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Committee OKs scaled-back Frank Gehry project on Sunset Boulevard

A mixed-use project that would anchor the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip received preliminary approval Tuesday night after developers agreed to a number of compromises, including a request to reduce the size of a proposed 15-story tower. 

The Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted unanimously to approve the Frank Gehry-designed residential and commercial complex at Sunset and Crescent Heights boulevards. The committee delayed a vote on whether to preserve Lytton Savings, a 1960 bank building designed by architect Kurt Meyer on the project site.

The Los Angeles City Council is expected to sign off on the development next week. 

The project at 8150 Sunset Blvd. includes two residential towers with a total of 229 units, including 38 for low-income residents; 65,000 square feet of commercial space; and a pedestrian plaza. 

“The site is a great entry piece to the Sunset Strip. With the Chateau Marmont, [it] becomes an anchor on one side,” Gehry told the committee. “I’m going to make it, as best I can, something special for the community. Something that we would all be proud of.”

The future of the Townscape Partners project was called into question last week after the area’s councilman, David Ryu, announced he could not support the development in its current form. Specifically, Ryu wanted to downsize the 15-story residential tower, add more affordable housing units and include more parking spots. 

During Tuesday’s meeting, the project’s developer agreed to Ryu’s requests, including a request to reduce the size of the larger residential tower. Instead of a height of 234 feet, the tower will be 178 feet as measured from the lowest point of the property, putting it much more in line with other buildings along Sunset Boulevard.

The planning committee voted to increase the number of parking spaces to 494, widen sidewalks to 15 feet and require additional affordable housing units. 

“We as a city always talk about wanting great design. Well, we’ve brought it to the city of Los Angeles,” said Edgar Khalatian, an attorney representing Townscape Partners. “We as a city always talk about wanting affordable housing.… There are very few developers who are willing to incorporate affordable housing into their project.”

Two entities that had opposed the project, the Laurel Canyon Assn. and the city of West Hollywood, moved to support the development after reaching their own compromises with Townscape Partners.

For residents in the Laurel Canyon area, that will mean implementing bus stops and shelters, paying for an emergency evacuation plan and funding traffic control officers. 

“Based on this, the Laurel Canyon Assn. does not oppose the project as revised,” group member Jamie Hall said. 

Officials in West Hollywood, which borders the project on two sides, said they would support the project with the smaller residential tower and a promise that mechanical equipment on the rooftop will not be visible to neighboring residents.

But during a lengthy public hearing, residents who live on the streets next to the development voiced their strong opposition. Some said the development would be out of scale with the surrounding area and would ruin their views. Others worried about the gridlock that could come with hundreds of new tenants. 

One took issue with the design.

“It looked like he gave a blowfish LSD and watched it in its death throes,” filmmaker and West Hollywood resident Philippe Mora said of the angled glass tower.  

alice.walton@latimes.com

Twitter: @TheCityMaven

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