The West Hollywood City Council agreed last night to extend until Dec. 31 the moratorium on construction of new houses and second story additions or additions larger than 500 square feet to existing houses in the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
The decision came after a public hearing in which some speakers decried the construction of what they called “big box” houses, whose mass was out of character with the neighborhood, while others objected that the moratorium would make it impossible for them to expand their homes to accommodate their growing families.
The Council declined to support an extension of the moratorium for 12 months, which had been requested by the city’s Community Development Department. Councilmembers John Duran and John Heilman noted that the issues already were understood and that the department should quickly develop ways to address them. Duran said he didn’t expect community consensus on such a divisive issue.
West Hollywood West is bounded by Melrose Avenue on the north, Doheny Drive on the west, Beverly Boulevard on the south and La Cienega Boulevard on the east. It is dominated by roughly 1,000 single-family homes and duplexes. The moratorium would give the Community Development Department (CDD) time to develop a so-called “overlay zone,” which would be a modification of the citywide zoning code that would apply only to the West Hollywood West neighborhood.
“The West Hollywood West neighborhood is characterized by small lots with generally modest one-story traditional houses in a variety of styles,” said an earlier CDD report to the Council. “One of the desirable characteristics of the neighborhood is its variety of form, style and texture.”
Construction of the large houses began in 2010, and applications to the city for new housing permits in the area have increased sharply The CDD said that while two applications were approved in 2010 and two in 2011, eight were approved in 2012, ten in 2013, and eight already are under consideration in the first two months of this year.
Stephanie deWolfe, the city’s Community Development Director, said her staff could meet the December deadline. deWolfe said the CDD is looking to engage an architect with experience in such issues to analyze and help draft an overlay zone proposal. deWolfe also noted that, despite complaints by some speakers, the CDD does not contemplate banning two-story houses. Instead, she said, the issue is the mass of the new houses and how it fits with the overall look of the existing neighborhood.