Voters to Decide Fate of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Arts Club in Greater Los Angeles

A March Ballot Measure in West Hollywood May Put Social Club Project in Jeopardy

The Arts Club, which would be built on the Sunset Strip, must now be approved by West Hollywood voters. Photo courtesy of Gensler/The Arts Club.

Voters in West Hollywood, California, will decide whether the city should rescind its approval for the construction of the Arts Club, a London-based private social club backed by Academy Award-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow that’s proposing a development designed to upgrade the Sunset Strip at the site of a retail outpost of the adult magazine Hustler.

Paltrow, an advisory board member to the London location and founder of the Santa Monica, California-based lifestyle company Goop, has been working with other investors to open the high-profile, 120,000-square-foot social club in greater Los Angeles. Critics of the project argue the site should be used to address the area’s shortage of housing.

The project is attracting attention well beyond West Hollywood partly because of the prominence of Paltrow as well as the street spanning a mile and a half that came into the national consciousness in the 1950s and 1960s with the television series 77 Sunset Strip. This section of Sunset Boulevard runs between well-known areas, connecting with Beverly Hills on the west and Hollywood on the east.

The club’s proposal, which includes a rooftop swimming pool and guest rooms, requires changes to local zoning that the West Hollywood City Council originally voted to approve this year. But following a petition and criticism from residents and a labor union, the council agreed to allow voters to decide whether they should rescind their original decision on the social club project by issuing a city measure for the March ballot.

The measure before voters is whether the resolution approving the project should be rescinded, according to Yvonne Quarker, West Hollywood city clerk. The city’s general plan and other zoning regulations would have to be amended to allow for increased height and density over what is currently allowed on the site, the city said. About 8,150 square feet of the property was zoned for multifamily residential.

The project would require demolition of the existing two-story 20,000-square-foot office and retail building, which includes a 10,000-square-foot lingerie and sex toy shop operated by Hustler Hollywood as well as offices for the Gay Men’s Chorus and the Plus Development Group involved in the Arts Club project, according to CoStar data.

About a handful of West Hollywood residents as well as members of labor union Unite Here 11 urged the City Council to put the matter to a ballot measure. More than 2,800 signatures were gathered on a petition presented by Unite Here, according to Quarker.

Elle Farmer, research analyst for Unite Here Local 11, said among the union’s issues with the project is zoning. About one-third of the land at that site was zoned for housing.

“Despite a housing crisis, that land is being rezoned for this project for a private commercial development,” Farmer said. “Now West Hollywood voters can decide whether it’s a good use of their resources.”

But Steven Afriat, chief executive of Burbank-based Afriat Consulting Group Inc., a local representative for the Arts Club, said the project has “tremendous community support” and that the proprietors welcome the West Hollywood City Council’s decision to put the project up for a vote as opposed to rescinding it.

Downtown Los Angeles-based Gensler designed the proposed project, at 8920 Sunset Blvd ., to include 14 guest rooms, screening rooms, restaurants, office space, an art gallery and a rooftop swimming pool. It will also have operational decorative glass panels as part of its design.

The Arts Club is also proposing a public benefits package that would total about $12.1 million, according to the City of West Hollywood. It would include building about 2,200 square feet of public gallery space that could also be used as a rehearsal space, and be programmed and staffed by the Arts Club for 25 years and free to the public. It would be curated in coordination with the City of West Hollywood Arts Division. The gallery space is estimated to cost $10.1 million. The Arts Club would also donate $1 million to support the arts in West Hollywood over 10 years and pay an additional cash public benefit of $1 million to the city.

Afriat said the Arts Club has also offered $1 million in traffic improvements.

The opening of the club would mark the British club’s first American outpost.

The original Arts Club dates back to 1863 as a place where men involved in the arts, literature and sciences gathered in London, according to the Arts Club website.

Bob Sonnenblick, chairman at Sonnenblick Development LLC, has stayed at the Arts Club in London which he describes as a “lovely, luxury” hotel.

“The West Hollywood design is certainly beautiful, too,” Sonnenblick said in an email. “If anything, dropping a project of that high quality here just might be too upscale for the current Sunset Strip neighborhood.”

The measures is scheduled to appear on the March 5 general municipal election ballot.

If approved, construction could take up to two and a half years to build.


More From Bob Sonnenblick

I have actually stayed at the Arts Club Hotel in London.

It’s an unbelievably lovely, luxury hotel, located in the Mayfair district of town, one of the City’s most high-end areas…

The rooms & public areas in that hotel are gorgeous, & the service was fabulous. The West Hollywood design is certainly beautiful too.If anything, dropping a project of that high quality here just might be too upscale for the current Sunset Strip neighborhood.

In a nutshell, here is exactly what this dispute is all about:

The developer is proposing a private club. This is just like proposing a condo tower, it is not open to the public.

The opposition is the Unite Here #11 hotel workers union. They want the project to be union-employee staffed, so that their workers would be hired there…regardless of whether it is a private club or a hotel.

The private club has said that it will only hire NON-union workers to work there, once it is completed. The added cost of union worker wages and benefits is very high. Thus, the dispute.

The real truth is that The Union doesn’t truly care if it’s a private club or a public hotel.

This is only about Union vs NON-Union jobs, nothing more…

So if you are Pro Open-Shop hiring, then you like this project, as-is.

If you are Pro-Union hiring, then you don’t like this project.

Its just that simple…