West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico called out the city’s Eastside as a potential center for digital media entrepreneurs and a home for young people in creative businesses at the annual State of the City luncheon today.
State of the City, a joint project of the City of West Hollywood and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, this year made the Eastside its focus. Among the speakers was Erik Logan, president of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network), which has announced its intention to move its headquarters from L.A.’s Miracle Mile to West Hollywood in December. OWN has leased space on The Lot, at 11-acre property on Santa Monica Boulevard at Poinsettia that once housed the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios, founded by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank in 1919 and later was owned by Warner Hollywood Studios. It now is owned by CIM Group.
“The Eastside has always been an attractive place for young creatives that prefer to live and play in the neighborhoods in which they work, take public transit or walk, instead of drive,” D’Amico said. “If we can help create well-paying jobs in creative fields like CIM is doing here at The Lot, we can very dramatically affect the jobs/housing balance, the homeowner ratio, the traffic problem and improve livability overall,”
D’Amico said he understand that West Hollywood is unlikely to become home to major digital content carriers such as Facebook, Google and AOL. But, he said, it “will be known as the place of content creation. Companies like OWN and Funny or Die, and smaller startup companies like Grindr, Flipagram, WEHOville and RadPad will find a comfortable fit here in WeHo.”
In arguing for creating room for more locally based digital entrepreneurs, D’Amico said such businesses and others could help ease the city’s traffic congestion and a growing disparity between rents and the ability of residents to afford them.
He noted that statistics from the Southern Calfornia Association of Governments show that West Hollywood, a city with a population just under 35,000 people, has about 31,000 jobs. However, D’Amico said, 92 percent of those jobs are filled by people who live outside of West Hollywood.
“That means we have an 80 percent population replacement every work day — that’s 120,000 car trips originating and terminating every work day, and that doesn’t even begin to address pass through traffic and leisure/entertainment traffic,” he said.
D’Amico said that only about 20 percent of the city’s job pay enough to allow someone to buy a home or condo or pay rent of $3,500 a month for an apartment, which is close to the amount being charged for some new apartments.
City Manager Paul Arevalo told the audience about the significant investments made and planned on the Eastside, which he said have totaled over half a billion dollars. Arevalo said the city has focused on rehabilitating buildings on the Eastside, once known for its poor housing quality, and for encouraging the development of what he called “catalytic projects.” As an example, he cited the Gateway shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Its Target store, Arevalo said, is one of that chain’s most successful, and the Gateway shops have helped revitalize the area’s economy.
One of the latest developers on the Eastside was recognized at the event for its investment in the area. That developer is the Monarch / Essex group, a partnership that built the Huxley apartment building on La Brea at Fountain Avenue that opened in March and soon will open the Dylan apartment building on Fountain and Santa Monica.
Rodney Stone, who co-founded the La Jolla-based real estate developer in 1997, said that 80 percent of the Huxley’s units already have been leased. He said that some people had doubted the wisdom of building in that area, but that he was confident it had been the right decision. The Huxley’s apartments are designed to appeal to young people who are part of what civic theorist Richard Florida calls the “creative class” — knowledge workers who often work from home and are more highly compensated than the service workers who staff the city’s many hotels and restaurants.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erred in saying that Harpo Studios is moving its headquarters to The Lot. That has been corrected to make clear that only OWN is moving it headquarters to The Lot.