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 Henry@WEHOville.com 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:

DEVELOPMENT

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.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

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?

TRAFFIC

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?

ETHICS AND OPTICS

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.”


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blueeyedboy
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blueeyedboy

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.

A Concerned Citizen
Guest
A Concerned Citizen

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… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

A Concerned Citizen
Guest
A Concerned Citizen

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… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

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.

A Concerned Citizen
Guest
A Concerned Citizen

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… Read more »

Amanda Goodwin
Guest
Amanda Goodwin

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… Read more »

blueeyedboy
Guest
blueeyedboy

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… Read more »

Steve Martin
Guest
Steve Martin

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.

C.R.
Guest
C.R.

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… Read more »