Beverly Press 2010: Movietown Is Coming Soon To West Hollywood

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Movietown Is Coming Soon To West Hollywood

By Edwin Folven, 2/18/2010

The West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved the Movietown project at 7300-7328 Santa Monica Blvd. on Tuesday, which will replace the Trader Joe’s, 18 small shops and a parking lot with 294 condominiums, 76 affordable housing units for seniors, and retail space.
The city council disagreed with an earlier recommendation by the city’s planning commission to deny the project, which will be built by Casden Properties. The planning commission had concerns over the height of nine and 10-story towers that will be located at the site, as well as impacts such as traffic congestion and parking. The city council decided, however, that those concerns did not outweigh the benefits of the development.

“Many of us saw it as a project that will continue the revitalization of the eastside and provide critically-needed affordable housing,” West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land said. “It will also expand the pedestrian activity on Santa Monica Boulevard, and we felt the plusses outweighed some of the negative impacts. We think it will bring many benefits to the residents who will live there, and to the West Hollywood community as a whole.”

Darren Embry, government and community relations manager for Casden Properties, said previously that the condominiums will be located in the two towers at the rear of the property, and that the affordable housing will be located in a five to six-story building facing Santa Monica Boulevard. The Trader Joe’s will likely be relocated in retail space at the site, and the existing merchants in the shops would have an opportunity to return. The project also includes an open promenade called “The Mews”, which will allow pedestrian access for both residents and customers of the shops.

West Hollywood City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang said he had some serious reservations about the traffic impacts, but voted in favor of the project because he also believes it will help revitalize the city’s eastside. Movietown is one of four large projects being planned in the area, including housing developments at the corner of La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard and at La Brea and Fountain Avenues, and a studio project proposed at the site of the former Warner Hollywood Studios in the 7200 block of Santa Monica Boulevard.

“I am not concerned as much with the project itself, but a lot of other projects are planned for that area, and the cumulative effect will have a large impact, particularly on traffic,” Prang said. “I voted for it because it had a tremendous amount of community support, and I substantially like the project. I like that the design incorporates a lot of important things like including senior housing.”

Embry said Casden had been working on the project for four years and had made major revisions to the project based on input from nearby residents.

The city required concessions for approving the project, including a traffic study to be conducted after it is built to determine if problems are occurring. The developer is also required to set aside a $75,000 bond that will be used for traffic control measures such as speed bumps or signage to correct problems if they occur.

The Mid-City West Community Council (MCWCC), which represents the Melrose District neighborhoods just south of Movietown, had asked for the traffic mitigation concessions. Jeff Jacobberger, chair of the MCWCC, said he is confident the concerns were addressed.
“Our concern is when West Hollywood approves a project on its boundaries, they should pay attention to the spill-over affect it will have on neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles,” Jacobberger added. “We had asked that they impose traffic control measures to keep traffic from spilling over into our neighborhoods, which they did.”
Bob Abrahams, a resident on Poinsettia Place roughly two blocks south of Movietown, said he was also satisfied with concessions.

“It will have some impact on us, but there is money put aside for remediations if necessary, which will keep it from being more insane,” Abrahams added. “We are comfortable that we were heard [by the West Hollywood City Council], that they listened to us and they took action. Hopefully this project will be very good for the economy in terms of generating money, and hopefully it will create a lot of jobs.”