Mixed Win for Gardenhouse Project
The Planning Commission said yes to cafes, and no to namaste at its May 27 regular meeting. At issue was the mixed-use project at 8600 Wilshire Blvd. The Commission unanimously approved a request to allow cafes and markets at the project, but rejected a request to allow a yoga studio.
The Planning Commission first heard the request to allow cafes, markets, and exercise facilities by 8600 Wilshire Blvd., also known as Gardenhouse, on March 25, with two subsequent hearings on April 8 and May 12. At the most recent hearing, the Commission instructed staff to prepare a resolution that would approve use by coffees shops and markets, but deny the use by exercise facilities, citing concerns of increased parking demands.
In statements by the applicant’s representative, Erin Anderson of Palisades Capital Partners characterized the opposition to the project as “a regular, small group” of 10 households. “There is not a wave of resistance, there is a handful,” he told the Commission.
He argued that parking issues in the area were caused by medical buildings charging exorbitant amounts for parking, forcing patients to seek out street parking. A yoga studio, as opposed to an open format gym or sports complex, would attract local residents and have a smaller traffic footprint, Anderson said.
The project elicited broad attention from neighbors and the business community. Some neighbors feared the impact that parking-intensive uses could have on their quality of life, like Gabriel Halimi. “The streets are already crowded with cars because of the other uses on Wilshire that already don’t have sufficient parking, and we already have a hard time for our nanny and parents to find parking during the day to care for our children,” Halimi wrote in a comment submitted May 1.
Not all neighbors opposed the request. Marc Carrel, who said in a written comment that he lives around the corner from Gardenhouse, stressed the lack of nearby amenities in the area. “As a result, I often walk north toward 3rd Street or farther east on Wilshire to access amenities which means I am patronizing stores in Los Angele sat the expense of those in Beverly Hills,” he stated.
Todd Johnson, President and CEO of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that the city’s recent Economic Sustainability Plan prioritizes filling empty commercial spaces. He also notes that Wilshire Boulevard already hosts coffee shops, markets, and exercise facilities.
“It would be odd and simply unfair to permit these uses across the street and not at Gardenhouse,” wrote Johnson.
Commissioner Andy Licht acknowledged that the applicant did not walk away with everything they asked for, but they also did not walk away empty handed. “I like compromises,” he said. Although he voted in favor of the resolution, he said he found it unfair that the yoga studio was being included in the same category as sport clubs.
“I do feel badly for the developers,” Vice Chair Lori Green Gordon said, “because I think that they finally, after a great deal of time, secured a tenant that they feel would be an appropriate tenant for the area. The unfortunate thing is that, in fact, really it isn’t an appropriate tenant for the area.”
The Commission turned next to Sixty Hotel, which is currently seeking approval to renew the conditional use permit and extended hours permit to operate its rooftop lounge.