West Hollywood City Council Debates Historic Designation, Shoots Down Groupings

The West Hollywood City Council voted Monday night to continue considering designation of historic structures on a case-by-case basis, albeit not without some controversy and a somewhat unusual vote.

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) had recommended that the Council delay the vote and consider creating some special “thematic groupings” or “historic districts” for historic houses. HPC urged the Council to consider creating a “Craftsman grouping” for 20 bungalows built in the craftsman style prior to 1920. The vast majority of the 20 bungalows eligible for consideration are on the city’s eastside.

Patio Del Moro
Patio Del Moro is one example of a West Hollywood structure within a National Register “historic district,” the Harper Avenue District and Courtyard Thematic District. The city council decided not to create any more “historic districts” Monday, instead sticking to a case-by-case basis when considering historic designation. (Photo by Christian Martinez)

HPC made that recommendation because many of the historic houses in the city, when considered on an individual basis, don’t meet the strict, state-mandated criteria for historic designation due to structural alterations and/or repairs over the years.

However, if the city were to create special districts or thematic groupings, which have less stringent criteria, many of those houses would be eligible. A district would consist of houses in fairly close proximity (within a block or two) while a thematic grouping would have a wider range.

During public comment, Historic Preservation Commissioner Ed Levin urged the Council to consider the Craftsmen grouping.

“They’re fairly modest bungalows, it seems to make more sense to consider them in the context of a thematic grouping. But because there is no Eastside thematic grouping, we end up reviewing them piecemeal,” Levin said. “It doesn’t seem like the best way to serve the interests of the Eastside.”

City staff recommended the Council ignore the HPC’s recommendation and continue to do the individual considerations. The staff report noted that additional staff or consultants might be needed to handle the workload if the city were to create historic districts or thematic groupings.

Although the item was due to get a full hearing as part of the Council’s agenda, the Council decided to move it to the consent calendar. Both Mayor Jeff Prang and Councilmember John D’Amico voted “No,” saying the city should consider doing historic groupings.


5 Comments
  1. Welcome back James, and thank you for this report…..I am quite unhappy with the outcome at council the other night about this. Why did Mayor Pro Tem, Abby Land ask for item 5A to be put on the consent calendar? What could possibly be the reasoning behind not wanting to consider the Historic Preservation Commissions request for a craftsman thematic grouping? As a constituent, citizen and eastsider I would have liked to have meaningful input and an opportunity for a discussion rather than feeling like our voices fell upon deaf ears. Why does council bother appointing commissioners to Historic Preservation any way?

  2. and what is this item doing on the ‘consent calendar’? obviously there is no consent when council votes 3:2 to override the HPC recommendation?

  3. great to see james mills reporting again!

    this makes me wonder what the role of the HPC is, if they are either not consulted (Plummer Park) or their recommendations recommended against by staff and council majority. does it really take more staff and consultants to designate ‘groupings’ instead of individual structures? or does it take a creative city?

  4. “The staff report noted that additional staff or consultants might be needed to handle the workload if the city were to create historic districts or thematic groupings.”

    that’s funny, i thought weho city hall is filthy rich….so why not hire staff/consultants???……they are certainly on a spending spree otherwise…

    but yet, i still have to wonder: how many people does it take to run a city less than 2 miles long?? (yep, think of that “screw in a light bulb” joke as you ponder this)

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