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City Councilman wants to scale down Frank Gehry’s Sunset Strip project

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David Ryu is taking a more aggressive stance against the development

Under pressure from residents in his district, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu says he will not vote for Frank Gehry’s big Sunset Strip project unless it’s scaled down.

In a letter to fellow council member Jose Huizar, Ryu says the Planning Commission approved the project in July without “meaningfully addressing the single most important community concern: height.”

Huizar is the president of the city’s Planning and Land Use Committee, which is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a number of appeals filed against Gehry’s project after it was approved by the Planning Commission.

Gehry is designing the project for developer Townscape Partners, which wants to construct five new buildings—with housing, a new bank, a public plaza, restaurant, and bank—on the eastern edge of the Sunset Strip, between Havenhurst and Crescent Heights.

Townscape Partners has agreed to set aside 15 percent of its 249 housing units for tenants with low incomes in exchange for constructing buildings with a higher “floor area ratio” (or density) than what is allowed under the city’s zoning codes.

The letter is his most aggressive to date. In it, he spells out specific demands, saying he will only support the project if:

  • The height of the tallest building is reduced 20 to 30 percent from 234 feet
  • More units are set aside for low-income tenants
  • If the committee talks about options for preserving, instead of demolishing, the 1960s Chase Bank building on the site
  • The number of parking spaces is increased to 494
  • Sidewalks on Sunset Boulevard are widened to 15 feet.

Residents who live in and around the Sunset Strip have called on Ryu to scale back the development, which they say has the potential to make traffic in their already jammed neighborhood worse. Lawn signs have sprouted in the neighborhood, saying “Councilman Ryu STOP 1850 Sunset!”

It remains to be seen how much sway Ryu’s latest letter will have on the Planning and Land Use Committee, but, as Miracle Mile Association President James O’Sullivan, a vocal critic of the project, has pointed out: “The city council has a long history of not opposing the vote of a councilmember on a project in their district.”

The City Council will vote on the project after the Planning and Land Use Committee, a spokesman for Ryu says.