City Council Hearing on 826 N. Kings Rd. Shows Shifting Views on Affordable Housing

Illustration of proposed 826 N. Kings Rd. project
Illustration of proposed 826 N. Kings Rd. project

The West Hollywood City Council agreed last night to send a proposal for a new development at 826 N. Kings Rd. back to the Planning Commission for reconsideration, a decision that hints at a shift in the newly installed Council’s approach to affordable housing and its awareness that its vote on the matter could have an impact on the hotly contested June 2 Council election.

The Council’s decision came after a group of local residents organized as United Neighbors for Responsible Development (UNRED) appealed a decision by the Planning Commission last October to approve the project. The developer, Demetri Darmos, proposes to construct a building with 34 apartments on a half-acre lot now occupied by a single house. The five-story building would include five units for low- and moderate-income people, a requirement under city law. While the size of the lot means only 25 apartments would ordinarily be permitted under the city zoning ordinance, the city and state laws that require the addition of affordable housing for a building of that size also allow a developer to increase the density of the building by 35 percent.

The UNRED group protested last night that the new project was too big for the area and that it would cause unacceptable increases in traffic on the street, make parking even more difficult and have an negative impact on the Schindler House, the building across the street designated as an historic treasure. It also said the project would have a negative impact on the Charlie Hotel, a house once occupied by Charlie Chaplin and converted into inn that sits behind the property. It does not have an official historic designation. The group also argued that the state drought emergency is reason not to permit new housing construction in West Hollywood and that the city does not need more affordable housing.

Detailed studies by the city’s Department of Community Development and traffic and other consultants hired by the developer refuted those contentions. The Community Development Department also noted that the project received the approval of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

The Council’s discussion of the appeal revealed a split on attitudes about affordable housing. Mayor Lindsey Horvath objected to the argument raised by neighbors of the project that there already were 106 affordable housing units nearby and that more weren’t needed. However Councilmember John D’Amico objected to including affordable housing on site, saying he wanted the building to be 25 percent smaller and that the developer would have to make a contribution to the city’s affordable housing trust fund.  “The affordable housing tale has been wagging the tail of the development dog in our city for too long,” he said. “Our city is too dense by half. We have 18,000 residents per square mile. It is too much. It is just too much.”

Councilmember John Duran noted in response to D’Amico that the city has always been that densely populated. Duran said he would prefer that the building be only four stories high to blend better with others on the street, but that he approved it overall. The five-story building would be similar in height to nine others on Kings Road.

The majority of the 90 residents who spoke before the Council on the project last night were opposed to it as were dozens of people who didn’t speak but listed themselves as being in opposition. The potential political impact of the opponents was evident in the appearance before the Council of Larry Block, Cole Ettman and Heidi Shink, candidates in the June 2 City Council election, who spoke against it. Shink, a member of the Planning Commission, voted in October to approve the project. She has said her change of opinion was sparked by the UNRED group’s argument that new construction will increase water usage during a time of drought. John Heilman, the former City Council member against whom the other three candidates are running, did not appear at the meeting.

The Council was rescued from making a difficult decision to possibly reject the appeal by a last minute decision by the developer to also ask that the proposal be returned to the Planning Commission. That is because of  the possibility that he might be able to make a payment to the city’s affordable housing fund rather than include units for low- and moderate-income tenants. A 2009 decision by a state appellate court in what is called the Palmer case effectively invalidated the City of Los Angeles’ requirement that developers include housing for low- and moderate-income people in their projects. As a result cities are looking at other options including requiring a developer to make a payment that the city can use to fund such housing.

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jimmypalmieri
jimmypalmieri
5 years ago

Reality does not matter to rabid NIMBY’s

JacobD
JacobD
5 years ago

Come on guys…. The drought argument is BS… If the future residents were living in this new building, or somewhere else in Los Angeles (or anywhere in California for that matter), they would still be consuming the same amount of water! And California would still be in a drought! It’s a net zero effect! In fact, new buildings are so much more environmentally friendly (and less likely to have leaks) that we would probably be saving water! Also, CEQA environmental laws require things like sewer/water/traffic studies, so claims that the infrastructure cannot handle a small building like this are clearly… Read more »

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
5 years ago

Using the drought as a reason not to develop housing is absurd. The people that move into these units are presumably already using water in their daily lives. Their consumpltion is not likely to increase, in fact, replacing existing housing with new housing result in better efficiencies and safety standards over all (energy & water efficiencie, earthquake safety). With these new standards, new housing developments include more water efficient appliances (toilet, showers, sinks, dishwashers, clothes washers), an automatic decrease in water usage for landscaping (water usage associated with landscaping multi-family homes is generally lower than the water usage for single-family… Read more »

kingsrd
kingsrd
5 years ago

Wake up. This drought is a huge deal. Worse in 1200 years. Property values are going to plummet! Conserve water. Developers watch out it’s going to get really bad if things don’t change very soon with this drought.

http://la.curbed.com/archives/2015/05/drought_could_force_catalina_restaurants_to_use_paper_plates.php

@morgfair Devastating photos of California show how bad the drought really is http://read.bi/1KmDuqr via @BI_Science

Chris Sanger
Chris Sanger
5 years ago

http://bhcourier.com/beverly-hills-news-city-council-enacts-stage-d-emergency-water-conservation-ordinance/
This is what the BH Council enacted last night, including for those of us in WeHo under their control. As indicated, no penalties nor required reductions nor add’l costs for tier 1 users (which would include most of us in their Weho area).

Randy
Randy
5 years ago

Yes, Jimmy, ridiculous arguments from NIMBYs, a lot of whom jump on the bandwagon of opposing anything and everything. 34 units would not add much to the city’s density. That’s not even 100 new residents (assuming less than 3 per unit). West Hollywood has maintained a population density that has remained largely unchanged for almost the entire history of the city. A lot of these people knew that when they moved in, and didn’t seem to have a problem living in a dense area at that time? But NOW its too dense? How selfish of them. Stop ALL development because… Read more »

kingsrd
kingsrd
5 years ago

It’s not just 30-40 units on 826 n. kings; there are 48 units coming to end of Kings Rd/SMB plus retail. That’s a lot more congestion and parking concerns for those who live on this street or visit Kings Road Park, Schindlers house, etc. And if the city allows development of 1028/1030 Kings too the city has really lost its mind. Required environmental, traffic and water studies must be done or the projects are illegal. And there will be ramifications for misguided and illegal projects. And yes every extra unit matters during a severe drought that is the worse it’s… Read more »

Frank D
Frank D
5 years ago

Chris your information is just wrong. All users are subject to no less than 25% state mandated cutbacks. Failure to do so will result in fines. Those are the facts. ALL users not some. Please check with your water agency for information.

Henry E. (Hank) Scott
Admin
5 years ago
Reply to  Frank D

@Frank D. That is incorrect. There is an overall cutback of 25 percent mandated by the Governor. As we have written, the allocation of that cutback depends on water usage records of various water districts. Beverly Hills, which serves the Westside of West Hollywood, will have to implement a 36 percent cutback. It hopes to do that, in part, by assessing extra charges on its heaviest water users. Some users will see no increase in water charges while others will see substantial increases.

yrtez
yrtez
5 years ago

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.~
Thomas Jefferson

Pace yourself west hollywood. Do it right. Consider the voices of your people (neighbors directly affected by these constructions..it’s their back yard); they deserve to be listened to.

jimmypalmieri
jimmypalmieri
5 years ago

As i said, this has nothing to do with the good of the city, it is simply NIMBY. SAY IT LIKE IT IS…..N-I-M-B-Y. I LIVE ON KINGS ROAD…..I DO NOT SEE WHICH PART IS OVERCROWDED AND CONGESTED. TALK ABOUT MYOPIC. What I do notice, is that people who are not speaking with correct info. do not use their names to comment.

90069
90069
5 years ago

Weho’s population has barely changed in 20 years! This is a gorgeous project that is a right fit for Kings Road. Those that are against it are just whipped up by their favorite politicians whom are scrambling to find votes. Enough of the lies, this project or any other planned would have absolutely NO impact on the drought in California. Are you kidding me? Most water in the state is used by farms not constructing a 30 unit condo on the Westside. Are these same people also chaining themselves to bulldozers in DTLA making way for 50+ story skyscrapers? Of… Read more »

Manny
Manny
5 years ago

An empty appeal and a “symphony” of bad behavior.