A new Los Angeles power couple emerged this week when famed architect Frank Gehry and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck were chosen to reimagine the Gladstone’s restaurant at the Will Rogers State Beach.

The two are part of the newly formed PCH Beach Associates and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to begin exclusive negotiations with the company on Tuesday after a year-long search for a new partner at the popular beach eatery.

Sea View Restaurants Inc. has operated the restaurant since 1997 but their concession agreement expired last year and the County said the existing facility is outdated. The Board has extended that contract for up to five years to keep the site operational during the search for a new vendor and if initial negotiations with PCH Beach Associates fail to produce an agreement, the Board would have to decide on moving to the second-choice company or restarting the process.

The search process began in April of last year. The County requested a high-quality concept that preserved public access to the beach with a farm/ocean to-table approach, labor peace agreement and access to public transit.

Four companies submitted proposals for the site and were evaluated by an independent committee on experience, transportation plans, fiscal strength, benefit to the county and ability to ultimately deliver the project.

PCH Beach Associates was selected with Wolfgang Puck overseeing concept and operations in a building designed by Frank Gehry.

“This for me will probably be my lifetime dream,” said Puck. “To be working with Frank Gehry and have my new flagship here in L.A. County.”

He said his concept will employee over 300 people serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a cluster of eateries. Puck said that in addition to the full sit-down restaurant, the site will include a café and ice-cream shop for casual visitors.

“It will enhance what we do but mainly create a totally new experience for Angelenos,” he said.

Nicholas Buford spoke on behalf of the second-choice company, Sunset at Ocean Partners LLC and said his company was extremely disappointed in what he called a flawed process for selecting the new operator.

He said PCH had failed to provide the required documents required in the application and asked that the selection process is extended to allow more time to review his concerns.

A reduced count board voted in favor of the agreement 3 – 1 with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas absent. The vote to authorize negotiations is the start of what could be a year’s long process before the new restaurant opens.

In approving the negotiations, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said none of the applicants had submitted perfect paperwork but she was confident the process had been appropriate.

Kuehl said the famous location hadn’t necessarily lost its appeal but much more could have been done at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and the Pacific Coast Highway.

“This is a big deal, and so when we asked for the (Request for Proposal) to go out we were very specific about a lot of concerns the County has including emphasizing the Labor Peace Agreement (PLA), all the things the county really cares about in terms of the people who work in a place but for me it was also about the people going to the place,” she said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger was the lone “no” vote and she said her vote wasn’t about the applicants but about the way the County handled the process.

“I have a fundamental concern about how this played out on both sides,” she said.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...