WeHo Hires Firm to Develop Incentive Program for Preservation of Historic Apartment Buildings

housing-rehabilitation

In history-rich West Hollywood, some structures, including apartment buildings, are beginning to show their age.

At its Monday night meeting, the City Council approved a $99,000 contract with Page & Turnbull, which will “develop an incentive program for multi- family properties that are designated historic,” according to the report from city staff members. The city estimates that the total cost of the project will be $110,000.

“We believe that the City of West Hollywood represents a unique opportunity for designing an incentive program that could serve as a national model,” wrote Page & Turnbull principals John Lesak and Donovan Rypkema in an April 11 letter to the city’s Community Development Department.

“By launching this initiative, West Hollywood acknowledges three important realities: 1) historic preservation and affordable housing are important public priorities; 2) multifamily housing complexes are overwhelmingly owned by the private sector; and 3) incentives are necessary if public policy goals are to be advanced by private investment. Our goal will be identifying the means of addressing these issues, in a fashion that is effective and equitable.”

Resident Victor Olmeczenko, representing the West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, said the Alliance is eager to work with Page and Turnbull on the matter.

“We hope this could become a national model,” said Olmeczenko.

Historic Preservation Commissioner Brad Torgan said this item was on the “radar screen of history preservationists nationwide.” Torgan told the council he was at a planning convention recently and other cities facing similar apartment building rehabilitation issues were discussing West Hollywood’s request for proposals at length.

“We seem to be the only community actively looking for solutions,” said Torgan.

The Council has been discussing the issue of aging buildings for more than a year:

  • In April 2012, Councilmember John D’Amico introduced a proposal for ways to fund needed repairs and upgrades. At that meeting, the council members emphasized that city funds could not be used for such renovations, but agreed to commission a study on other ways to fund renovations.
  • In May 2012, that report, prepared by the Clark Consulting Group, was presented to the council. It estimated it would cost $187 million to rehabilitate all of the city’s units that are 30 years or older.
  • In July 2012, the City Council directed staff to investigate the possibility of incentives for designated historic properties to preserve and protect affordable housing stock. A staff review of best industry practices determined that a new model was needed, according to the city report.
  • The RFP was released in March 2013. Page & Turnbull submitted one of the five proposals received.

According to the city report, the scope of work will include: analyzing options identified by city staff, conducting a “needs assessment,” holding focus group meetings and developing recommendations. The project is scheduled to be completed within one year.


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Snarkygal
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Snarkygal

The amount of units deemed historic, I would imagine, is rather small. What can we do to get the private sector owners of older buildings to fix up their buildings? I am seeing a lot of older buildings get an outer facelift, i.e., being painted, but what is being done to get owners to upgrade the electrical, plumbing, getting rid of termites, etc?