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West Hollywood residents object to plans for new club

The proposed SoHo House on Sunset Boulevard would bring A-list celebrities to the neighborhood, but residents say it will bring something else -- traffic, loud music and paparazzi.

August 16, 2009|Alexandra Zavis

It's billed as the most exclusive new club in Los Angeles. But some neighbors in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills don't want the late-night carousing, traffic jams or paparazzi they fear will accompany the opening of the Los Angeles chapter of the decidedly British, members-only SoHo House.

More than 80 residents have signed an appeal by the West Hollywood-Beverly Hills Neighborhood Assn. against allowing SoHo House to move into the top two floors of Luckman Plaza at 9200 Sunset Blvd.. The West Hollywood City Council has said it will consider the association's objections at its Monday meeting.

The club, which also has an outpost in Manhattan, caters to an A-list crowd. When it rented the space for a week of Oscar parties last year, Matt Dillon, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher dropped by the English manor-inspired penthouse replete with Chesterfield sofas and Oriental carpets.

"The helicopters now are bad, but the paparazzi are going to be all over the place," said Martin Gordon, a doctor who has lived a few houses away for 21 years. "This is a family neighborhood."

Steven Afriat, a consultant representing the club, said the purpose of SoHo House is to provide leading figures in the entertainment industry with an escape from all that.

"This is not a nightclub," he said. "People aren't going there to be entertained. They are going there to meet and to relax."

The West Hollywood Planning Commission cleared the way for the development on July 29 when it approved a request by the building's owners, the Mani Brothers Real Estate Group, to convert the space into a private social club with a restaurant and a rooftop reflecting pool.

City officials want to stimulate business on the west end of the Sunset Strip. John Keho, planning manager for West Hollywood, said the club would create jobs; generate business for local restaurants, shops and hotels; and help position the landmark building as a gateway to the city.

The project has drawn support from some high-profile residents, including actress Felicity Huffman and musician Elton John, Afriat said.

"It's going to bring, in my opinion, new energy to the city of West Hollywood," said Paul Cooper, an executive with Universal Music Group who lives a block away from Luckman Plaza.

However, Cooper said he shares his neighbors' concerns about the noise and traffic that could be generated.

"It has always been an office building, which was fine," said Deedy Oberman, who has lived in an adjacent house for 36 years. "Office hours are daytime hours and not over the weekend."

But she said it is not the sort of area for late-night music, lights and drinking. "I've got seven grandchildren, and they stay with me," she said.

Although the building is located at the tip of the Sunset Strip, it is surrounded on three sides by quiet residential areas, said Doug Carstens, an attorney who represents the neighborhood association in an appeal against the planning commission. He said that city officials underestimated the potential effects of the club and did not provide sufficient safeguards.

The proposal has also drawn opposition from Beverly Hills Mayor Nancy Krasne, who emphasized that it does not affect only the city of West Hollywood.

"The traffic is already backed up on Sunset to Hillcrest in Beverly Hills and it bottlenecks in West Hollywood, this can only make travel on Sunset much worse," she wrote in an e-mail. "Now we add valets running across Sunset Boulevard to retrieve cars, cars trying to merge into Sunset with heavy traffic, amplified music on the roof of SoHo House on unknown days or evenings . . . and the list goes on."

Jeffrey Seymour, a consultant who represents the Mani Brothers, said the building's owners and tenants had worked hard with city officials to limit the effect of the new club on its neighbors.

A 6 1/2 -foot glass wall will enclose the top of the building, he said. There will be no live music on the rooftop terrace without a special event permit. Only club staff would use the parking spaces located in a structure across the street; members would leave their cars in the Luckman building's own parking area and enter the club through a dedicated elevator. And no more than 300 people would be allowed inside the club at any time.

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alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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