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Frank Gehry’s Sunset Strip project is approved — ‘I will do my best to make you proud’

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Five new buildings with architecture that’s classic Gehry

Celebrity architect Frank Gehry’s big residential and retail project on the Sunset Strip is a go. The city’s planning commission on Thursday voted unanimously to give final approval to a cluster of Gehry-designed buildings at 8150 Sunset Boulevard.

Its location at Crescent Heights, directly across from favorite celebrity-haunt Chateau Marmont, is prime, and the developer, Townscape Partners, says it’s an iconic design that will serve as the "eastern gateway" to the strip.

The five buildings with varying heights from three to 15 stories will hold 249 residential units, 15 percent of which will be rented below market rate to tenants with lower incomes. That percentage is an increase from what was initially proposed, a request made by commissioners. Plans also call for a market, restaurant, stores, and new bank. There’s also public space and a public plaza, landscaped with jacaranda and palm trees, plus about 800 parking spaces.

The architecture is classic Gehry. The latest renderings and models show the edges of the buildings curve and undulate, and some look as if they’re bulging. Vertical panels shoot up around the perimeters of rooftops. Large shingles are slapped on the outside of the tallest building. One of the shorter buildings looks like it’s sheathed in twisted columns. The facades will be made of stone and glass with some wood accents.

In presenting the project Thursday, Gehry reminded everyone that he believes architecture today is banal and spiritless. "The art of architecture is rarely practiced in our city," he said. His infamous ego bubbled up a bit when at one point he talked about how he had shunned "big bad" developers in the past: "My office could be huge if I wanted it," he said. (This time he acquiesced, he said, because the men behind Townscape Partners, Tyler Siegel and John Irwin, want their project to be "socially responsible" and "for the people.") He concluded on a much softer note, too: "I will do my best to be responsible, beautiful and humane and to make you proud."

Opposition came from the city of West Hollywood and from some residents concerned the project, at 334,000 square feet, is too big and too dense. Some also fear it will snarl traffic in an already heavily congested area. The project would knock down a strip mall that's on the site now, and one Los Angeles resident has nominated its postwar-era bank building, which houses a Chase, for landmark status, which might protect it from demolition. A hearing on that nomination is set for August 18.

Mostly though, people fawned over the project, with one woman saying, "Would you say no to a Michelangelo?

The planning commission has final say on the development, unless an appeal is filed with the Los Angeles City Council.

Architecture that comes to life in Game of Thrones