The Citizens’ Agenda 2017: The Issues WeHo Residents Want City Council Candidates to Address

election 2017, west hollywood city councilTen candidates will be on the ballot for the March 7 West Hollywood City Council election. One incumbent has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the race and the other already has held at least fundraising event.

So now it’s time for West Hollywood residents (rather than campaign consultants and major donors) to begin setting the agenda for the 2017 race.

As in 2015, WEHOville wants to know what questions you think candidates for the two seats on the City Council should address in their campaigns. What matters to you? What matters to the future of our city?

Please email me at with your ideas about what the candidates should be addressing if they want to get your vote. (Next Monday, Jan. 2, we’ll post on WEHOville a list of the most frequently mentioned issues and will begin soliciting responses from council candidates)

Here are a few issues that are clear, given the events of the past year:


Several of the challengers in the upcoming election are likely to focus on the opposition of some residents to the increase in housing density in West Hollywood,  with the opening of projects such as the Huxley and Dylan and soon the Avalon West Hollywood and the Domain. Those residents argue that increased development means more traffic and erodes the “urban village” quality of life in WeHo. The other side of the argument is that more housing is needed to slow the large increase in the cost of housing, which is making West Hollywood unaffordable to many. That argument is that an increase in demand without an increase in supply makes costs rise. We West Hollywood residents will want to know where the council candidates stand on this issue.


The City of West Hollywood has a strong rent stabilization program. But the state Ellis Act allows building owners to take rent-stabilized units off the market and evict their tenants. And state law allows a landlord to raise the rent of a rent-stabilized unit to the market level if the current tenant leaves. The result has been a slow erosion of the number of affordable housing units in WeHo. That erosion has been ameliorated somewhat by city requirements that developers of buildings of 10 or more units add affordable units or contribute to a city fund to build such units. But is that enough, especially considering the size of the waiting list for affordable housing? Are there other steps the city should be taking to ensure that current residents can continue to afford their homes and that the city will be able to welcome newcomers who aren’t wealthy?


This is an issue that’s never likely to go away in Los Angeles County, known worldwide for its focus on the automobile. Is the traffic really getting worse in West Hollywood? If so, is it because WeHo is a major pass-through point from commuters moving back and forth from East Los Angeles to Westside cities such as Beverly Hills and Santa Monica? To what degree is new housing development in WeHo a factor? Given that most WeHo residents don’t work here, and most WeHo workers don’t live here, could the city reduce traffic by providing more affordable housing for its service economy workers and/or supporting more creative economy jobs for its residents? Are there other possible solutions?


West Hollywood has long promoted itself as a progressive city, which is true given its support for LGBT rights and Russian-speaking immigrants and seniors. But consider that a writer for another publication in Los Angeles describes WeHo as “the most progressive city money can buy.”

Whether or not that is true, the city certainly has an optics issue that is provocatively illustrated by that writer’s description. On the positive side, the City Council in the past year has implemented a number of ethics reform measures. But the fact that most of the money donated to City Council members’ election campaigns has come from out-of-town developers and some from city vendors adds to the council’s pay-for-play image.

Consider the decision to grant Townscape Partners, a major donor to the incumbents, permission to nearly double the size of a development at 8899 Beverly Blvd. that already was three times the size currently permitted under the city’s General Plan. Should the City Council  have undertaken an overall review of the plan rather than chipped it away on Townscape’s behalf? Should the developer have had to make a stronger case for the City Council to grant such an exception? Perhaps creation of a certain number of new jobs or provision of a certain number of low-income housing units? And should council members who benefited from thousands of dollars in donations from Townscape and its owners and their families have recused themselves from voting on such a major project?

Another optics issue is the involvement of Councilmember John Duran in the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus, whose board he chairs. GMCLA has received huge donations from Athens Services, the city’s trash vendor. And the City Council has extended Athens’ contract with West Hollywood by 15 years, an extension worth an estimated $150 million to Athens, without putting it out to bid to see if it could get a better deal.  By all objective accounts, the Athens extension was a smart one.  But given the donations to Duran’s favorite charity and to his election campaigns, it doesn’t look good.

Of course there are many other issues candidates should address. We’d like to hear your thoughts, written in the form of a question you’d like to see WEHOville put to a candidate. And please frame that question so the candidate is required to give a “yes” or “no” answer — no “if’s,” “ands,” or “buts.”

  1. A Concerned Citizen, I suppose you can have that agreement with your tenants, but it should have nothing to do with WeHo City Hall. It’s none of their business.

  2. Blueeyedboy,

    I don’t know exactly how “no sub-letting” applies to AirBnB, but my lease to my tenants says that they have to report anyone staying longer than 7 days (I think), so that wouldn’t cover most AirBnB visits. Standard lease language was probably mostly written before AirBnB took off. As a landlord, and an AirBnB host (in my own home), I don’t want my tenants to host on AirBnB. As mentioned before, that might seem hypocritical, but I want to use my own judgment about who stays on my property overnight, for the most part.

    One can make the argument that tenants have visitors coming and going all the time for personal visits, home-based businesses (such as massage therapists), etc.. But being an AirBnB host is different. Sometimes hosts aren’t there when guests arrive, for example. Or leave for the evening with their guests there. Or maybe even leave for the entire night, with their guests there. As a matter of safety and security, I’m not going to let my tenants judge who to sometimes leave in my property unattended (or not be there to greet). I recognize that that can also happen for a tenant who might have a friend or relative stay in their space while they are gone, for example, but AirBnB is a constant rotation of strangers, and as a property owner, I want to be the one in charge of deciding who I let do that. And only in my own home, where I am there to host them.

  3. I would like to explore the landlords’ “no-subletting” clause as it applies, or does not apply, to hosting guests. I’ve had two people who are in a credible position to know, who have suggested it does NOT apply.

    If it is determined that “no-subletting” does apply to tenants hosting guests, I would like the clause to be extended to all guests of tenants, many of whom have become romantic partners, ….. and to people who operate other types of home-based businesses.

    It is my understanding that the clause would apply to tenants who move out of their apartment, and then rent it to someone NOT on the lease, and collect rent from them, maybe at a profit, and the original tenant continues to pay the landlord as if they still lives there.

    I rented an apartment that was clearly advertised as a “no pets” allowed building, but I found out shortly after moving in that there are LOTS of pets in my building; some tenants have two pets. I hear barking dogs all day long. If that rule is going to be ignored, why would this one be so strictly enforced?

  4. I certainly travel a lot more now than I once did because I can stay at AirBnB’s wherever I want to go. As a traveler all I want is a safe, clean place where I can sleep, shower and leave my luggage. I then spend my money on everything the city has to offer me. If I had to pay the going rate at the hotels, I wouldn’t be there at all. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with AirBnB hosts, and they have been delighted to be able to add to their income by providing the excellent service to people like me.

    As I said, it’s a WIN/WIN for everybody involved.

  5. Blueeyedboy, I completely agree with your last paragraph. What a lot of people are missing is that the average hotel room in West Hollywood is $220 a night. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they wouldn’t have been able to even visit the area without my economical place to stay. Or that they were able to stay longer, as a result. Virtually all of my guests spend money in West Hollywood, in addition to the surrounding areas.

    Of course most of the Council is opposed to it. Not just because of a housing shortage, because of a hotel lobby. More hotels are being built, and much like how it is with new housing, I haven’t heard of any hotels being built that are planned for the budget traveler. I’ve lived in this area for quite some time, and I couldn’t imagine spending over $200 for a room that I might only use to sleep in, and spend little else time in in this area. It doesn’t matter how “luxury” of a hotel it might be, that would seem like a waste of money, just for a bed to sleep in. I might think different if I were spending time in the hotel for anything else.

    If the city wants the TOT tax, then get AirBnB to charge it. That is what the City of LA did, and they are raking in millions, as a result (starting last August). Even with the TOT tax, my guests are able to stay half a block outside West Hollywood at a more economical rate than they ever could at a hotel.

    Another thing people are missing about hosted rooms. It is a HOSTED experience. Hence the name, “AirBnB” (bed and breakfast). My guests don’t just get a place to stay, they get a responsible host who knows the area, and has lived here for 17 years. A built-in concierge, who isn’t going to just direct them to touristy restaurants and businesses. Local places they might not know about. Some people want that type of experience, and they should be allowed to have it.

    I’m tired of this short-sighted “one solution to fix a problem” (housing shortage) tired of attitude. Council should be evaluating different scenarios when looking at building a short-term rental ordinance. San Francisco, NYC, and many other cities have recognized this, and have allowed exclusions for “owner occupied” units.

    I don’t expect anything to change in West Hollywood anytime soon for two reasons. 1) “Owner occupied” units renting single rooms are in the minority, so people are just going to continue to say “tough.” 2) The hotel lobby is strong, and a major source of revenue for the city.

  6. Amanda Goodwin, you seem to have a fondness for regulations (and commas). Lots of people can’t live their lives without regulations to tell them how to do it. And then there are politicians who measure their success by counting all the ways they inject themselves into people’s lives.

    There is no reason to regulate whom I have in my home. I have said repeatedly that I, too, am opposed to short-term rentals of a vacant unit because, as you said, it takes potential full-time rentals off the market and drives up rent due to a shortage of housing. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about hosts who are living in the home in which they have guests.

    AirBnB guests who pay less than $80 or $90 a night to stay in a WeHo home would not be staying in WeHo at all if they had to pay the going rate of the hotels here because they couldn’t afford it! But because they can stay with someone who is sharing their home they do their shopping in WeHo, eat at our restaurants, and go to our bars and clubs. Actually it is a WIN/WIN for WeHo, but don’t count on any politician to be able to understand that. And I’m not counting on you understanding it either.

  7. A Concerned Citizen, I also know someone who is being evicted for sub-letting (and other issues), but it has nothing to do with AirBnB.

    I’m not sure that AirBnB would be considered sub-letting. A friend who is in residential management says it isn’t.

    As I understand it, before anyone can be evicted they have three days to correct the issue for which they are facing eviction. If it is for guest hosting, all they would have to do is cancel their upcoming reservations.

  8. I don’t agree that tenants should be able to rent their extra rooms out on AirBnB. But having a restriction isn’t necessary in most cases, as a landlord usually writes a “no sub-letting” clause into the lease. I know someone who is being evicted for this right now in West Hollywood. Perhaps having the restriction will be there to educate tenants, or prevent them from violating their own lease terms.

    Once again, I think property owners should be able to decide what they do with the property they live in. I’m not extending that idea to tenants. Perhaps some will see that as hypocritical, but I know what it takes to be a homeowner. It isn’t just about being able to afford the home, it also includes being responsible for your home for maintenance, etc.. With that much work and responsibility should come more rights. Once again, in my owner-occupied home. I’m not referring to purchasing condos or other types of property, and putting turning them into AirBnB units. I’m referring to a *room* in the property that I live in.

  9. BlueeyedBoy; I understand the desire or need for some to wish to make some income to absorb expenses in their living circumstances and use Airbnb as a source; however, I am happy West Hollywood’s bylaws are trying to prevent Airbnb in our city and that it is illegal.

    Short term rentals are illegal in West Hollywood. Landlords are charged fees for units and rentals are regulated through Rent Stabilizatikn and the laws set by the city to insure MAR. Most landlords do not condone Airbnb on their property, due to liability and other tenants safety and rights. But, mostly, following the bylaws.

    I am strongly opposed to Airbnb because it is not regulated, as well as, for these following reasons: the “guests” are actually strangers, known to no one, including the host, whether vetted or not; whether they have a credit card to absorb damages or not. Airbnb is costing jobs and great revenue loss to the hotel industry, as well as, it is removing potential rentals from the market and destabilizing neighborhoods, with transient people who are only here for a short period. Our neighborhoods are not zoned to be hotels. Again, the hotel industry has taken huge hits and TOT tax is the bidggest revenue for our city and must be protected.

    Aside that it is illegal, Airbnb hosts pay no taxes nor carry any liability insurance and many other costs that hotel, landlords or businesses are expected to pay.

    I believe that, in the end, renting out the apartment to a roommate/tenant would be of greater, steady income, as well as, would save neighbors from possible disturbance that exists when people are on holiday, as well as, create necessary housing and a safer community with people investing in their neighbors and neighborhoods.

    For the person who conducts piano lessons or uses their rental as a business, with clients coming and going: that is a decision of the landlord and what the lease mandates. If it causes disturbances or infringes on quiet environment, tenants have the right to ask those activities to be ceased.

  10. A Concerned Citizen, actually I am including tenants in apartment buildings who should be allowed to host AirBnB guests. The only restriction that I see, that I agree should be prohibited, would be units in which the host does not live in full-time. As I’ve written here, I see no reason that anybody should be concerned with whom I have visiting my home, because no one shows any particular interest in whom any tenant has in their place until some busy-body sees guests arriving with a suitcase. These travelers cannot be more bothersome to my neighbors than the yapping dog we listen to every day in my building to which his owner appears to be deaf. People who stay in airbnb homes have been vetted by the company, and that can’t be said of other visitors to a building. The credit card of any guest can be charged by the company if that guest does any damage, and they can lose their membership with the company. I’ll repeat what I’ve said before in this discussion; to disallow a tenant to host airbnb guests should also extend to other tenants who have home-based businesses, including little old ladies who teach piano in their apartment, and real-estate agents who work from their apartment, and who have clients coming and going. I see strangers in my building every day who are here to visit someone who lives in my building. Logically, what is the difference?

  11. CR: so true. We should be able to utilize West Hollywood Park with food trucks or maybe a summertime beer garden anything to liven it up and make BTWH more accessible and fun. There needs to be more to it than another rainbow cross walk. We just need to be open to new and innovative ideas to make the City relevant to LGBTQ etc etc of all ages.

  12. Just have each address these issues primarily: traffic & public transit, overdevelopment, crime (in particular robberies/assault targeting the gay community), homelessness. These are the biggest priorities and I want to see specifics from the candidates, not general ideas of what the future should look like in West Hollywood.

    Covering other issues is a bonus, those have to be adequately dealt with foremost. Others are the Airbnb thing, rent control, parking and I would also like to see some initiative taken by the Council to have more community nightlife events as we have in the past. I miss the Go-Go Dancer Appreciation day and Mardi Gras events. If you want to retain a gay identity in Boystown, this is a good way to do it, by sponsoring these types of events and having them spaced out through the year.

  13. Hi Cathy, Are fact checkers not at their best after impartial investigations large or small?

    Do you suggest that the entire Protect Plummer Park uprising could have been addressed with the council members privately?

    Could Mayor Meister speak for herself to address misinformation?

    Former Councilmember Prang had an effective way to speak with his constituents. Perhaps the council could evolve some meaningful method of putting forth their ideas and creating a authentic resolution process with a documented beginning and end as in Case Management.

  14. Hi Woes,
    Any candidate can do an op-ed. They don’t have to be invited. They just have to have something to say.

  15. Would it be possible for Wehoville to invite each candidate to do an Op-Ed where the public is able to Q&A?

  16. I do not often comment on this blog but I feel I must. My comments are in direct response to to the first comment made on this article and not necessarily the article itself.

    It’s about fact checking and NOT opinion.
    Here are the FACTS:
    •Mayor Meister has reduced the public comment time from 2 minutes to 90 seconds with the agreement of the other council members. The reasoning behind the time limit is to allow MORE people to comment instead of just 10 people getting 2 minutes. Otherwise, the remainder of those who want to comment would have to wait until the END of the meeting. By reducing the time, there are that many more people who will get the opportunity to speak. This equates to limiting the public input?

    The accusation that Mayor Meister is responsible for fewer meetings as quoted from the comment….”Then a few months later the city calendar is condensed to one meeting a month…. further squeezing public comment.”
    It appears as if the commenter does not bother to do any fact checking, he just puts on paper his opinion.

    •FACT: Meetings were canceled by Council votes, based on when holidays fell and also based on which council members were in town.

    •FACT: Mayor Meister was in town the entire summer and over the holidays and the cancellations were never initiated by her and she suggested to ADD a January meeting but not all her colleagues were available!

    And regarding this other comment: …”And there are some easy solutions.. since many of Lauren’s appointees talk 3 to 4 or 5 times a night that can take a half hour..Lauren should call her appointees before the meeting and ask them if she can address any of their concerns..” I will speak for myself, but I take the idea of Public Comment to mean that what I have to say might also be of concern to others in our community as well as the other council members.

    •FACT: When there is something that concerns me that can be addressed or resolved by speaking with the Mayor directly, then I do so, as I would with any council member.

    •FACT: On a personal note, I felt the need to comment on this because fact checking to me is an integral part of public comment, be it on paper or at a microphone. Had these accusations been aimed toward any of our other council members, I still would have responded.

    Lastly, I DO AGREE with the suggestion to limit the council members comments… but maybe to 5 minutes instead of 4.

  17. Manny, blueeyedboy isn’t referring to AirBnB as a whole. It shouldn’t be a completely unregulated system, allowed by everyone, with any type of living situation (renters, for example, or people who own multiple, non-owner-occupied homes).

    He is referring to owner-occupied homes, where they want to rent a room. I am thankfully in Los Angeles, and am allowed to do this still (for now). We are a minority, and we are putting a very small dent in the available housing stock. Property owners should have rights as well. I’m not referring to renting out my entire unit on AirBnB, rather than putting it on the market. I’m referring to allowing guests into my home, and being their host, while I live there. An entirely different situation. blueeyedboy is correct … other people run businesses out of their homes that include “strangers” as visitors, and nobody bats an eye. This situation is no different, as I see it. I shouldn’t be told that I have to have a permanent roommate in my home, if I need that to make ends meet. And that if “I can’t afford it” to just sell it. Many people purchased their homes without this ban in place, and saw this as an option, should they choose to go there.

    A complete ban is overreaching. Both Duran and D’Amico have publicly recognized this, in a Council meeting just a few months ago.

  18. OK before this post becomes old, could the likely candidates please advance a position other than Me, Myself And I”? What have you been doing below the radar to solve the concerns you appear to have. PR, Marketing babble is just that.

  19. Election Woes and Manny, you have expressed opinions, and nothing more.
    Manny, I too am opposed to an apartment being used only for a tenant to rent out while he is actually living somewhere else, and I said so.
    Election Woes, you would tell the elderly piano teacher who I referenced that her effort at monetary gain is not civil behavior and that she is a predator? A little over the top, don’t you think?

  20. Unfortunately “blueeyedboy”, AirBnB it’s shared economy and user friendly technology have corrupted your harmless 2005 sensibilities.

    It’s now not just someone renting an extra room to a friend or someone hearing through the grapevine that you may accommodate an acquaintance for a short stay while they work in LA…….It’s now big business that is diluting the resident part of residential neighborhoods.

  21. Blue eyed boy seems to have an answer for everything except taking personal responsibility in a residential area to be a respectful neighbor. A person who uses their home or apartment for business needs a business license which has restrictions. Where are we if monetary gain trumps civil behavior? In chaos! It is definitely not a good sign. Predatorial behavior.

  22. Election Woes, how does it affect you if an AirBnB host has guests in his home when other neighbors have guests in their homes just as often? I’m certainly opposed to someone who uses their rental, THAT THEY ARE NOT LIVING IN, to rent out to AirBnB guests, mostly because it distorts the information available to the supply of housing. But it is nobody’s business if I use my spare bedroom for guests. I have lived in buildings in which people work out of their home operating businesses such as selling real estate, teaching piano students, catering, and many other types of home based businesses that have people coming and going. To deny someone the opportunity to operate an AirBnB is no different than telling an elderly lady who once lived next door to me that she has to stop giving piano lessons out of her apartment because we don’t know who these people are who come to her home.

  23. Election Woes: thanks for the insightful comments. The public is often discouraged from coming to meetings as the real business of the Council does not start until after 8:00 p.m. or even later and important items often don’t get heard until after 11:00 p.m. The agenda is out of control cluttered with fluff and self promotional items while meetings are being cancelled all the time which exacerbates the problem for the remaining meetings. We may get more public participation at Council meetings if there was more listening and less talking. I promise to take some of my own advise.

  24. If one can’t afford to live in it, sell it. If you rent your landlord rightfully won’t permit it. If you want to be in the hotel or inn business, buy a ligitimate one in an area zoned for it. The idea of monetizing every speck of our lives shows an unfortunate side of our human condition.

  25. You should be permitted to do AirBnB, only if it’s your own house or condo and it will not disturbed neighbors in my opinion. No sublease or exchange in rentals !

  26. It has not been a good year for council meetings. I stopped going they lost their flow. And I agree with Larry about the public comment period and wish some of those people would just shut up.

  27. @blueeyedboy…..You say you’ve yet to hear a rational reason why you should not be permitted to do AirBnB…….Well, you haven’t been listening.

  28. AirBnB ……. the current policy to disallow guests in our home, in which we live, is absurd! Nobody cares a whit when I have guests until somebody finds out they’re paying me. I have yet to hear a rational reason why I should not be permitted to do this. It’s time to reconsider.

  29. Another possible solution to reduce traffic is to allow left turn only at traffic lights and at 4-way
    stops. Also, like in downtown Beverly Hills, make most small (including Willoughby, Romaine, Norton and Lexington) streets one-way. We need to clean up, pave and organize traffic on alleys behind Santa Monica blvd. stores.
    I, also, think any idea small or large should answered by City Hall staff and/or Council Members.

  30. Now for Weho’s requested yes/no questions. Shall we submit them here in advance? Or to Hank hopefully as moderator of an upcoming forum. No sense giving candidates time to craft answers. I’ll send mine to Hank.

  31. Larry’s remedies make sense. The council members could find a way to put their comments on a website or initiate their own blog for folks to read about their ideas at leisure. The council comments are often PAINFULLY repetitious. We the public are not captive for lectures.

    To the public speakers that have an undying need to give opinions, often harsh, demanding and/or chastising, on EVERY subject: yes, find a way to meet with the Councilmember of your voice and put together a strategy or a remedy. That would be progress beyond the hollow complaint department. Have councilmembers strive to introduce meaningful items NOT issues that make it appear they are busy. Some have been lamer than lame. Time is precious for everyone so kindly focus on substantive issues.

    Thanking you in advance.

  32. @ Larry so glad you chose NOT to run. You have no clue as to what it takes to be on council.

  33. Do you support the Planning Commission and City Council’s tendency to greenlight projects that tear down rent stabilized units in order to construct high price condos?

  34. One issue I would like addressed is the obliteration of the public comment period under Lauren Meister. Never in our history has any council person done more to limit the public’s input. First she comes to office complaining about the workload.. then comes up with an agenda item to vote a 50% raise for herself..(Horvath abstained because she did not think she should be voting on her own raise).. and then she becomes Mayor 6 months later and in the first meeting only allows 90 seconds for public comment. Then a few months later the city calendar is condensed to one meeting a month.. further squeezing public comment. She organized a private retreat that was against the Brown Act that was saved by the editor of this publication after scrutiny.
    Previous Mayors have addressed holidays in a way that if a council meeting fell on a monday the meeting would be moved to Tuesday. Under Lauren Meister’s lead the council meetings were condensed into one meeting per month. And the meeting starts off with many items moving to consent.. (which means those speakers go first and public comment is second).. and often the mayor will say ‘if we want to get out of here before midnight’ Its time for public comment to be restored to the full 2 minutes in every council meeting. And there are some easy solutions.. since many of Lauren’s appointees talk 3 to 4 or 5 times a night that can take a half hour..Lauren should call her appointees before the meeting and ask them if she can address any of their concerns.. And second the city council members should be limited to 4 minutes per member. I don’t care where you went on vacation and who you met with .. The agenda for the night deserves enough time for public comment and input.

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