The bitter battle over 11024 Strathmore Drive—the site across from Richard Neutra’s famed Strathmore Apartments in Westwood—appears to have been finally resolved. On November 14, the Westwood Design Review Board (DRB) approved a stepped and textured apartment by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA)—a feat that the previous proposal for the site never achieved.
LA-based Togawa Smith Martin designed the previous iteration of the project—Grandmarc Westwood. DRB rejected the large, box-shaped design six times on the grounds that its bulk, massing, and character were incompatible with Westwood’s North Village Specific Plan. However, the LA planning commission approved that design last August.
Local opponents, led by a group called the Friends of Richard Neutra’s Strathmore Apartments (FORNSA), fought the plan in Los Angeles Superior Court, which sided with them, forcing the developer, PPC Landventure, to reconsider its plans.
“They were trying to game the system to get approvals without adequate public input,” said Noel Weiss, attorney for FORNSA. “Council people figure they can give away land use entitlements to their friends. The judge said no.”
FORNSA and PPC then negotiated a settlement in which the developer would move forward with a design competition. Others shortlisted for the project included Michael Maltzan, Michael Folonis, Daly Genik, and Koenig Eizenberg.
O’Herlihy emerged victorious. His plan is composed of two buildings that each step down the street across from the Strathmore Apartments, reaching their minimum height across from the modernist landmark. Their shifting volumes and their close connection to the landscape reference the Neutra building itself. “We were trying to riff on history,” said O’Herlihy. The buildings will be clad in metal panels—some solid, some perforated, and some corrugated.
“This is the first quality building to be proposed in the North Village since John Lautner designed the Sheats apartments on Strathmore Drive in 1948,” said Michael Webb, president of FORNSA and a frequent contributor to AN who is happy that the developer came around to good design. “The DRB was demonstrably pleased to approve a building they respected, rather than a piece of garbage that scraped by after endless revisions.”