By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Townscape Partners and Angelo Gordon & Co. say, OK to live here, but leave the rich alone, you poor curs.
The partnership of Townscape Partners of Beverly Hills and Angelo Gordon & Co., a New York City investment firm, want to nearly double the size of the existing 8899 Beverly building – already three times the size zoned for the lot – and add an especially non-West Hollywood feature, stigmatizing the affordable income units by forcing them to enter or leave through a “poor door.”
In fact, the terms laid out by the developers would allow low-income residents to live there, but they would not be allowed to use facilities such as a recreation building with a swimming pool.
It’s not hard to switch words in this mess to have it all make perfect sense. Try switching poor signs to “colored” and “white” signs on the entryway. Or think about “No Jews” on the front door sign – Jews enter through the rear.
Only this time it’s “No poor people allowed – except to get to and from the apartments we made for them so we could build a massive edifice to profit.”
The building, pre-dating the city’s incorporation by decades, stands ten stories high in a zone that allows only three stories.
The building’s current floor area of the building is over three times the size of its lot. Current zoning code requires that new buildings in the area have no more than 1.3 times the square footage of the lot on which they sit.
The Townscape Partners proposal wants to nearly triple what it has, making the building 6.1 times the square footage of the lot. Townscape Partners tossed into the plans affordable and low-income housing to qualify for state zoning exemptions.
Plans for the building, which has been panned by neighbors and city staff alike, were to have been taken up at the last Planning Commission meeting, but the client pulled the item from the agenda at the last moment to make changes, apparently to add the stigmatizing entries/egresses and disallowing use of the amenities.
Even before giving raspberries to the city’s foundational value – tenants’ rights – the partnership has been reeling from criticism about its over-reach. The city’s Community Development division recommends denial of the plans because the building is far too massive for the site and surrounding neighborhood.
The building now holds offices, some shops and a restaurant. The developer wants to add wings to all sides but street side, converting office space to condos and the parking level to low income apartments and additional offices.
Their revised plan calls for construction of nine single-family houses on Rosewood rather than the townhouses earlier proposed.
The Community Development staff report for the Planning Commission also regards the changes as discriminatory and stigmatizing to the low-income residents. In the staff report, they say that “the current configuration has the affordable units looking down on a pool they are prohibited from using.
“This very obvious delineation of amenities runs contrary to West Hollywood’s policies of inclusiveness and equal access for all … Housing staff remains unable to support the proposed project because there would be separate amenity areas for the affordable housing tenants and the market-rate homeowners.”
Because of the building’s age – 61 years-old – it does not necessarily have to meet the city’s zoning codes. Additionally, they claim that the city has no power over to deny their plans.
“Under applicable state law and the city’s municipal code, the city may not deny the project, since it qualifies for a density bonus and provides affordable housing,” said Townscape in a letter to the city.
We will see if the city allows them to segregate, stigmatize and sully our city.