WeHo wants to amp up activity on hotel rooftops

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West Hollywood wants to give its hotels greater flexibility in developing amenities and event spaces on their rooftops, but residents and homeowners are seeing huge red flags in the proposal, which they believe will further pollute the city with noise and degrade its quality of life.

The Planning Commission of West Hollywood is reviewing a proposed Zone Text Amendment (ZTA) on Thursday that would adjust the height regulations for hotel rooftop structures, contingent upon the approval of a conditional use permit (CUP). City Hall is pitching the plan as a necessary measure to help revitalize the hospitality sector in the wake of economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, many hotels are restricted by height limits that prevent the addition of amenities such as restrooms on rooftops, forcing guests to go downstairs. The proposed changes would allow occupiable structures up to 15 feet above the current height limit or existing roofline, thus accommodating more comprehensive facilities.

West Hollywood’s existing zoning code primarily addresses rooftop structures by setting limits on height and coverage, while allowing certain essential elements like elevator shafts and mechanical equipment to exceed these limits. For instance, the code permits elevator shafts to extend up to 15 feet above the roofline, and sustainable energy equipment like solar panels can project up to 12 feet above the height limit, with a required setback of at least 2 feet from the roof edge.

Specific numerical guidelines in the code include:

  • Skylights can extend 3 feet above the roofline without limits on coverage.
  • Sustainable energy equipment can project up to 12 feet above the height limit.
  • Elevator shafts are limited to 200 gross square feet in coverage and can extend up to 15 feet above the roofline.
  • Stairwells are allowed the same coverage as elevator shafts but can only extend up to 10 feet above the roofline.
  • Architectural features such as domes or towers are restricted to 25% of the roof area and can extend up to 12 feet above the height limit.
  • Mechanical rooms and other essential equipment are limited to 15% of the roof area and can also project up to 10 feet above, with a specific setback requirement.

In West Hollywood, there are currently 20 hotels, of which 13 possess rooftop improvements that exceed the established height limits, and one is situated within a residential zone.

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These hotels are distributed across different zones with 13 in commercial areas and 7 in residential locales. The rooftop enhancements often feature amenities such as pools, lounge areas, tennis or pickleball courts, and dining facilities. Additionally, some hotels utilize these spaces for hosting events like weddings, birthdays and corporate gatherings.

The hotels with rooftop amenities vary significantly in their zoning, height limits and the number of floors. The Kimpton La Peer Hotel in the CC2 zone adheres to its four-story height limit of 45 feet without any rooftop improvements. The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills in the SSP zone stands at 117 feet with nine stories, featuring a pool, lounging, and dining areas on its rooftop, surpassing its height limit of 100 feet. Similarly, The West Hollywood EDITION, also in the SSP zone, exceeds its height limit, reaching 128 feet with 14 stories, equipped with a rooftop pool.

Hotels like the Montrose at Beverly Hills and the Petit Ermitage maintain compliance with their four-story, 45-foot height limits but utilize their rooftops for pools and, in the case of Montrose, a tennis court. Meanwhile, the Sunset Tower Hotel significantly exceeds its 65-foot height limit in the SSP zone by standing at 180 feet with 15 stories, providing a pool and lounge areas on its rooftop.

Among the hotels, the Andaz West Hollywood, another SSP zone property, is a notable structure standing at 150 feet with 14 stories, featuring a rooftop pool and lounge. This exceeds its 60-foot height guideline. The Pendry and Mondrian hotels also exceed their respective 45-foot height limits by considerable margins, with the former reaching 100 feet and the latter 147 feet, both featuring pools and lounges.

Hotels such as the Best Western Plus Sunset Plaza Hotel and Hotel Ziggy, both in the SSP zone, adhere strictly to their 45-foot height limits without any rooftop improvements. The Sunset Marquis and The Charlie, both with modest three-story structures, similarly comply with their height restrictions and do not feature any rooftop amenities.

The proposed amendment specifies that new or expanded hotel rooftop features must cover no more than 50% of the building’s occupiable roof area. This limitation is intended to mitigate the visual impact of the structures while still allowing functional and attractive amenities. Structures that may exceed the height limits include noise walls, shade structures, restrooms, and other similar improvements, but explicitly exclude guest rooms or penthouses.

An important component of managing these rooftop venues is addressing noise concerns, as detailed in a noise study prepared to support the proposed ZTA. The study identified amplified sound, crowd noise and recreational activities as primary noise sources. It recommended installing barriers like plexiglass walls and considering retractable roof enclosures to mitigate noise. It also emphasized the necessity for any future hotel projects proposing expanded rooftop uses to conduct site-specific noise studies to incorporate noise reduction measures effectively.

Public outreach has revealed a general consensus among hotel managers in favor of the ZTA, as it would enable them to maximize the use of rooftop spaces, thereby enhancing guest amenities. However, residents living close to hotels with existing rooftop features have expressed concerns about noise and privacy, often opposing further expansions.

To address community concerns, particularly regarding noise, the ZTA stipulates that all new or significantly modified rooftop structures undergo a site-specific noise study. This study should propose effective noise mitigation measures to ensure that any new developments are compatible with nearby residential areas. The findings from these studies will also inform the public and allow for community feedback during the conditional use permit (CUP) process.

Operational guidelines within the ZTA are also detailed to minimize disturbances to nearby residents. For instance, the operation hours for rooftop amenities are restricted to between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM daily, unless exceptions are made through the CUP based on specific findings. Furthermore, outdoor lighting must be installed in a manner that prevents glare or direct illumination onto adjacent properties.

Noise reduction measures are a significant component of the ZTA. These include enclosing mechanical equipment, erecting solid noise barriers at least five feet high based on the noise study recommendations, and implementing a sound system design that adheres to city noise standards. These standards are enforced to ensure that any potential disruption from amplified sound or music is within acceptable limits.

Lastly, design standards are set to ensure that any rooftop structures or uses are visually compatible with the surrounding environment. This includes mandates for landscaping at least 10% of the rooftop area, ensuring that all visible structures from public viewpoints harmonize with the overall architectural theme of the main building. These measures aim to maintain a high standard of design quality, contributing positively to the urban landscape while addressing practical and aesthetic concerns.

The Planning Commission of West Hollywood is considering an alternative approach to the Zone Text Amendment (ZTA) based on feedback from hotel managers and operators. This alternative would differentiate the review requirements for hotels located in commercial versus residential zones. Specifically, it proposes that new or expanded rooftop accessory uses within commercial zones could be approved through an administrative permit reviewed by the Community Development Director, while those in residential zones would require a conditional use permit (CUP) review by the Planning Commission.

During public outreach efforts, various concerns and suggestions were highlighted regarding the proposed ZTA. The Long Range Planning Projects Subcommittee emphasized the importance of a CUP for all hotel rooftop accessory uses, questioned the effectiveness of existing noise mitigation solutions, and suggested more public notification and engagement for ZTA-related proposals. They also recommended that the city should commission a consultant to study and provide potential scenarios for noise mitigation.

Further input was received from the Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC), which suggested that the 10-foot height limit for rooftop improvements might be insufficient, especially for retractable roofs, and recommended a potential increase to 15 feet. The GAC also advocated for the regulations to encompass rooftop restaurants and related improvements, whether or not they are associated with hotels, and supported the idea of administrative approval for compliant projects.

The city also engaged in an extensive public review process through the Engage WeHo website, where residents and hotel operators could review the draft ZTA and provide feedback. The majority of the 49 comments articulate a broad spectrum of concerns regarding the impacts of hotel operations, specifically focusing on noise and regulatory enforcement.

A recurring theme is the inadequacy of current regulations or their enforcement, which leads to persistent disturbances. Resident Martin Gantman describes a hypothetical yet realistic scenario: “Let us say, for example, that the Chamberlain Hotel builds a glass-enclosed soundproof structure within which to hold group functions with digital music. The group decides it would like to prop the doors to the structure open so that it becomes an indoor/outdoor event with access to the pool area.” He highlights the enforcement issue that arises when operational decisions counteract the intended soundproofing solutions.

Residents demand that any modifications to Conditional Use Permits (CUPs) must include stringent clauses. The correspondences express a palpable tension between the potential economic benefits the city might gain from hotels and the quality of life for residents. The emphasis is often on the perceived prioritization of economic interests over residential peace. One letter starkly criticizes this approach: “You have no idea how many times a vehicle almost hit me. This happened even when a sheriff was behind a non-yielding vehicle. Absolutely no on this rooftop amendment.”

A significant number of residents call for a shift in city priorities, with a stronger focus on maintaining the residential character and tranquility of neighborhoods. They question whether the drive for economic growth is being balanced adequately with the rights and needs of existing residents, painting a picture of a community deeply affected by and profoundly concerned with the disruptions caused by hotel operations. The residents articulate a strong desire for the city to recalibrate its focus towards enforcing strict noise regulations and prioritizing the quality of life over economic gains from tourism and hospitality.

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Morty
Morty
17 days ago

This will pass because the Unite union owns many members of the city council and the Unite unions supports these large rooftop parties.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago

I would demand that all if the hotel have these new amenities that they be re-assessed for the improvements and pay a higher property tax. The building near the WeHo Library was only going to be a rug showroom with a “rooftop garden” that was not to have any commercial use. Now Catch is on the roof! Bet they don’t pay property taxes on the extra commercial space the City gave them.

Kevin
Kevin
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

But the city gets a lot sales tax from Catch.

Snarkygal
Snarkygal
18 days ago

This City has to find a new way to finance itself. Relying on hotel taxes is obviously not working for the RESIDENTS. The City has to realize that without the residents, it is nothing.

Larry Block
18 days ago
Reply to  Snarkygal

The city has a surplus. It’s the city council who decides how the money is spent.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Snarkygal

Actually relying on hotel taxes and property taxes has worked out quite well for City Hall. I am not sure from the conduct of staff and City Council if they would miss most of us pesky residents. The lack of respect for the residents and our quality of life and safety seems to be the real problem at City Hall.

David
David
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Then why “demand” reassessments in the first comment? If you believe “respect for quality of life for residents” is the issue then reassessment can’t also be at issue.

PIck one or the other. Are you running for council?

Tom
Tom
18 days ago

How about not building a new hotel every 30 minutes? How many hotel rooms does the city need? They’re just adding new ones that make the older ones “need” amenities like 24 hour open rooftop party spaces to remain relevant. Heck, why not arena shows? Casinos? Fireworks? Demolition Derbies? Human Sacrifice? Anything to pack them in here in the “Creative City”…

Kevin
Kevin
18 days ago
Reply to  Tom

According to a friend who is a developer, the average development time from project application to construction to opening is 7 years or more in weho. You may be referencing all the announcements , but hardly any get built.

Carleton cro9nin
18 days ago

It’s part of the changing city which relies on revenue from hotels, clubs, bars and restaurants. It is also a challenge to our City Council regarding the balance between residents’ reluctance to accept such changes and the need to keep up with our changing culture.

JF1
JF1
18 days ago

When the change directly and negatively impacts the quality of life of residents, then the city should find other ways. If the hotels are along commercial corridors, that’s one thing, but we have hotels that are right smack in the middle of neighborhoods and that needs to be considered. It’s not about changing culture it’s about changing the quality of life in a negative way. Quality of life is something that should always be improving…not taking a step back.

David
David
18 days ago
Reply to  JF1

Totally agree. Apparently CC doesn’t know what it’s like to live next to a hotel rooftop. It has nothing to do with accepting changing culture.

Part of the issue is really spot zoning that converted apartments into hotels. This was City of West Hollywood greed.

Carleton cro9nin
17 days ago
Reply to  David

“The camel’s nose is in the tent.” WEHOI is in transition as are every city. I am unable to say I am happy about it. We cannot be “an urban village” forever in the face of forces we cannot control. We must elect experienced adults to the city Council to manage the change. As for living next to a hotel – I did so in Boston while attending BU. Actually over a club known as The Bandbox – noise and vibrations – part of the vibrant city life.

JF1
JF1
17 days ago

No. These conditions do not and have not existed…West Hollywood wants to change the conditions at hotels…that will have a negative impact on the surrounding community. Hotel aren’t currently allowed certain things as a way of balancing the needs of the business community with the quality of life for residents. City staff is recommending something that benefits the hotels but negatively affects the residents. We don’t want to see that change. It doesn’t have to be part of this city’s life…unless the city makes this change against residents wishes. If you moved to Boston and decided to move over a… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
17 days ago

Spot on, Mr. Cronin! Change is inevitable, what matters is how we manage change, and who we elect to steward change on our behalf. We as citizens need to do a better job at that basic requirement of democracy.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
18 days ago

Stopped reading at “economic setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” That was like 3 years ago. Hotel roof top parties aren’t going to revitalize anything.

JF1
JF1
18 days ago
Reply to  Jim Nasium

So true. If revenue is down in the bars and clubs, it’s because the cost of everything has risen due in part to the increase in the minimum wage. That has increased the cost of doing business which has increased the price of everything to the consumer and thus, people are cutting back. Now the city wants to ensure the money keeps rolling in, so they are proposing this for hotel rooftops and if that negatively impacts the quality of life of residents… so be it.

Joshua88
Joshua88
15 days ago
Reply to  JF1

You should think beyond locally and you will notice that prices have risen virtually everywhere on everything. For most corporations, revenues are up. Seems to me this industry has a tough time, in general. Not all are supposed to succeed, as much as as we might wish (or want) them to. People’s priorities change.

I think both sides have strong points.
I think expansion is a great idea.
I also think caution and consideration is critical.

Last edited 15 days ago by Joshua88
Steve Martin
Steve Martin
18 days ago
Reply to  Jim Nasium

If business is so bad, most places just lower your room rate. That might spark more interest in staying in WeHo. We still live in a capitalist system. Why do the neighbors have to put up with all the noise; after all, many of these hotels are in the middle of residential areas. When the City approved many of these hotels, the put conditions on them to avoid impacting the nearby residents. There is no good reason to set those protections aside. Granting a few more special events might be a good compromise but if hotels are really struggling, maybe… Read more »

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