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Supervisors favor Wolfgang Puck-Frank Gehry project to replace Gladstones on PCH

Supervisors favor Wolfgang Puck-Frank Gehry project to replace Gladstones on PCH
Designs by architect Frank Gehry have been submitted for the new proposed replacement of Gladstones, which would be operated by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. (Courtsey of Frank Gehry)

After years of uncertainty, the iconic Gladstones seafood restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu could be replaced with a new beachfront dining complex designed by Frank Gehry and operated by Wolfgang Puck.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors cleared the way Tuesday for the Department of Beaches and Harbors to begin negotiations with Puck and his team over development of two new restaurants at the site.

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Puck, the celebrity chef who operates Spago in Beverly Hills and other restaurants, said he wants to transform the property into a destination for travelers as well as a neighborhood restaurant by combining casual dining with fine dining.

At the meeting, he showed drawings of the proposed complex.

“There will be two restaurants, one more casual for people who want to get food or ice cream and eat at the beach and one more upscale restaurant,” Puck said in an interview after the vote. “The location is so iconic that really for me it’s the last iconic place I will do.”

In addition to Puck and Gehry, the renowned Los Angeles architect who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall, three other groups submitted proposals in September to the Department of Beaches and Harbors to redevelop the 2.8-acre site.

Nicholas Buford and Gregory Plummer, partners of Crews — a food and beverage business — and whose proposal for the site came in second, criticized the selection process and accused the department of favoritism.

Buford and Plummer asked the supervisors to postpone the vote in order to look into their complaint. They also called on the Department of Beaches and Harbors to release the names of people on the independent reviewing committee.

“The process was flawed and there must be transparency and consistency,” Buford said. “It’s easy to be enamored by celebrities and lose fact of details. Releasing the names will allow us to sleep better at night to know there was no conflict of interest.”

Tuesday’s agreement is the first in a series of bureaucratic steps needed to complete the new development, which county officials estimate could take several years.

Once negotiations have been finalized and Puck has obtained a permit, Gladstones will be demolished and construction of the new building will start.

In the meantime, Gladstones, which has operated for 46 years and is owned by former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, will remain open for at least two more years.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 1 to authorize negotiations. Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the lone dissenting vote, expressing concern about how the Department of Beaches and Harbors made its selection.

“This is not a reflection on the recommended winner, but about the process,” she said during the meeting.

Puck said he was surprised by the pushback.

“I know we did our best job,” he said. “We have been operating restaurants for many years.”

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The county holds a 50-year lease on the state-owned land where Gladstones has been in business since 1972.

Gladstones’ lease was up in 2016, and the county opted to find a new long-term operator after declining revenue and deteriorating facilities.

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