On Dec. 6 at 6 p.m., there will be a virtual neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposed eight-story development in the middle of Huntley Drive, a residential street. This development is the first to be presented to the public using the “Builder’s Remedy.”
What is the “Builder’s Remedy”?
The “Builder’s Remedy” and Housing Elements can be used to circumvent local zoning requirements when a locality’s housing element does not substantially comply with state law. If a locality has a noncompliant housing element, the city or county must approve the housing development project, regardless of local zoning. When the Council returned the housing element to staff in its March 21, 2021, meeting, it opened the door for developers to override our city zoning codes.
During the Housing Element discussions in January, February, and March of 2021, the City Council comprised then-Mayor Lauren Meister, Mayor Pro Tem Sepi Shyne, and Councilmembers Lindsey Horvath, John Erickson, and John D’Amico. In the final vote, the City Council opted to delay the Housing Element. Meister, Shyne, D’Amico, and Erickson voted for the delay. Councilmember Horvath was the lone vote to accept staff’s recommendation and move forward. Councilmember Erickson, who initially moved to accept staff’s recommendation, changed his vote after hearing Councilmember D’Amico’s opposition.
Item 3A: ADOPTION OF HOUSING ELEMENT UPDATE AND CERTIFICATION OF FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT [J. KEHO, R. EASON]
Rachel Diamond, Senior Planner, requested the final certification of the Housing Element. The item was heard in February, and after input, staff asked for the adoption of the housing element and its submission to the state level for certification. Diamond noted that the Housing Element was due on February 12th and urged the Council to act on this item.
The Council discussed the plan. At one point, Councilmember Erickson offered a motion to move the item forward and accept staff’s recommendation. Councilmember D’Amico spoke against adopting the 9-year Housing Element, instead requesting a one-year extension from the state housing authority and suggesting that the City analyze all city zoning for updates to help West Hollywood meet its housing goals. Councilmember Erickson withdrew his motion in support of the item. In the end, only Councilmember Horvath voted to advance the Housing Element, while then-Mayor Meister, Mayor Pro Tem Shyne, and Councilmembers Erickson and D’Amico voted against it.
During the debate, there were two public comments. Michael King, representing the Historic Preservation Commission, questioned the requirement to include the ‘sacred lands’ covenant and suggested its removal. King stated, “The statement may be so vague it may be unenforceable” and “These items should be removed from the Housing Element.”
Victor Olemencheko also commented on the Housing Element, requesting a delay because ‘this list could force many potential historic properties to be overlooked.’ He asked, “How can you sign off on this housing element? Let’s continue this community conversation.”
At this past Monday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember John Heilman spoke, “This is something that is a problem in the city. We did not have a housing element that was in compliance with the state. When I returned to the council, one of the first things I did was to talk to then-Community Development Director John Keho to see how quickly we could bring this to the council for ratification and state submission. While we are out of compliance, developers are allowed to submit plans that do not have to comply with our zoning code. The developer only has to comply with the building code. That’s why we have these proposals that seem so out of line with what the zoning ordinance permits.”