Controversial development project designed by Frank Gehry approved by LA City Council

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A chunk of Sunset Boulevard is one step closer to undergoing some major changes after the Los Angeles City Council approved a potentially neighborhood-defining project Tuesday. 

The project, which has been the focus of opposition from many in the community, was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who also designed the nearby Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The 178 foot structure would replace an existing strip mall on the eastern end of Sunset Boulevard with a building that would include about 229 residential  units, as well as some commercial space. 

It's garnered strong opposition — including initially from City Councilman David Ryu — for its size, as well as its proposal to tear down a historic bank within the strip mall.

The original plan called for a 234-foot structure, but last week developers agreed to a 24 percent height reduction. The now-178-foot building will include 20 fewer units than originally planned, according to Ryu's website. 

Many residents of Laurel Canyon, which sits north of the site, vigorously opposed its development. The Laurel Canyon Neighborhood Association's Jamie Hall told KPCC that the group's main concerns are traffic and public safety. 

“We were really concerned [about] a project of this size — which is going to be a destination — being at our doorstep," Hall said. 

He said the intersection of Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard, as well as Laurel Canyon and Sunset Boulevard, are already suffering the impacts of increased traffic, which has forced some drivers to reroute through nearby residential communities — a major issue for residents. 

The council and its allies were able to negotiate a settlement with the developers, Townscape Partners, to establish a community benefit fund that will be used to improve nearby traffic. Hall couldn't disclose the amount of the settlement, but the next step is to commission a study to determine the feasibility of possible enhancements.  

The study will be aimed at both improving transit options and roadway safety, Hall said. A Metro bus line runs along Laurel Canyon Boulevard but has almost no stops, he said. One step might be to add them along the route. 

“The only real way to handle the traffic situation — to change the status quo — is to give people opportunities to not have to use their vehicle. They need to have access to public transit,” Hall said.  

Sidewalk repairs could also help, Hall said. 

“Yes, we do have some sidewalks on the hillside, but a lot of them are in really horrific conditions. Some of them [are] just dirt or broken concrete or trees that have uprooted the sidewalk,” he said.

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included renderings of a different Frank Gehry project. KPCC regrets the error.

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