Longtime West LA building razed to make way for apartments
By Sam Catanzaro
An iconic building with a mock lighthouse and rich history that once was home to a Hawaiian restaurant and more recently a gentlemen’s club has been demolished and will soon be replaced by an over 100 unit apartment complex.
For over 40 years, the building at 11434 W. Pico Boulevard, was home to Kelbo’s Hawaiian restaurant. Easy to spot with its mock lighthouse, Kelbo’s was a West LA favorite for Hawaiian BBQ fare and tiki drinks. In addition, the restaurant — founded in 1948 as one of several local chains by Thomas Kelley and Jack Bouck — was beloved for its tropical decor including tiki gods, fishnets and lanterns in the shape of pineapples.
“Once inside, the timid may further recoil at a decor that employs pulleys, barrels, old bottles, street lamps, plastic spheres encased in fishnet and the best collection of illuminated blowfish this side of Tahiti. And this is not to mention the bamboo overhang discreetly encasing the bar and most of the booths,” wrote LA Times food critic Phil Tracy in 1986. “Above the circular dance floor hangs a 22-foot-diameter coconut shell-shaped speaker system, complete with dancing lights and a spinning mirrored globe. The system is designed to pitch the music to the dancers and allow those at the tables to hear each other speak. If you’re into ballroom dancing or simply drunk, the place is an absolute delight.”
According to Tracy, for decades co-founder Kelly lived upstairs above the restaurant even after he stop being involved in day-to-day operations.
When the restaurant closed and was replaced by Fantasy Island Gentlemen’s Club, the new owners kept the mock lighthouse and some of the tropical decor.
In 2018, the Amoroso Companies purchased for property for $8 million and submitted plans to the City of Los Angeles to build a new apartment complex in its place. According to plans, the development will include 102 studio, one-, and two-bedroom units. 11 of these units will be for extremely low-income affordable housing. Plans call for above-ground parking for 67 cars. The development will include a community room, gym and rooftop deck.
Renderings from KFA Architecture show a podium-style building clad with stucco and metal panels. Construction permits for the proejct are currently pending with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.
The developer, Amoroso Companies is heavily involved in this area of Sawtelle. By the Expo/Bundy Station, the company is developing a five-story apartment complex further east near Fairfax near Pico near they are planning a seven-story mixed-use project.