Tri-West neighbors rail against proposed Westbourne tower

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Residents of WeHo’s Tri-West neighborhood were outraged during a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon with Will Kaufman, representing the developers of 833 Westbourne Drive, an eight-story multi-family residential building that has stirred controversy within the community due to its request for entitlement as a “Builders Remedy Project.”

This designation allows developers to bypass local zoning laws under certain conditions, aimed at addressing the state’s housing crisis. Kaufman’s proposal notably seeks exceptions from the city’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance, including permissions to exceed established height limits and base density regulations.

Robert Steloff criticized the project for its anticipated negative impact on surrounding properties, specifically condemning the project for potentially decimating views and altering the character of the neighborhood. He accused the project developers of exploiting a legal loophole for financial gain rather than genuinely addressing the need for affordable housing.

“Let’s at least just call it for what it is, okay?” Stelthof said. “It’s a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in my opinion, and you’re just going to ruin the lives of many, many people in and around this project.”

Fred Wilky focused on the mathematical incongruity of the parking plan associated with the 35-apartment building, stressing the existing parking scarcity on Westbourne Drive. He argued that the proposed 18 parking spaces are insufficient for the needs of residents and guests, predicting chaos and disruption from an influx of at least 50 more cars.

“I don’t know where you expect those cars to go, but it will be absolute havoc,” Wilky said.

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Andrew Solomon, who is chairman of WeHo’s Public Facility Commission, inquired about the current residents living on the site, specifically if they are rent-controlled and their tenure. It was confirmed that the site is rent-controlled, but details on the duration of residency were unclear. The process of evicting rent-controlled tenants involves the Ellis Act, requiring relocation fees and offering the right to return upon project completion. Solomon noted the property’s recent sale and the swift approval of the West Hollywood housing element shortly after. He questioned the rapid filing of the development application, to which it was confirmed that a preliminary application was indeed filed quickly. =

Kimberly Winick expressed concerns about traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure, especially water service and parking, in a city already dense with housing. She criticized the proposal as unsuitable and a mere profit-driven venture.

“The City of West Hollywood has the fourth most dense population of any city in the state, and the fact that you found it appropriate to choose this neighborhood, this small city, to try and shovel in a whole bunch more housing,” Winick said. “What you’re proposing is utterly unsuitable, and it’s insulting to suggest that it’s anything other than a goal.”

Victor Omelczenko raised concerns about the potential significant and unavoidable impacts of a large development project on Westbourne, citing areas such as air quality, geology, hydrology, water quality, land use, noise, population, housing, transportation, and utilities. He advocated for a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) despite the project possibly not being required to have one, emphasizing the importance of examining all potential impacts due to the project’s size and its effect on the community.
 
Kaufman repeatedly evaded questions as to whether the project was connected to businessman Benjamin Soleimani. Larry Block pressed for information about the link to Soleimani and to a similar project proposed one street over on Huntley Drive.
 
“You know, look, like, I’m representing the project, and you know, I mean, I have friends and family involved in it,” Kaufman said. “This is my first community meeting but what I will say is, we have no affiliation with the Huntley project.”
 
The meeting ended with little love fostered between residents and the developers. 
 
“Listen, let’s cut the crap,” Steven Boggs said. “You’re not doing this for altruistic reasons. You did a cost analysis and decided by shoving it into our neighborhood, you’ll make the most money per rent. We’re all going to fight you. We’ve already got people on board; we’ve already got the city council on board. So, come up with something that’s more viable, go somewhere else. I mean, Michael, you’re the lucky motherfucker that’s going to make money off of this because you’re a lawyer getting paid for this constantly. So, in closing, let’s just be honest with each other.”
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John Fowles
John Fowles
20 days ago

So where were all these resistance fighters when there were public meetings about the 8 level projects on Wetherly and Huntley? Residents need to be consistent and not just be up in arms when its on their street, we are fighting a city council, planning commissions, and city staff heavily supported by the hotel workers union. And yes, hiding behind “builders remedy” is just a joke.

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
19 days ago
Reply to  John Fowles

I’ve been on all three builder’s remedy zoom neighborhood meetings. I think the level of attendance and acrimony was roughly the same for all three of them.

But you aren’t fighting the city. You’re fighting the state. Builder’s Remedy is a state law in the CA Housing Accountability Act. Local governments have no say. The city must approve, state law says so.

lexi
lexi
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Solomon

 The city must approve, state law says so.” <- It’s not that cut and dry. For example, check out what happened with the majority of Santa Monica’s builder’s remedy projects…

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
19 days ago
Reply to  lexi

WS Communities (the SM builders remedy developer) settled out for a quick cash grab because they were facing looming foreclosure due to floating interest rates. They lost half their portfolio last month.

Read the La Canada Flintridge opinion. It really is that cut and dry.

lexi
lexi
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Solomon

I wasn’t aware the settlement included a quick cash grab? Can you show me where that is reported? And the settlement happened almost a year ago – prior to the looming foreclosures… https://la.urbanize.city/post/santa-monica-settles-ws-communities-over-builders-remedy-projects

Peter Buckley
Peter Buckley
20 days ago

This is not “builder’s remedy”, it’s pure developers greed. Beverly Hills CC has said “enough”. But ours is totally clueless.

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
20 days ago
Reply to  Peter Buckley

Hi Peter, there are builders remedy projects in BH too. They are in every community in SoCal that didn’t have an immediately compliant housing element.

lexi
lexi
19 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Solomon

there are applications in although none have been approved and built yet though…

JF1
JF1
20 days ago

Yup, this sucks, and will ruin the character of the neighborhood. We have our inept city council to thank for this loophole. Had they done what they needed to do in the time they needed to do it, this developer would never have the opportunity to do this. He will prevail. The state is on his side, and the city has rendered itself helpless to fight it.

Westmount Dr. Resident
Westmount Dr. Resident
21 days ago

The majority of residents in the Tri-West area already live in multi-unit dwellings – I believe there are only two single family homes on my block (Sherwood/Melrose), which means that’s likely less than 1% of total residents. The scale of this is a little excessive, but it’s not absurd. The same project at 4 stories would be fine, but no one opposing it is willing to make that compromise. Until people are willing to find a middle ground that addresses the reality that we live practically in the center of the second largest city (and largest metro area) in the… Read more »

lexi
lexi
19 days ago

its an 8 story building – not a three-story building. And R3A zoning is 25′ in height – zoning is put in place for a reason…

WestHoBornRaised
WestHoBornRaised
21 days ago

it’s clear that the current tenants have lived there for quite some time when you look at the rents they are currently paying. Click on the picture to see what they are paying in all 3 units, it is $1500 & $1000 x 2.

Unfortunately those of you who complained about this (at the mtg) or suggested ways to stop it don’t understand the builders remedy rule/law. Do I agree with that rule/law? No, but it is what it is…

Screenshot_20240403_033207_Chrome
Last edited 21 days ago by WestHoBornRaised
Paul
Paul
21 days ago

Yes but the city’s design review board does not have to approve this, in perpetuity.

david
david
21 days ago

I am very proud that I witnessed actual residents stand up and ask questions to hold the developer accountable for a project that exceeds what zoning should allow. If there is another community meeting I would love for state representatives whom passed this “Builders Remedy Law” to see what damage/issues it is doing to neighborhoods. None of these developers are doing it for the good of community or to help West Hollywood with the housing crisis. The crisis should be focused on the outrageous rents that are being forced by landlords and developers which so many residents can no longer… Read more »

Larry Block
21 days ago
Reply to  david

Ric Abramson, the city’s Director of Urban Planning was on the zoom.

NoToBuildersRemedy
NoToBuildersRemedy
21 days ago
Reply to  david

The Huntley Coalition, which has been actively trying to fight all Builder’s Remedy projects in WeHo, wrote a letter requesting that our two State representatives fight on behalf West Hollywood. The City has always exceeded its RHNA requirements and has a long history (since its founding) on supporting renters. We’ve received no response. But we are not going to stop fighting. We invite everyone who is opposed to the money grab-developments what were filed under the Builder’s Remedy loophole to join us. The email is [email protected] Please don’t let people tell you that there is nothing that can be done,… Read more »

Morty
Morty
21 days ago
Reply to  david

I’m not crazy about this development but arguing that developers need to build things for the “good of the community” is foolish. They are in business to make money. It is incredibly expensive to build anything in West Hollywood. I built a home from the ground up so I know how expensive it is. I could have built the same house almost anywhere else in the country for half the cost or even less. That is partially why rents are so expensive here. There is plenty of blame to go around. The people who can least afford it always end… Read more »

Morty
Morty
21 days ago

It’s unfortunate but this project will get approved because the city messed up. The developers are exploiting a loophole because they were given the opportunity to do it. At least this project is located close to Santa Monica Blvd. Our city council is too pre-occupied with free trip to Europe and other nonsense and they allow more important matters to fall between the cracks.

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