Opinion: Creativity, Found in WeHo Residents and Business Owners, Can’t Be Dictated by the City Council

I woke up at 3 AM last week thinking about West Hollywood’s title of “The Creative City,” and started wondering if that description really fits anymore.

Ben Coleman
Ben Coleman

True creativity doesn’t come down from the City Council dais, it comes up from people who are free to innovate. The West Hollywood City Council needs to create policy that fosters creativity, not assume that its members are the arbiters of creativity themselves.

For instance, this Council must come up with ways to embrace entities like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb rather than create task forces that will try to restrict them. We should give freedom to the hotels by reducing the various taxes and fees so they can compete with the “shared economy” and fill their vacancies more consistently, and find ways to allow the taxi companies to compete. And what should we do when businesses and patrons complain about the extended meter hours and paying for street parking at night? Let’s compromise by conversely making metered street parking free or cheaper when demand is lower, like during the daytime.

I have more examples: We should explore potentially relaxing the burden on landlords so that they have more flexibility in the rents and can afford to upgrade their buildings instead of selling to developers who build expensive condos. We could solve the crosswalk problems and calm traffic on our thoroughfares and neighborhood streets by initiating a contest with a cash prize open to all for the best innovative ideas to create a safer place for drivers and pedestrians. And rather than the city attempting to produce “GoGo Day” and other festivals and events, large and small, we should allow businesses to thrive on our boulevards by reducing the costs and restrictions for sidewalk sales, community festivals, outdoor patios, signage, and outdoor artwork. Let the creative entities take back the streets!

Lift the fur ban, the smoking ban and the plastic bag ban and let businesses and patrons find solutions together that work. And flying a rainbow flag over City Hall doesn’t make West Hollywood a gay city. The gayness of the people who live, work and play here are what make it a gay city! When I walk through North Beach in San Francisco, I’m left with the overwhelming impression that I’m in a section of town that is distinctly Italian, because the sights and the sounds and the smells and the flags flying from the front of the private businesses and residences show the people’s pride in their heritage. San Francisco didn’t necessarily have to make a special designation. It’s just there. The same should be true in Weho. If it’s gay, then the people will organically show their pride. And in many areas of our city that is the case.

So here is the impression I want to leave with the members of the West Hollywood City Council, for whom I have the utmost love and respect: Do not govern as if this Council and city government are the arbiters of creativity and innovation. Govern so that the people are free to foster our own creativity, spontaneously.

That is how we will ensure West Hollywood lives up to its moniker as the Creative City.

Ben Coleman is a West Hollywood resident and public safety advocate via Keep Weho Safe. This opinion piece is based on a short speech he gave at Monday’s City Council meeting.


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Bernadette Parinello
Guest
Bernadette Parinello

@Steve I agree 100%!!! Afriat is calling all the shots, waving the money around and getting his hotels built, condos developed and billboards erected no matter how the community feels about the numerous projects he is behind. A list of his clients is here: http://www.afriat.com/clients.htm

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

Why don’t we just let the City Council appoint Steve Afriat to Jeff Prang’s seat and stop the pretense that Afriat is not calling the shots at City Hall. Of course the drama with the Assessor’s race is not over. Unless Prang passes the basic Assessor’s test within a year, he must resign as County Assessor. It is quite possible that Prang may not pass; he was apparently afraid to take the test prior to the election. Maybe we should hold the Special Election next November so Prang can have the option of running for his old seat. Making an… Read more »

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Bernadette has a big point with the house sized “creative/public benefit” ACE billboard. Take a look at the photo in the lead article FUNNY, SAD, BEAUTIFUL, REVEALING. All one can see is a cavalcade of billboards on Sunset with the elegant Sunset Tower Hotel squeezed off to the side. Lovely.

West Hollywood
Guest

Note that the LGBT republicans almost NEVER cite sources, again note NO RED LINKS in the entire article! Could it be that just about the ONLY sources that support their position are the MOST racist, sexist and,anti-LGBT?

Rudolf Martin
Guest
Rudolf Martin

Interesting op-ed, but rather simplistic as if the author just read “Atlas Shrugged”.

I agree with Todd Bianco’s comments. Instead of smaller or bigger government we could use a much smarter government.

I doubt we ever get it without campaign finance reform which will certainly not come from those who benefit from the murky status quo.

Christopher
Guest
Christopher

This “creative city” label has always made me laugh. For many years, prior to city-hood, West Hollywood was considered a hub of progressive creativity in the buttoned-down fifties and early sixties. This was where you came for offbeat gift shops, candles, incense, quirky antique stores, independent record shops, reasonably priced art galleries and beatnik-style coffee houses. Rents were reasonable. Now, we have outrageous rents and overpriced condos that cater to upwardly mobile, entitled brats who can’t live without their corporate cup of coffee. Throwing up a few garish art pieces in the median strips hardly qualifies as creative.

PeteP
Guest
PeteP

Let me guess, you’re a gay Republican. We’ve heard all of this nonsense before. Get rid of the smoking ban and let business and patrons find solutions together?? Seriously? You are obviously too young to have been in gay bars before the smoking bans took effect. There were no solutions – only bars filled with smoke. You are probably also too young to remember the cries from business owners that the ban would drive them to bankruptcy. Guess what – that never happened. The bars are doing more business now than they ever did. You obviously moved to and continue… Read more »

Bernadette Parinello
Guest
Bernadette Parinello

Some good points but the city makes money from the taxes on the hotels, something like $60-million a year, so these taxes will never be touched especially now because of increased competition from airbnb. Notice how when anything has to do with the Sunset Strip the Council bends over? Even if its the Sunset Strip Music Fest that continues to hemorrhage money (something like $3-million so far) year after year after year, the gargantuan hotel project going up that will take 2 years to complete and for which traffic has been terribly diverted and even the SoHo House which got… Read more »

Emilija Torbešic
Guest

Government including the City Council is hardly inhibiting any creativity coming from business; it’s protecting its citizens from con-artists. Frankly business has far better at fleecing people as opposed to creating much of anything. Corporations, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and, other con-artists are now riding the sharing economy wave like to call it a “benevolent disruption” — the organic evolution of inefficient markets that comes from empowering regular Americans (mainly white males) to maximize their own assets. What this nonsense really is, a con-job from master manipulators in Silicon Valley and their Wall Street buddies. The “sharing economy” is a reductive… Read more »

Todd Bianco
Guest

Some of these ideas have merit, but I don’t think West Hollywood is going to become an Ayn Randian wet dream where government has little or no role other than safety and everything is left to the tender arms of unfettered capitalism. The City depends on the TOT for a big part of its funding, so it’s probably better to have the AirBnB collect the same tax – not just eliminate it. That’s easy to achieve with software and credit cards. But this doesn’t address the quality of life issues for the neighbors or the inherent illegality of subleasing an… Read more »

Tom Smart
Guest
Tom Smart

I’m hoping young Mr. Coleman will roll up his sleeves and get to work to create the change he envisions. otherwise it’s just a dream.

Riley
Guest
Riley

Well said, @Ben Coleman. Come the March election the citizens have a chance to breathe some new life into the council. Hopefully it won’t be the same old jaded politicians who are re-elected.