The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously tonight to approve a 45-day moratorium on construction of new houses and second story additions or additions larger than 500 square feet to existing houses in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
Representatives of the city’s Community Development Department said it’s unlikely that they will be able to consult with neighborhood residents and craft a “conservation overlay zone” to address concerns about the size and design of new houses in the neighborhood in only 45 days. However, under state law the City Council cannot declare a moratorium of more than 45 days without holding a public hearing on the subject first. The CDD staffers said it is likely they will return to the Council with a request for such a hearing and then a 12-month moratorium to give them time to work on the overlay zone.
Opponents of the moratorium said that restrictions on two-story houses and houses larger than the average home in the neighborhood didn’t make sense today, when many new homeowners are couples with children and that new houses today generally are larger than are the older houses in the neighborhood, many of which are two-bedroom, one-bath homes of 1,200 to 1,500 square feet. Supporters of the moratorium said they weren’t opposed to the modern design of the new houses, but that their large bulk and features such as balconies conflicted with the overall design and feel of the neighborhood.
While the council members supported the moratorium, Councilmembers John Heilman and John Duran said they thought community development staffers should be able to return to the council with a proposal to address concerns about the new houses in less than 12 months. Councilmember John D’Amico suggested the Council not enforce the moratorium on three new houses already under consideration for approval on Huntley Drive, but that the CDD work closely with the builders to encourage design that complements other houses in the neighborhood.
West Hollywood West, which is bounded by Melrose Avenue on the north, Doheny Drive on the west, Beverly Boulevard on the south and La Cienega Boulevard on the east, is dominated by single-family homes and duplexes. The overlay zone under discussion would be a modification of the citywide zoning code that would apply only to the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
“The West Hollywood West neighborhood is characterized by small lots with generally modest one-story traditional houses in a variety of styles,” said a CDD report to the Council. “One of the desirable characteristics of the neighborhood is its variety of form, style and texture.”
Construction of the large houses began in 2010, and applications to the city for new housing permits in the area have increased sharply The CDD said that while two applications were approved in 2010 and two in 2011, eight were approved in 2012, ten in 2013, and eight already are under consideration in the first two months of this year. “Almost all of the applications are similar in design and scale to each other,” the CDD report says.
Many of the applications for replacing one-story houses with two-story houses are coming from Beverly Hills-based real estate developers rather than residents or prospective residents of those homes. An example is DD & Co Enterprises, which is listed as the owner of 8740 Dorrington Ave., where it has demolished the existing house and has a new one under construction. David Akhtarzad , an owner of DD & Co. Enterprises, also is listed as the owner of 8830 Dorrington Ave., where permission to replace a one-story house with a two-story house has been granted. His company’s website identifies it as a real estate developer, in business since 2006, that concentrates on West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Real estate records show that its principals, who include Danniel Akhtarzad, have been involved in buying and selling dozens of houses in West Hollywood in recent years.