WeHo budgets $ for bike lanes and library car park but not new public bathrooms

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New city job positions, the WeHo Bicycle Coalition’s wish list and mysterious elevator modernizations popped up during the latest round of municipal budget talks this week. 

Mayor John M. Erickson and Vice Mayor Chelsea Lee Byers — a.k.a. the West Hollywood City Council Finance and Budget Subcommittee — met with top staff Thursday afternoon to talk about the money they foresee making and how they want to spend it over the next two fiscal years a.k.a. the operating budget and capital plan.

During the meeting, Byers confirmed funding was in place for the Santa Monica Boulevard bike lane project and reminded staff that the upcoming Gardener/Willoughby bike lane project needs to include automated detection loops at intersections rather than simple push buttons — one of several costly features specifically requested by the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition.

The coalition has been one of the driving forces behind the highly controversial plans to install protected bicycle lanes on Fountain Avenue, Willoughby Avenue, Gardner Avenue and eventually Santa Monica Boulevard, at the cost of increased vehicle congestion and a loss of street parking. Although not all elements asked for by the coalition were visibly included in the preliminary plans, Byers insisted on the importance of their input.

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At one intriguing point during the meeting, the mayor inquired about a budget item called “elevator modernization,” referring to the city’s five-story parking garage at West Hollywood Park. He wondered whether it was for improvements or “litigation.”

“Am I allowed to say that?” Erickson asked the budget officer. “I don’t think there’s that issue anymore.” 

Erickson’s mention of litigation might lend credence to rumors that the city’s parking garage elevator had extensively damaged one or more vehicles, which allegedly spawned a legal issue. 

He jokingly requested doubling the allotted amount if it meant the elevator would run faster.

“It will not go faster … but it will work every day,” Budget Officer Lindley said, drawing some laughs. 

The meeting’s overall focus was on the general fund, which comprises approximately 85% of the city’s total budget.

Budget Officer Melissa Lindley presented refined budget projections for fiscal years 2025 and 2026, comparing them to historical data from fiscal years 2018 through 2023. The discussion included a review of actual revenues and expenditures, as well as original and mid-year budgets for the current fiscal year. The preliminary budgets for FY 2025 and FY 2026 were shown as striped bars on a chart, indicating a balanced budget of approximately $161 million for FY 2025 and $163 million for FY 2026.

The presentation detailed adjustments in revenue growth and expenditure moderation. The FY 2025 preliminary budget represents a 6% increase from the original FY 2024 budget and a 5% increase from the FY 2024 mid-year budget, resulting in a $40,000 balance. Similarly, the FY 2026 preliminary budget shows a 1% increase over the FY 2025 preliminary budget, ending with a $35,000 balance.

Further discussion covered the breakdown of revenues and expenditures by major categories, comparing preliminary FY 2025 and FY 2026 budgets to the current fiscal year. The budget included allocations for new operating expenditures previously discussed, personnel adjustments, and capital projects. Specific attention was given to the inclusion of new positions to enhance city services, including a GIS analyst for citywide support, a senior planner, and a plan check engineer to improve permitting processes.

City Manager David Wilson elaborated on the new personnel recommendations, emphasizing the need for dedicated staff to oversee GIS programs, permit systems, and community development work. He also mentioned the creation of a playhouse administrator role, to manage the City Playhouse, indicating a multi-year plan for recruitment and job specification development.

The capital plan discussion highlighted the city’s strategy for long-term infrastructure improvements, involving approximately 50 projects aimed at enhancing streets, sidewalks, city buildings, parks, and other facilities. A budget of $2.8 million for FY 2025 and $2.0 million for FY 2026 was allocated for capital maintenance, with additional funding from various restricted sources, including grants and special funds. The total budget allocation for these years includes 

City staff spoke about securing Lease Revenue Bond financing to support the capital program, estimating $45 million in bonds to be sold in May, with $15 million allocated to refinancing 2013 bonds for cost savings and $30 million directed towards new projects. This financial strategy was incorporated into the operating budget, accounting for increased bond costs starting in FY 2025. 

The meeting highlighted several key investments. The Holloway Interim Housing Program is slated for completion in FY 2025 with a budget of $16.6 million. This cost covers previous expenses for acquisition and construction, as well as additional funding to complete the project. Another discussed project was the “temporary” dog park at Plummer Park, estimated at $1.9 million, and the new parking lot at 8120 Santa Monica Boulevard at Crescent Heights, with projected costs of about $3.4 million.

Further investments include various enhancements to parks and recreational facilities, totaling approximately $2.8 million in FY 2025 and $2.0 million in FY 2026.

Notably, while most recommendations from the Public Facilities Commission were incorporated into the budget, standalone restroom facilities at Plummer Park were excluded, although upgrades to existing restroom facilities were approved to enhance safety and accessibility.

The standalone restrooms were part of a large list of budget requests submitted by the commission, which Chairman Andrew Solomon had lobbied hard for. Solomon was on hand to voice his thanks and concern about the omission. 

Ongoing and new construction projects include the AIDS Monument, Log Cabin improvements, Hart Park enhancements, the City Playhouse, and the completion of phase two of the Design District, which involves utility undergrounding. Planning projects such as the Fountain Avenue streetscape and bike lanes, and comprehensive plans for various other city projects, were also discussed.

Wilson also touched on the city’s long-term investment in fiber infrastructure, with a projected budget of around $14 million allocated for city-related fiber projects, part of a larger, potentially $100 million project paid for by the fiber provider, Plenary Group, a global investment firm.

During public comment, Victor Omelczenko from the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance scrutinized the budget allocations for Hart Park, pointing out two specific line items totaling over $2 million and questioning whether these funds would support the maintenance of the original AIDS Monument within the park, which has deteriorated over time. He stressed the importance of ensuring that these funds are explicitly dedicated to this purpose, as previously promised by city officials.

Omelczenko noted the plans for the development of the City Playhouse, recounting its history from a small theater to a pornography theater and its subsequent evolution. He noted that while the building was not deemed historically significant enough to conserve as a historic site, it plays an integral role in the city’s cultural fabric.

The proposed budget would be presented to council on June 10 for initial reception and finalized adoption by June 24 (also the deadline for community feedback to be submitted) with implementation set for July.
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Chloe Ross
12 days ago

Wait until the first bloody, tragic bike accident happens on the ill-advised “bike lanes”. Wait until some moron who can’t ride a bike and behaves like a 10 year old, swoops through a four way stop. Wait until the mayhem and motorists run over bikers and bikers and drivers ignore the rules of the road. Kids ride bikes. There is no way to control bicycle riders. The good ones are smart and know how to street ride on city streets. We do not have a bicycle culture in LA. AS I have said for over 30 years. The Little Rascals… Read more »

YaHiroWayne
YaHiroWayne
12 days ago
Reply to  Chloe Ross

Could not agree more

Kilroy
Kilroy
14 days ago

A couple of takes: The Robo Garage is an epic, pricy boondoggle. When first opened, a pal and I pulled up in a big Benz, noticed the first elevator had a crushed car in it, asked the attendant what was up and she said that car was “just being stored there temporarily, before finally telling us our car was too large for the circular platform; you know, about the size of the crushed car. Also, Fountain is one of the least compatible streets for bikes. Pick Santa Monica as the East/West route. Fountain is a speed course, with constant collisions.… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
13 days ago
Reply to  Kilroy

I predicted it would be a boondoggle while it was being discussed and I was absolutely right. It is a totally ineffective way of parking vehicles, being both time consuming and remarkably expensive. The costs of maintenance, insurance, legal costs and employee wages are absurd. A conventional parking structure would have cost at half as much and would not have had a fraction of the ongoing expense, which has run into the millions. City employees have wasted countless hours waiting to retrieve their vehicles. This was an great example of West Hollywood pathological need to be “cutting edge” where the… Read more »

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Thanks, Steve, for that historical insight. I think what is missing is John Heilman’s role in pushing for this wasteful boondoggle. Perhaps someone will redirect the push to rename the library after him and put his name on this palace of municipal waste.

Long Time Resident
Long Time Resident
15 days ago

Byers is totally under the control of the Bike Coalition. She is a nightmare! She has totally forgotten (or never cared) that she was elected to represent the citizens.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
14 days ago

I’m a citizen who bikes and wants more bike infrastructure. Byers is doing a great job

John Smith
John Smith
12 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

You’re the only person……besides the homeless with shopping carts that will use the lane.

kab1200
kab1200
11 days ago
Reply to  John Smith

Yep

kab1200
kab1200
11 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

So you don’t work, do you?

WaHo walker
WaHo walker
12 days ago

the bikers are not more important than the walkers – they are going to create streets thst we “ walk” less safe fir walkers . Willoughby and fountain have enough traffic on them now. so drivers will also be in the bike lanes or backed v up so there’s no cars protecting us nor places for people to park . All for a handful of bikers – this is not a biking city. Copenhagen has the ideal place as the city is designed fir the amount of traffic West Hollywood is a small area and a thoroughfare for LA. Please… Read more »

Carleton cro9nin
15 days ago

A local reminder that he USA provides fewer public toilets than
Niger. Denser bushes??

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
13 days ago

Niger does not have a lot of private toilets. But I agree the lack of access to public toilet facilities is scandalous. The reason the City is delaying the planned Plummer Park bathrooms is because it is a multi-stall non-gender facility that has faced a lot of public opposition. Floor to ceiling doors that lock from the inside; what could go wrong?

Chloe Ross
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

We need public toilets —I think we all agree. Why not look at cities that have had them for eons and use their blueprint. Paris has” pissoirs”. But also stop denying that public restrooms also are used for “other” activities. And they do get filthy and need to. be cared for. I have noticed that the latest City Council is stacked with people hoping to go down in WeHo history for their brilliant innovations. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also someone’s brilliant ideas.

JF1
JF1
15 days ago

Byers is just as dangerous as Shyne.
She’s lived here for a nanosecond and is proposing radical changes to West Hollywood. ……Vote George Nickle in Nov.

JCB
JCB
14 days ago
Reply to  JF1

Bikes are radical?

kab1200
kab1200
11 days ago
Reply to  JCB

On Fountain, yes!

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
14 days ago
Reply to  JF1

Why is bike infrastructure radical to you?

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
13 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Bike infrastructure is hardly radical; it is just that West Hollywood is faced with tough choices and that decisions that will impact almost all of us are being made without a lot of public discourse.

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

There’s been 5 years of public discourse on it. Ridiculous.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
12 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Solomon

And still people seem upset about the idea of reducing Fountain to one lane in each direction. Discourse does not always equal consensus, but I guess on some issues that is impossible.

Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

So are you finally admitting that yes there
was public discourse on this topic?

Sorry I didn’t see you at this meeting Steve. Or the two council budget subcommittee meetings prior to this. You know there are real city meetings that take place in between the public comments section of a city council meeting. But can’t wait for your next Monday night rendition.

Chloe Ross
12 days ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Steve..I have made my thoughts on BIKES very clear. We are NOT a bike friendly city. People wishing we were need to learn to live with reality. I lived in Cambridge – the home of Harvard and other universities…bikers knew how to co-exist with cars. The same is true of Paris and Oxford and Berkeley. We are NOT those cities. AS soon as the Ambulances start mopping up the results of this “amazing idea ” in a city of automobiles; it may illustrate the problem. I notice we still have scooters. Clear we do not learn from experience.

Morty
Morty
13 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

If you want to ride your bike go to Venice beach. West Hollywood is not a safe place for bikes. I would rather save a few lives than put in dangerous bike lanes. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Maybe they should turn Santa Monica and Crescent Heights into a bike track so you can ride around in circles.

Davedi
Davedi
13 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Inconveniencing thousands of motorists for a few greenie bikers is extremely radical.

kab1200
kab1200
11 days ago
Reply to  Davedi

Yes

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