Local Building Boom

Nine developments are in the planning stages locally. When completed, the projects will add 1,649 new apartments (a fraction of which will be designated for low-income earners) to the area and all but one will offer street level retail. This month we also have two columns that discuss how all this new housing is changing our local community (see page 6) as well as California Assemblymember Laura Friedman’s concern that a lack of affordable housing is hurting area business owners, page 7. Map illustration: Tiffany Sims.

SILVER LAKE—With several developments planned from Barnsdall Park to Echo Park, neighborhoods east of Hollywood will soon see a flood of new apartment construction as some area landmarks face demolition to make room for multi-family housing.

The abandoned so-called “Bates Motel” on Sunset Boulevard is likely nearing its end as developers Frost/Chaddock plan to demolish the building at 4311 Sunset Blvd. as early as fall 2018 after years of sitting on the property amid push back from the community.

Also known as the Sunset Pacific Motel, this is not the first time the building at Sunset Boulevard and Bates Avenue has faced the wrecking ball.

Slated for demolition in 2009 before being purchased by Frost/Chaddock, the motel eked out several more years and was later turned into a public art project when French artist Vincent Lamouroux painted the motel and surrounding landscape solid white in 2015.

Since then the white wash has faded, and the Bates Motel has fallen back into disrepair and is often covered in graffiti, leaving many locals eager to see the motel replaced by something safer and more aesthetically pleasing, said Scott Plante, co-chair of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s urban design and preservation committee.

“The community views the demolition positively because the Bates Motel has been a huge problem for a long time,” Plante said. “Everybody wants something to happen there, but of course you have people who are concerned about development and the traffic that it brings.”

Built in 1952, the motel has become an iconic eyesore and hot spot for squatters and drug activity for years, according to Plante.

According to Frost/Chaddock, the developer is aware of community concerns about the site’s condition and does make efforts to maintain it, but said keeping graffiti and refuse off the property is a constant process.

According to Tony Arranaga, the spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, the city has only received one complaint about the site in the last four years. However, Arranaga said, O’Farrell recently requested the building’s graffiti be removed by the developers, which he said, was done immediately.

“The proposed plans have been through an extensive community process,” Arranaga said. “The [c]ouncilmember is eager to see progress at this property.”

As to why the property has remained undeveloped for years, a Frost/Chaddock spokesperson said they have had to go back to the drawing board many times with community feedback for design changes like adding more public parking or a community center to the plan.

The motel site is part of the developer’s larger game plan that will include three mixed-use buildings in Sunset Junction, known holistically as the “Junction Gateway Project.”

The tri-pronged development has faced protests from some community members and organizations like the Coalition to Preserve LA and SaveSunsetJunction.org.

Opponents say the Junction Gateway development, along with other new mixed use buildings in planning stages nearby, will create traffic in an area that already has gridlock problems.

But Plante said the health, safety and aesthetic problems associated with the abandoned motel makes that specific site a middle ground where most community members agree that a change is necessary.

“[The Sunset Junction] won’t become an apartment corridor,” Plante said. “It won’t be anything like Westwood or any of the K-Town stuff.”

While the project has been approved by the neighborhood council’s urban development committee, according to Plante, the full governing board is waiting to see the developer’s final environmental impact report before putting its stamp of approval on the project.

The council expects the impact report within a couple of months, though developers do not need the neighborhood council’s approval to break ground on the project.

“We’re advisory. Our decisions are not binding,” Plante said. “But we strive every time we get a project to make sure that it fits into the community as best as we can.”

Development plans for the Bates location currently include a four-story mixed use building with 122 apartments and retail shopping at street level.

Two blocks away at 4100 Sunset Blvd., the Junction Gateway plan also includes a similar five-story mixed-use building with 91 apartments and ground-level retail.

Finally, at 4000 Sunset Blvd. the developer said they plan to build a hotel, but current plans on Frost/Chaddock’s website still indicate that location will host another five-story mixed-used development with 81 apartments.

“We are very interested in a hotel,” said Glen Gritzner, a spokesperson for Frost/Chaddock. “We’ve been moving full speed ahead looking at the feasibility and details of a hotel on that site.”

A construction start date for Junction Gateway’s three projects has not been set, but according to Frost/Chaddock would be in the second half of 2018 at the earliest.

As a Silver Lake resident, Gritzner said he thinks the area badly needs the apartment units.

“Silver Lake has certainly seen the impacts in housing prices from the fact that there’s been no meaningful [apartment] construction over the last few years.”

Other new large-scale projects in neighborhoods east of Hollywood include plans for a five-story building at Franklin and Western avenues in Los Feliz.

Three projects are also expected near Barnsdall Park, including two mixed-use apartment buildings and one from developer PH/T&T which will replace the Center for Inquiry on Hollywood Boulevard—where the Steve Allen Theatre now stands—with a complex of multi-level single-family homes and triplexes for sale.

The theatre is slated for demolition in November, putting an end to the Trepany House production company’s run in the location.

“It’s out of my control. It’s about time I accepted it,” said Amit Itelman who founded the Steve Allen Theatre and Trepany House. “I don’t know what else to do. If it wasn’t being torn down for [housing] we would be continuing.”

Itelman was previously reported saying he knows there is demand for housing in the area, but Trepany House has been a big part of the neighborhood’s character, which creates that demand.

Trepany House is known for its quirky live productions including anything from a “Kids in the Hall” reunion to something called an “early-folka-jazz jubilee.”

The Steve Allen Theater will close its doors November 3rd. According to Itelman, with no new venue secured, Trepany’s future is uncertain.

Another mixed-use project is also planned to replace the Food 4 Less at 5420 Sunset Blvd. near the site of a stalled-in-litigation Target project that has been highly contested by some local residents and activists.

In Echo Park at 1111 Sunset Blvd., a mixed-use development is in the works to replace a vacant campus of buildings that were designed by notable architect William Pereira, part of the design team for LAX’s spider-like theme building.

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