Plans emerge to turn former West Hollywood brothel into boutique hotel

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The Sunset Strip’s hotel roster might be getting another addition. West Hollywood’s historic preservation commission is set to hear plans today to convert a 1927 office building, the Piazza del Sol, into a boutique hotel.

The four-story building houses roughly 56,000 square feet of offices and the hotspot restaurant, Katana. If the property owner’s plans are approved, the landmark building will function as an 36-room hotel with two restaurants and a rooftop pool and lounge.

The “Italian Rennaissance-style” Piazza del Sol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the state historic register, and is a designated West Hollywood historic monument. It predates the Chateau Marmont and the Sunset Towers.

Built in 1927, the Piazza—then called the Hacienda Arms Apartments—operated as a luxury hotel. By the 1930s, it was the most famous brothel in the state, according to documents prepared by history consultants for the project’s review.

When Lee Francis, the madam who operated the brothel, was arrested in 1940, it marked the beginning of a decades-long decline and a handful of name changes for the property.

In the 1980s, the property was briefly owned by singer Rod Stewart, who hoped to make it into a luxury hotel. That plan was never realized and the hotel was sold. In 1983 a possible arson fire ravaged the structure. That same year, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Property records show that the current owners, Mani Brothers, acquired the Piazza and an adjoining parking garage in 1999. The West Hollywood-based group owns a number of other properties on the Sunset Strip, including office buildings at 9000 and 9200 Sunset Boulevard.

City staffers are recommending that the historic preservation commission approve the conversion and rehab of the building. In a report, they write that “that the proposed work will help preserve the cultural resource without impacting its integrity.”

If approved by the commission, the plans would still need the approval of the full West Hollywood City Council.

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