Developers Petition to Convert Proposed Apartments to Condos

Developers of three apartment projects in West Hollywood will ask the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday to permit selling them as condominiums.

The projects are:

–1236 N. Fairfax Ave., approved as a four-story, seven-unit apartment building. It is owned by FMB Development and Ilan Kenig who wants to convert it to seven condos.

–1236 N. Spaulding Ave., approved as a three-unit apartment building. It is owned by Central California LLC, which wants to convert it to three condos.

–634 N. Huntley Drive, approved as a three-unit apartment building. It is owned by David and Dustin Pourbaba, who want to convert it to three condos.

It is not clear why these property owners and developers want to shift from apartments to condos. One factor influencing such shifts in other markets is the high cost and short supply of single-family homes, which is the situation in West Hollywood. Condos offer a renter an opportunity to own his or her own property, usually at a substantially lower price than that of a house.

The condo market took a major dive during the Great Recession, with some developers converting their condos to rental properties. One example of that is the Hancock Lofts on Santa Monica Boulevard at Hancock, which initially opened as a condo building but now rents apartment units.

The Planning Commission will meet at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

  1. Depending on the development and density calculations, it can be easier obtaining a building permit for an apartment building and then convert to a condominium. Often you will see the required tract map (for condominiums) in progress once an apartment building permit has been issued (to save time on the conversion process).

    This process was performed routinely in the 1980s in Los Angeles as the density formula for a condo building was more strict then for apartments. But during the past few years (specifically 2007-2010), when the recession severely decreased new construction, the density formula for apartments vs condos changed to where they are nearly the same. Still can be some discrepancies depending on lot size, but the calculations are more similar.

  2. Hank – would it be possible for you to identify the differences in the planning process and/or actual construction of the buildings of applying to build apartments vs. applying to build condos? What I’m getting at here is: Are there requirements in our code that makes one type easier/less expensive to build and convert, rather than just applying directly to build the latter? I immediately think of maybe a savings due to decreased parking requirements, but I believe new buildings, whether for privately owned condos or for a multifamily apartment building, are the same. (I could be wrong)

    All three of these properties in the article are fairly new, right? (or at least do not fall under the Rent Stabilization Ordinance). I know it used to be, and I assume this would still be the case, that many of our older buildings that fall under our RSO, are ineligible to convert apartment units to condos due to the inability to meet condominium/current parking standards(not sure technically which it is: condo parking standards or just simply updated current parking standards since the building was originally built) – which has somewhat protected those rent stabilized units from being lost through condo conversion. Losing rent stabilized units is definitely not in the city’s interest, but with newer buildings not covered by the RSO, what is it we are gaining and losing by each and do our policies encourage or discourage one or the other?

    1. @Josh: In response to your question, I’m told my one of the city’s leading architects:

      West Hollywood’s zoning ordinance makes no distinction between condominiums and rental apartments; the same development standards (density, unit size, parking, etc) apply to both.

      A few years ago Jeff Palmer sued the City of Los Angeles and won the right to pay an in-lieu fee instead of building on-site affordable units in his downtown rental apartment projects. Even though this case only concerned the City of Los Angeles, other jurisdictions (WeHo included) decided that they couldn’t require that on-site affordable units be required in rental apartment projects, as we always had done previously. We changed our zoning ordinance accordingly.

      As of Jan. 1, 2017 a bill sponsored by Richard Bloom’s office modified state law to specifically permit cities such to require on-site affordable units in rental projects. WeHo is currently rewriting that aspect of the zoning ordinance to return it to past practice of treating both condos and rentals identically. The soon-to-be-defunct “Palmer exception” is the only difference in our zoning ordinance treatment of condos versus rentals.

      Also, if construction hasn’t been completed on a already approved apartment project, it is not technically a “condominium conversion” when a developer asks the Planning Commission to approve the “tract map” required for condominium buildings, and it’s essentially impossible to deny.

  3. Hell no. If you applied for apartments, then build apartments. It is bad enough that the Planning Commission approves practically anything, but if they approved your plans for apartments, then build them. They would have different requirements for condos. If you wanted to build condos, you should have applied to build condos. This is happening too frequently lately.

  4. NO. No, no, no, no, NO!

    Either the developer abides by the conditions the project was approved under, or they can sell their take their money elesewhere. And if it means selling at a loss, so be it. I’m tired of hearing property speculators whining about “having to cover the mortgage” and “it’s my property” when they knew darned good and well what the income stream for the property was when they invested.

    Don’t want to abide by the rules? Take your money someplace else. And if you try to “grease the skids” by buying off Council
    Members with campaign contributions, be on notice that we will bounce out of office ANY member willing to take your bait. This city belongs to its RESIDENTS.

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