April 12, 2024

The historic Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel in Studio City could be demolished for a 520-unit apartment complex

The historic Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City could be demolished to make way for a 520-unit residential complex and mixed-use development if the Los Angeles City Council approves the project Wednesday.

Supporters of the development say it would provide much-needed affordable housing, allowing workers to live closer to their jobs.

Opponents say developers have not adequately weighed the project’s effects and that it would erase an important piece of history.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel closed permanently when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The only active part of the property now is the adjacent Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge, which opened in 2021 with retailers including supermarket chain Erewhon and sustainable clothing and footwear store Allbirds. The lodge’s event center was demolished to make room for the shops.

Developers have long had designs for the nearly nine-acre property at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Best Buy was looking for a superstore in the 1990s. Richard Weintraub, who owned the land at the time, had plans to renovate and reopen the lodge in 2009 as “Sportsmen’s Landing,” with a boutique shopping center and modern restaurants. Legal issues with the hotel lease prevented this project from coming to fruition.

In addition to the 520 apartments, 78 of which would be reserved for low-income tenants, the project would include 42,000 square feet of commercial space. The design also includes a bike and pedestrian path along the LA River.

Erewhon, the Studio City Dwellers Assn. and Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel workers, filed an appeal with the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee to halt the project, which was approved by the City Planning Commission in July.

At a meeting earlier this month, the commission rejected the appeals and sent the proposal to the full City Council for a vote on Wednesday.

“This will bring one of the most important and catalytic developments to this part of the San Fernando Valley,” Dave Rand, an attorney representing developer Midwood Investment & Development, said at the meeting. “For years, Ventura Boulevard has been a largely ignored, but extremely important corridor in the Valley. With this city’s incredibly ambitious housing goals and commitments, this location’s corner of Coldwater and Ventura Boulevard is the perfect location for residential, mixed-use and riverfront development.”

The property, which became popular in the 1930s for its trout fishing and bait and tackle shop, was first owned by actors Noah and Wallace Beery.

Dancers Peta Siddall and Josie Neglia demonstrate salsa moves for a crowd at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in 2001.

(Lawrence K.Ho / Los Angeles Times)

In 1946, the events center and restaurant opened, followed by the 190-room hotel in 1962. In its heyday, Sportsmen’s Lodge was a meeting place for movie studios and many locals knew it as a popular venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs, New Year’s parties. parties and more.

In recent years, most hotel guests were tourists visiting nearby Universal Studios, but that dried up during the pandemic and the hotel has since closed. In 2020, the hotel was a Project Roomkey location, housing people experiencing homelessness to reduce the spread of the virus.

In 1964, the lodge became the first union hotel in the San Fernando Valley and was one of the first union hotels in Los Angeles. The organizing drive was led by Bill Robertson, a leader in the Los Angeles labor movement.

“We continue to believe that … the historic hotel is an important surviving link in that history, and therefore should be preserved,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, said in a written statement.

A representative for Erewhon did not respond to a request for comment.

Midwood Investment & Development, which bought the property in 2017, sued Erewhon in 2022, accusing the company of failing to pay rent and overusing the mall’s parking lot for its employees.

Erewhon countered, claiming that Midwood wrongfully prohibited Erewhon employees from using the parking lot and that Midwood “encouraged” Erewhon to rent space in the proposed shopping center.

Amy Minteer, an attorney for the Studio City Residents Assn., said the association does not want to kill the Sportsmen’s Lodge project but wants to reduce its height and reduce construction impacts.

Across the LA River, the Harvard-Westlake school is building an athletics campus on a former golf course.

The cumulative impacts of both projects are a major concern, Minteer said: not just air quality and construction noise, but also the loss of mature trees.

“The Residents Association does not want there to be no project,” says Minteer. “They simply want this project to be reviewed to mitigate the impact on the community and more closely align with existing neighborhood standards.”

The residential building will be 37 meters high, while the tallest building in the area is 17.5 meters high.

“It’s just way out of proportion to everything else in the area,” Minteer said.

Rand, the developer’s attorney, said the project has received a density bonus to raise its height above the usual 30 feet, which can only be denied if there is a “quantifiable and identifiable risk to health and human safety.”

Crispin Carrasco, who lives near the proposed project and is a member of the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters, said the council supports the development because Midwood has said it will work with contractors who hire local carpenters.

Stella Stahl, communications director for Councilmember Nithya Raman’s office, said Raman has not yet taken an official position on the project.

During the committee meeting, Mashel Majid, Raman’s deputy chief of staff, said the development would not have a significant impact on the area and that Raman’s office was “committed to supporting housing projects.” But Majid expressed disappointment that the historic hotel would be demolished.

“Unfortunately, because this project is located on private property and is dictated by state laws that protect the ability to build housing on this site, the city cannot require the hotel to remain standing,” she said.

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