Erewhon sues city to stop Sportsmen's Lodge development in Studio City

The owners of Erewhon have filed an environmental lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the latest attempt by the upscale supermarket chain to stop the planned demolition of Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel in Studio City to make way for a new apartment complex.

Erewhon operates a store next to the defunct hotel and previously joined with local residents, union officials and others in opposition to a 520-unit residential mixed use development planned to replace the inn that was known to generations of San Fernando Valley residents.

Plans for the new development took a leap forward last month when the City Council voted 13 to 1 to deny an appeal of the project filed by Erewon’s owners and others, clearing the way for Midwood Investment & Development to demolish the aged hotel at Ventura Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

Midwood is Erewhon’s landlord, having built in 2021 the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge, an outdoor mall where Erewhon is the anchor tenant among other stores, restaurants and an Equinox gym. The mall replaced a banquet facility that served as a local social center where couples got married and families shared big occasions such as bar mitzvahs.

The event center and a restaurant opened in 1946 and the hotel in 1962. The hotel permanently closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The landlord got city permission to knock down the 190-room hotel and build the Residences at Sportsmen’s Lodge, which would have 520 apartments, including 78 units of subsidized affordable housing. It would include ground-floor stores and restaurants intended to meld with the Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge.

Prior to the recent City Council vote, Erewhon, the Studio City Residents Assn. and Unite Here Local 11, which represents hotel workers, sought to stop the project by appealing aspects of the city’s review and approval process.

Some opponents argued that the hotel should be preserved. It was one of the first to unionize in the San Fernando Valley and one of the first union hotels in Los Angeles. Others were concerned about the project’s 97-foot height, the construction noise and the environmental impact.

After the appeals were rejected, Erewhon’s parent company last week filed a lawsuit in Superior Court demanding that the project approvals be rescinded because the city allegedly failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act as well as other state and local laws. The environmental law in part is intended to increase the public’s awareness of the potential environmental effects of proposed developments and other projects.

The city violated the act by forgoing an exhaustive Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, in favor of a less rigorous assessment, the lawsuit said.

Proponents of the development say it would bring housing to this section of Studio City, which is being targeted for a flurry of new development. Across the river, private school Harvard-Westlake is planning to build an extensive athletic facility.

Representatives of Erewhon and Midwood didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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