A lot has happened since the June election!
At the June 15th Council meeting, 30-year WeHo Council veteran, John Heilman, was sworn in after winning the Special Election to fill Jeffrey Prang’s seat for the next 2 years. A lot of time and energy is required to run a campaign – kudos to all of the Council candidates for their participation.
This summer, as West Hollywood's representative to the Westside Cities Council of Governments (WSC-COG), I attended several interesting and spirited WSC-COG meetings. I also had the opportunity to meet Metro's new CEO, Phillip Washington, and discuss our city's transit goals.
Also, this summer, a number of my initiatives were adopted by Council:
- PUBLIC SAFETY: In response to concerns about how public safety information was being disseminated, Council approved an item to direct the Public Safety Department to work with the Sheriff’s Department, Neighborhood Watch groups and the Public Safety Commission to assess current and future strategies to better communicate public safety information to the public. Thank you Mayor Horvath for co-sponsoring.
- ENVIRONMENT: We passed an item to reassess current adopted green building standards and environmental programs and adopt a new Sustainable Design Initiative that will raise the bar on sustainable building practices and achieve measurable performance-based levels tailored to West Hollywood. Thank you Councilmember D'Amico for co-sponsoring.
- SMALL BUSINESS: In response to the loss of some of our well-known “legacy” businesses and non-profit agencies, we directed the Arts and Economic Development Division to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of existing policies and programs serving small businesses to identify opportunities to proactively support our small businesses in West Hollywood. Thank you Councilmember Duran for co-sponsoring.
- CHILD AND ANIMAL WELFARE: We approved an education campaign and placement of permanent signage to educate and remind the community of the dangers of leaving children and pets unattended in a parked car during warmer weather. Thank you, Spike Meister, for supporting!
- SOCIAL JUSTICE: We approved conducting a needs assessment for a “Safe Haven” pilot program that would welcome, support and assist LGBT immigrants fleeing oppression from Russia.
- HISTORIC PRESERVATION: We were able to get approval for a National Register of Historic Places commemorative plaque for the "Community Clubhouse" – to be mounted just in time for the Historic Preservation Annual Event at Great Hall/Long Hall in Plummer Park!
Of course, Council meetings wouldn't be complete without some controversial issues...
826 Kings Rd. Appeal:
With a unanimous vote, the 826 Kings Rd. project was remanded back to Planning Commission. Council agreed with the Appellant that the project was too large and by having the Applicant pay an “Impact Fee” in lieu of inclusionary affordable units, the project could be smaller and have less of an impact on the neighborhood.
8899 Beverly Blvd./Rosewood Ave. Project & Specific Plan:
With a 3-2 vote, my colleagues, Mayor Horvath and Councilmembers Duran and Heilman, voted to approve the 8899 Beverly project and proposed Specific Plan. Council member D’Amico and I voted to deny the application.
I voted to reject the project for a number of reasons, including: the Specific Plan being proposed was not consistent with the General Plan, it doubled the square footage of an already non-conforming building, it would increase water demand by 70% at a time when water conservation of 30%+ is mandated, we would lose office space (and the employees who would work, shop and play in WeHo), it would alter an iconic building once known as the Los Angeles International Design Center (designed by Master Architect Richard Dorman and built in the 60’s), it would modify affordable housing requirements to create a “poor floor,” and, ultimately, it would set a dangerous precedent for future development.
Further, the “public benefit” discussion was entirely premature – there has been virtually no public input regarding a Public Benefits "menu," and the amount of money offered by the Applicant to change our General Plan, to change our Zoning Ordinance and to change our affordable housing requirements, in order to create a Specific Plan, is frightfully inadequate.
You may be asking now, what exactly is a Specific Plan? A Specific Plan is a planning tool for implementing the General Plan. According to California State law, "No Specific Plan may be adopted or amended unless the proposed plan or amendment is consistent with the General Plan." Prior to this project's approval, there were only three Specific Plans in the City of West Hollywood: the Pacific Design Center, Movietown Plaza and the Sunset Specific Plan. As you may have surmised, Specific Plans should only be used on rare occasions to accommodate the General Plan (not the other way around!), and they should not be precedent-setting. Unfortunately, this was not the case with the 8899 Beverly project.
Council Support Staff:
One of the first items of business for the “new” City Council was a proposal brought forth by Mayor Horvath to dissolve the Council deputy system. While my Council colleagues voted to approve the proposal, I did not. I felt (and still feel) the decision was rushed and did not take into consideration that the Council deputies provided a valuable service – they were a direct conduit to your elected city representatives, available to listen to your concerns and answer your questions when your Councilmembers were busy at their “day jobs.” That said, city staff has been very accommodating and a pleasure to work with through this transition. I would love to hear your feedback on how things are going – what has your experience been? Email me if you have an opinion you'd like to share with me.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or suggestions. Have a great rest of the summer and a wonderful Labor Day weekend!