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Beverly Hills News – Friar’s Club Developers Return for Request Overlay Zone for Luxury Housing at Planning Commission

Posted: Monday, January 8, 2018 – 1:37 PM

By Victoria Talbot

The applicants for a project located at 9908 South Santa Monica Boulevard will come before the Planning Commission Thursday to request a Residential Overlay Zone have submitted  a modified project for consideration, with 27 luxury condominiums, an increase from 3,541 to 10,500 square feet of ground floor retail in a commercial zone, an FAR increase from 2.59 to 2.87:1, and other changes, many of which are not reflected in the schematic submitted to planning staff. 

The project applicant has been before the Planning Commission two times, and each time, they have been directed to revise their project. This go-round, the applicants have submitted completely underdeveloped project plans, in a partial attempt to meet the direction of the commission. 

The proposal is for very high-end condominium development in the space that once belonged to the Friar’s Club on South Santa Monica Blvd. The area is a commercial zone. Commercial zones comprise only 9% of the City and provide 50% of the City’s taxes, meaning that removing any retail space is a serious matter. Once removed, it is highly unlikely that it will return, and it cannot be made up elsewhere.

The applicant last came before the Commission on Nov. 28. Attorney Tom Levyn attempted to pin down commissioners for a one-week turnaround. The agenda being full, they were given this date in January, about six weeks away. Now, despite the turnaround urgency they requested, they are evidently not ready for the Planning Commission.

For example, a loading dock has not been reviewed by the City’s traffic engineer. A third level of parking is in word only: no schematic exists to show that it is there. Without establishing whether there is a restaurant component in the retail, the permitted parking requirements cannot be established. The applicant, who had asked for a 66-foot height in a 45-foot zone, has indicated that the five-story building height will be reduced to 58 feet, which has not been verified by staff from the revised elevations. 

The staff report includes letters of support from realtors in the area, who expect to make a tidy sum from sales. But the City could lose significant tax revenues that are crucial to the budget.

The project has garnered support from residents who believe these units will become affordable alternatives to downsize from their Beverly Hills homes when they retire. In fact, the homes will probably sell for the same price as their homes in Beverly Hills, or more.

The project has drawn attention to itself by employing two previously neutral members of the community into their lobbying efforts, including Noah Furie, who is presently serving as Chair of the Cultural Heritage Commission. Furie took on the position just prior to changes in the lobbying ordinance later this month that will prohibit any commissioner or lobbyist from serving simultaneously on a commission or as a lobbyist.

For Furie, having slipped through the cracks doesn’t necessarily make him a lobbyist. It only shows that he disrespects the City’s General Plan.

Gabby Reims Alexander, whose mother, Kathy Reims, served as the interim councilmember to replace Dr. Willie Brien when he left, was previously associated with the Friends of Beverly Gardens Park. With no previous experience in lobbying, she has taken a position as a lobbyist for this project. 

In summary, it appears that the project is being rushed to the Planning Commission in  a less-than-ready state, which consumes staff time and commission time. Based 0n the missing information, it appears that it would be difficult to accurately assess the project.

 

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