Renovation Plans for 881 Alma Real Building Win Approval from Design Review Board 

A makeover is planned for the 881 Alma Real Building.
Rendering is courtesy of Sandstone Properties.

The four-story professional building at 881 Alma Real (across from Ralphs), which was built in 1981, will undergo renovations.

Plans for the 89,755-sq.ft. building were presented at the Design Review Board meeting on February 26, held at the Palisades-Malibu YMCA.

Building owner Eri Kroh, a former Pacific Palisades resident, attended the hearing.

Kroh, president and CEO of Sandstone Properties in Westwood, purchased this building in 2007. According to a November 16 story in the Los Angeles Business Journal, other Sandstone properties include the Variety building at 11175 Santa Monica Blvd., and 14724 Ventura Blvd.

Future Sandstone developments will include The Jeff, a 175-room hotel on Jefferson Boulevard in Culver City and The Albany, at 1330 W. Pico Blvd., an industrial building downtown that will be converted into a hotel with bars and restaurants.

Architect Robert Ward, president of RW&A, showed the newly designed exterior.

“We’re trying to use natural materials,” Ward said. “Wood doesn’t last and [for this building] it’s about 10 years gone by now.”

Additionally, instead of replacing the exterior, it will be repurposed with sanding, repointing the brick (grouting), white-washing and then painting the exterior a “snowball” white. The parapet will be anodized aluminum panels with a matte finish.

The berms in the front of the property will be removed and a quasi-public space will be developed.

“We’re proposing a new design between the building and the sidewalk,” Ward said, noting that the building currently looks like every other office building in the United States with two planters out in front. “We’re trying to activate that in-between space and make it a public space,” with plans for a coffee kiosk.

The 881 Alma Real building houses a dance studio [Fancy Feet], a karate arts studio [Gerry Blanck’s Martial Arts], a tutoring center [Groza], a youth technology center [ATAM], several dentists, an orthodontist and a physical therapy practice (Dave Powers). Out front every afternoon there are usually children and teens waiting for a ride from parents, after they have finished lessons or appointments.

“We’re trying to make spaces for people to come and congregate,” Ward said, noting that there are plans for tea and coffee to be sold, along with packaged food, such as salads and sandwiches. “We want people to come here, we want people to hang out here.”

About the “bird” roof for the kiosk where food would be available, DRB member Paul Darrall said, “It [the front design] kind of reminds me of a museum of modern art.”

The triangular kiosk, covered with an aluminum roof, will have an 8-1/2-ft. high glass brick wall, plantings and a linear fountain. Glass doors will close it off at night, with plans to keep it lit.

“It’s like a little jewel box,” Ward said.

“I like the building and the flying wing,” Darrall said.

“You are making major improvements to an [important] building,” DRB Vice Chair Barbara Kohn added.

The proposed landscaping is drought tolerant.

Board members Donna Vaccarino, Kohn, Leah Cox, Darrall and Maryam Zar voted to approve the plans, with a recommendation that the night lighting be changed/upgraded. The group also noted that there are no parkway trees in front of the building and even though it is not part of their purview, suggested that the owner speak to the Community Council forestry committee about possible parkway trees.

The over-sized Palisadian-Post signs on the rooftop parapet, which were deemed illegal by the Design Review Board in 2015, were once again cited for being out of character with the approved renovations.

Kroh told Circling the News at the meeting that he had a lease with the Palisadian-Post and there was nothing he could do about the signs. The Palisadian-Post/Conquest Housing occupy about three percent of the building space.

In April 22, 2016, the L.A. Department of City Planning agreed with the Design Review Board’s ruling, but the signs still went up, because the City failed to announce its decision in a timely fashion. Palisadian-Post owner Alan Smolinisky had his lawyer take the City to court over the delay, through the Permit Streamlining Act.

According to that Act, L.A. Code 652956, “In the event that a lead agency or a responsible agency fails to act to approve or to disapprove a development project within the time limits required by this article, the failure to act shall be deemed approval of the permit application for the development project.”

On March 29, 2017, Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue said the City had taken too long to submit its decision and that the illegal signs could go up.

At the time, Pacific Palisades Community Council President Maryam Zar said she had spoken to several lawyers, but they told her it wasn’t feasible to sue the City. (Editor’s note: One of the reasons given for the PPCC remaining a Community Council rather than a neighborhood council, has always been they could sue the City.)

In a May 2017 story in the Palisades News, resident Ted Weitz, an attorney, disagreed. “In my opinion, the action by the Palisadian-Post in not accepting the findings and recommendations of the DRB, the determination by the City, and later by the Area Planning Commission, that the Post’s signs were improper, warrants a formal response action by the Community Council.”

Kroh estimated it could take about 18 months to complete the renovation. Once a “sign” package is ready [there are a prescribed number of signs and sizes that can go up on any building, as specified by the town’s specific plan], Sandstone will once again come before the DRB.

The exterior of the 881 Alma Real building will be updated.


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One Response to Renovation Plans for 881 Alma Real Building Win Approval from Design Review Board 

  1. Kat says:

    Looks efficient and restrained. I like the repetition of the parapet panel seams….. hopefully any new signage will respect those tasteful boundaries. The kiosk is a cool touch, but may I suggest softening the roofline’s sharp corner on the entry sidewalk edge to avoid a potential mishap.

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