When West Hollywood was founded in 1984, the new City Council developed housing goals and local zoning ordinances. Incorporated into the City of West Hollywood’s “Housing Element” is this quote:
- Maintain and enhance the quality of the housing stock and residential neighborhoods.
However, in March 2021, the City Council failed to send a Housing Element to the state for approval. The failure to submit an on-time Housing Element opened the door to a city that you won’t recognize in years to come. The botched delay allowed developers to bypass local zoning ordinances under the “Builder’s Remedy” and construct 8-story, 50-unit buildings on any residential parcel.
The Housing Element was due on February 12, 2021. At the March 21 city council meeting, Mayor Meister, Mayor Pro Tem Erickson, Councilmember Shyne, and former Councilmember D’Amico voted against staff’s recommendation to move forward with the corrections suggested at from the prior Housing Element meeting. It took a year, until March 2022, before the Housing Element would be submitted to the state. Councilmember Heilman, re-elected in November 2022, pushed for the Housing Element’s completion. The City Manager, City Attorney, and City Council had all turned a blind eye to the most important issue facing our neighborhoods.
For almost one full year, developers were allowed to file applications for developments that did not comply with local zoning codes. Last month, we were introduced to the first of these out-of-scale developments with an 8-story building shown above on Huntley Drive: 50 units, 8 stories high, with only 28 total parking spaces, towering over a single-family home next door in an R-2 zone.
Can you imagine the faces of city staff in the Planning Division when plans were submitted to build an eight-story complex at 651-657 Huntley Drive? And then again on Edinburgh. And then again.
The ‘Builder’s Remedy’ could significantly impact every property that is unlucky enough to be its neighbor. The values of condos or homes would be severely compromised. Shadows will block sunlight, and with less than one parking space per unit, parking will become scarce in any of those neighborhoods. The quality of life for those living next to these eight-story, 50-plus unit buildings will be forever compromised.
Is it a coincidence that all three planning members who participated in the March 21, 2021, agenda item to confirm the Housing Element are no longer employed in West Hollywood? Long-term Economic Development Director John Keho has retired. Robyn Eason, Planning Manager has left, and Senior Planner Rachel Diamond is no longer employed in West Hollywood. However, the consequences of this oversight will affect many neighborhoods indefinitely.
But this dragged on for 10 months. City Manager David Wilson made the fatal mistake of not pressing to get this back on the agenda in front of the City Council. In that March 2021 city council meeting, the city council was instructed to come back in 60 days with a new Housing Element and recommendations from staff on what parcels or lots could be up-zoned to meet the housing goals. vIt’s January 2024 and that up=zoning conversation has still failed to be presented to the City Council for discussion. It’s an epic failure of the management at City Hall.
WEHOonline submitted a public records request on December 5th, 2023, for the number of developments that were submitted to the Planning Division during the period of March 2022 to February 2023. The normal time to receive an answer to a public records request is 10 days. The City Clerk asked for an extension to compile the data. It’s been almost a month. It appears there is much data to compile.
Essentially, the City of West Hollywood has ceded its vision for our neighborhoods and lost control over local zoning laws and the protection of our neighborhoods.
|PROTECTING INTEGRITY OF RESIDENTIALLY ZONED PARCELS –