Sunset Pacific Motel – Bates Motel – Projection

Sunset Pacific Motel / Bates Motel / Projection. Los Angeles Explorers Guild.

Sunset Pacific Motel / Bates Motel / Projection

A once notorious hotel in Silver Lake has been transformed into a blank canvas by a French artist. But what’s next for this maligned motel?

Sunset Pacific Motel

When The Sunset Pacific Motel opened in 1964, it offered everything someone could want in a mid-century modern, Southern California hotel experience. A bevy Palm trees. A space-age inspired sign (a style commonly known as Googie). A colorful tile-clad exterior. It even had a pool. In short, it was a respectable establishment that offered visiting tourists a central base to explore the wilds of Los Angeles.

But over time, the three-story, 37-room motel fell into what can only be called a state of disrepair.

Bates Motel

As the condition of the motel started to degrade, so did the motel’s clientele. People started to refer to the Sunset Pacific as the Bates Motel, partly because of it’s location at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Bates Avenue, but also as a reference to the famous fictional murder hotel from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The Sunset Pacific Motel in its Bates Motel phase, 1997. Photo from the author’s collection (from film).

This nickname was a result of the aging motel’s propensity to attract elements from the seamier side of life. For decades, the place was notorious for attracting a bevy of drug dealers, prostitutes, and other cultural ne’er do wells (like low-budget rogue movie shoots).

In 2002, an article in the Los Angeles Times referred to the motel as “one of the city’s most dangerous properties” and then-City Councilman Eric Garcetti (now the U.S. Ambassador to India) wanted to close the place down in the early 2000s, calling it “…one of the most troublesome properties in the city.”

Shut Down

After decades, the city finally forced the Sunset Pacific to shut down in 2002 after near-continuous appeals from the community and repeated violations of the city’s housing code. During the whole process, the owner continued to vehemently decry any wrongdoing on his part and delusionally deny that any illicit behavior took place on his property — even going so far as to claim the LAPD paid transients to hang around the joint to make him look bad.

To get an idea of all the goings on at the hotel, check out pages three through six of this PDF of a 2003 letter from the Office of Zoning Administration addressing a request for a conditional use permit from the Los Angeles.

But in the end, the Bates Motel rented its last room in 2002. The whole placed was fenced off and boarded up — an eyesore along one of the city’s most iconic boulevards left to the rats and roaches.

Despite being fenced off, it became a daring party destination for those who are attracted to enjoying the safe fringes of culture’s dark edges. It was home to a series of regular underground parties hosted by local artists as well as a quasi-legitimate web series (Room 205) featuring indie music artists sponsored by InCase (the full Room 205 series is still available on YouTube).

It was even hazardous to walk along the sidewalk fronting the building due to a few enterprising unhoused individuals who demanded a toll for passage from passers-by

Eventually the property was purchased by local developers Frost/Chaddock in 2009. They had plans to demolish the whole structure and build an all-the-rage mixed-use complex in its place. But first, an artist from France had an idea …

Projection

On April 20, 2015 Vincent Lamouroux, after working with the developers for more than year and getting the support from numerous neighborhood organizations and government offices, hired a crew of workers to covered the whole property occupied by the decaying Sunset Pacific Motel — palm trees and all — in a wash of ecologically safe (allegedly) white lime. You can watch a short video of the process, produced by Please Do Not Enter on Vimeo.

Sunset Pacific in 2017 as Lamouroux’s Projection. Photo from the author’s collection.

The project, which officially opened ot the public on April 26, 2015, was titled Projection, and Lamouroux made a deal with the developers that the public art spectacle would remain on display until May 10, after which time Frost/Chaddock would raze the tormented building and begin construction on its next iteration.

However, as of 2022 — two decades after it was forced to close — the building still haunts the corner of Sunset and Bates, un-demolished and undeveloped, its bright white fading fading to a sickly yellow under a grimy patina of L.A. dust.

The Sunset Pacific in 2022, celebrating twenty years of vacancy. Photo from the author’s collection.

Latest Developments for the Bates Motel

Frost/Chaddock’s plan to demolish the building were finally approved on December 9, 2021. Keep in mind the developer submitted the request to the city on March 31, 2015. That’s right, it took six years to decide what to do with this derelict building.

But after it’s destroyed, Frost/Chaddock will build a four-story complex comprised of 108 apartments (11 of which are reserved for “very low income” housing), 10,000 square feet of retail space on the street level, and a 157-car underground parking structure. If there are no appeals to the plan (appeals close January 26, 2021), demolition could start sometime in early 2021.

If you’re interested, you can read the entire PDF of the Letter of Determination from the Los Angeles Planning Commission. There’s some interesting nuggets in there.


Sunset Pacific Motel / Bates Motel / Projection



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Tom Fassbender is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. When not exploring Los Angeles, he’s been known to enjoy a cup of coffee or two. You can find him at Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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