Several groups sued the city over numerous issues involving the project, including the issue of the city’s controversial giveaway of a chunk of public land to Townscape Partners, the project’s developer.

But the Coalition to Preserve L.A. said it was the lawsuit by the LA Conservancy — which had not filed a lawsuit in seven years — that did the trick.

In a statement, the conservancy said of its legal victory: “The City Council abused its discretion and violated state law by approving the demolition of a historic resource.”

Judge Hogue ruled that the environmental impact report prepared by Townscape and approved by the L.A. City Council fell far short.

The LA Conservancy had fought to preserve the Lytton Bank building at the site, which would have been demolished in favor of a five-building complex.

The City Council;s Planning and Land Use Committee approved the project last Oct. 25 and the City Council followed suit Nov. 1 with a unanimous vote of approval.

The Coalition to Preserve LA pointed out that Townscape Partners had spent $166,715 lobbying elected leaders during the first three quarters of 2016.

In February, the group Fix the City, digging for information on how such a huge building could be justified by the city in a low-rise residential area, discovered that city officials had failed to reveal a decades-old “covenant” on the land that prevents tall towers like the Gehry design.

Jim O’Sullivan, Fix the City’s vice president, said, “We are going to appeal on multiple issues.”

City Planning officials had repeatedly insisted that the zoning on the land had “no height limit.”

Critical safety concerns still remain unanswered, including a failure to satisfy earthquake requirements and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) measures that ensure a rapid emergency response time.

One person who can’t be thrilled with Hogue’s decision, besides developers Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, must be Frank Gehry.

In a letter to city officials months ago, Gehry dismissed the historic Lytton Savings as a building that had lost its reason for being.

 

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