‘Builder’s Remedy’ effects on WeHo is result of City Council oversight on Housing Element

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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.

City Council tosses Housing Element back to staff

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.

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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.”

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Morty
Morty
2 months ago

The Zoom meeting was a complete farce. They refused to answer any questions about the developer, about their submission and dodged any questions they didn’t like including from Larry. They even cut off several speakers who were critical of the development. We need to find out who owns this property and why it was listed for $2.8 mil with a pending sale in December 2019 and yet the final sale in 6/2020 was only for $1.4 mil. Is there possible tax fraud here? It’s worth looking into. The city royally screwed up here.

Kevin
Kevin
2 months ago

This is happening all over the city not just this project. There is a 7 story building proposed for one of the most problematic streets in weho, Clark, north of Sunset. The inability of the council to understand the ramifications of their ill advised decision will haunt the city for years. Get used to this type of development, anywhere, by developers offering a very small % of affordable housing to triple the size of a project.

Manny
Manny
2 months ago

If John Heilman would have been on the council in March of 2022, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Another example of clueless Weho City voters……Local March elections were better.

Mark
Mark
2 months ago

Please share the address of the real estate project in question and if possible a link to the online neighborhood meeting tonight. I haven’t been able to find out this information on the city’s calendar. Thank you.

Mark
Mark
2 months ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Thanks Larry. This is a curious situation to say the least.

david
david
2 months ago

Since The City caused this mess why not do a land swap with another lot that they own? Let the developer exchange for a same sized area at Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Heights and can handle the height. Allow Huntley to remain a low rise neighborhood.

JF1
JF1
2 months ago

Everyone take note of those that voted in favor of delaying the housing element. Those are the ones to blame for this and they should be voted out.

Shock but No Surprise
Shock but No Surprise
2 months ago

Shocking but not at all surprising that the Council Members voted to delay. Did they not seek expertise before acting? The two individuals speaking for HP issues were likewise ill informed. Now, the beast had arrived. Who is willing to take responsibility?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
2 months ago

Funny you should ask… We pay a very high price for our staff “experts” as well as consultants. If the City Council did not fully comprehend the danger of delays due to the “builders’ remedy”, you would have to lay that on the lack of leadership of our former community development director, John Keho. The City manager would also have some responsibility. While we are lucky to have a couple of Council members who are well informed and have experience, none of the Council members are professional urban planners or municipal administrators; they have to rely upon staff and our… Read more »

Morty
Morty
2 months ago

I look forward to being on that call. This will be an environmental disaster. I lived for years across the street. Huntley Drive has a very high water table. They are also only planning on 28 parking spaces for 50 apartments. Where are all these people going to park? It’s impossible to find parking right now on Huntley Drive. This was a colossal mistake by the city and this developer is forcing through an entirely inappropriate high rise on a street where everything is 25-35″ tall. This needs to be stopped even if it requires a lawsuit against the developer.

Steve Too
Steve Too
2 months ago
Reply to  Morty

The point is it can’t be stopped by lawsuit. The builder is using the city’s lack of being in compliance with state regulations to develop this structure.

Santa Monica and Beverly Hills were both out of compliance for a short while. Santa Monica negotiated with the largest developer who proposed large scale developments.

Morty
Morty
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Too

We’ll see about that. There are federal environmental issues at play here and federal law trumps state law. Don’t be surprised to see this end up in federal court in addition to other courts. The Beverly Hills developer who is building this monstrosity shouldn’t expect a warm welcome on Huntley Drive.

James
James
2 months ago
Reply to  Morty

Guess Weho will have to manage its parking better, or fund public transit. However this is a good thing. The whole state is dying for housing, this is exactly what’s needed. More density especially in the LA area where so many live. NIMBYs like yourself no longer have any say in this, so get used to it.

Housing Con
Housing Con
2 months ago
Reply to  James

As more and more residents and businesses flee the state. Hopefully the Housing Con will be soon exposed for exactly what it is……a Con.

Singleguywh
Singleguywh
2 months ago
Reply to  James

“Manage its parking better”??

What rock are you hiding under??

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