Opinion: It’s Time to Give the YIMBY’s a Voice in West Hollywood

Fingers crossed!

Nearly 80% of those who live in West Hollywood are renters. But in a city where housing prices continue to climb, a city where more than half of renters are “rent burdened” (meaning we spend 30% or more of our income on rent), a city with a well-organized opposition to building more apartment buildings, we haven’t had any one speaking up for the 80%.

The fact that Abundant Housing is hosting a meeting tonight in West Hollywood may be reason for some hope.

yes in my back yard, housing developmentAbundant Housing is an all-volunteer organization that advocates for more housing in greater Los Angeles. Its website states that: “Through community organizing, online tools and media coverage, we will empower renters, young people and others burdened by high housing costs to attend hearings, submit comments and champion the construction of more places to live. An influx of new voices demanding more housing can help expand housing options for everyone.”

Abundant Housing gives its position as follows:

“1. High rents and housing prices in the Los Angeles area are driving out long-time residents, decreasing diversity, stifling growth, and preventing new people from moving to our great city.

“2. Rents are too high because of a housing shortage – there are not enough homes and apartments to meet the demand to live here.

“3. We need more subsidies to build and preserve affordable housing, more market rate housing, and better enforcement of fair housing laws to solve the shortage.

“4. Our short-term solution is to advocate for developments which will provide more housing, and our long-term solution is to advocate for legislative and zoning changes which will enable and encourage more housing to be built.”

AH’s Facebook page lists tonight’s event, which is from 7 to 9:30 p.m. as being at Loreley Restaurant, 1201 N. La Brea Ave. Among those attending is Amanda Smash Hyde, who has organized the West Hollywood Renters Alliance. That group held its first and apparently only meeting on Sept. 27, attracting a small group of about 18 people. In 2015, local activist Larry Block announced the organization of Residents for Affordable Integrated Development (RAID), but it has gone silent.

Organizing renters to speak up for their rights isn’t easy. For one thing, renters tend to move more often than do owners of houses and condos, so their commitment to effecting change in their community is weaker. For another, renters have less skin in the housing price game. Most renters currently living in West Hollywood have some protection from huge rent hikes under the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. It’s those who would like to move here to take a new job or find acceptance in a gay-friendly environment who suffer from the high rents charged by landlords when a tenant moves out of a rent-stabilized apartment.

By contrast, owners of houses and condos have a lot of skin in the game because they benefit from the shortage of housing that leads to those high rents. In the housing market, a declining tide of new construction lifts all housing costs. A recent report noted that median home prices in Los Angeles County climbed 69% in the past five years, a better return than one could expect from a mutual fund.

Home owners also have more clout because they are more likely to vote than are renters. That may explain why the West Hollywood City Council agreed to exempt condo buildings from requirements that they be retrofitted to prepare for the inevitable earthquake. (Condo owners showed up in force to demand that). Meanwhile, tonight the Council will review a report that discusses options for allowing owners of apartment buildings to pass through to their rent-stabilized tenants part of the cost of such retrofits. Whether it’s houses, condos or apartments, it’s all about giving the owners a break rather than the tenants.

Let’s hope the Abundant Housing meetup inspires West Hollywood residents to work with Amanda Hyde to create a powerful group of YIMBY’s (Yes in My Back Yard) that will show up at WeHo City Council meetings to speak up against the arcane zoning changes advocated by some Council members that clearly are designed to restrict development of new housing in WeHo. The NIMBY’s (Not in My Back Yard) have had their say. Now we need to let the 80% speak.


3 Comments
  1. Seriously, we have a universal housing problem do to an artificial shortage created by those in the real estate industry who benefit from it! What we need are increased protections from West Hollywood’s rent stabilization ordinance, a drastic increase in Section 8 Housing and, REGULATION that curbs speculation by real estate moguls in RESIDENTIAL properties. A good start might be impeaching the real estate mogul the electoral college appointed as president!

  2. The article seems to imply that all renters are “YIMBYs” in favor of turning WeHo into a sea of skyscrapers, and only greedy property owners are against it.

    Please do not assume that people like Ms Hyde speak for ALL of the 80% of us in WeHo who are renters. She referred to long term tenants – which includes a large number of seniors and disabled – as NIMBYs, because they do not want to be tossed out like garbage so developers can make lots of money demolishing rent stabilized buildings to make way for luxury housing. Such generalization is cruel. It minimizes our concerns and dismisses us as just a bunch of kooks who don’t deserve to be heard.

    Do I need to lecture on the fact that WeHo was founded on the idea of protecting tenants’ rights and housing? I would hope not, but all we have seen in recent years from our elected officials – many who’s campaigns are heavily financed by developers – is a catering to their patrons, the result being mostly overpriced apartments current residents cannot afford – or worse yet, condos, which do nothing for rental shortages. Condo conversions simply kick out the ‘have nots’ to replace them with the ‘haves.’ West Hollywood’s own Make America Great Again program! Isn’t that ironic for a city that markets itself as progressive?

    Her group’s mission was advertised as one to “protect and empower” renters. I was not able to attend the so-called WeHo Renter’s Alliance meeting, but once I found out the small group included several developer employees and one developer friendly council member, it appears this is more of a developer’s PAC, and I was glad I didn’t waste my time for it is no “as advertised.”

    Many of us have no problem with responsible development and understand the need for more housing. However, until West Hollywood updates its Municipal Code to better protect current rent stabilized tenants from being harassed and then made homeless by developers and landlords, and finds a way to make the replacement housing more affordable, many long term residents will not feel secure about the motives of groups like this. Protections for current tenants should be strengthened before any zoning changes in favor of developers are discussed.

    Painting long term tenants with a NIMBY brush because their genuine, life-altering concerns have not been properly addressed shows a total disregard for the many people who have lived here for decades and made West Hollywood a desirable place to live.

  3. The simplistic analysis made by “Abundant Housing” is at best, naive…..and their self-centered YIMBY attitude and it’s attack on NIMBYism is just developer-speak for the promotion of bigger buildings at higher rents.

    Unfortunately, abundant housing doesn’t automatically equate to affordable housing.

    Wise up.

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