Historic Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel in Studio City may be demolished for 520-unit apartment complex

Studio City’s historic Sportsmen’s Lodge could be demolished to make way for a 520-unit residential complex and mixed-use development if the Los Angeles City Council approves the project Wednesday.

Supporters of the project say it would bring much-needed affordable housing that would allow workers to live closer to their jobs.

Opponents believe that the promoters have not sufficiently evaluated the effects of the project and that it would erase an important part of history.

The Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel closed permanently at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the only active part of the property is the neighboring Sportsmen’s Lodge Shops, which opened in 2021 with retailers including grocery chain Erewhon and sustainable clothing and shoe store Allbirds. The lodge’s event center was demolished to make way for stores.

Developers have long had plans for the nearly nine-acre property at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Best Buy had considered it for a supermarket in the 1990s. Richard Weintraub, who owned the land at the time, planned to renovate the lodge in 2009 and reopen it as “Sportsmen’s Landing,” with a shopping center and modern restaurants. Legal issues with the hotel lease prevented this project from coming to fruition.

In addition to 520 apartments, 78 of which would be reserved for low-income tenants, the project would include 46,000 square feet of commercial space. The design would also include a bicycle and pedestrian path along the LA River.

Erewhon, the Studio City Residents Association. and Unite Here Local 11, which represents hospitality workers, filed appeals to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee to stop the project, which had been approved by the planning commission of the city in July.

At a meeting earlier this month, the committee rejected the appeals, sending the proposal to the full City Council for Wednesday’s vote.

“This will bring one of the largest and most catalytic developments to this part of the San Fernando Valley,” Dave Rand, an attorney representing developer Midwood Investment & Development, said at the meeting. “For years, Ventura Boulevard has been a largely overlooked, yet extremely important, corridor in the Valley. Given this city’s incredibly ambitious housing goals and obligations, the corner of Coldwater and Ventura Boulevard on this site is the ideal location to accommodate housing, mixed-use, and river-friendly waterfront development.

The property, which became popular for its trout fishing and bait shop in the 1930s, was first owned by actors Noah and Wallace Beery.

Dancers Peta Siddall and Josie Neglia demonstrate salsa moves to a crowd at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in 2001.

(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

In 1946, the event center and restaurant opened, followed by the 190-room hotel in 1962. In its heyday, Sportsmen’s Lodge was a meeting place for movie studios, and many local residents knew it as a popular venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs, New Year’s celebrations, parties and more.

In recent years, most of the hotel’s guests were tourists visiting the nearby Universal Studios, but that dried up with the pandemic and the hotel has been closed since then. In 2020, the hotel was a Project Roomkey site, housing homeless people to reduce the spread of the virus.

In 1964, the lodge became the first union hotel in the San Fernando Valley and one of the first union hotels in Los Angeles. The organizing drive was led by Bill Robertson, a leader in the Los Angeles labor movement.

“We continue to believe that … the historic hotel is an important connection to that history and therefore should be preserved,” Kurt Petersen, co-president of Unite Here Local 11, said in a written statement.

A representative for Erewhon did not respond to a request for comment.

Midwood Investment & Development, which purchased the property in 2017, sued Erewhon in 2022, accusing him of failing to pay rent and misusing the mall’s parking lot for his employees.

Erewhon countersued, alleging that Midwood improperly barred Erewhon employees from using the parking lot and that Midwood “incentivized” Erewhon to lease space in the proposed shopping center.

Amy Minteer, attorney for Studio City Residents Assn., said the association didn’t want to kill the Sportsmen’s Lodge project but reduce its height and mitigate the effects of construction.

Across the Los Angeles River, Harvard-Westlake School is building a sports campus on a former golf course.

The cumulative effects of the two projects are of great concern, Minteer said – not only on air quality and construction noise, but also on the loss of mature trees.

“The residents association doesn’t want there to be no project,” Minteer said. “They just want this project to be revised, to lessen the impacts on the community and bring it closer to existing standards for the neighborhood.”

The residential building will be 97 feet tall, while the tallest building in the area will be 56 feet.

“It’s just disproportionate to everything else in the area,” Minteer said.

Rand, the developer’s attorney, said the project received a density bonus to increase height beyond the usual 30 feet, which can only be denied if there is a “quantifiable and identifiable health risk and human security.

Crispin Carrasco, who lives near the proposed project and is a member of the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters, said the council supported the development because Midwood said it would work with contractors who would hire local carpenters .

Stella Stahl, communications director for Councilmember Nithya Raman’s office, said Raman has not yet taken an official position on the project.

At the committee meeting, Mashel Majid, Raman’s deputy chief of staff, said the development would not significantly affect the area and that Raman’s office was “committed to supporting housing projects.” But Majid expressed disappointment over the demolition of the historic hotel.

“As this project is on private property and is dictated by state laws that protect the ability of this site to build housing, the city unfortunately cannot require the hotel to remain,” he said. she declared.

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