Opinion: This City Council Is Giving the City Away

The sitting City Council is granting favors to real estate developers rather than doing its job, which is to protect and advocate for the residents of the city. Time after time, it approves outsized real estate projects that are not in conformity with the law of West Hollywood, as set forth in the city’s General Plan and zoning code. What’s worse, it ignores required procedures designed to give the public a voice in city government.

west hollywood west residents association, architect
Richard Giesbret

The 8899 Beverly Blvd. project is a recent, glaring example of government for the developers, by the developers’ lawyers, and of a sellout City Council. The city approved a project to produce luxury condos in the million-dollar range, a project to double the size of a building that was already too large to comply with the General Plan for the city, nonconforming with its zoning, and not within the guidelines set for applying the General Plan. What did your city government do? It simply changed the General Plan, changed the zoning and cherry-picked guidelines to justify the project — everything the developer asked for.

After the city Planning Commission had turned down the project, the City Council played procedural tricks, allowing the developer to bypass the Planning Commission and fast-track the monster project directly through the council. Then when the developer discovered that it had not obtained the rights to take over a strip of dedicated green space it wanted for the project, it proposed that the city give it the rights to use that property for free. The City Council decided that trees and green space had to go and was on the verge of giving the right to use the land to the developer until residents suggested at a City Council meeting that maybe the city shouldn’t be giving the city’s green space away to a developer for free, but ought to get paid for it.

The City Council sent that issue to the council staff to come up with a dollar value for the rights to the green space, and the staff now disregards residents’ requests to provide input on the valuation. They won’t even say who will make the call, or on what basis it will be made. City Council members do not return phone calls related to this matter.

This City Council is working against the residents of the city, rather than for them. It is caving in to every outrageous demand the real estate developers make. It is playing games with the municipal code, state law and with the reasonable inquiries of its residents. It’s time the City Council started doing its job of governing runaway development, rather than lying down on the job.

Richard Giesbret is an architect and president of the West Hollywood West Residents Association.

  1. Mike

    That’s an opinion which you haven’t bothered to refute with facts.

    Obsessing over “property values” – just the dollars – misses the point: the real value is the quality of life in our homes and on our streets.

    Opining that green space on our streets can be sacrificed because the City has a park a half-mile away, is irrelevant to people who will be forced to live in the shadow of this bloated real estate development.

    You sound like you’re in the business of real estate. We’re not..

  2. This article is biased and misstatements the actual findings, legal or otherwise. With bits of truth mixed throughout, the article opinion is false and erroneous. The issue of 8899 Beverly Blvd. has been debated, revisited, litigated and still litigated ad nauseam.

    In the final analysis, 8899 will be a beautiful addition to Beverly Blvd. Design District. Life and amenities to the local and citywide resident’s will be an addition that currently cannot be fully envisioned nor will WHW allow to be envisioned.

    Rosewood is a no-brainer. Adding homes facing homes will replace a black tar parking lot. Still, WHW cannot see how property values will increase.

    Green space is moments away at West Hollywood Park but WHW will argue that an easement, which runs with the land use, is theirs at their liking to use as a faux park. The existing park is a solution already to meet the needs of WHW.

    Lots of excuses, no sound reasoning!

  3. “Latest Review Shows 18% Voter Turnout and More Ballots to Review.” as said in WeHoVille else where, clearly says the people that live in WeHo simply do not care about the city. If one does not have the time or inclination to be concerned about our city, our county, our State, but bitch and moan about the President. Makes no sense. SHAME on us!

    1. Jess, i agree with you 100%. If this was LADY GAGA concert, everyone would show up!
      Remember 80% of our residents are renters and they really don’t care,
      they stay in our city 1-2 years and then the move on to more affordable cities around us
      so sad.
      I’m in TEL AVIV, but i made sure i voted by mail.

  4. I was at the design review meeting for Domain and no one spoke about how “ugly” it is. There were a handful of people mostly those connected with developers that took the time out of their schedules to attend the short evening meeting. So it is pathetic to now complain about it and act like there wasn’t a venue to make your voice heard. Some people just want to rage and not actually participate in a meaningful way.

  5. Spot on Richard and speaking of spot on did anyone mention the spot zoning approved for Restoration Hardware that looms over Melrose like a castle? Our Council’s never seen a zoning bonus they haven’t approved.
    Larry, follow the money!

  6. I agree with Webuilthiscity. This City is a desirable place to live because of the work that Duran and Heilman have done over the years. Hoping they get re-elected tonight.

  7. Whiners Let’s have every delapitated building NOT get approved for re-development and see how happy everyone is when homeless people and crack addicts take up residence in the buildings.

    The “green space” Dick refers to is an assessment- NOT a park. It was to be used to enlarge the street as part of the general plan and wasn’t ever deemed green space for residents. His statement about this is extremely misleading.

    Another thing you whiners need to keep in mind is these developers pay millions of dollars to improve our public spaces. These are the deals that our City Council negotiated with the developers to improve the City for all the residents.

    Public Service done right is a selfless job. I’m grateful of the work our City Council has done to keep West Hollywood progressive and vibrant. If you want to live in the past – move.

  8. Richard, I respectfully disagree with you. 8899 is an extremely handsome building. The Beverly Blvd site can handle the size and scope. The town homes facing Rosewood are well designed and a definite aesthetic Improvement to the untended scratch/scrub “park space ” that folks want to hang on to. These seems to be an attitude resistant to the eventual reality of construction noise and activity. Everyone gets it…. folks don’t like noise, they want things to remain the same but if you purchase a house on the edge of a neighborhood adjacent to commercial area SOMETHING WILL happen. It’s very possible that their properties will eventually increase in value once the project is in place. People live through construction all the time. The folks in Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills all settled neighborhoods have construction sites everywhere. We can however, better determine our density limits

    Lynn H: We definitely needed WAY MORE aesthetic input on the Dylan, Huxley, Movietown Plaza, etc. Why didn’t we get critical thinking? No one cared to get educated and show up ……….because it was “over there” and not “next door”. The residents all need to up their game. Positive, informed negotiation can surely bring better projects.

  9. I agree 100%.
    Those big developers keep buying our city, our lives those are the people that give most of the money to John Duran/ John Heilman to have they “sit”.
    so this is becoming an “old story”.
    John Duren and John Heilman must “return” by agreeing and voting yes to those developers.
    Let’s Get Real.

    As residents of our own city we have not much saying, they do as they wish.
    sometimes, they make it sounds like they care
    but we all know the bottom line those developers always win.

    I’m all about growing our city, but when i see so many ranters of all ages, all health sick or not being forced to leave they own apartments because of it, or our traffic is getting to be a huge nightmare to our residents,
    We must stop it, and slow it down. This will never happen as long that we do not replace Duran and Heilman.

    once, we were a city of ALL PEOPLE, the last few years, we are loosing our amazing residents who built our city to GRID.
    We must stand together as one voice and let those who keep buying our city,

    We must take a look at the last 10 years and see what John Duran and Heilman are voting for, it’s so clear. MONEY before our LIVES.

  10. The code could have been altered. The big problem is the person that was leading the charge several years ago was Steve Martin who could not get along with anyone in the city. He continued to alienate the very folks he needed. If you don’t have a reasonable and respectful approach, and perhaps some sharp affirmative legal advice you won’t likely get a seat at the table. Building a city and development is not bean bag. If you’re up against Jeff Haber you better have some skills.

    BTW Duran introduced a moratorium on development several years ago and the council affirmed his position. The council has been open to various development revisions in the last 10 years but they don’t appreciate being threatened. Campaign contribution whether we like it or not, I personally dont, is a fact of life until it is changed.

    Two of the candidates currently running had many opportunities for pro active issues to work with the city during their lengthy years of residence. They chose not to. Consequently there is nothing on their resumes but shouting from the sidelines and promising rainbows.

  11. 8899 Beverly was debated with hundreds of speakers at the public comment podium and while I kept track of the for or against the vote was like 52-47, — against the project. It was a toss up.

    When half the residents don’t get their way they say the council doesn’t listen. They listen, many changes were adapted, with even the authors of this articles input. Seems like the residents got their way with the big boxes and council listened and approved the overlay zone, and then yet another. To imply that council members don’t listen is too broad of a statement to be accurate.

    Im having a hard time looking at our city landscape and see these large oversized projects. Can you tell me where they are? 1 on Beverly? Our new library? The building up on sunset that replaced the old Peterson building? Lets not exaggerate, we have a beautiful city and the planning commissioners does a very good job steering a project to be compatible with the community.

    1. How about The Dylan, the Huxley, Movietown Plaza, and that is before we get to the projects that have been approved but not built…Melrose Triangle….

  12. It’s common for some people to vote against themselves. That’s why Donald Trump is president. It’s said that doing the same thing over & over again & expecting better results each time is the definition of insanity Let’s hope that enough WeHo voters have awakened to reality & things will be done differently this time. We’ll see

  13. Good points and in fact if you go back in History it was John Duran/ John Heilman who pushed for the zoning changes that have allowed his contributors to push forced density into our city, go 6 stories high and cash in on weho at the expense of the residents quality of life, the character of our city and the Urban Village that once existed. Until the zoning laws are reformed, meaning we have three votes on council that are not bought by real estate money, its going to continue. And no matter how many residents show up at council to fight another mega project, they are going to say sorry not sorry, the laws say they can build this. The laws we changed to let them

  14. Actually Richard, it’s time the voters do their job & replace the 2 incumbents up for reelection on Tue Mar 7. The contradictions in the way the people say they feel & the way they vote are myriad…. & baffling. I understand the powerful force of incumbency & name recognition, but WeHo has a very small electorate who should understand that the only way the runaway development will be curtailed is by electing more new council members who work for the citizens who elect them instead of the developers who use them. After 33 years, minus the one election he was voted out of office, John Heilman always finds a way to have things his & the developers’ way. It’s a case of too much experience & entrenchment being a detriment to the good of the city instead of an advantage. I realize there is a very anti incumbency political mood across the country & all we can do is wait & see if the voters of WeHo will use their own power & good judgment to get development under control & make the other changes they say they need. Good luck Steve Martin.

  15. It will be interesting to see the results of the election tomorrow. Perhaps new council members will be elected that aren’t controlled by developers. It would be nice to see more projects rejected or sent back to be redesigned to better fit our neighborhoods. To get what the residents are demanding, there will have to be a major redo of the zoning code, complete with reduced heights, density and parking considerations. Things like requiring side-by-side parking (not tandem) and providing sufficient visitor or customer parking. Things like eliminating the “courtyard” bonus. Things like not bowing to the all-mighty “mixed use” orthodoxy. Design guidelines that demand the best and most forward-thinking architecture. Things like requiring green/solar and electric car charging capabilities in both residential and commercial projects.

    Then again, perhaps the incumbents will be re-elected (they do have the money advantage going for them). All the candidates have heard the residents complain and hopefully whoever is elected (including the incumbents) will do a better job of listening and finding compromises that work for the residents, not just developers.

  16. Agreed and well said. Yet the residents don’t vote and yet will be impacted as the city becomes a high priced tacky ghetto with outdated facades mixed with these grand building that are too big and as stated. Allowed by a council that is actually a shill for the developers who pimp them out Its pathetic the vast majority of eligible voters don’t vote or care.

  17. The evidence certainly substantiates your points. They need to pay attention to both current residents and those who can’t afford those over valued new condos and rentals. While the State has eliminated rent stabilizations (rent control) there are many ways the City Council can focus on the residential issues. They need to STOP giving (selling) waivers to property developers (parking, affordable housing, height, green, zoning).

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