Once again, WEHOville asked. And once again you, the residents of West Hollywood, answered.
Hundreds of West Hollywood residents responded to a request from WEHOville last week for questions they want to see addressed by candidates in the March 7 election for city council. Think of them as the public’s agenda in this campaign, rather than one put together by campaign consultants. Below are those questions raised most often or involving issues in the news of late, some of which are identical to issues raised in the 2015 election.
We will reach out to each of the 10 candidates in the March election and ask them to respond to the questions you have raised. We will post the responses on WEHOville each week. Now, the questions:
1) If you haven’t participated in civic life or taken public positions on major city issues in the last few years, why should we believe you’re willing to devote the time required to adequately represent us on the city council? And why should we believe you have the background and knowledge of local issues necessary to make important city decisions?
2) The election of Donald Trump has left many local residents concerned about his possible actions on issues involving undocumented workers, LGBT rights, climate control and financial regulation. Should the City of West Hollywood take action to ameliorate the impact on its residents of any major changes by the Trump administration? If so, what would those actions be?
3) Have events such as the annual Halloween Carnaval and L.A. Pride become too large for West Hollywood, given that they bring large amounts of traffic and noise to the city? Given the controversy of the management of L.A. Pride in recent years, which depends heavily on the city’s largess, should the city demand more transparency in how it raises and spends its money?
4) At least one member of the current WeHo City Council laments the elimination of the council deputy system, and some residents have said that elimination has made it harder for them to reach city officials. If elected, would you advocate for recreating the former system or some version of it And if so, why and how?
5) Some residents are concerned that the WeHo City Council has made its meetings difficult to attend and participate in. For example, since August, the council has reduced its twice-monthly public meetings to once a month, which results in a much longer agenda for each meeting. Also, council members continue old practices such as calling out the names of members of military from across the country who have died, “adjourning” their meetings in honor of celebrities with no local connections, calling out list of events already published on the city’s website and recalling all events and meetings they have attended in the past month.
As a result, residents who want to speak during the public comment period are sometimes allowed no more than one minute instead of two. And sometimes important issues aren’t considered until very late at night or during the early morning hours, long after working residents have had to go home.
Do you consider this an issue? And if so, what would you do if elected to make it easier for residents to attend and participate in public council meetings?
6) A major issue in West Hollywood is development, with some residents arguing that the city is too densely populated and shouldn’t allow construction of housing for additional residents. Others argue that growth is inevitable but must be carefully managed, and that the addition of more housing is the only way to slow the dramatic increase in local housing costs.
What is your stand on this issue?
7) West Hollywood was founded by advocates for rent control who wanted to preserve the city as an affordable place to live. State law has gutted some of the rent-stabilization protections provided by city law, and West Hollywood now is an expensive place in which to rent or own. What can the city do now to make West Hollywood a more affordable place to live for everyone, and specifically for the young, the disabled and seniors?
a) How can the city help seniors whose landlords evoke the Ellis Act to evict them and then turn their apartment units into lucrative condos, given that the payments those seniors receive on eviction often aren’t sufficient to cover West Hollywood’s high rents for long, and that the waiting list for affordable housing units is so long?
b) Should the city consider permitting construction of so-called “micro-units,” the very small apartments being built in cities such as San Francisco, New York and Boston to provide affordable housing for young people?
c) Which better addresses West Hollywood’s housing affordability problem: a) insisting that developers of buildings with ten units or more add affordable housing or b) requiring those developers to contribute to the city’s housing trust fund?
8) The process of starting a new development or opening a new business in West Hollywood is seen by some as too complicated and something that dissuades small business owners from coming here. Do you agree? And if so, what would you do to change that?
9) Currently developers can negotiate specific entitlements or special privileges for a particular project and then turn around and sell that project, enabling them to make a larger profit without actually working to complete the project. Should the city require new owners of a project to reapply for entitlements?
10) The vast majority of the money that funds city council campaigns traditionally comes from out-of-town developers, billboard companies and city vendors. As a candidate, and later as a council member, will you:
a) Publicly set a limit on the amount of money you will take from any specific developer or billboard company, including in that limit money from members of that donor’s immediate family, co-workers, lawyers and lobbyists?
b) Recuse yourself, if elected, from debating or voting on issues before the council involving city vendors who have donated to your election campaign or to charitable organizations and institutions where you work or on whose board of directors you sit ?
11) Last year’s January count showed the number of homeless people in West Hollywood more than doubled over the year before, and it has become more common to see people sleeping on sidewalks or parks. The city has an array of services for homeless people and has appointed someone to focus specifically on the issue. What can or should the city do to address the presence of homeless people in West Hollywood? Should the city’s focus be providing services (food, showers, clothing, etc.) to homeless people or trying to remove them from public places?
12) Parking, or the lack thereof, continues to be seen as a major problem in West Hollywood.
a) Can the city do more to address the difficulty residents have finding parking? And if so, what?
b) In Los Angeles, there has been a campaign to limit the amount of a parking ticket to $25, the reasoning being that tickets are supposed to dissuade people from breaking the law, not provide a source of revenue to the city. Would you support a similar limit in West Hollywood, which gets a significant portion of its revenue from parking tickets?
13) Traffic congestion is a major issue in Los Angeles, and especially in West Hollywood. Some argue that traffic congestion in WeHo is worsened by the construction of new housing here. Others say that the major reason for heavy traffic is that our major east/west arteries are used by commuters passing to and from other areas. And then there are those who note that the fact that most who work in West Hollywood live elsewhere, and those who live in West Hollywood work else where, is a cause of rush hour congestion. Are any or all of these arguments valid? And what, if anything, can the city do to address them?
14) The city council has made more explicit its ban on short-term (less than 30 days) rentals of housing. But some condo and homeowners argue that they should be allowed to rent spare bedrooms to out-of-town guests given that they actually own and live in their property? Do you agree or disagree?