WeHo’s Planning Commission Endorses Plans for a Restaurant/Hotel at 9091 Santa Monica Blvd.

Illustration of proposed rehabilitation of 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. (Lorcan O’Herlihy and Associates)

On a unanimous vote Thursday night, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission approved renovations that will see an empty historic building on the northeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive adapted into a ground-floor restaurant and second-floor small hotel with six rooms.

Built in 1924, the 5,250 -quare-foot building at 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. once housed a drug store and many other businesses over the years. The building has been vacant for the past 25 years, but developer Taylor Megdal plans to renovate it using Mills Act tax breaks, which the city’s Historic Preservation Commission approved in January.

The commissioners were impressed with the plan, Commissioner Rogerio Carvalheiro saying, “I don’t see how we can’t approve the building.”

Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner loved the plan, saying she had long hoped “someone would rescue this wonderful building.” She compared the triangular-shaped building to New York City’s Flatiron building.

The Historic Preservation Commission earlier had voted down a plan for a rooftop deck. Its concern was not about possible noise from the deck but that access to it would require installation of an elevator and that the elevator tower would physically interrupt the historic billboard structure and be visually intrusive because it would be located so close to the roof edge on Doheny. The Planning Commission, however,  approved the deck. However, to reduce the potential for noise, the commissioners did prohibit food or drinks from being served on the deck, limit the deck’s hours to 8 a.m. to midnight and restricted access to only guests of the hotel and their guests.

Believing the deck could be an ideal place for special events, Carvalheiro suggested allowing two special event permits per year for the roof, something the developer had not even requested.


With the approval of the rooftop deck, commissioners also okay’ed putting in an elevator to the roof. Plans call for that elevator to come up directly behind the billboard that has been on the roof since the 1940s, if not earlier. Because the billboard is considered one of the historic building’s “character defining features,” the Commission’s approval of the project also legalized it as a historic billboard that conforms to city regulations. New billboards on Santa Monica Boulevard are not allowed under city zoning regulations. All of the existing billboards on Santa Monica Boulevard predate cityhood in 1984 and are considered “legal, non-conforming” billboards that can be maintained but not altered.

Although the city’s zoning code requires the building to have 14 parking spaces, the Commission exempted the building from that requirement, noting that it did not have any parking when it was built.

During the public comment period, resident Steve Martin said restoring the building was important enough that the city should make concessions concerning parking.

Commissioner John Altschul requested that any advertising for the restaurant or hotel should note that on-site parking and valet is not available. In a few years, when the Melrose Triangle retail-office-residential project directly across the street is built, the patrons likely can park there.

In the meantime, restaurant patrons and hotel guests most likely will arrive by taxi or ride services such as Uber and Lyft. The developer hopes to attract a high-end restaurant of the caliber of Gracias Madre on Melrose Avenue. Wanting to avoid traffic problems such as those caused by the arrival and departure of guests at the popular Catch restaurant (northwest corner of Melrose Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard), the Commission ordered Megdal to come back with a detailed plan for loading/unloading passengers before a certificate of occupancy is issued.

Of the ten people who spoke during the public comment, period all supported the project. Cynthia Blatt called it a great example of adaptive reuse, while Kimberly Copeland said it would provide a “vibrant entrance” to the city. Meanwhile, Bobbie Edrick, speaking for the adjacent Norma Triangle neighborhood, said the vacant building has been an eyesore for years and urged the commission to “remove blight” from the neighborhood by approving the project.

Victor Omelczenko, speaking for the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance (WHPA), noted that the city’s 2016 survey of potentially historic commercial buildings did not initially include the 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. building. However, WHPA pushed for its inclusion, and now it was getting historic status, long before many of the other commercial buildings on that survey.

The 9091 building next goes to the City Council for final approval. If approved there, Taylor Megdal hopes to begin renovations in summer 2018 and be open in early 2019.

Catch Restaurant Update

The trendy Catch seafood restaurant, a magnet for both celebrities and paparazzi, seems to have solved its noise problems. During a required review, city staffers told the Planning Commission there had been no noise ordinance violations against the rooftop restaurant in the past four months.

The city’s code compliance division has received two noise complaints against Catch since its last review in October, but investigation showed the noise was not coming from the restaurant.

west hollywood planning commission, restaurant

Upon its opening in September 2016, residents living nearby had complained repeatedly about noise and traffic problems created by the restaurant on the northwest corner of San Vicente Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. During a review in June 2017, Catch caught heat from the Planning Commission, which ordered it to fix the problems. Another review in October 2017 showed the restaurant had fixed the traffic issues, but still had five noise violations in the three months between reviews.

Catch general manager Mike Ilich reported that he has an employee walking the adjacent neighborhood three times a night to check for noise impacts. He also has hired West Hollywood city parking enforcement officers to manage traffic on Fridays and Saturdays. Ilich gave out his cell phone number for residents to call him directly with complaints.

“I’m proud of my team and their diligence in following the three-times-a-night walks to make sure we can’t hear any audible sound in the neighborhood. We respond immediately to any issues that we have in valet,” Ilich said.

Catch plans to install 12-foot-high glass sound walls around the restaurant perimeter as well as enclose the rooftop entrance area in glass. That installation is scheduled to happen in early April.

Although this was the last scheduled review for the restaurant, the Commission ordered Catch to come back for another review in six months to see how well the sound walls and glass-enclosed entrance are working.

The Commission also gave unanimous thumbs up to plans to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations in new commercial and residential buildings. That proposal next goes to the City Council for consideration,

The commission was scheduled to consider a three-story, five-unit condominium building at 1011 N. Ogden Drive, south of Santa Monica Boulevard, but it was delayed to a future meeting.

CORRECTION:  An earlier version of this story said that the city’s Historic Planning Commission had opposed a rooftop  deck for the 9091 Santa Monica Blvd. building out of concern that it would generate noise that would affect neighbors nearby. In fact, the HSA’s  was that access to the rooftop deck would require installation of an elevator and that the elevator tower would physically interrupt the historic billboard structure and be visually intrusive because it is located so close to the roof edge on Doheny.

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J Simmons
J Simmons
6 years ago

Another Rooftop Deck – I’ve read CATCH has had a long history of it’s outside deck disturbing nearby neighbours with very loud noise. The Mondrian’s SkyBar had a lot of noise complaints. To add a roof deck so close to many residences is hard to believe. Also, the lack of parking “because it’s didn’t have parking when it was built” …. SERIOUSLY? It’s getting a new use, and must it be pointed out, since built, the number of cars, number of new developments … Means the “exemption” is so irrational, other force$ mu$t be in play. (Also, isn’t one of… Read more »

6 years ago
Reply to  J Simmons

Yes, Oh Yes! Didn’t you hear? Weho is creating Manhattan at the Beach…..well not quite at the beach …but close enough that no one will really know it isn’t really at the beach. Just like the residents really won’t notice they are fast becoming sardines crushed in between traffic and a proliferation of hotels and residences that really are air bnb’s so they’re really not residences at all because people don’t really stay long enough to put down roots. They must all be friends of John Duran because they “are all just passing through” so they really don’t count. And… Read more »

6 years ago

Very, very happy about this! Finally, after 25 years of having this eyesore at the western gateway to our city this building will finally be restored. Congrats! (only concern is the Commission is not aware of how much of an issue these rooftop areas are. While everyone enjoys a great view…encouraging them to have “special events” on the roof usually involves music that has a tendency to get turned up and travel through the neighborhood).

6 years ago

Approving something the developer didn’t even ask for! A new low for the Planning Commission!

Win Win
Win Win
6 years ago
Reply to  Alison

Alison: A win win all around. The “low” could be considered those comments from folks never show up at the party to craft a solution. Be part of the action instead of hanging out in the Complaint Dept.

6 years ago

GREAT NEWS! It’s such a unique building. I’m glad it’s finally going to get life back.

David Reid
David Reid
6 years ago

Yes! That’s one side of the westend gateway.
It was likely vacant longer than 25 years. I moved here pre-cityhood in 1984.
It was Abigail’s Florist then but closed in the next year.

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

I really hope the developer of the corner 9091 building can afford to do what he is proposing and that it happens without a long delay. That corner has been a blight for decades. No valet or nearby parking is problematic and relying on foot traffic, taxi or ride-sharing services will be a test of the new way of getting around. Good luck!

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