As Beverly Hills preps a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed 9600 Wilshire Boulevard Specific Plan–a major development project with the potential to dramatically transform a significant section of Wilshire Boulevard–members of the public participated in a preliminary meeting in which they commented on environmental issues. “This project is the most intense commercial project use outside the [Golden] Triangle ever proposed in Beverly Hills,” resident Ken Goldman said during the March 29 meeting, which was held in person in the Municipal Gallery and was accessible virtually.
The 9600 Wilshire Boulevard Specific Plan would facilitate the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Saks Fifth Avenue Women’s Building–a historic building–on Wilshire; the retention of the existing commercial building at 9570 Wilshire–the former Barneys New York Building–for continued commercial use, and the development of new uses throughout the plan area, including residential, retail, offices, hospitality, a social club and a boutique hotel.
If the project were to move forward, construction would begin in 2024 and continue until 2028. It would occur over nine phases, beginning with the demolition of the Saks Shoe Building. The estimated duration of the construction is approximately 50 months: 14 months of utility relocation and 36 months of construction.
The four-acre site spanning two blocks is located south of Wilshire Boulevard, between Bedford Drive to the west and Camden Drive to the east, in the southwestern portion of the city. There are three commercial structures currently on the project site, including the Saks Fifth Avenue Women’s Building and former Barneys New York Building. There’s also an ancillary loading facility and two surface parking lots.
The Specific Plan Area would permit up to 642,000 square-feet of total floor area. It would be divided into two Districts: a Wilshire Boulevard District fronting Wilshire and a Neighborhood District to the south. The plan would include the development of multi-family residential developments, small retail uses and publicly accessible open space in the Neighborhood District.
Before construction begins, those involved are examining the potential environmental impact of the project–while noting there will be a lot of planning and dialoguing ahead.
“This is very early on in the process,” Andre Sahakian, principal planner for the city’s planning division, said during the meeting. “There will be numerous opportunities for future input on the project itself. This is an opportunity for the community to have a say in what we want to study.”
An initial study prepared for the Specific Plan–a 137-page report available on the city’s website–said the project would have “less than significant impacts” to environmental considerations including Agriculture and Forestry Resources, Hydrology and Water Quality.
The draft EIR will include further analysis on how the project might impact air quality, energy, geology and soils, noise, transportation and land use.
The meeting was one of the first introductions of the 9600 Wilshire Boulevard Specific Plan Project in a public setting, and residents were eager to share their concerns.
Jordan Geller lives on S. Peck Drive, which bisects the Specific Plan area between S. Bedford Drive and S. Camden Drive. Addressing the group, the longtime Beverly Hills resident said developers of the Wilshire project are disregarding the potential traffic impact the construction will have on the surrounding neighborhood.
“We cannot imagine what it would be like to have a project of this scope in our neighborhood,” Geller said. “I hope you guys will consider significantly scaling this project back or not allowing it to occur because it will forever destroy our neighborhood.”
Other participants in the meeting echoed Geller’s concerns related to the height of the buildings associated with the project, the density of the development and traffic.
“Those are definitely issues that will come up,” Sahakian said in an interview after the meeting.
Speaking on behalf of the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowner’s Association, Goldman said, incredulously, “Despite many, many concerns about this intense proposed overdevelopment, we are addressing tonight only what we see as environmental issues.”
The scoping period, which provides an opportunity for the public to express input regarding the environmental issues associated with the project, began March 9 and lasts 30 days. April 10 is final day to submit comments on the project’s environmental issues to Sahakian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Draft EIR has been prepared, it will be released for a 45-day public review and comment period. Sometime in the winter, the Planning Commission will then hold a public hearing on the Draft EIR and on the 9600 Wilshire Boulevard Specific Plan Project.