Erewhon takes LA to court to save Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City

Grocer accuses city of failing to conduct EIR before approving 520 apartments

Erewhon Sues LA to Save Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City
From left: Erewhon CEO Toni Antoci and Mayor Karen Bass along with a rendering of the proposed residential building that would replace the Sportsmen’s Lodge hotel in Studio City (Getty, Erewhon, Marmol Radziner)

Erewhon to the city of Los Angeles: stop the wrecking ball at the historic Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City.

The upscale supermarket chain filed an environmental challenge against the city to block Midwood Investment & Development from razing the hotel to build a 520-unit apartment complex at 12825 Ventura Boulevard, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The 97-foot-tall complex was approved by the City Council last month after the controversial project ran out of appeals by Erewhon, the Studio City Residents Association and a labor union representing hotel workers.

Erewhon is an anchor tenant at Midwood’s Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge, just west of the shuttered hotel on Ventura Boulevard at Coldwater Avenue.

The Downtown-based natural grocer filed a lawsuit in Superior Court demanding that the project approvals be rescinded because the city allegedly failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and other local and state laws. 

The environmental law, in part, was designed to increase public awareness of the environmental effects of proposed developments.

Erewhon accused the city of violating the act by forgoing an exhaustive Environmental Impact Report in favor of a less rigorous assessment, according to the complaint.

Proponents of the apartments say they would bring housing to Studio City, which is targeted for new development. Across the Los Angeles River, Harvard-Westlake school plans to build an extensive athletic facility. Opponents say the hotel should be preserved.

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

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The Erewhon lawsuit comes a year after the luxury market and Midwood reached a partial court settlement after the landlord alleged its anchor tenant failed to pay at least four months of rent and overused the parking lot at the retail center.

Erewhon hit back with its own lawsuit, claiming Midwood omitted facts during lease negotiations, improperly increased rent and denied access to parking for Erewhon workers.

The Shops at Sportsmen’s Lodge, which opened in 2021, replaced a Sportsmen’s restaurant and bar, banquet hall and fish ponds used by generations of San Fernando Valley families.

The 190-room hotel, which opened next door in 1962, was once frequented by such celebrities as John Wayne, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart, with visiting bands such as Willie Nelson, the Beach Boys and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 2014, the hotel received an $8 million facelift.

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In 1964, the lodge became the first hotel to unionize in the Valley, and was among the first union hotels in Los Angeles. The organizing drive was led by Bill Robertson, a leader in L.A.’s labor movement.

Midwood has been approved to replace the historic hotel with The Residences at Sportsmen’s Lodge, featuring luxe apartments designed by Marmol Radziner, in collaboration with OLIN.

Plans for the seven-story complex feature 520 apartments, 78 of which would be set aside as affordable for low-income households. The project would include 46,000 square feet of ground-floor shops and restaurants, plus a bike path along the Los Angeles River.

— Dana Bartholomew