Opinion: Smart Growth For The Future — Development In West Hollywood

I think all of us who live in West Hollywood would agree that we are lucky to live in such an amazing city. Clean streets, strong fiscal management, a progressive political and cultural environment among many other positive things. Like any city, however, we have a few areas that could be improved upon, and one issue of concern to many of our residents is the increased cost of housing. Housing affordability is an issue that affects millions of people across our country, and it certainly is a challenge here as well.

Some have tried to blame an increase in development as being the cause of this problem. And I would agree with that to the extent that it certainly doesn’t help when we build more condos and more luxury apartments that only a certain income level of people can afford. But I would argue that development in general isn’t the cause or reason why this housing crisis is happening- in fact I would argue that the right kind of development could be the big solution.

You see, the cost of housing has primarily gone up in recent years in cities where density is restricted. Prices in San Francisco, where this problem has become particularly acute, began rising when developers in the city started running out of space to build on. West Hollywood is facing a similar situation, and while I don’t think building more is the answer on a citywide level, I do think there are certain areas (along Santa Monica Blvd. on the west side of town, for instance, where many small businesses would benefit from more foot traffic) where density bonuses and re-writing of the zoning codes might be appropriate.

The problem is not too much housing- to the contrary, it’s that there’s a deficiency in the right kind of housing stock that will bring costs down. Not condos or luxury apartments- like I said, those do nothing to alleviate the shortage- but micro units and creative types of housing that are smaller, more affordable and will enable a more diverse array of people to move into the city. We should be looking at the ways we can incentivize developers, to make it easier, not harder, for them to build that type of housing.

At a time when the housing shortage in this country has never been more apparent, I think now is the perfect moment for us to come together as a city and outline a vision for where we want to go on this issue. We can take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity- to shape a better future and make West Hollywood a more welcoming, eclectic, creative city in the years and decades to come.

James Duke Mason is a member of the West Hollywood Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board


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Rose
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Rose

“A day late and a dollar short” to bring this issue up. The damage done already is so massive and there are more in the pipeline, I think it’s moot to complain now. Also, anytime comparisons of weho numbers (like population density per sq mile) it really does not have bearing on weho. Everything about weho is anomalistic. It has had the highest population density for it’s size since numbers were taken. Most bars per capita. Highest business property prices. SMART GROWTH for humans is too late. SMART GROWTH for developers to make greater than average profits by building what… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
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Rob Bergstein

Just remember, that in each of the new market rate buildings that have gone up on the Eastside, 20% of the units are set aside as permanent affordable housing whose residents come off of the City’s very low/low income housing lists (currently closed with over 2000 names on the list). The Avalon project included 76 units of senior affordable housing. If you look at new developments in Los Angeles, they might include 5%, if that high, of the units designated as affordable. So at least in West Hollywood, we’re doing what we can to increase our affordable housing stock.

90069
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90069

The apartment building Jason is attacking is empty because it is still under construction. So that would prove to be an issue. I am sure once it is completed it will fill up quickly. I do agree that the”Crown” is hideous, especially the giant blank wall silhouetting the gas station. Duke is correct we need more housing and more variation in the target market for housing and not only high income millennials and Xers.

kab1200
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kab1200

I disagree, the building across from Gelsons is much nicer than I would have thought. I would not mind more like this, than those other ugly box buildings.

Franz
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Franz

Jason, if the apartments are vacant then the prices will fall. Isn’t that a good thing and the point of building a lot of new apartment coming into the market?

Jason
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Jason

The city is really over developed. Many of these buildings are empty. Like the apt buildings across from Target that look like they were designed by East Berlin Architects before the wall came down.. The rents are too high and the apts are minuscule and poorly built. There’s a large “creative office” building west of Sweetzer on Sunset Boulevard which has been empty for months. They even have a billboard size sign saying public parking to get some revenue for the empty garage. As for a creative city one wonders who they put on the planning commission. Some of the… Read more »

PT
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PT

“Clean streets, strong fiscal management, a progressive political and cultural environment among many other positive things.” Most of WeHo residents don’t support this statement.
This city management is all about money and sex. Among priorities WeHo park, robogarage,
Pride parade, AIDS monument, not affordable housing, crime and drugs.

kab1200
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kab1200

PT, I hate when people say, “most” in issues like this. You do not speak for me, and, if the election tells us anything, then you are wrong. We are very strong fiscally, however, in some other areas, I think there is def room for improvement. Why does everyone keep bringing up Weho Park? This was put in to play eons ago, and is funded, both publicly and privately. It is a great improvement on a tired old park.

Franz
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Franz

If you’re that worried about increased traffic, move out to the rural farms. You live in the middle of a dense metropolis, for chrissake.

jeffery ward
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jeffery ward

Although In 100 percent agreement that we need to go away from luxury apartments like the Huxly and the Dylan and others, especially since the owners of these developments have proven to be guilty of not actually renting to West Hollywood Residents and contributing to the crisis by putting their units up for rent as corporate or AirBNB units while ‘stealing’ money from legitimate businesses in the Hospitality Industry in our city and withholding actual tax dollars for the rental of those units as other than apartments, while those legitimate businesses had to collect the tax. Micro and ‘Normal’ apartments… Read more »

kab1200
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kab1200

As I see it, the problem is not with low density, but the destruction of affordable housing, which is replaced with new housing, in greater numbers, at 3 to 4 times the price. I always wonder, who can afford the rents in these new buildings? Also, many are displaced when their apartments are torn down, as they would never be able to afford a unit in the new, more dense building.It’s just sad, but I honestly don’t know what the answer is.

Bradley
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Bradley

Not much new here and contradictory in many places. He states “Some have tried to blame an increase in development as being the cause of this problem. And I would agree with that” and then turns around to say “The problem is not too much housing- to the contrary” It seems that the author goes whichever way the wind is blowing. And sorry to say to some who are still in the 20th century that todays starting salary at a Google, or Facebook, or Entertainment company is often in the 6 figures. Some older people are looking at todays prices… Read more »

Mark
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Mark

Exactly right on the micro-housing.
I believe the CA state legislature is about to pass authorization for micro-units and West Hollywood Should be one of the first cities to implement the new zoning.