Fight for the ‘heart’ of Silver Lake

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A battle is raging over the look, and some say the heart and soul, of one of L.A.’s hippest intersections – the block known as “Sunset Junction” in the Silver Lake neighborhood.

West Hollywood developer Frost/Chaddock plans to build three multistory apartment buildings at the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards. The projects would include 324 units and a 5-story building, eclipsing the mostly one- and two-story shops next door.

Now, some residents and elected members of the neighborhood council are waging a public campaign to try to pressure the developer to abandon the taller project. They want the land to go instead to the nearby Silverlake Conservatory of Music, a non-profit school co-founded by the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea.

Flea and the music school have submitted an offer to buy the property, according to a motion passed Wednesday night by the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council, which expressed support for the bid. The council also voted to hold a town hall meeting on the project.

The motion says the lot at 4000 Sunset Blvd is “truly the heart of the Sunset Junction,” because of historic and cultural significance. “Located where the Sunset and Santa Monica Red Car lines once intersected, Frost/Chaddock’s development of this area will tear down the historic Red Car Station that gave Sunset Junction its name.”

“It’s a defining location for Silver Lake,” resident Tamir Halaban told KCRW.  “If we proceed with this corporate cleansing, that’s a tipping point.”

But Glenn Gritzner, a spokesman for the developer, said the site’s not for sale.

“Frost/Chaddock has a vision for the entire project, with all three buildings working together to extend the pedestrian oriented retail and restaurant space up Sunset Boulevard while providing much needed housing.”

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Halaban and Gritzner spoke with KCRW’s Warren Olney.

Tensions first flared in 2012, when residents and nearby business owners balked at the initial designs. The developer has gone back to the drawing board, Gritzner said. The most recent design was unveiled in June, featuring fewer apartments and a public plaza on the ground level. The developer says it is now preparing an Environmental Impact Report.

Although the entire Silver Lake neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last two decades, with trendy shops and surging home prices, Sunset Junction carries added symbolic weight. It was the site of an early public demonstration against the police harassment of gay bars back in 1967. Starting in 2001, the music festival and street fair by the same name drew citywide attention to Sunset Junction.

City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell represents the Silver Lake neighborhood. He declined to comment on the project at this stage because he may vote on it in coming months.