West Hollywood West Residents Demand Moratorium on New Construction

west hollywood westWest Hollywood West residents want the city to declare a moratorium on new houses until it can create and implement design guidelines to prevent construction of large houses whose design they believe doesn’t complement existing houses in the neighborhood.

That was the consensus of a meeting tonight of about 100 residents of the neighborhood, which largely consists of houses built in the 1920s and 1930s. The meeting at times became heated as residents shouted across the room at each other and at Community Development Director Stephanie DeWolfe, who was running the meeting.

“This has been stewing for a long time, so there’s a lot of anger about these new homes destroying the charm of our neighborhood,” Richard Geisbart, president Of the West Hollywood West Residents Association, explained to WEHOville.

The city has approved 22 new construction applications for single-family homes since 2010, with eight of those applications coming in 2012 and 12 coming in 2013. Stephanie Reich, the city’s urban designer, said the 10 other applications are currently under review.

Consisting of approximately 1,000 single family homes and duplexes in the area bounded by Melrose Avenue on the north, Beverly Boulevard on the south, La Cienega Boulevard on the east and Doheny Drive on the west, West Hollywood West is know for its eclectic style and small town neighborhood feel.

Speakers asked that the city create a “neighborhood overlay zone,” which would apply specific guidelines for West Hollywood West. Those guidelines might require greater setbacks from the property line, a smaller house size relative to the size of the lot and a ban on construction of balconies or roof decks. However, such an overlay zone would likely take 12 to 15 months to implement because numerous public hearings would have to be held.

That’s why the residents also want a 12-month moratorium on construction of new two-story houses.

“If we don’t get a moratorium, we’ll end up with 40 of these boxy houses [before an overlay zone is implemented],” resident Joel Becker said.

DeWolfe warned that each solution could create other problems down the road and advised residents to consider everything carefully.

“It’s difficult to write a policy that doesn’t have unintended consequences,” she said.

Residents at the meeting rejected the idea of changing the city’s zoning code to address their concerns because such a change would affect single family homes throughout the city. Residents also rejected a proposal to have the Planning Commission’s Design Review subcommittee expand its scope to start reviewing single family homes in addition to commercial and multiple-unit residential buildings.

DeWolfe advised the residents to start an online petition about the moratorium and overlay zone to help convince the City Council that a majority of West Hollywood West residents want them.

In December, in response to these complaints about large, boxy houses, the City Council approved a measure that gave the city’s planning staff permission to consider context and compatibility with other houses in the neighborhood when approving new single family homes.


25 Comments
  1. Anyone supporting a moratorium should also support code enforcement inspecting houses in the neighborhood who have illegally converted garages which are a safety hazard since many of them have gas lines illegally connected to them. They should also enforce code violations for other renovations by existing home owners. We can’t just single out new development we need to deal with all issues in the neighborhood otherwise the moratorium would be discriminatory and lead to law suits costing the city millions of our tax payer dollars. Are we willing to increase our taxes to cover the costs to defend these law suits?

    1. Code Enforcement is and has repeatedly been the weak link. This relates not only to new development but to historic property maintenance and maintenance of WH housing stock. The personnel could be much better qualified and therefor alert to issues. As is it is currently they don’t seem to delineate between theoretical problematic apples or oranges or even realize that they are both fruit. The resulting expensive litigation becomes burdensome for the community and the city.

      Tighter standards in code enforcement coupled with higher standards of acceptable design complementing neighborhood continuity could greatly improve the situation.

  2. WE HAVE AN ISSUE WITH 2 SPECIFIC DEVELOPERS. IT IS LIKE HAVING A LICE INFESTATION; IT MUST BE TAKEN CARE OF BUT NOT WITH A BAZOOKA AKA a MORATORIUM.
    There are a lot of issues in West Hollywood West that are more important than this. All lots bordering the city of Los Angeles (56′ high Luxe on La Cienega, Mamonides School expansion) and the ones bordering our commercial strips (Restoration Hardware, Beverly Project, etc) have big and real issues due to their vicinity to these projects . Is anyone going for the moratorium or for a future height and sq/ft restriction going to tell these owners “sorry you cannot build anymore”? How about families with children? Anyone ready to tell the families with more than one child to move to another area since we only approve project for couples?
    Anyone opposing the Moratorium for the right reasons please contact alibehzad66@yahoo.com

  3. I live inTri-Wesr and we have lots of these boxes. I don’t like them. But it’s a fact that these 2 boxes per lot, selling fr 1.5 – 2.0 million each have increased property values because they have allowed a developer a profit paying 1.0 mil or more for a tear down.

    The meeting was marked by an incident where a homeowner— she appeared to be of Persian descent stood up to say…. I’m a West Hollywood resident for 30 years… I rented and saved my money to buy a house. I’m a work at home mom and needed more space. She went to an architect to design an addition adding a second floor to her home. The neighbors then attacked her for building telling her to move out of the neighborhood. Telling her she doesn’t belong here. She tried to explain her pain while some in the audience yelled out yeah move- and some other epitats that were uncalled for.

    We can change a code but we can’t regulate style. When I sold my modern house they said Spanish was the hot style of home, if I sold my house today they would say modern is what people want. Property owners have rights. And each one of these homes has been built to code. We can ask for setbacks or code changes but the tone is wrong. I feel sorry for the woman who spoke that her neighbors treated her so rude. If what we saw at the meeting was just a small amount of what she has to put up with from her neighbors we should all be outraged. Property owners who are not building or improving their land or property values and want to keep their neighborhood the same as it was should have spoken up years ago. At this point we can’t remove the boxes…we are stuck as one neighborhood — but we can regulate developers by requiring time and or spaces between projects and adding conditions —

  4. A moratorium in this case would not effect individual property owners doing upgrades or various other forms of remodeling. It is proposed for new 2-story construction only.

    The short moratorium period would allow the City Planning Department, NOT the Planning Commission (the Planning “COMMISSION” has NOTHING to do with this) time to develop design and code guidelines to better serve the community at large. This review takes time, hence the moratorium.

    I would hope that most current property owners would appreciate being surrounded by new thoughtful, quality and diverse properties that don’t unfairly compromise their own.

    At this moment, many, many residents feel that they are in danger of the opposite.

  5. I OBJECT TO ANY MORATORIUM ON NEW CONSTRUCTION IN WEST HOLLYWOOD WEST! I AM A PROPERTY OWNER IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS NEIGHBORHOOD.

    I BELIEVE THE ISSUE HERE IS A SINGLE DEVELOPER, WE AS PROPERTY OWNERS SHOULD NOT BE RESTRICTED BECAUSE OF WHAT ONE DEVELOPER IS DOING!

    IT IS THE PLANNING COMMISSION THAT SHOULD BE SCRUTINIZING DEVELOPERS TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE OFFERING VARIETY & DIVERSITY IN THEIR DESIGNS. WE AS PROPERTY OWNERS SHOULD BE ALLOWED ALLOT OF FLEXIBILITY & FREEDOM TO DO WHAT WE WANT WITH THE PROPERTIES WE OWN WITH CERTAIN BROAD AESTHETIC PARAMETERS, THESE CAN BE GUIDED ALONG BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION.

    I DO NOT LIVE IN A HOUSING ASSOCIATION AND I DO NOT WANT ANYTHING LIKE THAT! I OPPOSE THIS BLANKET ACTION THAT THESE RESIDENTS ARE PROPOSING! IT IS NOT THAT SIMPLE AND THIS MUST BE DONE ON A CASE BY CASE BASIS WITH SPECIAL SCRUTINY BEING DIRECTED TOWARD DEVELOPERS WHO ARE BUILDING MULTIPLE HOMES IN THE AREA.

  6. What is wrong with these narrow minded and bored neighbors?! I grew up in this area and LOVE seeing new homes of this size and style appearing all over the neighborhood! If not for these homes property values would never have gone up so much in the neighborhood and we would be surrounded by all of the old unattractive bungalows that finally got replaced. The homes are not too large I think they are just right in size for the neighborhood, especially as the neighborhood changes. Please do not allow this to stop. NO to the moratorium!!!

  7. @Wehoan Scale, proportion and authenticity do not equal “the design police”. If it did Samta Barbara and other rather strict communities would not maintain high standards and be so desirable. Whatever the style it must resonate with the piece of land and be complimentary with the neighborhood.

  8. No darlings, I am not a city planner. And I live right smack in the middle of our fair city, near Gelson’s. Utopia? No. But I’m quite content.

    Must be nice to have the Rich People Problems here in Weho where we can dictate what’s pretty and what isn’t, and then hire all the lawyers in the world to sue the pants off City Hall to make sure our design preferences are enshrined in code.

    How very 1%.

    We should be thrilled that people want to invest in fixing up these houses and lots.

  9. These too big for the lot boxy houses that all look the same are not good examples of what should replace the the shabby neglected “worn out termite infested” house.

    What should replace these houses are homes that are better and appropriate. New houses should enhance the neighborhood not be bombastic structures that compromise the area’s established character and disrespect it’s neighbors.

  10. @Fed Up with Wehoan, which Utopian section of WeHo do you live in now? ‘cuz we all want to move where YOU are. Good lord, I hope you are not actually one of the city planners.

  11. Welcome back, design police! Let’s give the rich homeowners of West Hollywood whatever they want, because, by god, they know what’s pretty and what isn’t! Screw what other people want!

    Is West Hollywood West a charming part of town? Yes. It surely is. I lived over there when I first moved here. But it is also dotted with a lot of older homes that haven’t been well maintained and which would certainly benefit from being razed… If someone buys the land, they should be able to build what they want, without the Weho Design Police stepping in and calling them people with bad taste.

  12. While I sympathize with the West Hollywood West homeowners on this issue, I don’t understand why they can’t get as motivated to fight the monstrous development on Rosewood. They don’t want big, two-story boxes (totally agree with that) but don’t seem to mind having a 12-story building being doubled and many 2-story houses added on Rosewood. The developers of this project have done a superb job in buying access (shocked aren’t we?). They EIR says this project will have impact. This is simply laughable but in WeHo we apparently really don’t care. So now it looks like a big non-conforming building will be allowed to be even more non-conforming. Why not put a moratorium on all construction in residential areas until a plan can be developed. Wait! Didn’t we do that with the general plan in 2012?

  13. @Lynn, One of the problems is the current elected leadership along with city staffers, seem to love modern and it doesn’t have to be good modern. It is becoming apparent that many at City Hall would like to see every last ounce of charm or historic character squeezed out of West Hollywood. A city staffer who is one of the historic preservation liasons was heard at a talk in chambers say that they want to see glass and steel the full length of the SMB. For heaven’s sake, look at that god-awful spaceship thing they wanted to plunk down in the middle of Plummer Park on the eastside. The Historic Preservation Commission, awhile back, suggested an historic overlay zone for the eastside and the council voted it down immediately. They have no interest in it. I find it interesting the high number of “outsiders” who work in and plan for West Hollywood’s future, such as Ms. DeWolfe. The citizens have to spend a lot of time, effort and money to have a say in their own future.

  14. These new construction properties have raised everyone’s property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars! The houses that are being torn down, are not architectural homes. Instead they are tiny, worn down, termite infested shacks. These shacks at one time were selling for $700,000 are now selling for 1.3 million because of the new construction. If you are a homeowner who has kept up you home, your prices have gone from $900,000 to 1.6 million. Take a look at the areas of town that have imposed these moratoriums on the developments…there home prices plummeted. All this anger over larger homes is just sour grapes from people who are upset that neighbors with bigger budgets and better taste are moving in.

    1. Sean, although not in WH, a good example would be the 3 block stretch between Beverly & Melrose on the east side of the street. Several large houses have been constructed by Amit Apel which resonate w Spanish Colonial Revival. He has others scattered about WH. There are also severalrecent constructs by an unknown architect attempting the same but failing. Large can be good depending on it’s resonance to the streetscape in scale and detail.

  15. The public could well be inspired to learn more about our historic preservation philosophy and policies as well as excellent design standards. Few are aware if this nearly “best kept secret ” Knowledge could change the equation as well as inspire folks to keep the maintenance of their buildings on a high level before a visit from code compliance, a group that also could be more educated and aware.

  16. The lack of recent architectural excellence in West Hollywood is stunning. WH could and should aspire to higher standards in encouraging verifiable notable work that is compatible with the current neighborhoods and most importantly with any landmark/historic structures.

  17. The principal obstacle to getting a moratorium or any change in process , beyond the barricades erected by the Council, is the difficulty imposed upon the residents in slogging through the layers of regulations and codes built up over the years. Residents in West Hollywood are often seen as an impediment to”progress”, often characterized as raising funds for our many social programs. “Developers”: are much more fun with which to deal and they have money – “the mothers milk of politics”. However, this is a matter much worth pursuing as its outcome will alter the manner in which the West Hollywood West area will look in the coming decades and test the resolve of the community to actually mount a challenge to City Hall to recognize its needs and wishes – we the voters, we the taxpayers, we the people living amidst the rush of unbridled change.

  18. I so rarely oppose a property owner building what they want (assuming it follows zoning laws), but in this case it’s warranted. In the 60’s and 70’s charming single family homes and duplexes on the east side were razed to build dingbats which unfortunately now exist all over.
    I think a short moratorium and expedited design review process is in order to save the area.

    I would add that a design process should be created to help the owners of dingbats creatively renovate/redesign their buildings. I’ve actually seen some pretty creative and impressive dingbat renovations.

  19. That’s right Todd….But Beverly Hills, and just last year Beverly Grove, have taken actions to discourage these kind of McMansion/Big Box houses on small lots from proliferating further.

    This issue has now come to our community and we need to investigate solutions as they have.

  20. I sympathize with West Hollywood West homeowners, but I think it’s going to be difficult to find a solution to the problem. As property values increase, older properties are going to be razed and the new construction is going to look like the horrible McMansion stucco boxes that have destroyed much of the character of the Beverly Hills flats.

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