In the closing days of the campaign don’t be surprised if the Arts Club will claim that a “Yes” vote on Measure B will end global warming, cure HIV and drive Donald Trump from the White House.
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These claims a bit far fetched when you consider that the Arts Club will not include a single unit of housing.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If the Arts Club is rejected by the voters on Tuesday, we can go back to the drawing board and come up with a project that provides real and important public benefits to the city rather that the rather illusory “benefits” the developer is promising.
The Arts Club is being developed on a parcel where that south 40% of the lot is zoned high density residential. When the project was approved the City Council gave the developer an additional 100 feet in height and four times the density allowed under the General Plan.
My feeling is that if the neighborhood does not mind this massive project intruding into residential areas, we could re-configure the project so that we could get a few dozen units of housing that would include five to seven affordable units.
The City Council gave the Arts Club an additional 88,000 square feet over and above the 40,000 it was entitled to under the General Plan. With 120,000 square feet to work with, we could have asked that at least 25,000 to 30,000 be dedicated to much needed housing.
Instead of housing, the Arts Club is “generously” giving the city back 2,200 square feet of the additional 88,000 for an art gallery and a rehearsal space for the Gay Men’s Chorus. The Arts Club valued that 2,200 square feet at $10.1 million. You can do the math on the remaining 85,800 square feet that we gave them but is it is a pretty high figure. It is hard to believe the residents are getting a good deal out of this arrangement.
While, thanks to Councilmember Meister, the Arts Club is giving us $500,000 toward the city’s affordable housing fund, that sum might get us only a single unit of housing. If the measure is defeated, we could re-visit this issue and a revised plan could get us an actual housing component to this project, housing that the area desperately needs. The affordable units could be built on site that could provide housing for seniors so they could age in place or to house the homeless. Unfortunately the city’s priority is an art gallery.
While the Arts Club is promising to give us a couple million in funding for the arts, in effect they are giving us our own money. The project includes ten luxury units for Arts Club members who want to visit the city. The Arts Club was given an exemption from the Transient Occupancy tax, (the hotel room tax), which will essentially cheat the city out of between $150,000 to $200,000 a year. The art programming is being paid for by money that by rights should have been paid in taxes to the General Fund.
The campaign for this project hat been dishonest from the start. Over half a million dollars has been spent to mislead West Hollywood voters. This is creating a new and corrupt precedent for developers to avoid the commonsense restrictions of the General Plan and is erosive of our local democracy.
I am hoping that you will consider voting “No” on Measure B so we can re-set the process and create a better project that fits the real needs of our city.