WeHo Craftsman District Proposal Gets Pushback from Residents

A proposal to designate certain houses and apartment buildings on WeHo’s Eastside as examples of early 20th Century (or Craftsman) design is getting pushback from residents of that area.

The designation would make the houses part of a proposed “Early 20th Century Thematic District.” The formation of the district and the designations must be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission and then the City Council. The proposed district would be bordered by North Genesee Avenue on the west, Hampton Avenue on the north, Norton Avenue on the south and Gardner Street on the east.

Homeowners in the area have expressed concern about the impact the district designation will have on their ability to modify their property. They have launched a website called www.StopWeHoThematicDistrict.com and are organizing opposition against the proposal at a Historic Preservation Commission meeting on March 15.

Craftsman-style house

A building determined to be in the Craftsman style would be considered a cultural resource and could not be demolished unless its owner could prove that keeping it as it is will cause him or her financial hardship. Any proposed alterations to such buildings would have to be reviewed by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The city currently has six historic districts including the Old Sherman Thematic District, which includes homes built between 1899 and 1907 for workers at the Pacific Electric Railway.

The city hired a consultant to conduct the survey after City Councilmember John Duran proposed an examination of Craftsman-style houses on Lexington Avenue. In January 2016 the survey was expanded to include the current area. The consultant hired by the city has determined that 30 of 164 buildings in that area are eligible for designation.

J.P. Pecht, who owns a house on Hampton Avenue that has been determined to be eligible for Craftsman designation, has written City Council members and WEHOville to detail his concerns.

“A thematic district in my neighborhood, with its eclectic mix of decades-old apartment buildings and homes of varying styles, just doesn’t make sense!” Pecht said in an email message. “Our neighborhood has preserved its unique sense of character for the past 100 years without the need for onerous restrictions that will be placed on all owners in my neighborhood, and especially on the small fraction of 30 homes (out of nearly 160 total properties) that have been included as contributing homes in the survey.

“More importantly, the proposed historic district appears to be a solution without a problem. Our tiny three-street neighborhood does not suffer from a McMansion problem seen elsewhere in LA. Our homes are interspersed with various apartment buildings that have existed for decades and a multitude of various architectural styles are prevalent. This mix has co-existed for decades and works to make our neighborhood eclectic and flexible to change. We like it that way – particularly given that our neighborhood has maintained this character without imposing restrictions on property owners who have invested significant amounts of money to purchase their homes.

“The fact that only 30 homes of 160 properties are proposed to be designated as contributing properties, really points to the fact that a historic district is not appropriate for our eclectic neighborhood. In fact, in my block bounded by Hampton/Norton and Gardner/Curson, only 8 homes of about 60 properties are proposed contributing properties within the survey.

“Every homeowner I’ve talked to who opposes this district does not intend to tear down their homes (they like them and want to stay!), but they do not to have their property rights restricted – homes that some of them have owned for decades.”

The Historic Preservation Commission will review the consultant’s report, which has not yet been released, at its March 15 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Plummer Park Community Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. between North Fuller and North Vista.

  1. Here is a brilliant letter against the thematic district that was written by a local resident who does not even own one of the affected homes:

    Dear Council Members, City Planners, and HPC Committee Members,

    As a resident of the proposed “Historic” Thematic District, I am writing to express my opposition.

    Although I am not an owner of one of the Designated 30 properties, I feel this is an arbitrary and capricious imposition placed upon my neighbors’s property rights. I have attended both City Planning presentations and have the following objections:

    1. This is a totally “subjective” procedure, based upon the relative taste or emotional aspects of a very limited few residents and officials. There is no democratic process in pronouncing very real consequences upon the afflicted property owners. Even Permit Parking Districts or Traffic Mitigation changes are voted on by the residents affected.
    Not so here.

    2. The Pasadena firm hired to do only a minimal study of potentially historical significance made such random selections based upon a “drive-by” survey, eliminating any structures not visible or appealing from their vehicle, and citing only a vague reference to the former residence of some entertainment industry “workers”. Not one historic figure was named. And the few visual criteria mentioned were only indicative of possible aesthetic architectural value.

    3. The district boundaries were so arbitrarily set as to encompass nothing resembling a “Thematic District”. And choosing only 30 properties out of so many considered hardly qualifies the District as a homogeneous historic resource. So many of the neighboring properties, including large post war apartment buildings, are not even close to contributing historical character.

    4. There are already City and National procedures in place for owners to apply for historical designation of significant properties, should the owner wish to do so. I would venture to say that most of the 30 homeowners like their homes, and will continue to maintain appropriate aesthetic characteristics. If they wish for any kind of designation, they are free to apply for it.

    5. In the taking of real property rights, local governments have had to prove an element of public safety or measurable financial benefit to the community. No such benefit exists here. In fact, this is a “seizing” of private property rights without compensation.

    6. The meager benefits to those 30 property owners consist of a “possible eligibility” for a California Mills Property Tax reduction and/or a reduction in new building permit fees.
    As many of these owners may have purchased years ago, the Mills Act reduction may amount to very little money in exchange for a maintenance contract potentially costing much more. According to my research, I cannot locate even one single family residence in West Hollywood registered for Mills Act reductions. Mills Act reductions are calculated on assessing the property using an “income based” property valuation, instead of the original sale price. In many if not all cases, with the significant jump in rental prices, a property would be assessed higher than its current assessed value. There would then be no Property Tax reduction for those applicants.
    And if, in fact, these owners would be forced to maintain historical character, at their own expense, waiving of construction permit fees will hardly be any compensation.

    West Hollywood is supposed to be a City of Diversity, of Change, of Independence, and of Freedom. How does this punitive process further those goals ? Please look at other methods of preserving history. Create a Museum. Fund a restoration. Do not create history by penalizing your own city residents.
    I urge you to vote no on this Thematic District.
    Thank you.

    John A. Lucy

  2. @ Tom, if your saying the incumbents or the city of West Hollywood paid me or my landlord money you should go to file at city hall under the freedom of information act and nail us good. Your just foolish. And thats your best answer doesn’t make tom very smart.

  3. Larry, how exactly do you know if I lease or own??? Please do enlighten us here!!! Further, how is it that you were losing the Block Party store lease multiple times when you were overwhelmingly anti-incumbent and now that you’ve flip-flopped you are keeping your business??? A little assist from the incumbents and their cronies perhaps? It’s tres fishy!!!!

  4. @ Tom, — sorry man don’t agree…caretakers don’t pay a million dollars or more for a house, go through the whole mortgage process signing away their life and pay a fortune for upkeep or lose their investment .. your a caretaker of your apartment lease, but Im a homeowner. sorry you would understand more if you could afford a home… Mr SS. you can’t decide what color to paint your front door, but I can.. and thats because your a caretaker of your dwelling but Im an owner and you should not encroach on my rights to do what i want… aren’t you a republican in sheeps clothing?

  5. @ Steve Martin: This issue is not “fast tracked” . Here would have been an opportunity for you to have been involved as a community leader with the correct information as to what the long range plans would entail. Pro active with the facts is always preferable to reactive based on rumor and innuendo.

    “Stop Weho Thematic District” is also heavy on assumptions light on facts.

    Seems as though neighborhood compatibility would be a goal with various factions contributing to the whole. Eventually whatever the structure, Designated or not would have a semblance of aesthetic value rather than deferred maintenance and opportunistic development.

  6. Those people are just caretakers of those properties until someone else takes on that role in the future. These precious homes were maintained for decades….let’s keep them protected!!

  7. We should not automatically assume that the owners of the Eastside Craftsman homes don’t appreciate the history and significance of these structures. These are some of the most immaculately maintained homes in the neighborhood. Unfortunately this process seems to be fast tracked in a way that almost guarantees push back from the impacted home owners.

  8. As one of the affected home owners, please explain to me what happens when i want to start a family and build a second story to my house? The one story nature of my home is one of the defining characteristics that qualifies my home as historic. Now I need to ask a random group of people for permission to start a family. in my own home.
    None of this makes sense to me.

    If the goal is to prevent McMansions and demolitions, sign me up. Propose legislature that makes sense. Otherwise this just lowers property values, makes it easier for developers to tear down one of the other 250 now less expensive homes in the neighborhood and build an eyesore across the street.

    If you want to turn the street into Spaulding square by demolishing the ugly apartment buildings surrounding my home and replace them with craftsmen, and then, yes, protect the street. I’m game. Sign me up.

    Otherwise, don’t tell me what color I’m allowed to paint my door.

  9. Completely unfair to rob homeowners of their upside value. The city is 80% rentals, and soon there will be no homes left to remodel without going through very expensive and time consuming hearings. There are a few people who think they can preserve the whole city and that would make it a better place.. and some people think that historic preservation is a way to curb development but tell that to the homeowner who bought their property for the land value!

  10. Thanks much for the article. The majority of affected homeowners in this neighborhood are against this thematic district, but they aren’t anti-preservationist. We just think this proposed district is ineffective and overbroad in its application. Unlike Spaulding Square, which is an HPOZ affecting an entire geographical area where all homeowners jointly bear the burden and benefits of an historic designation, the proposed thematic district cherry-picked 30 mostly non-contiguous homes out of more than 160 properties. (Spaulding Square is also very different in that it is entirely comprised of single family Craftsman homes, whereas our neighborhood has many large apartment buildings that have been around since the 70s as well as other buildings in various architectural styles)

    As a result, it won’t do anything to prevent demolitions in the neighborhood. What it will do is place overly broad regulatory burdens on those 30 homeowners that aren’t shared by their neighbors. The front doors these thirty homeowners choose to install (or skylights, or paint color, or tasteful renovations) have absolutely nothing to do with demolitions, parking, or McMansions). If those are the concerns, let’s regulate those issues, not how homeowners make repairs and improvements to their homes.

  11. With all due respect, Mr. Pecht appears to subscribe to wishful thinking. Would encourage him to investigate other Thematic Districts within WH and also WHW and Norma Triangle for an understanding of the value their guidelines developed. It only takes one domino to start the slide. Spaulding Square although in City of LA is a great example, although much more comprehensive as they caught on earlier, of increased value and integrity on every level.

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