Opinion: Let’s Reimagine the Arts Club to Make It a Better Deal for WeHo Residents

A view, looking north, of the rooftop pool deck at the Arts Club (Gensler Architects)

            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.

            The mail by the Arts Club just keeps getting more outlandish and absurd.  Supporters of  the Arts Club assert the project will help seniors age in place and a “life long” rent control advocate claims that approval will protect tenants.

            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.

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About Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a former West Hollywood City Council member and mayor, former president of the Stonewall Democratic Club and author of West Hollywood's successful term limits initiative, Prop. C.

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22 Comments
  1. Funny how Mr. Martin totally overlooks why this is going on the ballot in the first place – the extortion campaign by Unite LA to hold all developers in the City hostage to their yet unidentified “wants.”

    We can certainly debate the relative merits of the project, but it is a dangerous precedent when outside interests attempt to set West Hollywood policy.

  2. I am reaching out to the voters to ask you to please Vote YES on Measure B!! It is impractical to suggest that if the Arts Club is not built, then the site will be used to build affordable housing. It is unrealistic that they will build affordable housing at this site nor is it guaranteed it will happen even if the Arts Club isn’t built. West Hollywood will lose the Arts Clubs and keep the Hustler if we do not vote YES on Measure B!
    As most residents know, the Arts Club is being proposed at 8920 Sunset Blvd., current site of the Hustler store. There is currently NO housing on this site and there is none being taken away. The revenue the Arts Club will generate for our city along with the half a million dollars the Arts Club is contributing to affordable housing can be used to improve housing in West Hollywood. How fortunate are we that we will add half a million dollars to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund?! Not only that, but the Arts Club will bring us free rehearsal space for non-profit groups, opportunities for our WeHo talented photographers and/or artists to host showings without charge

    Ruth Williams, Resident

  3. The Arts Club will have 10 guest rooms for members and their guests – not hotel rooms. It is an environmentally sustainable building to support and encourage art, music, dance, literature, and entertainment. The ground floor includes a bistro that will have live music playing to accompany those who are dining or enjoying themselves at the bistro. The bistro and public art gallery will be available to any member of the public. The gallery/rehearsal space is not reserved for any particular group, but will be open for ANYONE to utilize. And the scholarships for young talented people will be available under the club program. Exciting.
    VOTE YES ON MEASURE B tomorrow! #YesonMeasureB

  4. Yet another post written and commented on by the same angry, tired, old people who oppose any new development and believe the old French Market is an example of timeless architecture that should be saved at all costs. *yawn*

  5. Our creative, diverse, and one-of-a kind City should open our arms and welcome the Arts Club to West Hollywood. The Arts Club creates a new center for the arts in WeHo that is pedestrian oriented and offers something for all WeHo residents. The economic and cultural benefits we as residents of West Hollywood would receive from the Arts Club are above and beyond what we have received from other projects.

    With MOCA at the PDC leaving West Hollywood, the Arts Club will infuse new life into WeHo’s cultural scene, with a street-facing bistro, music and art gallery, along with free rehearsal space for local singers, dancers, and performers. The art gallery and rehearsal space are open to the public and encourage local artists, musicians, non-profits, and other community groups to utilize the space for free! The Arts Club has generously allocated over 13 million dollars to community benefits and will generate millions for our City. Aside from their generous commitments to our community, the Arts Club will generate high paying labor jobs and support for our local businesses and restaurants.
    My husband and I are truly excited to have The Arts Club come to our city since it genuinely is the perfect addition to West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip. With our live music venues leaving, we need to keep the musical and artistic culture alive! Please join my husband and me and vote YES on MEASURE B!
    Jim Banks
    20+year resident of West Hollywood
    Norma Triangle

  6. You’re getting rid of one Hustler and getting hustled by this Art Club people it’s a private elite club Only 7000 people I would suggest that WEHO have 2500 of the 7000 MEMBERS to be a part of this club we’re going to be priced out of it Sunset Strip strip.

    Follow the money the people that are putting up the money behind this is an elitist Club.
    Gwyneth Paltrow is being sued for 3 million dollars for a ski hit and run accident would she hit somebody then she’s also being sued for a homopathic snake oil salesman

    Let’s not get hustled let’s see what we’re really getting for all of OUR land that we’re giving away on Sunset.

    1. Yes, because the Sunset Strip is such an affordable place to be and is not elitist at all. My office is in the brand new, better accessible (and awesome) Red Building @ the PDC where I spend 2/3 the price per square foot, have far more amenities, better security, & a much larger campus to utilize for work after hours. On top of this, it is far more pedestrian friendly due to the flat ground of the campus itself and all 3 of the nearest roads. There is also a larger variety of local businesses. In comparison; every adjacent street and almost every intersection off of sunset is either askew or up and down a hill which makes it a challenge for the able-bodied, much less those with mobility limitations. The restaurants are far less varied with several Uber-cheap eateries (<$15) mixed among many moderately expensive $40+ restaurants. There isn’t even a grocery store within walking distance!

      Why is the strip like this?

      Office Space: There are a lot of office businesses with a great disparity between the highest and lowest paid workers. These actually represent the majority of daytime traffic. Lower paid workers are likely to take the bus & either eat at a cheap spot or bring their own food. Medium paid workers often have cars and can drive to medium priced restaurants further away or receive deliveries by car. Higher paid workers always have cars and tend to favor the more expensive restaurants either via delivery or “power lunch” meetings.

      Dinner & Nightlife:
      In evening and at night, the nicer restaurants remain open attracting a crowd of higher-end visitors (who drive or Uber), or high paid workers having dinner before heading home. Nightlife on the strip is similar to the evening crowd. The biggest difference is greater economic diversity among patrons.

      Residential: Many local residences are extremely expensive. They’re also almost impossible to live in without a car. The nearest grocery store is down a hill with some pretty steep angles along the trek. This is not to mention the fact that most residential properties are located on side streets which almost always feature a steep incline relative to Sunset. Also, many of the less expensive restaurants are very much lunch focused and often close after dinner.

      Now let me clarify, not all of the Sunset Strip has all of these issues. Once you are on the East side of La Cienega, the adjacent streets gradually begin to flatten out which makes traversing sidewalks easier. Office buildings yield to medium priced hotels, restaurants become economically varied, and the Trader Joe’s at 8000 Sunset becomes a viable destination for grocery shopping (just stay to the north side of the street when as the other side is the steepest of all!)

  7. I live in Norma Triangle and I will vote yes! The proposed development is better than the Hustler stor/building. Let our city grow/evolve!

  8. I completely agree, Steve Martin! The developer is laughing all the way to the bank on this one. They can absolutely afford to include a good amount of housing and also pay tax for their luxury units for club members.

  9. Should have asked for this before it came to City Council. Now it is an either/or vote… Do you really expect them to come back to the City in a year and try again?

      1. Generally I would not comment on my own commentary but I would point out that none of the mindless critics have yet to address any of the issues I have raised. It is easy to make things personal rather than debating facts.

        1. It’s not personal. Just pointing out that fact that you are being paid by the union to see this measure defeated. That should be known to everyone. If you were just a resident sharing their option that would be one thing..but you’re being paid to go against this measure. I am a long time resident of the Norma Triangle neighborhood – for 20 years – and fully support this project on its merits and what it will do and bring to this city.
          YES on MEASURE B!

        2. and I think Ruth and Jim have pointed out the facts in favor of the project. A project that has already gone through the process and been approved by the city-and hopefully the union’s attempt at undermining the process will be defeated tomorrow! YES on Measure B!

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