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Planning Commission calls Sunset Gordon a ‘blight,’ moves to reopen tower

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Empty for three years, the Hollywood tower holds 299 apartments that Los Angeles desperately needs

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The city’s Planning Commission has voted unanimously to re-approve plans to open Hollywood’s already-built Sunset Gordon Tower, a big step toward moving in tenants again.

The tower has sat empty for three years. In 2015, developer CIM ordered tenants to move out, creating what commissioners called a blighted gap along a busy Hollywood corridor.

“The applicant was a bad actor, and this is correcting that,” said planning commissioner Renee Dake Wilson. “Out of that process, we’re getting some affordable housing… as well as a park, and housing, housing, housing.”

The boxy tower on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood holds 299 apartments, units the city desperately needs amid a housing and homeless crisis.

The order to vacate the building was issued in 2015 after a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge invalidated the project’s construction permits.

The judge’s decision was in response to a lawsuit brought by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, which successfully argued CIM had broken its promise to the city to preserve a 1920s Spanish-style building on the site that once housed an Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant.

The plans now acknowledge that CIM demolished the Old Spaghetti Factory building and replaced it with a replica incorporating four of the building’s original wood trusses and fireplace mantle.

The association’s leader, Doug Haines, told the commission last week that he believes the project should proceed now, and about a dozen residents testified in favor of reopening the tower.

“I’ve eaten at the Spaghetti Factory,” said Jay Hausman, a 40-year Hollywood resident. “I’d rather live there than eat there.”

The property also holds a small park that will be open to the public, and 30 affordable units—double what was originally proposed when plans were first introduced more than five years ago.

Aerial of the Sunset Gordon tower showing the little public park at the rear.
via city planning department

Commissioners also denied an appeal from the Coalition to Preserve LA, which claimed the project’s environmental analysis “underestimates” the amount of traffic the building will generate.

The nonprofit is an an “advocacy division” of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and in 2017, it tried to freeze major development projects citywide. Yesterday, AHF and the Coalition to Preserve LA announced they will sue the city in an effort to turn the Parker Center, the former home of the LAPD, into homeless housing.

The Coalition to Preserve LA’s president, Jill Stewart, told the commission that gridlock in Hollywood had gotten so bad, she feared she wouldn’t be able to escape if she were driving in the neighborhood and a wildfire broke out in Griffith Park.

Commissioner David Ambroz called her comment “fear-mongering,” and commissioner Marc Mitchell said the appeal was designed to “hold [the] project hostage.”

“We can’t live in a city where it takes 10 years to get a project online,” Mitchell said.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, commissioner David Ambroz’s last name was misspelled.