Opinion: Let’s Protect What Makes West Hollywood Special

What makes West Hollywood so special is the people who live here and the neighborhoods we live in. Our City is comprised of seven distinct neighborhoods, each with their own unique character. From the Russian-speaking community on the Eastside, mid-city and Boystown, to the Norma Triangle, Sunset Boulevard, and the beautiful homes of West Hollywood West, every area has its own landmarks and tells its own story. We must protect the historical integrity and significance of neighborhoods all over the City while embracing innovative ideas and new solutions to old problems as we evolve. But moving forward should not mean erasing the past. Yet that’s exactly the philosophy which has been standard in City Hall for the last three decades.

Heidi Shink
Heidi Shink

While West Hollywood has only been an incorporated city for 30 years, the area in which the city is situated has been there much, much longer. As a longtime Eastside resident, I take a special pride in Plummer Park, which sits just blocks from my home. I often take the brief walk over, bringing along a book and my dogs and stop under one of the large old-growth trees to sit and read. I see young families playing with their children while the strains of older men and women speaking Russian as they play chess or share the news of their lives fills my ears.

When the City Council was determined to raze Plummer Park to the ground to make room for a more “modern” facility, I worked with a small group of activists, including Cathy Blavis and Stephanie Harker, to save the park, and we came up with a legal strategy which provided a stay at the 11th hour. Fiesta Hall and Great Hall/Long Hall are some of the last and best remaining examples of the Spanish architecture that used to dot the landscape before the area was even known as West Hollywood, and they provide character and historical context to this vital Eastside community resource. Equally important to the history it represents is the community that loves the park as is and uses it in its current form. That alone is cause to preserve it.

Across town, as a Planning Commissioner, I helped the residents of West Hollywood West create the city’s first Neighborhood Overlay Zone. This allowed the residents to decide how they wanted their neighborhood to evolve, and they now had a way to actually dictate terms to developers, rather than the other way around. I am very proud of this outcome, and I believe that we need to replicate this success in every neighborhood in the City. The needs of mid-city are not the needs of the Norma Triangle or the Eastside Russian-speaking community; Neighborhood overlay zones recognize that and provide a mechanism for neighborhoods to determine their own future.

But more than just historic preservation, fighting for our neighborhoods means fighting for our neighbors. As our affordable housing stock dwindles and some property owners abuse the Ellis Act as a way to evict rent-controlled tenants, we need to ensure that our aging population and our entire community of renters are protected and have a strong voice in City Council. While the Ellis Act is state law and, as such, cannot be changed by West Hollywood City Hall, we can create more robust local ordinances that apply to the administration of the Ellis Act within our city to protect vulnerable communities. I would also call for a six-month to one-year moratorium on evictions while the City Council comes up with concrete solutions to better protect renters from being Ellised out of their homes.

Just as importantly, we need to incentivize property owners to retain and refurbish existing buildings rather than simply sell them off by offering low-interest capital improvement loans through the city. By preserving buildings, rather than continually tearing down and re-constructing – as City Hall has done for the last 30 years – we not only keep people in the affordable housing that they have enjoyed for years, but we keep traffic interruptions caused by construction to a minimum as well as shrink our environmental impact.

Make no mistake – cur City needs to forge a path into the future, and we cannot remain mired in the status quo as we have in many areas. We need to start utilizing the modern 21st Century tools that cities around the country are already using to combat traffic and parking issues. We also need to maintain and grow our social services programs which reflect the core values that this city was founded on.

We must continually strive to safeguard the architectural integrity of our neighborhoods. Does this mean an end to future building? Of course not. But it does mean that we cannot continue to sacrifice the unique charms of this city to the concrete and glass behemoths whose only purpose is to provide high-dollar townhouses and condominium sales rather than contributing to the character of our neighborhoods and serving the needs of its residents, who are 80 percent renters.

The successes we’ve had in protecting our neighborhoods on the Eastside and on the Westside didn’t happen because of one person. They worked because the community spoke up in one voice and demanded that City Hall hear what it had to say, but we’re quickly losing ground to the bulldozers and cranes that seem to be on every block across the City.

We can and should protect both our neighborhoods and our neighbors while we move our city forward into the future.

Heidi Shink, a writer and activist, is a candidate in the June 2 election for West Hollywood City Council.

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Jennifer
Jennifer
5 years ago

@DK Thank you for your words of clarification. “Gay Majority” is an interesting term depending on how you define it. The politically correct term is the LGBTQQIIA community. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Interested and Ally. I think if you include those that are Allies, people like Lauren Meister and Abbe Land as well as Lindsey Horvath you obviously have a “Gay” Majority in West Hollywood, or at the very least a group that supports diversity. My personal impression is that Gay men in West Hollywood (my friends) all say Black men are hot and they wish there… Read more »

DK
DK
5 years ago

@Jennifer, I was referring to two things: 1) The fact that hype aside, West Hollywood is not in fact “majority gay” as some have stated, it’s 40% gay. 40% is obviously not a majority (51%+). Gays are integral to West Hollywood, and I would argue that West Hollywood’s large gay population relative to other municipalities that has made the city so vital and special. But you don’t need to falsify the meaning of the word “majority” to make that point. 2) The fact that the issues Shink is addressing are important to gays (and to everyone else). Traffic, congestion, overdevelopment,… Read more »

Henry (Hank) Scott
Admin
5 years ago
Reply to  DK

The letter to which you refer says the Shink campaign may not use money raised for the March 2014 election in the June 2 election and notes that the campaign treasurer altered the date on a filing to indicate that the campaign intended to do that.

DK
DK
5 years ago

Thank you Hank, so the dispute is that she is using, or alleged to be using, money raised before the alteration of the date and that’s illegal? Or that she is planning to use such monies? All so internecine. I suspect someone will be able to prove something sooner or later.

Kim Schneider
Kim Schneider
5 years ago

It seems no one has thought to mention that the City Clerk would not have known to inform Shink that she was in potential violation of the law if Shink hadn’t sent her an accurate and honest campaign finance statement. I call this an honest and easily corrected mistake.

Lynn
Lynn
5 years ago
Reply to  Kim Schneider

Campaign contributions have been a front, hot burner issue for some time. It is one’s business and responsibility to have this scrupulously in order. No honest mistakes, no do overs.

Jennifer
Jennifer
5 years ago

@DK: Could you please clarify what you mean when you say: “Those who criticize Shink for not allegedly not speaking to West Hollywood’s “gay” majority have zero credibility?”

Does the double negative (not/not) mean she has been silent? I am just trying to understand what Ms. Shank has spoken for and to whom and when?

Thank you in advance for the clarification.

DK
DK
5 years ago

Those who criticize Shink for not allegedly not speaking to West Hollywood’s “gay” majority have zero credibility: 60% of of West Hollywood is not gay. Oops. A sizable chunk of West a Hollywood is gay, but maybe Shink ‘s critics should look up the definition of the word “majority.” I’m insulted by identity politics in general, and by the suggestion that any identity groups pet issues matter more than anyone else’s based on their identity alone. The suggestion that gay males are a majority of WeHo when they are not speaks to the arrogance of some of Heilman’s supporters. They,… Read more »

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
5 years ago

We keep hearing about 20 years of advocacy and now 30 years of advocacy. It seems like nobody in West Hollywood ever saw or heard about Ms. Shink until she and her City Council allies started positioning her to run for office. She appears to be the most dedicated LBGTQ advocate we have never heard of. Interestingly the only issue I ever heard her speak about at a City Council meeting was to advocate that we hold a special election for Jeff Prang’s seat rather than fill the position by an appointment. Glad to hear she is now willing to… Read more »

Lynn
Lynn
5 years ago

If Ms. Shink were to receive a report card for her deliberations and decisions on Planning Commission it would be interesting to see the grade. A philosophy and a campaign of “Me, Myself & I” does not necessarily qualify one as a viable and reasoned public servant. Lack of judgement in decisions and in choosing campaign shapers and supporters appears emblematic in addition to adopting the efforts of others as one’s own.

Guillermo
Guillermo
5 years ago

From what I understand Heidi had a friend whose mother was in town and she stopped into the BH Hotel to say hi. Now, her 30 years of advocacy over LGBTQ issues, being the vice-Chair of Outreach for the Stonewall Democrats, and membership in the California Lesbian project no longer count as her “walking the walk” when it comes to LGBTQ issues because she was seen in a hotel? The only mistake she made was not telling the truth, which is that being seen at the BH doesn’t indicate her support of sharia law or lack of support of LGBT… Read more »

joetheplummber
joetheplummber
5 years ago

@all: Ms. Shink is off-key. Suggestion: stop with the “me me me me me.” No one “believes” this crap, well except maybe . . .

One of Cassandra's Snakes
One of Cassandra's Snakes
5 years ago

@Mike Dolan, wow ” our city’s newest and hip and happening neighborhood”??? What is hip and happening about gigantic, dreary apartment buildings? Most of the retail space in the Huxley and the Dylan is still empty. Apparently, no one can afford the rent. There’s a day spa, a hair salon and maybe that big chain restaurant will open sometime. But nothing else. We have no hope that things will get any better with two more gigantic buildings. Thank God Trader’s is hopefully coming back, it could be the only saving grace. As for OWN and Will Farrell Prods., average citizens… Read more »

Brad
Brad
5 years ago

Yay John, could not agree more.. the people voting of Heidi are not voting for her,.. they are voting against Heilman. She has not stood up for anything except that whole ‘woman on the council thing..(we have 2).. or the ‘election versus selection’ nothing issues. She was a pawn in the D’Amico / Joe endorsement thing and she is still a pawn. While she sits on the board of the Beverly Hills West Hollywood Democratic Club they voted against her! That says a lot!

Mike Dolan
Mike Dolan
5 years ago

@John, Exceptional commentary and spot on. You have sized up Heidi Shink’s relentless pandering and her blatant and oh-so-obvious puffery. Where would this City be if not for her!?! Not only has Ms. Shink not mentioned our LGBT community but her own actions support your claim about gay men! However, she claims she does not discriminate regarding Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgender communities in her self-serving, step on everyone you can as she photo-op’s her way to a council seat. Let’s reconsider her actions and about-turns. She will cross picket lines, accept Invitations to host events from those that would see… Read more »