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Frank Gehry's Massive Sunset Strip Project Approved By Committee After Last-Minute Compromise

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Frank Gehry speaking at Tuesday's Planning and Land Use Management Commission meeting. (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)
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Frank Gehry's controversial (and massive) Sunset Strip project was given the go ahead at a City Council planning commission meeting Tuesday night after several last-minute compromises were struck between the project's developers and its foes. The starchitect's five-structure 8150 Sunset project at the intersection of Crescent Heights and Sunset Boulevard was unanimously approved by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, with an agreed upon 24% height reduction (or approximately 56 feet). The City Council is expected to approve the project next week, according to the L.A. Times. Tuesday's packed meeting lasted more than five hours and included comment from the famed architect himself.

The contested version of Townscape Partners' high-rise retail and residential development, which was being appealed by five different parties at last night’s meeting, would have loomed over the eastern edge of the Strip at 15 stories high, with its main tower being the tallest building erected on the Strip in 30 years, according to the L.A. Times.

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A rendering of the project on 8150 Sunset Boulevard. (Screenshot from Townscape Partner's 8150sunset.com website)
In a letter last week that could have been a major roadblock for the project, Councilmember David Ryu (the project is in his district) asked for a number of significant changes, including the need for a height reduction, more affordable housing, and traffic mitigation. At the meeting, Ryu’s Chief of Staff Sarah Dusseault said that his constituents had consistently expressed concerns about the project's size and its effect on the neighborhood. Estevan Montemayor, the councilman’s communications director, told LAist that the office had been working on the project, which had been approved by Ryu’s predecessor, since Ryu took office in July 2015. Beyond the height reduction, Ryu also succeeded in increasing the number of commercial parking spaces from 434 to 494.

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“These modifications will benefit the community, while ensuring that Frank Gehry’s terrific design provides world-class residences as well as new shopping and eating destinations for our city," Tyler Siegel of Townscape Partners (the developer behind the project) said in a statement, according to WeHoVille.

"This was a unique situation given that the project was on the border between the city and West Hollywood,” Montemayor said. "Councilmember Ryu felt very strongly about being a good neighbor to West Hollywood.” West Hollywood, along with the Laurel Canyon Association, were among the five parties that had filed appeals. Both WeHo and the Laurel Canyon Association announced during the meeting that they were no longer opposing the project after having come to agreements with the developer in conversations that were reportedly ongoing until the very last minute.

The question of whether or not the 1960 Chase Bank / Lytton Savings building, a historical structure on the site, will be preserved was tabled until next month. The City's Cultural Heritage Commission has voted to approve landmark designation for the structure but the City Council still has to vote on the commission’s recommendation. If the City Council does approve the designation, it seems likely that the building will be relocated as opposed to preserved on site.

The public comment portion of the meeting was primarily dominated by supporters of the project, and testimony ran the gamut from positive to downright boosterish. A good portion of the supporters appeared to have been wrangled by the developer (one told LAist that there were promises of free food) but the level of excitement expressed by many would have been difficult to feign, even in a town full of aspiring actors.

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West Hollywood resident Felice Kaplan read a poem she had written for the occasion expressing her support for the project—and her disbelief over the opposition—"Why would anyone say no to Project 8150 / Would you say no to a Michelangelo or a Van Gogh? / It's almost like when a beautiful new girl is now attending your school, / and before you meet her, / You're already whispering and cruel!" (Click on the photo above to enlarge.)

Interestingly, this isn't the first time this particular strip of land at the base of the Hollywood Hills has been the the topic of highly contested debate. The corner—now occupied by a low-rise strip mall and parking lot—was once home to the famed Garden of Allah apartment complex, which reportedly inspired the Joni Mitchell song "Big Yellow Taxi." I guess after you pave paradise and put up a parking lot, a Frank Gehry landmark is the logical next step.

Note: This post initially misstated the total number of parking spots in the revised plan. It has since been corrected.