WeHo’s ‘Movietown Square’ Opens Its Doors Thursday to Senior Residents

View of the Hollywood Hills from the north-facing terrace of Movietown Square.
View of the Hollywood Hills from the north-facing terrace of Movietown Square.

People will begin moving tomorrow into a building that is the first to be completed on the Movietown Plaza site and the latest project of the West Hollywood Community Housing Corporation.

The 77-unit apartment building on Poinsettia Place south of Santa Monica Boulevard will provide low- and moderate-income housing for people 62 years old and older. It offers a range of amenities including a gym and two community center rooms, one with tables and an open range for cooking classes and the other with a gas fireplace, a large television monitor and computers for the use of residents.

corner-unit-viewBeneath the five-story courtyard building will be Trader Joe’s, the popular grocery store that was demolished in 2013 when the site was being prepared for construction of what now is dubbed Avalon West Hollywood, a project of Avalon Bay Communities. That project is designed by MVE & Partners of Irvine as is the WHCHC building. It will include 294 market-rate housing units and 32,300 square feet of retail space that will house Trader Joe’s along with restaurants and shops. It is nearing completion.

WHCHC is the non-profit agency that has built much of the city’s housing for low-income and elderly and disabled people. Robin Conerly, WHCHC’s executive director, said it decided to name its building “Movietown Square” to acknowledge the history of the site. Formerly a strip mall, it is located to the west of The Lot, which since 1918 has housed film studios such as Pickford-Fairbanks Studios and United Artists. Applications will be taken from prospective residents who live in West Hollywood and already are on the city’s lengthy affordable housing waiting list. For seniors to qualify they must earn between 30% and 60% of the Los Angeles County median income of $62,400.

Conerly and Jesse Slansky, WHCHC’s director of real estate development, took WEHOville on a tour of the building recently. The interiors were designed by Mister Important Design, a firm whose projects have included the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs and the W hotel in San Diego as well as other Avalon residential projects.

Slansky noted various aspects of the design and furnishings intended to accommodate seniors, especially those with disabilities. They include low kitchen counters, community room chairs with arm rests and flat bases to prevent them from overturning easily and grab bars adjacent to bath tubs. A few units are furnished with devices for those who have hearing or sight problems. For example, a loudspeaker or flashing light can alert a resident that someone is at his or her door.

Various aspects of the building are designed to bring its residents together. They include gardening containers on the roof, which offers a sweeping view of the Hollywood Hills to the north, and the community rooms.

More images of Movietown Square are on the pages that follow.

  1. I like that the city is helping provide housing for low income seniors, but I think it would also benefit the city to build more low to moderate income housing for young people who are employed locally but can’t afford rent here. It would help to keep a mix of different ages. Helping people who are starting out is an investment in the future.

  2. Income limits are determined by the Area Median Income (AMI), a number based on all incomes, and calculated annually by HUD. The AMI is the “middle” number of all of the incomes for the given area; 50% of people in that area make more than that amount, and 50% make less than that amount. The income levels are percentages of that AMI number: any household income at or below 80% of the AMI is considered “low-income”; above 80% and up to 120% of the median income is considered “moderate- income.” Above this is “middle-income.”

    At Movietown; 10% of the units are limited to 30% AMI– Extremely Low Income; 60% are Very Low Income and 30% are Low Income. There are no Moderate Income units.

    We can always use more affordable housing (at any level).

  3. @Steve Martin: What is the breakdown of those 77 units between the Low Income and Moderate Income levels? From what I understand…Weho has consolidated Very Low Income and Low Income into one level. I haven’t seen any developments looking solely for “Moderate Income” levels either.

  4. Manny has it right; we need developers to build affordable housing on site rather than pay the “in lieu fee”. It will result in more units being built while creating less of an incentive to demolish rent controlled buildings.

    What is really crucial is the number of very low income units in Avalon. The system we have breaks units down to very low, low and moderate units. The developers want as many moderate as possible but these units are very often out of reach for the very low income people who need the help the most. There is a shortage of very affordable units as developers obviously want as few of them as possible. 77 units is great but our need for vey low income units is not being met.

  5. I’m curious if a senior or disabled person who lives in a rent-stabilized apartment qualifies for any of these new units? It would seem to undermine creating affordable housing, as each vacated rent-stabilized unit would then be raised to market value. I would hope that local residents on fixed incomes due to age or disability who are facing eviction due to the Ellis Act are at the top of the list; otherwise, I think the others need to stay put.

  6. @John. Such a hateful response and putting a blanket stereotype on all kinds of people. Your comments might have some validity if wages had increased with the cost of living anywhere in SoCal. But it hasn’t and people can’t live here. A once affordable studio apartment in a crappy building that ran for $700 15 years ago is now around $1800. Just telling disabled Americans or those not as fortunate as you to “go out and get a job” show’s how uninformed you are on seniors, people living and struggling with various disabilities or veterans. You’re free to express your opinion…but you have no right to mock or think you’re superior in any way because things worked out for you.

  7. I never understand the thinking of some of these people. “I haven’t had a job in my entire adult life. Now I’m 62. When do I get my free brand new luxury-style apartment paid for by working people?” Do you notice how you never hear people say, “I was born in Mexico and pulled out of school in third grade. I’m educationally disabled. Where’s my free apartment?” or “I have an IQ of 82, so I’m below average and I want to be recognized as disabled. Where my free apartment?” or “I grew up in Baldwin Hills. I’m disabled from the stress of hearing gunshots down the hill. I need a free apartment in West Hollywood for the rest of my life, and I can’t work”?

    Millions of people live in Los Angeles and struggle hard from cradle to grave, often living in dumpy, shared apartments in crime-ridden neighborhoods. Nobody gives them a free, glass-walled beauty of an apartment with free cooking classes paid for by the very same working people struggling cradle to grave. Not everyone is born a superstar or as one half of a power couple, raking in huge salaries and finding success and making it look easy. This does not mean they are disabled. That’s part of life. Half of people are below average. Imagine if everyone thinking life is hard said they’re “disabled” and started demanding free apartments.

    I note how some of these “disabled” commentators manage to permanently monitor multiple websites and be one of the first to make a negative comment on every story about something that doesn’t benefit them. There’s a story about West Hollywood being a gay city? “There are straight people in the city, too!” Story about gay men? “There are women here, too!” Gay pride? “Waste of money, straight women deserve recognition!” New apartment building? “Where’s my free new apartment?”

    Being “disabled” and qualifying for public assistance should mean that you are so impaired that you cannot read, type, use a computer or sit in a chair during a typical day. But by appearances, some of these “disabled” commentators are perfectly able to be online all time looking for stories to complain about. With the advent of the Internet, there are plenty of work at home gigs that people can build on. Bookkeeping is a great possibility. You can make $40 an hour and work when you’re able to. Doing that less than half time would give someone the income to qualify for this building, or to get a cheap apartment somewhere else (people who have lived in West Hollywood for 40 years moved here because it was cheap and dumpy – now they’re complaining they aren’t given a luxury apartment at the top of the housing ladder as the neighborhood is gentrified). In other words, they could work half time at their own pace at a comfortable job and still do better than millions of low income people who work hard to scrape by all around Los Angeles and live in worse housing situations with no money coming from the government.

    But, no, they can’t do that! After doing no work for forty years, they have to complain and complain that the city isn’t recognizing them as special and giving them more free stuff and a brand new apartment that’s nicer than what the majority of their working neighbors can afford at market rates. I’ll never understand this.

    If you are truly disabled, I feel bad for you. That’s why you’re given social security. You’re free to use that money how you want – you can live in an expensive city, at the bottom of the housing ladder, or you can move to an affordable place and be average. If you want to move up, figure out how to do some work to supplement your income or do something to find real friends who will help you out because of the friendship you give them in return. Whatever it is, don’t complain that average, working people around you aren’t falling all over themselves to elevate you above themselves.

  8. 77 units!…..of REAL sustainable affordable housing. If you ever wonder were “in lieu” fees go, here it is.

    Another great project by the WHCHC.

  9. Unbelievable that even before the list was reopened in July 2013 (for a month) there were already 2,000 people on the waiting list. It truly could be a 10 year+ wait for someone.

  10. I am 65 year old woman, a disabled vet, and have lived in We Ho for 33 years. I have never been able to get on the low income inclusionary list. I know I am not the only one in this situation. What about us?

  11. We really need to do something about our local citizens who are not able to get into the lottery that is open to all Los Angeles but these buildings come to roost in our neighborhood but often do not help the seniors and disabled folks who live here longest and need it the most.

    1. Larry – all 77 of the Movietown Square senior affordable housing units built by the West Hollywood Housing Corporation “WHCHC” will be occupied EXCLUSIVELY by West Hollywood seniors from the City’s inclusionary wait list. It took me 5 minutes of Internet research to learn that fact. If you are going to be a serious candidate for City Council this March, it would be nice if your get your facts straight.

  12. I’m happy that there are at least 77 low income units…but its nothing compared to that list that has been closed since 2013. How nice if all 200+ of these apartments had been for all low-income folks. I’m sure a market-rate 1-bedroom will be over $2000 here…which is just absurd.

  13. While the concept of this project if very favorable it’s unfortunate that the “important design” concept was overlooked for the exterior. Please let the McBoxes die alongside the McMansions which are contributing to bright and shiny oppressive blight in California supposedly the land of sunshine, courtyards and enjoyment of the natural environment.

  14. I am 62, disabled, but Social Security Disability doesn’t pay me enough to qualify PLUS I have never been able to get on the list for WHCHC. I have lived in WeHo since before Cityhood. Sure would be nice to get out the apartment I have been in for 38 yrs.

  15. Wow – this is an exceptional project. Hats off to WHCHC for delivering such a great building targeted for low income seniors. It’s nice to see how an affordable housing development can co-exist with a larger market rate project, and it’s especially nice to think how the Trader Joes and other retail amenities will really make daily task easier for the senior residents.

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