The Citizens Agenda: WeHo Council Candidates on Affordable Housing, Council Deputies

election 2015, west hollywood city council candidates
Candidates, right to left, are John Allendorfer, Larry Block, John D’Amico, Brian Funnagan, Joe Guardarrama, John Heilman, Lindsey Horvath, Lauren Meister, Matthew Ralston, James “Duke” Mason, Christopher Landavazo and Tristan Schukraft

Today 10 of 12 candidates in the March 3 election for three seats on the West Hollywood City Council offer their responses to questions raised by West Hollywood residents about making housing affordable and the Council deputy system (two candidates, Brian Funnagan and Christopher Landavazo, did not respond. Tristan Schukraft didn’t answer all questions). Each week through Feb. 23 we will publish one or more questions raised by readers of WEHOville and the candidates’ responses. Candidates spoke to their qualifications for the Council on Jan. 12 and addressed traffic concerns on Jan. 14. They explained their positions on parking issues on Jan. 19 and on pedestrian safety on Jan. 26. On Feb. 2 candidates spoke to questions about development and historic preservation. And on Feb. 9 the candidates discussed campaign finance reform.

1) West Hollywood was founded by advocates for rent control who wanted to preserve the city as an affordable place to live. State law has gutted some of the protections provided by city law, and West Hollywood now is an expensive place to rent or own. Now, what can the city do to make West Hollywood a more affordable place to live for the young, the disabled and seniors? Specifically:

a) How can the city help seniors whose landlords evoke the Ellis Act to evict them and then turn their apartment units into lucrative condos, given that the payments those seniors receive on eviction often aren’t sufficient to cover West Hollywood’s high rents for long, and that the waiting list for affordable housing units is so long?

JOHN ALLENDORFER

First of all, to truly curb and prevent these evictions we need to seek a change or exemption in state law. The city should advocate at the state and federal levels to pass new and maintain current legislation to increase the supply of affordable housing. We should make the Ellis Act so expensive for property owners that there is little incentive to pursue it. Options should include requiring additional permits or hearings or placing limits on the sale and resale of a property after an Ellis Act eviction.

We should introduce local legislation to give seniors evicted under the Ellis Act priority for city-subsidized housing. An obvious help would be to increase the payments received on evictions. The city should require an owner who re-rents “Ellised” property within a certain period of time to first offer it to any displaced former tenants at the original rates.

There is also Conventional Housing and the Los Angeles County Section 8 Certificate Program for seniors. As a side note we should look at tracking evictions. Some landlords offer tenants cash to leave without going through an Ellis Act eviction. The city may or may not track the buyout, which allow the landlord to rent or convert the unit without restrictions. A proposal would require the city to track buyouts and place them under the category of “just cause/no fault” evictions, preventing the landlord from charging market rates to new tenants. We should try to get consensus among legislators, tenant advocates, business groups and real estate interests to look at this problem.

LARRY BLOCK

For the seniors and disabled, pass my “swapping proposal” that allows a senior or disabled person the opportunity to move from an upper floor to a lower floor. Mobility is the key to aging in place. Persons who age and cannot get down their steps are forced out of their units and into market rate units that often displace them from West Hollywood. The number one thing we can do to help seniors and disabled people who are not located on a first floor unit is create this mechanism, which I have presented to the Rent Stabilization Board and which is coming up on our aging in place agenda.

For the young we need to relax the zoning laws to allow micro-units and update and create a roommate ordinance to oversee the problems of shared apartments that do not necessarily fall under our rent stabilization protections. While can’t stop market rate units from coming on market, we can protect our current population by strengthening their ability to age in place.

We should look at raising relocation fees for those who are evicted due to the Ellis Act. We must find a way to offer transitional housing. The problem with the affordable housing units and the long waiting list is that the list is open to everyone. Our affordable housing doesn’t necessarily to go West Hollywood residents.

JOHN D’AMICO

Our rent-controlled housing is more important now than ever. The number of tenants evicted by the Ellis Act is at an all-time high. And this trend will continue to grow if we don’t act fast. In all cases an Ellis Act eviction requires a landlord to go out of the rental business, which usually means that the property will be demolished and rebuilt as a new building (learn more at http://www.weho.org/home/showdocument?id=2251). The senior and/or disabled tenant usually has one year to find a new place to live, and others even less time. The city works to relocate seniors evicted by the Ellis Act into affordable units within the city, but those opportunities are very limited. And many people fall through the cracks. West Hollywood needs to do more to protect seniors and everyone living in our city’s rent-controlled housing.

Our rent-controlled housing is our greatest asset. I believe we need to put a 6 to 12 month moratorium in place regarding the demolition of rent-controlled units until we have a plan to keep West Hollywood affordable and right –sized for our current residents, including updating the zoning code. I am not comfortable watching our residents, regular people, be evicted from the city month after month, when we could take action to stop evictions and save those apartments with the right people on the Council.

With my leadership, we were successful in solving the problem of excessively large, big-box development in the West Hollywood West neighborhood. We can be successful in the rest of the city with respect to protecting our rent-controlled housing. We need to work with landlords and tenants to update existing rental housing, instead of the 30-year-old practice of project flipping and waiting for the Ellis Act to force tenants out so that new buildings with ten market-rate units and two low-income units can be built. What is fair about that?

And when buildings are torn down we need to prioritize putting seniors back into West Hollywood housing. Our affordable housing stock should be reserved for existing residents. The 30-year history of giving away affordable units to non-residents needs to be re-examined. So many of us have spent our lives here, and with the stroke of a pen we are evicted from the city and replaced by someone from out of town. And the 30-year-old answer to the development Ellis Act eviction is, “there’s nothing I can do to help you.” I disagree. We can stop this if we want to and if we have new members on the Council who are more interested in people than always saying ‘yes’ to development.

BRIAN FUNNAGAN

No response.

JOE GUARDARRAMA

I stated this publicly at the Chamber of Commerce candidates’ forum as well as in other venues: one of my top priorities as a Council member will be to lobby Sacramento for changes to the Ellis Act. The Ellis Act was passed by the California State Legislature in the 1980’s in response to a California Supreme Court case. The law provides that no local government can compel a property owner to continue offering housing for rent if that owner so desires to leave the rental business. In practice, this means that property owners can “close up shop” and get out of the rental business in order to evict rent-controlled tenants while they convert the property into more lucrative condos or townhouses for future sale.

Under the Ellis Act, any property owner who “Ellises” a tenant must provide that tenant with a relocation fee, but those payments are fixed amounts that are tied to household income or household type. These metrics result in relocation payments that do not often reflect the actual market value of the locality. For example, an elderly or disabled tenant on a fixed income who has lived in their apartment for 25 years might be given a relocation payment that is far below the current market value of the area. This forces many of our low-income tenants to move from the city they love to areas that are less expensive. To remedy this, the City Council needs to push for more local control over the provisions of the Ellis Act, as well as tying any relocation costs to fair market value within the immediate area. This will allow tenants to stay in their same general area even if they are forced to move.

JOHN HEILMAN

We’ve had very few situations where an existing building is converted into condominiums. We’ve seen many more situations where a property owner uses the Ellis Act to evict tenants and then demolishes the building to build a new apartment building or condominium. We need to continue to lobby the state legislature to repeal or amend the Ellis Act to provide greater protections and greater relocation assistance for tenants. At the city level, we already provide that when a person is “Ellised” they get priority on our inclusionary housing list if they are a low- or moderate-income tenant. New developments also are required to set aside a certain number of units for low- and moderate-income residents.

LINDSEY HORVATH

West Hollywood must stand by its commitment to take care of residents. The city can continue to provide free legal services through organizations like Bet Tzedek to ensure that they are legally protected. State laws, such as the Ellis Act, underscore the need for greater local control over our permanent affordable housing stock. Not only must we work to protect West Hollywood residents who are threatened by such eviction practices, but we must also use our local authority in conjunction with our neighbors to find better ways to protect tenants from being “Ellised out.”

CHRISTOPHER LANDAVAZO

No response.

JAMES “DUKE” MASON

I would use my bully pulpit as a Council member to lobby Sacramento and try to repeal the Ellis Act on a statewide level. I’d do everything I could on a local level to weaken the Ellis Act as much as possible, and look into giving landlords incentives to rehabilitate the existing housing stock instead of tearing it down and building giant condo buildings that only affluent people can afford. We must maintain the diverse community that we have here in West Hollywood, and that means protecting the most vulnerable among us. 

LAUREN MEISTER

The first thing the city must do is set an example for others and not evict its own residents. Look at Tara or the Detroit Bungalows — many of these residents are seniors and/or those with low incomes, who, like many of us, just want to age in place.

Another thing the city can do is establish a better working relationship with the city’s landlords — be willing to provide assistance to landlords via grants (for example, for historic buildings), and low-cost or no-cost loans to upgrade our aging housing stock. The city has nearly $100 million in reserves. Why not help landlords to improve and keep these buildings and, by doing so, also improve the quality of life for their tenants?

The city can also put policies into place to de-incentivize demolition of existing housing stock. We can require more stringent parking requirements for new residential construction. This would slow down this trend of eviction and demolition in order to construct expensive condominiums and rentals.

We need to look at reinstating a code that used to be in our city’s zoning ordinance called “height averaging.” I spoke with the state’s housing department, and there is nothing about SB1818 legislation that precludes height averaging. Having height averaging in our zoning ordinance deterred demolition of existing buildings. Much of the demolition and new apartment/condominium construction we saw happening from 2001 on was a direct result of our Council majority taking height averaging off the books.

We also need to review our lobbying efforts in Sacramento. We’ve had a lobbyist there for years, and what have we accomplished? We’re in a good position right now in that we have a Democratic governor, state senate and state assembly. If we want to change laws in Sacramento to increase the compensation allowed to evicted tenants, we should have allies in Sacramento to change the law — if the will is there to push for it — and the same goes for repealing Costa-Hawkins to allow local control over rent control laws.

That said, until we change the state law, we need to require landlords and developers to start planning in advance to help their tenants get on affordable housing waiting lists before they’re evicted and explore what we can do to give evicted tenants a leg up in finding affordable housing alternatives.

In addition, even though the city recently adopted a general plan to address our housing needs, many developers come in and ask to do something that doesn’t fit with the general plan and then negotiate a “development agreement” with the city. I believe that any such development agreement (which is a private agreement between the city and the developer) should require developers to dedicate a substantial portion of their units at prices that will be affordable under a “housing affordability covenant.” It will send a strong and powerful message that West Hollywood still believes in affordable housing and is committed to rent control.

MATT RALSTON

First we should set a precedent of litigating against landlords whenever they are abusing their positions. Residents are scared of their landlords, and that’s not okay.

I would advocate going forward that a landlord cannot own more than three buildings in the city, so that we can eliminate this slumlord mentality that is often present. Further we need to provide as much funding as possible for relocation fees should all other options fail. We have the budget, and this isn’t a place to skimp.

We also need to be proactive in designating our buildings under historic preservation status when applicable. We have been lazy on this. We need to be prepared before the talk of demolition comes into play. Developers should be encouraged through incentives to develop higher density affordable units. Buildings are being torn down for high-end luxury condos. This doesn’t help anyone except the developer. We should not allow exemptions to our zoning laws and general plan whenever possible. I know many of these loopholes are state laws, but there are some we can fight.

TRISTAN SCHUKRAFT

I feel for residents that have been evicted.  Residents that have been Ellised should be given amble resources to move and priority for affordable housing, so that they can remain in West Hollywood or return as soon as possible.  Ideally, the city should have transition / temporary housing for such situations.  As a member of the city council, I would create a “no net loss” policy when it comes to affordable housing ensuring that the number of affordable housing units in West Hollywood never decreases, whether it’s through preservation or replacement.

b) Can or should the city shore up the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, which says it is running out of money to build new housing and maintain what it has?

JOHN ALLENDORFER

I believe we should shore up the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation and maintain what it has but under very close scrutiny by the city staff, city council and residents.

LARRY BLOCK

We need to look at the way West Hollywood Community Housing Corp works and interacts with our city. The housing corporation is its own entity. I wonder what West Hollywood would look like in 100 years from now if West Hollywood Housing Corp continues to grow and occupy more and more parcels in our small city? Why can’t we empower the free market with incentives to offer low income housing?

As a disability board member and former chair, I know we get more complaints about West Hollywood Housing Community Corporation than any other landlord. There is a delicate balance between needs, special needs and how much WCHC can provide. It should change its name to Independent Housing Corporation and broaden its mission statement with goals to protect West Hollywood residents, and reach out for community participation and donations to help those who it serves. But let’s open the door to business incentives provided to local developers to create more affordable housing and housing for our seniors and disabled population. We can be a city that “takes care of our own” with a little creativity.

JOHN D’AMICO

Yes, the city should do all it can to help the WHCHC develop a growing list of affordable units. In addition, the city should work with the WHCHC to implement a program of rental unit upgrades to improve West Hollywood’s existing rent-controlled housing stock, making it greener, safer and affordable for another generation.

That is our true affordable housing. The rent-controlled apartments that people live in today that are affordable and need some attention should be preserved and updated. It is a good thing that we have built over 400 new, low-income, fixed rent units for seniors and the disabled through the Housing Corporation and other means, and we should build more, but those units are not available to existing residents, facing development Ellis Act evictions

BRIAN FUNNAGAN

No response.

JOE GUARDARRAMA

The City should remain a fiscal partner with the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, but as with any partnership, we need to continually re-evaluate whether the results of the partnership are still satisfying their original goals. We desperately need to provide new affordable housing in West Hollywood, and we need to explore every avenue available to make that possible, all the while maintaining the respect and dignity of current rent-controlled tenants.

JOHN HEILMAN

Yes. When the state took away the city’s redevelopment agency, we lost a large source of funding for affordable housing. To compound this problem, the state also took away money that the city had anticipated using to assist the Housing Corporation with capital improvements at several of its older buildings. Several years ago I helped the Housing Corporation start an annual fundraising dinner. The dinner now raises money that helps fund resident services. I hope the dinner will grow over time so some of the money raised can be used to support additional units.

LINDSEY HORVATH

I am a strong believer in public-private partnerships and believe the city should shore up WHCHC as it has been the anchor in our community for maintaining and increasing our affordable housing stock that has allowed West Hollywood to remain a diverse community. I think with the loss of redevelopment funds that have helped non-profit housing corporations in the state to thrive, cities must look at innovative ways to help fund affordable housing and keep alive institutions such as WHCHC.

CHRISTOPHER LANDAVAZO

No response.

JAMES “DUKE’ MASON

A lot of people are skeptical about the WHCHC. Many feel that they are not looking after the interests of the people but are instead looking after themselves (hence they are called a “Corporation”). I would only allot them funds for very specific reasons, i.e. to rehabilitate our existing affordable housing stock and to support new affordable housing projects where appropriate. But using it to unfairly evict existing affordable housing tenants (i.e. the Detroit Bungalows) or to line their own pockets is not appropriate.

LAUREN MEISTER

Like any landlord, the Community Housing Corporation needs to focus on maintaining its existing properties first before looking to build new projects as proposed for the Detroit Bungalows lot. Because state and federal laws prevent us from giving special treatment to West Hollywood residents for access to affordable housing in West Hollywood, we should consider whether working to encourage the protection and creation of more workforce housing instead of luxury units makes more sense long term over the construction of designated-affordable units for non-residents.

MATT RALSTON

I don’t know. I have contacted the Housing Corporation repeatedly to find out if they have investors, and who their investors are. In their literature they claim to have outside investors but they have not been able to provide me with a list or really confirm or deny this. The Corporation is also expanding out of West Hollywood and has buildings in Los Angeles and Glendale. To me it seems they are stretching their resources.

Much of their money comes from government grants. However we cannot encourage the Housing Corporation to tear down buildings such as the Detroit Bungalows simply to garner funds for their bank account. Development in the name of development is not a good thing.

Since I have not found transparency on this issue I don’t feel qualified to comment until I can get into office and commission an audit of the Housing Corporation. I do know that when a company claims to be going broke yet is still itching to build, something isn’t adding up. Until we know more I do not have an answer on this.

TRISTAN SCHUKRAFT

I would be in favor of continued support, for I’d rather rely on a not-profit like the West Hollywood Housing Corporation than a for-profit developer.

c) Should the city consider permitting construction of so-called “micro-units,” the very small apartments being built in cities such as San Francisco, New York and Boston to provide affordable housing for young people?

JOHN ALLENDORFER

I think the city should consider permitting construction of “micro-units.” It is trading size for the convenience of urban living. We can prepare for growth in our city or pretend its not happening. This would meet the needs of young workers and seniors. There is concern that the city would be skewing housing policy to help young people at the expense of families. And there is the danger that the city could become the modern equivalent of “19th Century” tenements. We have to be cautious and have real standards that guarantee a quality of life. We need to retain the young, creative, artistic, entrepreneurial and intellectual community that drives our economy and produces jobs that can pay the rents for these “micro-units.”

LARRY BLOCK

Yes. What’s taking so long?

JOHN D’AMICO

Yes, the city should consider micro-units, but in a limited number along the major boulevards, in mixed-use developments with larger community spaces, utility and garden areas. Micro units can address a certain problem but will not fix our housing pricing problem. The real fix comes with maintaining and upgrading our existing rent-controlled housing so that these lower scale buildings last another generation and beyond.

BRIAN FUNNAGAN

No response.

JOE GUARDARRAMA

Micro-units in concept are a good idea, but in practice they can only be successful if they are mated to other features that make low-cost city dwelling possible. Any new micro-units that would be developed in West Hollywood would need to be close to public transit and main pedestrian arteries to facilitate a pedestrian-based lifestyle. These units would need to be designed intelligently, making maximum use of all available space and providing the tenant with ample storage as well as living quarters. As with any development, new micro-units would need to fit the character and style of the neighborhood that they are a part of, so that their presence would be an enhancement to the cityscape.

JOHN HEILMAN

We should look at allowing some micro-units, but we should proceed very carefully. Micro-units sound attractive but they can result in very high density if the micro-units are all concentrated in a single building. One factor that drives up the cost of housing is the high cost of providing parking. Of course, we need to ensure that new developments have sufficient parking, but we also need to explore opportunities for parking to be provided in a less expensive manner.

LINDSEY HORVATH

I am open to various options to provide affordable housing for young people. This includes micro-units as well as live-work units and permanently affordable housing as a means of increasing the housing stock without increasing development. Whatever we do, we must consider the overall impact on the community and look at decreasing the number of cars on our streets. In other words, any new housing should be accessible to public transportation, or in the case of live-work housing, eliminate the need for using a car at all.

CHRISTOPHER LANDAVAZO

No response.

LAUREN MEISTER

The city already allows construction of micro-units and allows developers to build housing that would be affordable for young people and seniors. However, it makes more economic sense for developers to build to the maximum allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR), which leads to a city of luxury units and the bare minimum of affordable units mandated under inclusionary zoning.

I would not support, for example, decoupling parking requirements in order to encourage micro-units, but would consider reducing the allowed FAR for the housing elements of mixed-use developments along transit corridors in order to encourage the development of more affordable units for young people and seniors.

JAMES “DUKE” MASON

Micro-units have been one of my signature proposals during this campaign for City Council. Incentivizing developers to build more micro units would be my top priority as a member of the City Council. Instead of building giant condo units that only a certain income level can afford, we can provide a more diverse housing stock that seniors, young people, disabled people, low income people etc. can actually afford. That’s the West Hollywood we’ve always been and that we should always be. I don’t want us to lose the essence of what makes us who we are.

MATT RALSTON

If people will rent them, absolutely. It would lend an artistic element to the Creative City, where it seems most artists have been driven out or chosen to live in parts of LA County that more accurately reflect an artistic vibe. We need more affordable units. If people will rent them, it sounds like a good thing to me.

TRISTAN SCHUKRAFT

Yes, micro units are great for those seeking to lower their rental costs (the units typically rent for 20 to 30 percent less); ability to live closer to downtown neighborhoods, and finally the ability to live alone.  Micro unit communities are typically “hip” in design and place significant emphasis on shared communal spaces that encourage socializing and foster a sense of community. Great for seniors on a limited income and the young who seek to establish themselves in West Hollywood.

COUNCIL DEPUTIES

Recent stories have revealed conflicts among City Council deputies, the apparent misbehavior on the part of some of them, a lack of clarity about who they report to and the fact that their salaries are exceptionally high compared to others in L.A. County who do similar work. Given that:

!) Would you support eliminating the current deputy system and replacing it with staff members who report directly to the City Manager but provide services to Council members, as is the model in Beverly Hills?

JOHN ALLENDORFER

I do support eliminating the current deputy system and replacing it with staff members who report to the City Manager but provide services to Council members. What I have read in comparison to other cities of similar size like in Beverly Hills makes our system look quite out of proportion.

LARRY BLOCK

I don’t like the idea of centralizing the deputies under the city manager. I do like the idea to limit these salaries. If Michelle Rex has a compensation package that is something like $175,000, she is making more than our senators Barbara Boxer or Dianne Feinstein. The deputies should be community residents. The union is running City Hall. It’s not ours anymore.

JOHN D’AMICO

I do support a big change to the deputy system. It is long overdue but should not be done hastily or as an overreaction to the current problems. We need to be thoughtful. Primarily, whatever change we implement must come with the assurance that the system will serve the residents in both the legislative component and the resident services component. Too many times I have received calls, texts and emails complaining that the staff (including the city manager) have not understood or reacted properly to the resident’s concerns.

Having a deputy has allowed for a check and balance of the system. West Hollywood staff is very hard working, and this allows me to dig a little deeper in the interest of solving the problem in favor of the resident. I would want to be sure that any new arrangement serves the residents best, not the bureaucracy. An independent ombudsman position, and perhaps a commission that has a public face must be part of the answer.

BRIAN FUNNAGAN

No response.

JOE GUARDARRAMA

While it has become apparent that the deputy system will require a complete overhaul, we don’t gain anything by rushing towards any particular solution without doing a thorough re-evaluation of all possible options. We need to make sure that whatever we replace the deputy system with – if we do, indeed, replace it- is a marked improvement and achieves the goals that we set out for it, namely, that Council staff delivers unparalleled constituent services to the residents of West Hollywood.

JOHN HEILMAN

Yes. We’ve had some very talented people serve as deputies but the current structure has been problematic for some time. Council deputies have an allegiance to the Council member they work for, but they are also overseen by the city manager. Council members typically are working at another job and are not able to directly supervise the Council deputy.

LINDSEY HORVATH

We need to take a close look at what our next steps are – to act thoughtfully and not only react to the possible misdeeds of a few bad eggs. I am open to replacing the deputy system as long as it does not jeopardize the high level of service and responsiveness residents have come to expect. Council deputies have enabled residents to expect full-time service from the offices of Council members who are part-time and who have full-time jobs in addition to their Council duties. Whatever changes we make we must transition carefully and inform the public of these changes so that there is minimal disruption in our accessibility and responsiveness.

CHRISTOPHER LANDAVAZO

No response.

JAMES “DUKE” MASON

I don’t know if that’s the solution, but I can say that as a Council member, I would take a much more proactive role than most have in the past. Having a deputy to help me with my day-to-day administrative functions would be great, but by no means will I delegate the important responsibilities of governing. I will be a hands on advocate for the people of West Hollywood. 

LAUREN MEISTER

I agree we need to fix things on the third floor of City Hall. I do not believe we should be taking power away from elected representatives and giving it to the city manager. If we do so, we will risk making our Council’s constituent relations as opaque as the rest of City Hall can be to the average resident.

If you want to change the culture on the third floor, start by changing the City Council we elect. We can do that on March 3rd.

MATT RALSTON

I think the current system is fine. The problem stems from the caliber of people being appointed. Relatively provable allegations of spying, making illegal campaign calls from the City Hall offices, and other inappropriate behavior are completely inexcusable.

Certain Council members have appointed deputies for the sheer purpose of doing their dirty work behind closed doors. Reducing their salaries from the comfortable six-figure range complete with lofty bonuses would be a good place to start. We want to attract people who are passionate about public service, not City of Bell caliber chicanery – which we are verging on.

Limiting the pay incentives would stop attracting types who fantasize that they’re pulling strings on House of Cards and not simply working for the Council and to a further extent the people of West Hollywood.

Get the right people on the council and they’ll appoint honest deputies who aren’t weirdos. The problem will correct itself. It starts from the top down.

TRISTAN SCHUKRAFT

No response.

2) If you do not support Option No. 1, what steps would you push the City Council to take to resolve the issues with the current deputy system?

JOHN ALLENDORFER

See above.

LARRY BLOCK

One idea might be to allow deputies to rotate between offices instead of being beholden to one Council member. Another idea would be that deputies need to be approved by three-fifths of the Council members. This might create a more cohesive atmosphere for them to work together. The deputies should be working for the people of the city and not be a single Council member’s personal bodyguard. The deputy can follow through on the Council members’ vision. And Council members should be able to work with more than one deputy, who would become their “campaign manager” rather than serve the people.

JOHN D’AMICO

I support Option No. 1.

BRIAN FUNNAGAN

No response.

JOE GUARDARRAMA

Firstly, we need to have a new ethics policy for the deputies that includes ethics training and disclosure requirements. Additionally, we need to have strict new regulations that precisely spell out the roles of deputies, including how they interact with press as well as other Council offices. We should also take a fresh look at what can be written off as a “city expenditure” for deputies, as well as how benefits and salary are determined.

At the end of the day, the issue that we need to tackle is whether or not the current system does what it was originally set up to do. If the answer to that question is “no,” then we need to devise a new system that will better serve the people of West Hollywood.

JOHN HEILMAN

I support Option No. 1, but if the Council does not adopt Option No. 1, we need to at least obtain an outside review of the current structure and implement some measures to ensure that the deputies are properly serving the public.

LINDSEY HORVATH

See above.

CHRISTOPHER LANDAVAZO

No response.

JAMES “DUKE” MASON

If I’m elected, I’ll appoint a deputy who reflects my own temperament, which means they won’t participate in the same old petty bickering that has gridlocked City Hall in the last few years. I think appointing mature deputies who are focusing on working together toward the common good, instead of advancing personal political agendas, is an important step. 

LAUREN MEISTER

I think we should give Council members more flexibility in how they manage their offices by adopting a system similar to Los Angeles. Give each Council member an annual budget and let them appropriate it as they see fit to hire at-will staff. For what some Council deputies are being paid, you could hire two or more people who would probably be able to do a better job (for example, you could have a field deputy that works with constituents and a legislative deputy who works on city policies).

MATT RALSTON

Thoroughly investigate the several deputies accused of abusing their position and fire them without a severance package. Investigate who told them to break the law and deal with that situation if anything develops. Replace them with people who have proven leadership qualities and don’t allow them any other paid positions in the city of West Hollywood.

TRISTAN SCHUKRAFT

No response.


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Peter
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Peter

Matthew Ralston knows what he is talking about. Listen to him. He is absolutely correct when he says that is has to start from the top and work its way down. City Council needs an overhaul – new people, new ideas and he is just the person to bring about positive change. He’s fresh and he will get things done. As a long time Weho resident, he has won my vote.

Shit Sexists Say (@shitsexistssay3)
Guest

I agree with sheilalightfoot. Lauren Meister “nailed it.” Lauren gets it. And she will get my vote.

Very Concerned Citizen
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Very Concerned Citizen

@ joetheplummber (your spelling not mine) since you have all the answers, how come you are not running for a council seat? 😉

joetheplummber
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joetheplummber

Matt Ralston and Lauren Meister have the stand-out answers here! Matt calls people “wierdos” and Lauren thinks we need to give money to landlords and make more “work-force housing.” My analysis: 1) Matt–Wierdos are as people are. 2) Lauren. You really don’t understand the need for rent-control protections, more affordable housing and you seek to empower a richer West Hollywood. that is not homeowneresq. like you. ;-(

Bernadette Parinello
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Bernadette Parinello

How naive! Heilman has been in office for 30 years, Damico for 4. If they really wanted to fix the deputy situation, they would have done it. Damico is the one who hired Michelle Rex and gave her that $175,000 salary (more than the governor and more than senators Feinstein and Boxer!). Do the deputies even live in WeHo? Wouldn’t it make sense that the people representing the council be required to live here? If they did, they would also spend lots of their 6-figure salaries here.

Lynn
Guest
Lynn

Ms. Meister: When the code regarding “height averaging” was removed from the ordinance do you recall 1. Who voted in favor of its removal ? 2. How and where did you speak about it at the time? 3.Once removed, did you continue to lobby any of the council members reinforcing its importance and attempt to reinstate it?

Alison
Guest
Alison

Don’t force micro-units on seniors…they are fine for the young, who have never had full-sized apartments. A micro-unit would seem like a prison cell to someone who has.

Brian Holt
Guest
Brian Holt

Hellman and D’Amico speaking my language on deputies solutions. The fact that they are clearly aware that this system is broken AND are willing to change/fix it restores some faith. Any candidate with a less than approach – c’ya. No way I’m going ur way. This is scandalous and anything short of an overall simply will not due. Get a clue.

Riley
Guest
Riley

@Mr. Block – does that mean you are anti-union?

sheilalightfoot
Guest

The loss of affordable housing and development are inextricably linked. The more monetary incentives developers have, the more they’re going to tear down existing rent control buildings and replace them with condos or apartments far beyond affordability for the average West Hollywood resident. The root of our problems, beyond the state mandates though Ellis and Costa-Hawkins, are the additional incentives doled out by our City Council. Lauren Meister nailed it. Read her answers again – she has concrete, well-reasoned solutions that could go a long way TODAY – changes that are in the complete control of the City Council. Reinstating… Read more »