Jones Dog & Cat Hospital/Melrose Triangle Project
On February 3, 2016, the Conservancy filed an appeal on the Los Angeles Superior Court’s recent decision to reject our lawsuit against the City of West Hollywood. We filed suit to force the City’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regarding the proposed demolition of the 1938 Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building. We believe the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed project is inadequate and flawed.
This latest appeal is in follow-up to the Conservancy's September 18, 2014 litigation. With the City Council's final approval of the project on October 6, 2014, only the litigation stands in the way of the proposed demolition.
In May 2015, through a tragic turn of events, a man was killed in a fire at the Jones Dog and Cat Hospital building in May 2015. The Conservancy deeply regrets this loss of life. Most of the fire damage occurred at the rear of the building, and the City acknowledged that it can still be rehabilitated.
The Melrose Triangle Project, a mixed-use project proposed for the block bordered by Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, calls for the demolition of the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital, one of the city’s few examples of Streamline Moderne commercial architecture.
The 1938 structure at 9080 Santa Monica Boulevard, which the project Environmental Impact Report (EIR) identified as eligible for listing in the California Register, is an intact, early example of the work of Wurdeman and Becket, and may be the only remaining, example of the work of master architects Wurdeman and Becket in the city. Learn more about the firm of Wurdeman and Becket and Welton Becket's later work here.
The West Hollywood Planning Commission voted on June 19, 2014 to recommend certification of the Melrose Triangle Project. On August 18, 2014, the West Hollywood City Council approved the proposed gateway development project by certifying the environmental impact report (EIR). The project's approval requires the City to adopt a statement of overriding considerations, because the project as originally proposed will result in the demolition of the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital.
The Draft EIR includes a preservation alternative, though there are not many details or specifics provided. It would retain the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building while maintaining the same number of housing units as the proposed project and lessening traffic impacts along Santa Monica Boulevard. Despite the EIR’s identification of Alternative 3 as the environmentally superior alternative and concluding that it would meet a majority of the project objectives, the City has opted to recommend certification of the project as proposed.
In addition to the Conservancy, local advocacy groups including the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance and the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles are advocating for the retention and incorporation of the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital as part of the project. Local advocates have also created the Facebook page Save the SMB Streamline Moderne and intend to file an appeal of the City Council's decision to approve the demolition of the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building.
People throughout West Hollywood, Los Angeles and beyond have been writing the City Council and asking that they not approve the proposed project as currently envisioned, until the plan is revised to show the retention of the historic Wurdeman and Becket building. Two standout advocates include West Hollywood residents Katherine Eggert and Kristin Gosney, who are working tirelessly to build support for preservation.
The Conservancy is not opposed to the development of a mixed-use, gateway project at this location, but not at the needless expense of a historic building that could otherwise be integrated and reused as part of the overall design.
As of July 9, 2014, the developer had agreed to work with the preservation community and evaluate options that would incorporate the building. The Conservancy had been hopeful that a revised plan incorporating the historic building as part of the project would result from these discussions, prior to the City Council taking action on August 18, 2014. What we have seen to date proposes to reconstruct a small portion of the facade in a new location as part of the new project, and will not provide meaningful preservation.
The Melrose Triangle Project is a large-scale, mixed use development project proposed for the triangular block at the western boundary of West Hollywood bordered by Melrose Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard and Almont Drive. Conceived as a “gateway project” for the city’s western border along Santa Monica Boulevard, the project was first proposed in 2004 and revised in 2012, necessitating the release of a recirculated Notice of Preparation (NOP).
The proposed project would demolish all existing buildings on the site and construct a mixed-use commercial and residential development consisting of three buildings. Portions of three buildings would surround a broad paseo running through the center of the project site.
The proposed project would include a total of 137,064 square feet of office uses, 82,021 square feet designated for retail and restaurant uses, and 77,533 square feet of residential consisting of 76 units (69 one-bedroom and 7 two-bedroom) located on the floors above the street-level commercial uses.
The Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building was identified as eligible for listing in the California Register as a fine example of Streamline Moderne architecture that is in good condition and retains its integrity. The West Hollywood Historic Preservation Commission requested additional information on the significance of the building in 2006, with subsequent research provided in early 2014 revealing that its design was the work of master architects Walter Wurdeman and Welton Becket in the form of a 1938 expansion and remodel.
The Conservancy is not opposed to the development of a mixed-use, gateway project at this location, but not at the needless expense of an historic building that could otherwise be integrated and reused as part of the overall design. The proposed demolition of the Wurdeman and Becket-designed Jones Dog & Cat Hospital is unjustified and will result in a significant impact and loss to the heritage of the city of West Hollywood.
The Conservancy does not believe there has been a good faith effort to assess a true preservation alternative and instead this has largely been stated in name only within the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). However, despite the lack of details, Alternative 3, the only preservation alternative provided, has been identified as the environmentally superior alternative within the EIR. The report further concludes this preservation alternative would meet a majority of the project objectives. While details still need to be flushed out to determine what the preservation alternative actually entails, we believe this is a good starting place to further explore how the preservation of the historic building can be accomplished. The City, however, has not addressed this inherent flaw to date with the EIR and instead opted to recommend certification of the project as proposed and to adopt a statement of overriding considerations.
The Conservancy believes the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Melrose Triangle project is inadequate and flawed in the following areas:
No bona fide preservation alternative is provided. There does not appear to be a good faith attempt to look at options that retain, incorporate, or adaptively reuse the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building. A preservation alternative was included in the EIR, however, unlike the proposed project, there are no drawings or schematics provided for the preservation alternative, only some raw numbers about square footage. Details are so vague that it is not even clear how the historic building would be used or tied into the proposed project. Even with the lack of substantive information, the EIR concludes that preservation alternative provided within the EIR is the environmentally superior alternative.
An EIR must include sufficient information about each alternative to allow meaningful evaluation, analysis, and comparison with the proposed project, to foster informed decision-making and public participation. The City of West Hollywood, as the lead agency in the preparation of this EIR, has an independent duty under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to fully identify and evaluate alternatives. The Conservancy believes there a need to fully develop the preservation alternative, and provide details and drawings to demonstrate how the historic buildings could be retained as part of the project.
No substantive evidence is provided that demonstrates infeasibility or compelling reasons why the preservation alternative -- the environmentally superior alternative -- is not viable or being selected. The EIR clearly states the preservation alternative "would achieve many" and "meets a majority" of the project objectives yet states it "would not result in a cohesive site design" or "may not maximize the redevelopment potential." Again, no analysis, facts or figures are provided to back up these subjective statements. However, in comparison to the proposed project, and looking at the limited information provided within the EIR, the preservation alternative calls for a slight reduction in the square footage of retail/restaurant and office uses, but exactly the same number of units and square footage of residential.
CEQA does not require an alternative to meet all of the project objectives in order for it to be viable, especially if it reduces environmental impacts. Further, the preservation alternative eliminates the impact to a known historic resource and reduces another negative impact on traffic generated by the project.
The City cannot merely adopt a statement of overriding considerations and approve a project with significant environmental impacts. Instead the City must first adopt feasible alternatives and mitigation measures. CEQA does not authorize a lead agency to proceed with a project that will have significant, unmitigated effects on the environment, based simply on weighing those effects against the project's perceived benefits.
No meaningful mitigation measures provided. The EIR only proposes to document the Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building prior to its demolition. While the demolition of a significant historic resource cannot be mitigated to a less than significant effect, no other measures are suggested or offered in the EIR.
Sign on to Support Local Advocates' Efforts
The Jones Dog & Cat Hospital building is a rare example of Streamline Moderne commercial architecture in West Hollywood and the only known, intact example of the work of master architects Wurdeman and Becket in the city.
The EIR is flawed and inadequate in providing the necessary analysis to evaluate a range of viable preservation alternatives.
A bona fide preservation alternative needs to be developed and fully considered. Ask them to support a revised preservation alternative which would retain the Wurdeman and Becket-designed building as part of the project, and at the same time meet all of the project objectives.
Mayor Pro Tempore Lauren Meister - firstname.lastname@example.org
John D'Amico - email@example.com
John Duran - firstname.lastname@example.org
John Heilman - email@example.com