Opinion: Where Has All the Housing Gone?


In a three -three vote, West Hollywood’s Planning Commission recently failed to reach a decision about the proposed project at 939-949 Spaulding Ave. and 7732 Romaine St.. The 22-unit condo project with four “affordable units” is not just replacing seven or eight rent-controlled units, it is displacing 11 more West Hollywood residents from rent controlled (not rent stabilized) apartments.

Anyone who is paying attention may have noted that we are losing housing that is truly affordable at an alarming rate. We are losing (or have almost completely lost) housing that the workforce, young families, seniors, young LGBTQI people fleeing discrimination can afford. West Hollywood citizens also may have noticed that at the same time as we are losing our affordable housing our homeless population is growing. We are not the West Hollywood that was once a welcoming city, a haven in the midst of urban sprawl … no more Matthew Shepards here…they don’t have enough money.

Now, back to Romaine and Spaulding. The trees the developer complained about (and wants to remove) are approximately 50 feet in height and gorgeous. I ask that readers of this to go to the southwest corner of Spaulding and Romaine and look at this lovely quiet corner of West Hollywood, and ask yourself how you would feel about losing your home and this beautiful setting. I guarantee that if it isn’t you today … you have only to wait for tomorrow. The developer says the trees were “inappropriately placed” and were “all diseased.” It was suggested by the Commission that maybe the trees had just been neglected (?).

Also city staff spoke about how this building would “increase much needed rental stock.” That, my friends, is simply laughable. It will “increase much needed rental stock” ONLY if you can pay the $3,000 to $7,000 a month that a one- or two-bedroom (small) apartment costs in this city. It is a common and ridiculous assertion that these buildings will “increase much needed rental stock.” Make no mistake, the increase is in luxury rental stock for what one of our council members once described as a new modern young population “who” (and I’ll never forget this) “go to Paris for lunch.”

This development at Spaulding and Romaine will most certainly eliminate more units of never-to-be-replaced rent controlled apartments from the housing stock…AND…for the elderly who live in any of those apartments, the stress of moving may be too much for them to handle or adjust to, as sadly it has been for elderly WeHo residents who are not well connected to our developer-funded City Council members.

If you believe in truly affordable housing (as I have for the last 25 years, and devoted my career to its development) then, with the $100 million General Fund surplus the city is so fond of bragging about, we should BUILD affordable housing. We should build on empty lots, like at Crescent Heights and Santa Monica, and in abandoned buildings throughout the city and stop throwing West Hollywood residents out of their homes.

And finally, as is the case with almost every housing developer in this city, these guys have “pulled a tract map.” What that means is they get their projects approved as condominiums, but the tract map approval (something the city routinely approves), allows them to rent the building as apartments. The advantage is…as usual…all to the developers. Should they want to sell their buildings in whole rather than as condominiums, they can simply evict all the residents, even from the so-called “affordable units,” without cause under the Ellis Act and then sell the intact building.

This increases their profit exponentially and saves the new buyer any problems with potentially controversial permits or pesky city rules concerning new construction as long as the units are not then rented for about five-years. There’s more, but this is too long already.

So, there it is. The project was continued to a date uncertain, when it will cycle back around to the Planning Commission. Please consider Standing Up and Showing Up and Speaking Up against the continued loss of truly affordable housing, the ever increasing number of evictions of West Hollywood residents and the senseless destruction of what is left of what we used to call our Urban Village.

Can we make West Hollywood a welcoming, diverse city again? It’s all up to us! There is still time if we, the citizens of West Hollywood, stand together. So please support your fellow WeHo residents who live in those rent controlled units at 939-949 Spaulding Avenue and 7732 Romaine Street.

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Michelle Waterloo
2 years ago

The purported goal of helping WeHo residents age in place is quietly eroding. The lottery list for moderate income units closed May 2017, despite the profusion of new multi-unit builds. Meanwhile many gainfully employed tenants struggle with anmual rent increases made difficult by wage stagnation.

James Francis
James Francis
2 years ago

Let me say this a a low income section 8 tenant—no one mentioned this that places are not affordable for the new generation of low income the young version of what you Larry Block and Cynthia Blatt at the inception of this city. There is a low income earning disabled younger generation. Not only elderly and the homeless abound are low income, but college educated people like me will became disabled due to back injuries and a hate crime that led to swelling of the brain, just out of state instead of the current attack’s in weho if late for… Read more »

Cynthia J Blatt
2 years ago
Reply to  James Francis

I guess you didn’t read the article.

J SIMMONS
J SIMMONS
2 years ago

This is nothing new. The same has gone on throughout WeHo, with only a few locals going to Planning Commission Meetings (to be ignored be it 2 or 20 concerned residents) HOWEVER I noticed on our local KABC channel 7 News, a Street nearby, but in the City of L.A. was to have the WHOLE BLOCK of beautiful Big Old Trees CUT DOWN in order to fix terrible sidewalks. The street (I forgot which one, but you can Google it) got together, called LOCAL! News Rooms and planned a demonstration of residents opposed to the trees being removed. I don’t… Read more »

SAFE SIDEWALKS UNDER A HEALTHY URBAN TREE CANOPY
SAFE SIDEWALKS UNDER A HEALTHY URBAN TREE CANOPY
2 years ago
Reply to  J SIMMONS

A TRO was sought by United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles and Eastside Nature Alliance to halt removal of 18 ficus trees on the 1200 block of Cherokee that had disrupted and damaged the sidewalk causing injuries to pedestrians and maintained that a CEQA report was needed. The judge denied the TRO as the city agreed to temporarily put the plans on hold. A watchful organization will be monitoring the Cherokee block to assure the trees are not accidentally cut down on Saturdays which too often happens. The tireless Jill Stewart of Coalition to Preserve LA maintains that the city is… Read more »

Rob Bergstein
Rob Bergstein
2 years ago

Cynthia, I think you are confusing, for the purpose of providing a Fox News like soundbite for yourself, the difference between Rent Stabilized housing and affordable housing. Rent stabilized housing is affordable to the current tenant only and then, as you well know, upon vacancy, the unit is rent decontrolled, landlords are able to raise the rent to a new rent, then the unit goes back under rent control. There are no financial parameters to qualify for a rent stabilized unit, they are not “income based” as opposed to affordable housing, that has both parameters in place for anyone to… Read more »

Cynthia J Blatt
2 years ago
Reply to  Rob Bergstein

I think you need to actually read the article too.

Fake as a $3 bill
Fake as a $3 bill
2 years ago

I think you need to stop trying to act as if you actually care. You’re the one that opposed development in your neighborhood. Duplicitous much?

Anon
Anon
2 years ago

“I ask that readers of this to go to the southwest corner of Spaulding and Romaine and look at this lovely quiet corner of West Hollywood, and ask yourself how you would feel about losing your home and this beautiful setting.”

Are you sure you didn’t mean a few blocks north of there? Spaulding and De Longpre, perhaps? I’m hard pressed to find the beauty in the endless motel-style apartment complexes dotting this area.

Rick Kotowicz
Rick Kotowicz
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

It’s the loverly house on the corner of Romaine and Spauding with the dying weeping willow and half the block with all of the beauitful redwood trees. It’s an orginal farm house fromt he 1800’s that was moved to the Romaine and Spaulding before the streets were even put in.

Joel H. Mark
Joel H. Mark
2 years ago

When I moved to West Hollywood in 1981, people were buying apartment buildings, raising rents beyond the reach of many elderly tenants and flipping the properties. We founded a city in 1984 in order to prevent people from loosing their homes and to preserve neighborhoods. We had a mix of rich and poor, gay and straight. We are loosing this to affluence and indifference. We are erecting an economic fence around WEHO and becoming another locked ward community.

Larry Block
2 years ago

Hello, Let’s talk reality facts. The fact is that the city does not build buildings or control the housing market. Developers build cities. The city council does not build affordable housing or rent controlled housing. Developers build our rent controlled units or our affordable housing stock or luxury condominiums or office buildings. Each cities zoning codes allow developers to work within the law to invest in communities. And all these buildings are owned by people like you and me and not governments. Another big fallacy here is that rent-controlled units – many of them, are occupied by people who hide… Read more »

Jeffery Ward
Jeffery Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Larry Block

I believe the real issue is that Prop 13 has stopped the upward mobility of families by keeping people in their homes longer, because they can not afford the new Property taxes, and not freeing up older stock that younger people would normally buy or rent and this, now high, property tax bill that has to be paid by new development owners, so now we have Homeowners that can not afford upward mobility because of the threat of higher Property taxes and renters that have no place to go because them owners aren’t moving like they used to. Property owners… Read more »

Robert Switzer
Robert Switzer
2 years ago
Reply to  Larry Block

The building that was scaled back on North Kings Road is number 838, not 949. There were several good reasons for opposing the 838 project as originally proposed. The primary one is that the 800 block already has more affordable units than any other block in the City with two buildings, numbers 800 and 801, being exclusively affordable housing. The block is very congested with double parking making it an obstacle course. The developer of 838 paid an in lieu fee. Why isn’t the City using money from the in lieu fund to build affordable housing? And why isn’t the… Read more »

Sondra Wilkins
Sondra Wilkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Larry Block

Larry that’s a rather simplistic approach. You are making blanket statemements about people in rent controlled buidings and siding with developers and landlords. Let’s not forget that rent controlled buildings are based on the year the building was built and the reason for that is because most of them are not only paid off but have been for decades. The fact remains that you have teachers, senior citizens and disabled people being forced into the streets due to greedy developers and over development in our city. Crime and homelessness has been on the up swing since these developements have begun… Read more »

MryJtc1
MryJtc1
2 years ago

I just can’t get behind “affordable housing” for it’s not fair either. Most people who live in an expensive home can barely afford it themselves. And when an area is in high demand, rent goes up. Why should people who can’t afford to live in a luxury, new condo/apt be allowed to when those who have more income can’t usually afford it either? What I do despise is knocking down historic, Spanish style homes for another ugly box with cheap materials that looks bad in a few years. Leave the new developments for Santa Monica Blvd. which is still a… Read more »

WeHo Mikey
WeHo Mikey
2 years ago
Reply to  MryJtc1

728 Sweetzer is Los Angeles, not West Hollywood.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
2 years ago

EXACTLY CYNTHIA BLATT!!!!…..not to forget the councils do-nothing promise to allow people to “age in place”. What a joke.

Jeffery Ward
Jeffery Ward
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

If you think the aging in place program is no joke, the Aging in Place program is not just a city effort, it is a community wide effort and it is quite successful, you can find out more at JFS at Plummer Park, or the city’s Social Services division, or at the LGBT Center, or through the County DPSS or even from Cedars, or from the State Dept of Public Health or from the California Health and Human Services Agency. The City has been proactive in this program since its inception, and everyday, more and more services are coming online.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeffery Ward

You tell this to every old person I know who has been forced out of their apartments and out of West Hollywood, the only home they’ve known for decades. Talk is cheap. The city isn’t making it happen.

Property owners have rights too
Property owners have rights too
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Smart

The city has limited power on what they can tell a property owner to do with his/her property. Quit blaming the city for capitalism.

Tom Smart
Tom Smart
2 years ago

Nowhere in my words above did I say the city should tell a property owner what to do with their property. What I DID say is these seniors aren’t aging in place in WEST HOLLYWOOD once they are removed from their apartments, so what exactly DOES this “aging in place” catchphrase mean if they can’t stay in West Hollywood???

Cynthia J Blatt
2 years ago

Well, actually, the City CAN tell property owners exactly what they can do with their property…it’s called Zoning Codes. It’s called the General Plan.

And when more apartments are destroyed, than replaced…people are forced out. And as a result of the choices we make through our votes we have a City Council with 4 of its 5 members working for the developers rather than its citizens.

Sadly, WeHo is being reserved for the wealthy alone…against all its Founding principals.

Aging In Place
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeffery Ward

Hi Wehoville: Can we see some qualified figures and results generated by the AGING IN PLACE PROGRAM? Typically these programs move at a glacial pace but let’s hope the program actually nets some results for those seniors that are aging before they expire.

Bill Skywatcher
Bill Skywatcher
2 years ago

You’re right. Part of the problem, as I understand it, is the we — the people of West Hollywood and the City Council that used to manage it have done too good a job of making West Hollywood a preferred place to live. My neighborhood, the Tri-West area used to be a fairly seedy, run-down area anchored solely by the Bodhi Tree and other spiritual type establishments when I moved in. Now Melrose is a mini Rodeo Drive East. It stinketh. I do think there’s some (slight) hope. With wages slightly rising, I have seen rents that used to be… Read more »

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
2 years ago

huh?

Rick K
Rick K
2 years ago

That is spot on bill. Thank you.

UCSBGRAD
UCSBGRAD
2 years ago

I don’t even think builders should have to put affordable units in their buildings. Why should someone who can’t afford to live in a building that I couldn’t even afford to live in get a discount? Also, I certainly know what won’t help the lack of the housing. Not building anymore. We all complain about the costs of housing but then we whine and complain when large apartment building is proposed. We have to let the laws of supply and demand dictate the price of things, and if the price is high people will build more because there are profits… Read more »

WeHo Mikey
WeHo Mikey
2 years ago
Reply to  UCSBGRAD

“Let ‘em eat cake!”

RobbyDobby
RobbyDobby
2 years ago
Reply to  UCSBGRAD

Well, Thank goodness it isn’t up to you to make those decisions…

chloe ross
2 years ago

I love to look at the “if you build it they will come” piles sprouting up all around town.. You know the ones. No consideration of the ups and downs of the ho,t hot Sun – so that blinding, nasty western light assails many and many others can admire the constellations because those get the waxing, waning new and old moonlight. There is no “view”. Just cheap looking eyesores. And they tend to resemble each other but with pseudo-intellectual names that ostensibly make them far “ritzier” than say, even The Ritz? I delight in the tiny terraces that hover over… Read more »

Randy
Randy
2 years ago
Reply to  chloe ross

Well put. And with regard to code enforcement and maintaining the law, this City has more than enough money to throw at those problems. AirBnB ban? Enforce it, if you want it (go to AirBnB right now, and look for a place in the city limits to rent). Scooters on the sidewalks? Enforce state law about motorized vehicles on the sidewalk, instead of banning them. But if you are going to put in a ban, it means nothing without enforcement, and it is all for show. Gas-powered leaf blowers? They will continue to spew air and noise pollution, without code… Read more »