Building Permit Proposal Rejected : W. Hollywood Won’t Allow Developers to Begin Paperwork

Times Staff Writer

With a silver-lettered poster announcing its “Destiny,” the Pacific Design Center has been proclaiming its plans to more than double its size and expand its central position in the Los Angeles interior design industry.

But destiny has been delayed. The West Hollywood City Council has rejected a proposal that would have allowed businesses, including the center, to apply for building permits despite a building moratorium that was imposed in November.

The moratorium is scheduled to expire July 31 but will probably be extended to give the city time to establish a planning department and community plan, city officials have said.

According to a resolution introduced last week by Mayor Valerie Terrigno, businesses would have been allowed to submit plans and begin the process for securing building and other special permits. But the applications would not have been reviewed or approved until the city had completed a community plan.


Terrigno said the proposal would speed expansion proposals, but would not guarantee that the work could proceed.

Councilman Alan Viterbi supported the idea, but the proposal was voted down by council members John Heilman, Stephen Schulte and Helen Albert.

Owners of the giant blue building, located at 8867 Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, have not been able to apply for the permit they need to add 825,000 square feet of showrooms and offices.

Schulte said that he and the others support the expansion of the Pacific Design Center but that allowing applications could “open the floodgates” to requests from other developers. The councilman said the young city might not be prepared to handle all the applications.


And Schulte said that allowing applications might “send the wrong message”: that the city is prepared to approve construction permits before it completes a community plan.

Council members said they will try to reach a compromise during a meeting later this month to allow some building applications.

Murray Feldman, director of the center, said that the 750,000-square-foot building is completely leased. “We have some 300,000 square feet of requests for more space that could go forward or that could go to another location.

“Jobs will disappear from West Hollywood, energy will disappear from West Hollywood and population will disappear from West Hollywood if that happens.”


Feldman said the building’s owners, Birtcher Pacific of Laguna Hills, Southern Pacific Development Co. of San Francisco and World Wide Group of New York City, are prepared to risk the possibility that the plans for the project might not be approved by the city. But they want to apply for permits to speed the process, Feldman said.

The center, known by locals as the “blue whale,” opened in 1976. Its unusual color and design instantly made it a landmark. The building provides offices and showrooms for interior designers, architects and art dealers.

The Board of Supervisors more than a year ago approved expansion plans that included a 12-story hotel and two office-showroom buildings of 11 and 17 stories each. Because of the demand among designers for more space, however, those plans were abandoned, Feldman said.

“The plan to build a hotel was made four years ago before there was the big demand for additional design space,” Feldman said.


A new conceptual plan was recently completed by architect Cesar Pelli, who designed the original building. Pelli envisions an extension of the first two floors of the center back into what is now the parking lot. From this base will rise two towers, as geometrically unique as the original. One will be 10 stories of green glass and the other eight stories of red glass.

The expansion will total 825,000 square feet.

Parking will be provided in a five-story concrete structure at the east end of the project. On the west end of the property near San Vicente Boulevard, a museum and a 300-seat amphitheater has been proposed by Pelli.

The museum might be operated in conjunction with other local museums and the amphitheater will be available for use by the public, Feldman said.


Although the building moratorium might stall plans for some time, Feldman said he is confident that a plan will be worked out to let the design center go ahead with its plan.